Guitarists don't like to be parted from their guitars. Even as a rank amateur, I get a nagging itch in my fingers after a couple of axeless weeks on the road. But guitars take up a lot of space and they are expensive to haul with you on a plane, so I often find myself seeking out music shops just so I can have a noodle. It's exactly this kind of affliction that PocketStrings is designed to address. It's not an instrument and it doesn't make a sound, but this portable mock-up of the first four frets of a guitar could help you satisfy the playing itch as well as giving beginners and more experienced players a take-anywhere tool on which to practice chords and build finger strength while keeping your calluses tough.

The fledgling company out of Salt Lake City, Utah, also plans to bring a six fret model to market which will be more useful for practicing scales, and there's also talk of a strummable version (the current model just has molded plastic "strings") that will put out some sound and bring the experience that bit closer to the real thing.

PocketStrings will be available next month and a release price of under US$30 is being targeted.

If you have a little extra room in your suitcase and are looking for a few more frets to practice on, you could check out a slightly meatier alternative like Shredneck or a full-blown travel guitar. For my purposes though, PocketStrings compact offering fits the bill, plus my fellow travelers will be spared the pain of listening to me trying to learn the harmonica.

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