Learning sleeve sheds light on guitar-playing basics

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The FretX sleeve wraps around the guitar neck and connects over Bluetooth with a smart device running a companion app(Credit: FretX)

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Learning to play the guitar is tough. Tuition videos, online tablature vaults and music books are all good tools for students of the six string, but having to constantly look from guitar to teaching aid and back again can be frustrating. In a similar vein to the concepts we covered in 2012, FretX uses LEDs embedded in a low profile learning sleeve that wraps around a guitar neck and shows the player fretting finger positions.

The FretX system has been a little over two years in development, and New Atlas actually got an up close look at a working prototype in Paris last year and can confirm that the LED learning sleeve was easy to use and fun to play with. The design has since been made slicker, the companion software finalized and a crowdfunding campaign launched to fund production.

The FretX LED learning sleeve is reported to be as thin as a sheet of paper and is slotted under the strings at the nut, with each of the first four frets getting its own light strip. A marker on the front of each strip ensures correct alignment and the lower ends are secured to the back of the neck with mild adhesive (that's said to not to damage the host instrument). The upper part of the sleeve is also wrapped over behind the neck and secured in place, with a plastic box containing the electronics and battery attached to the back of the headstock, between the tuners.

The sleeve works with a proprietary mobile app for iOS/Android over Bluetooth, with the student then following the light positions to fret a chord from a selected song. The developers reckon that students will be able to master up to 20 chords within an hour. Sound recognition technology is used to determine what the student is playing, in real time, and track learning progress.

The app also includes modes and scales practice routines, and is capable of demonstrating chords from YouTube videos on the FretX channel, with the added bonus that the tune can be broken down into manageable, user set loops to help the learning process.

It is hoped that the system will provide an easy, engaging and successful start for folks new to the guitar, and serve to encourage exploration beyond the four frets covered by the FretX sleeve. But even those four frets should be enough to give learners access to over 90 chord shapes, run through 20 exercises, get to grips with a few scales and play along to thousands of songs.

The development team says that users can expect up to 48 hours of continuous play from a replaceable C2032 cell battery, and that the sleeve is designed to fit most acoustic and electric six string guitars. It works for right- and left-handed players, too.

The FretX project is currently raising production funds on Indiegogo, where pledges start at US$49. If all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in May 2017. The system is introduced in the video below.

Sources: FretX, Indiegogo

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