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A New Day for the Fretlight Guitar

Irony has a way of working into life, sometimes more than we could ever have expected or imagined. That’s what happened to the Fretlight Guitar in 2012, and now again in 2018. I’ll admit, for years, Fretlight was out in front purposefully distancing itself from the guitar industry (and guitar notation). We were anything but conformists. The Fretlight has stood alone for 30 years doing its thing and doing it very well. Our customers certainly embraced us and loved what we offered and what Fretlight did for them as players. And yes, we’ve been successful selling Fretlight guitars over the years. Then one day in 2012, a customer called and said that he really wanted our software to show him where he was going in a song – like tablature does. I instantly rejected this notion, how could we possibly go backward, back to tablature – ughhh!!”

We debated this at Optek and came to the conclusions that while Fretlight works great, we can certainly do better for our customers and that this customer was right. I had to admit, if this was how he wanted to learn, others probably felt the same way. Who was I to say no. There was nothing wrong with providing a little bit more information so that all the pieces fit. After even more thought, we concluded that this would actually be a good thing – to show the traditional roadmap the industry has so embraced for decades, but with the ease of seeing the data on the Fretlight lighted fretboard. We began exploring a business partnership with Arobas Music, the makers of Guitar Pro tab software.

The guys at Arobas embraced the idea of connecting Fretlight right off the bat. They were so excited that a process which we had thought might take up to six months took only three. They had a test version of their software lighting up the Fretlight guitar in 24 hours! The result was amazing. Guitar Pro software and the Fretlight guitar seemed to be a marriage of different technologies, the old with the new. In retrospect, its what customers wanted and really, that's all that counts. Customers could look at their computer screens to see where they are in a song (verse, halfway through the chorus, 3rd measure, etc.), and then look at their Fretlight to see how to play it. The irony comes in when I think about the fact that for years we were doing our own thing and by taking a step back toward the industry, to embrace tablature, the world embraced the Fretlight.

Back in 2012, during the development phase I was personally testing the Guitar Pro software, downloading free tabs, and trying them out on a Fretlight. Now let me tell you I was a guy who hated tabs for years! They are tedious, difficult, frustrating, time consuming – yuk! (My lack of patience probably contributed here). However, a very interesting thing started to happen while I was testing. I found myself looking at the tabs for where I was in the song, 2nd bar of the solo, 3rd bar of the chorus, etc., and then looking at my Fretlight to see how to play it.  I found that I wasn’t even looking at the little numbers and which fret to put my fingers on – I just looked at my Fretlight guitar! I started getting excited about tablature. I started to go online and download tons of songs, songs that I’ve wanted to play for years. It was totally fun again! It was fast, easy and right there. Click play on the software and wham – there’s the riff on the Fretlight. Drag over a part of the tab and boom, set a loop. Slow down the tempo with one click. I couldn’t help but smile.

Of course today, in 2018, we've now finally re-connected again to Guitar Pro 7 with our wireless guitars. Adding the wireless connectivity took a little longer than expected but we're there now and by all accounts it's working great. I guess the bottom line is that we now have many ways to light a fretlight (different devices) and many tools for customers to use. It doesn't matter how you want to learn - just learn - try new things, experiment, better your skills. Fretlight gives you the ability to try things you wouldn't normally try, either because you don't have the time or you don't feel confident. Those little lights don't play for you - they get you to put your fingers on the instrument and play and that's what's important.

Yes, irony can be funny, humbling, and most of all - satisfying.

4 comments

  • Hey Rusty, why not never look away from the guitar neck by building in a fully capable color display like an OLED display that could Bend so it would work on a stand up bass or a cello or a violin. With a color display the possibilities are boundless with regard to what is displayed and how it is comprehended. You could even go so far as to show Guitar Hero Style here it comes and play it now type learning and teaching. But certainly tablature and color coded notes would be a natural display Choice along with other information like strumming or picking. Let’s really take the fretlight guitar into the future it’s long overdue to have a fully functioning color display directly on the fretboard.

    Randy Cook
  • Do yo you have a phone number that I can order on the phone ?

    Terry short
  • When guitar pro fretlight ready will be available for android ?

    Marco Mondragon
  • Does the fretlight guitar allow the user to write tab? It would be great if I could play my original fingerstyle arrangements on a fretlight and save it to tab. It seems like a no-brainer to me – to use the fretlight guitar to write original guitar tab music…. but maybe it already has that capability? Steve Jirak

    Steve Jirak

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