I stumbled across a banner ad for Fretlight Guitars a few days ago while reading a news article, so I checked out their website. Ever since then, the idea of buying one of these things has been occupying my mind. It seems to get good reviews (the major downside seems to be that almost everything is a la carte–they don’t even ship the music-player software with the guitar) and the company has apparently been around for quite some time making various versions of these things.
I’ve tried to learn the guitar before but always failed to get very far because I didn’t have the drive to practice. I’m thinking that this guitar might be helpful with that by showing me where to put my fingers on the fly, letting me slow down passages, making it possible to play at least simple songs fairly quickly, etc. Yes, it would be an impulse purchase, but I haven’t made one of those in quite awhile and I’m okay with that.
So–is anyone familiar with the Fretlight? Is it really a decent guitar? Is it worth what they’re charging for it? I’m actually considering that if I do buy one I’m going to get the “pro” model (I really don’t like the look of the plain-vanilla Strat, and as a rock/industrial/metal fan I have no desire to play an acoustic).
Thanks in advance for any info/advice/suggestions–and particularly for any firsthand experience.
Before coming to the SDMB, I was a long-time, regular poster (10000+ posts in 5 years) at the Harmony Central Message Boards, and the topic of thses guitars came up many times. To be honest, Fretlight guitars were a bit of a running joke among most members. Early on, the guitars themselves were of notoriously poor quality (though that may well have changed), and furthermore, there was a certain “training wheels” stigma to them.
winterhawk11, I am very sorry but I can’t comment - I have seen Fretlights around for at least 20 years, but have never played one, so can’t comment on the playability of the guitars nor on the effectiveness of the approach. As a concept it sounds great, but I have no idea if the execution delivers.
You can go to: http://reviews.harmony-central.com/reviews/Guitar
and find Fretlight - but you will have to root through a LOT of clueless reviews, where some shmo will love it (or hate it) for completely clueless reasons - but typically there are some thoughtful reviews to pick out - or common themes that surface often enough to probably have a measure of truth to them…
Thanks for that link, **OneCentStamp **and WordMan! I went over there and searched on Fretlight under the electric guitar forums–there were actually quite a few posts. General consensus so far seems to be that they’re better than they used to be but still not all that great quality-wise for the price. That’s a shame. The one I’m interested in is almost $900, which is way too much money to spend on something that might be of iffy quality. I’m kinda disappointed about it, but I guess it’s better to learn it now than after I buy it and might have trouble returning it.
(The comments about the Fretlight’s being “cheating” don’t really affect me much–I want to make music with the thing, and quickly. If that means I have to “cheat” then so be it. I have neither the time nor the desire to delve into all the musical theory involved in guitar playing–let me pound out a reasonably non-sucky version of “Enter Sandman” and I’m happy. )
If you’re interested in learning guitar and want something to keep you interested, I’ve heard good things about the Guitarport by Line6.
Basically, it’s a computer interface for an electric guitar, which also includes a bunch of amp modeling hardware/software. You can plug an electric into it, plug it into your computer, and get amazing tones from your guitar.
But the really cool thing is that when the thing is hooked up to your computer, you can get software that will allow you to play along with music on the screen, and the program will even set up the tones of the guitar so it sounds like the original song. They have a subscription web site which has live songs you can play, tutorials, etc.
The thing is actually really inexpensive - around $100. Get a decent standard electric guitar liike a standard Strat for $500, a GuitarPort, spend $80 on a one-year subscription to GuitarPort Online, and you’re good to go.
I asked for one of these for Christmas this year. If I don’t get one, I’ll probably order one myself in January.
Why don’t you buy a cheap eletric guitar from your local instrument store and learn from tabs? They tell you where you fingers need to go and they are easily available all over the net. Its how I lernt to play bass.
Funny thing is, I have a rather nice electric guitar. I also have GuitarPort, both purchased during the last period when I thought I would finally learn to play. I was hoping the Fretlight might be kind of a shortcut, a way for me to learn to play passably (that is to say, to be able to play simple rock stuff) without long hours of practice. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not wiling to put in long hours of practice–if this means I won’t ever be able to play, then I’ll reluctantly have to accept that.
You may have to accept that. The way to learn an instrument is to do the hard time – pick it up and play it, if at all possible, every day. If you spend 30-60 minutes every day on a decent guitar, in 12 months you’ll play surprisingly well. In a month or two you’ll play well enough to at least be having some fun, and the drudgery is downhill from there. Its a steep curve, but there are huge rewards for just toughing it out, even when you’re frustrated.
I have been playing guitar and bass for over 40 years, have taught both for over 15 years, so I decided to try something. I had a student that was having much trouble learning or practicing. He would get bored easily. I brought the Tele style fretlight, taught him how to use it. He went from never practicing to quote his mother"Never putting it down" His playing has improved 10 fold. He’s getting ready to begin playing in his first band, which I thought would never happen. I gave the guitar to him as a Christmas gift. I would say get one, but play several of them first, never buy unsight, unseen. I bought another tele style, natural finish, and play it on stage as my main guitar. It will need a good setup, IMO. don’t get the cheapest model, the high end are freaking great, but I love the Tele, or Strat style. You will not be sorry if you are a beginner or Exper. I love them, and no I do not work for them. I just speak my opinion. Enjoy and hope it helped.
IMHO, no “learning aids” (and this includes beginner guitar lessons) can substitute for taking on the hard work yourself.
No guitar teacher, and no souped-up guitar or software, can make your fingers go where they’re supposed to go behind the frets…you have to do that yourself. It can be very daunting in the first few weeks and months of play, but if you stick with it, like any other repetitive action, it will become easier.
You (the OP) mentioned not having the time to “delve into all the musical theory involved in guitar playing.”
There is no necessity for you to do that in order to reach the goal you articulated. I agree that, in the beginning, this would be an impediment rather than an encouragement for you to stick with it.
Here’s what you need to do (and I’m leaving the Fretlight guitar out of this equation):
Buy a book that shows basic guitar chords, with both chord graphs and photographs of a real person playing those chords.
Practice fingering the basic chords (C-D-E-G-A) and their associated minors one at a time, until you can play each one cleanly without muting nearby strings. This is your first big challenge…you really have to play around a bit to get all your fretting fingers in the right position while arching them properly to avoid the muting.
Next, practice switching smoothly from one chord to another. This is also a challenge, but does get easier the more you do it. At some point, muscle memory will take over and you won’t even have to think about it.
When you’ve got this down, work on learning barre chords…the basic E-position and A-position ones and their associated minors. This will enable you to play your sharps and flats more easily (and F as well, which is best played as a barre chord). Increase your switching practice to include these.
None of the above involves learning any music theory…though as you progress you’ll start to notice that certain chord progressions recur frequently, and you’ll pick up on the relationships between them.
If at some point you want to progress to learning to play lead lines (which you didn’t say, but it could happen)…it’s then that lessons might be appropriate, though you can also learn to do this on your own if you work at it.
I realize that everyone’s mileage may vary, but this is the method I followed when I learned to play guitar some 48 years ago, and it worked for me. It has given me a lifetime of pleasure, as well as an avocation (as a weekend bar-band warrior) that I continue to pursue to this day.
My lead guitar work is basic and unpolished — something I attribute entirely to laziness on my part for not wanting to work at it as I should. But I’m one of the best rhythm guitarists you’ll come across, and I’ve managed to play successfully over the years in several different types of bands.
What DChord said. He left out something that worked for me when I was first starting out. In addition to the chord book with diagrams AND photos, I had a Beatles songbook with chords and lyrics. Because I liked the Beatles and especially “I Should Have Known Better”. I’m not recommending someone starting off now get a Beatles songbook, but if there’s a band or artist you really like, look for one of their songbooks (with chord diagrams). Learning chords is important, but learning songs makes you learn the chords, learn CHANGING chords, and helps with your strumming too. And helps you learn how chords work together in songs.
Ha, cool to see one of my own zombies come back from the grave!
I never did get the Fretlight, and I never did really get very far with the guitar. Best I ever got, though, was doing a combination of lessons and what DChord568 said. I love Alice Cooper, so my teacher taught me how to play “Gimme” and “Brutal Planet,” and for a while I could actually play along passably with Alice on a video I have. I also learned “Enter Sandman” well enough that I could play it during the weekly jam sessions we had at the music school. Felt really good to be able to do that, and I’m bummed that I never really did get much past that and eventually I lost it again.
I recently picked up the game “Rocksmith 2014” and it looks promising, aside from the fact that the user interface is a little wonky (I find it hard sometimes to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing–either I’m doing something wrong or else the progression path isn’t clearly spelled out) but what little I’ve gotten through seems helpful.
Well, that’s the one caveat about learning to play specific songs by rote. It’s true that it can be an incentive, but it’s also true that you’ll end up being able to play those few songs and nothing else.
It’s better in the end to fully learn to play the most important chords I mentioned, independent of their presence in a specific song. Once you’ve done this, then you can play most any song you want to.
The only way to get good at anything is to enjoy the process of getting better, and do it a lot.
There are lots of different ways of doing that, fortunately.
Regarding learning chords, it’s necessary to learn them in the context of different songs (or drills, if you prefer drills). Playing chords is easy; switching between them – in time – is the tricky part. Learning a bunch of chords with no context is useless. You have to learn the chords and learn to play them in sequence, in different sequences. Learning songs is the most natural and fun way to do this.
DChord568 left out the all-important step 5. After learning barre chords, learn not to use them.
By the way, after looking at that link for the Guitar Port, I noticed that they’ve shuttered their service. Is there anything like that that works well and isn’t too expensive? I might want to try something like that, particularly for the amp modeling. And what kind of connection do you need to plug the guitar into your PC? Is it some kind of amp cable to USB adapter cord or something?