Learning to play guitar is hard. Though there's no effective replacement for many of hours of repetitive practice, today's six-string students do have numerous teaching aids to help make the learning curve a little less steep. PocketStrings, for example, caters for chord shaping on the go, Fretlight illuminates fretting finger positions, games like Rocksmith make learning more fun and countless mobile apps can turn the ubiquitous smartphone into a powerful teaching tool. But there are times when simply marking finger positions on a fretboard might make chords and scales easier to remember. Naturally, you don't want to be taking a Sharpie to your axe of choice, which is where Fret Friend may come in handy.
The Fret Friend is a guitar learning sleeve that's wrapped around an instrument's neck, in a similar fashion to LED sleeves we've seen before. But rather than use colorful lights and complicated electronics, this Slovenian project takes a refreshingly low tech approach to visual learning.
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Scale and chord diagrams on a computer screen or old school tuition books can appear somewhat daunting at first glance. Then translating that flat image to the neck involves repeatedly moving your eyes from instrument to learning aid and back again, while pressing down the appropriate fingers on the fretboard. The Fret Friend simply allows a student to mark these positions directly on the playing area without causing any damage to the guitar.
The sleeve is slotted under the strings and moved into position so that the durable fabric covers the wood between the frets and the pre-cut holes slotted over the first 12 frets. The Fret Friend, which has been designed to fit any guitar with a 24 to 25.5 inch scale length, is then secured in place to the rear of the neck using Velcro strips.
"Fret Friend is made of a composite material that doesn't exist for anything else," the company's Klemen Lorber told Gizmag. "Rubber on the side that touches to wood in order for it to adhere to the surface. And smooth synthetic fabric on the top so that it's washable, writable and smooth to the touch. Fret Friend will not bother you while playing, it will not dampen sound."
Students can then use the supplied pen to mark the required scale positions on the fabric and run through fingering exercises without taking their eyes off the neck. The fabric is washable, so the dots can be erased and fresh ones marked up. Of course, learners don't necessarily need to dot finger positions on the neck, numbers could be written on the neck to indicate specific finger placement or even the order of play for solo parts. And teachers can write out that day's lesson on a sleeve or set homework.
Being a fabric learning aid also means that it can be folded up and stuffed in a pocket between uses, so you can take your latest chord discoveries to a friend's house without having to lug your guitar around, too.
The development team has launched on Kickstarter to bring the Fret Friend into production. The campaign runs until March 13 and, as of writing, pledges start at US$20. If all goes to plan, shipping is estimated for September. You can see the pitch video below.