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CES 2014: Stefan Lindsay Demonstrates the gTar (Video) 104

Posted by Roblimo
from the gitarzan-is-a-gtar-man-who-hangs-by-his-knees-without-a-trapeze dept.
It looks like an ordinary electric guitar, except for a little LED screen on its body and blinking lights up and down the fretboard that show you where your fingers should go. But the gTar, besides being "The First Guitar That Anybody Can Play," hooks to your iPhone. The gTar app includes "...a variety of classical guitar pieces, modern rock, pop, and everything in between." The gTar Kickstarter campaign in 2012 raised $353,392 even though it only asked for $100,000. The company that makes the gTar, Incident Technologies, started in a garage in Cupertino (Silicon Valley) and is now located in San Francisco after several moves caused by the company's rapid growth. On their Support page they say, "We don't have a brick-and-mortar location for you to try the gTar yet, but we're working on it. In the meantime, check us out at events like Maker Faire, TechCrunch Disrupt, and many others."

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CES 2014: Stefan Lindsay Demonstrates the gTar (Video)

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  • "First?" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jethro (14165) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @05:49PM (#46050845) Homepage

    I remember seeing ads in Guitar Magazine and the like decades ago for guitars with LEDs in the fretboard that teach you how to play. I remember seeing an infomercial-type thing where they had Mark Knopfler play with one.

    I find it fairly interesting how a lot of things labelled as the "first" to do something are really not.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      I remember seeing ads in Guitar Magazine and the like decades ago for guitars with LEDs in the fretboard that teach you how to play. I remember seeing an infomercial-type thing where they had Mark Knopfler play with one.

      I find it fairly interesting how a lot of things labelled as the "first" to do something are really not.

      Wherever you find people who are too lazy to put in the time to develop a skill, lose weight by exercise, make money the old fashioned way, etc, there will be people offering the "easy" way of doing things.

      I suppose you could play this, but you couldn't exactly play like Mark Knopfler.

      • Re:"First?" (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anrego (830717) * on Thursday January 23, 2014 @06:15PM (#46051101)

        My view (as someone who learned guitar the old fashioned way (you know, through youtube videos..)) is this might act as a stepping stone (kinda like rocksmith and even rockband) to get someone through the dull and tedious part where you can't do anything besides make your fingertips really sore.

        I kinda see two use cases for this thing:
        -people who buy it, use it mostly like a toy for a while, then eventually put it in the closet
        -people who play around with it, and gradually transition to a traditional guitar / traditional learning approach

        One thing I find really interesting about these new learning aids is the focus on "just start playing, learn technique later" vice the approach I (and probably most people who currently play guitar) generally took of learning chords and scales first.

        Does an unwillingness to grind things out the old way make one unworthy of music? Personally I think if this gets more people into music than it's a force of good.

        • by sh00z (206503)
          Yeah, but for $400, it should include a discounted upgrade path to a "real" guitar...
          • by Khyber (864651)

            Just make your own pickups from a nail, bell wire, and a bottle cap, and just carefully glue or stick-pad it on. Cheap, removable to sell "in original condition," and a good way to learn some guitar electronics construction.

          • It does include a discounted upgrade path. It's called EBay, Craigslist, etc. Besides, there are countless musical instruments to be found in pawn shops. Selling and trading of musical instruments is part of the scene for most people as I know it.

        • by TheLink (130905)
          From a technological and "ease of use" point of view I don't find the gtar that interesting or impressive. We've long had musical keyboards or similar instruments that lit the notes you were supposed to play.

          Real easy would be an instrument which does something like what the "Jam Session" software did more than 20 years ago, but do it better (given 20 years of tech and knowledge advancements). e.g. a guitar/piano/instrument that played the "right" notes no matter what - e.g. by default it would play the nea
      • by Jethro (14165)

        > I suppose you could play this, but you couldn't exactly play like Mark Knopfler.

        Of that there is no doubt.

        I don't think Mark Knopfler was selling the thing. It might've just been a "Hey look at this interesting new invention, and here's Mark Knopfler" kinda thing.

    • by bobbied (2522392)

      I find it fairly interesting how a lot of things labelled as the "first" to do something are really not.

      Yet you get the award for "first post" on this thread... There has to be irony in this...

    • I remember seeing ads in Guitar Magazine and the like decades ago for guitars with LEDs in the fretboard that teach you how to play. I remember seeing an infomercial-type thing where they had Mark Knopfler play with one.

      I find it fairly interesting how a lot of things labelled as the "first" to do something are really not.

      Sure they are the first... To do all of that, AND connect it to an iPhone. Hell, if it's good enough for the US patent office, it has to be more than good enough for marketing.

      They are claiming this guitar is: "The First Guitar That Anybody Can Play," How honest is that? Can a quadriplegic play it? Or someone who has one or both arms amputated? I going to guess the answer is, No.

      But at least they are the first company to lie about it... And be able to connect it to an iPhone.

      • I'm going to park in front of the USPTO and check whether all the employees have mysteriously received both a free Iphone and a free Nexus....

      • Oddly you may be right. I found no immediate results for iThing software for fretlight or similar.

        http://fretlight.com/software [fretlight.com]

      • by dbraden (214956)

        They are claiming this guitar is: "The First Guitar That Anybody Can Play," How honest is that? Can a quadriplegic play it? Or someone who has one or both arms amputated? I going to guess the answer is, No.

        What, don't they have tongues? Seriously, you know damn well what they mean. In general usage like that, "anybody" means "anybody that could physically play a guitar can play our guitar." Lighten up, man. Sheesh.

    • by aitikin (909209)
      Yeah, it's come a long way since the original, it's called Fretlight [fretlight.com]. Sure, there's some added features on the gtar over what the Fretlight's have, but not much.
    • I remember seeing ads in Guitar Magazine and the like decades ago for guitars with LEDs in the fretboard that teach you how to play.

      Here you go [fretlight.com], Fretlight's been around for ages. Found an early one in a pawn shop, was a copy of a Fender strat... and it had better action than my actual Fender, so I bought it. Only down side is that it's *very* heavy. Still, with that great neck, it's really enjoyable to play.

      The early ones -- like mine -- have a rotary knob that lights up various scales. The more recent mod

      • by Jethro (14165)

        I always thought they'd be kind of fun, just because you know, LIGHTS.

        • by fyngyrz (762201)

          I think the new ones would be more fun. Super quick way to pick up leads, etc. You can only chase a scale up and down so many times, and that's all the early ones did. But yeah. Lights. Even an extra knob. :)

          And hey, it's not like I don't have a light-n-knob problem anyway (a) [flickr.com], (b) [flickr.com]

        • by fyngyrz (762201)

          All that and I didn't think to post the pic of the guitar [flickr.com]. Derp.

          • by Jethro (14165)

            Nice.

            I have a couple of my [dogrowphoto.com] guitars [dogrowphoto.com]... kinda...

            • by fyngyrz (762201)

              Veyr artistic. :)

              • by Jethro (14165)

                Yes, sadly I'm probably better at photography than at playing the guitar (;

            • czeq out my flash beast... http://www.flickr.com/photos/1... [flickr.com]
              • by Jethro (14165)

                What the... was that a cutting board at some point? (;

                • never was a cutting board, it was on the fire pile though. I would've used a 12x2 if it was available cause the top is a little low to rest comfortably against the ribs, I might nail an extension on top one day. still need to cut out the notch so I can reach the upper frets properly, unfortunately there's a large knot there which made chiselling difficult.
                  • by Jethro (14165)

                    That is pretty cool. I always wanted to make a guitar from scratch, but that requires, you know, accuracy.

                    • trial and error is close enough to accuracy... I got the screws in the bridge slightly in the wrong place, took 'em out again, filled the holes with matchsticks and wood glue then re-drilled... close enuff second time around. the only other difficult bit is getting the neck sitting at the correct angle which I fluked first time.
                    • by Jethro (14165)

                      Yeah, but I want to make the actual neck, too (:

          • That's a telecaster copy, not a strat copy! I'm quite surprised on your comments on it's playability, I assumed they would be dogs... Like your rack, especially the Mackie. Not sure about the Behringer though. Doesn't the Mackie have tape returns?
            • by fyngyrz (762201)

              That's a telecaster copy, not a strat copy!

              Yes, correct of course. I own both, and I get -casterlexia. :)

              Not sure about the Behringer though. Doesn't the Mackie have tape returns?

              Yes, it does. But if you use them, you have to reconfigure almost the entire board -- twice -- because when you're done with mixdown, then you have to completely set it up for recording again. The Behringer is surprisingly quiet and flat, and does an excellent job of mixdown, and so re-configuration is on a channel/instrument bas

  • if they practice. Perhaps this'll not sound awful it people play it without practicing. I guess if you load it with MP3s of somebody good, that'll do the trick.
    Still, you can at least plug it into a computer, run linux on it, so it'll provide some fun before you shove it under the bed with your expensive digital cameras and electronic book readers.

  • Neat idea. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Xoltri (1052470) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @05:51PM (#46050865)
    Kinda neat, but I've been using Rocksmith 2014 now and it's really improved my playing and most importantly given me the drive to play more, and on the plus side you use a regular electric guitar that is a real instrument.
    • by Anrego (830717) *

      I tried rocksmith back when it first came out, and while I found the mini games really cool (and I imagine actually useful), I found actually playing the songs very frustrating.

      The big problem in my opinion is their adaptive difficulty thing. One (or at least I) becomes good at a song through muscle memory, which is really damn hard when the game keeps changing it up on you in the middle of a song. The basic ability to lock it into a difficulty level would have made a huge world of difference.

      • by Bigbutt (65939)

        In 2014 you can play Score Attack which has three difficulties, four if you count 'Master' which is no notes showing. I believe Learn a Song lets you set the difficulty and speed for the entire song although you need to reset it when you exit to a different song and come back.

        [John]

      • I know what you mean in regards to developing muscle memory. Rocksmith 2014 seems to have improved in this way - after a few plays it seems to be more stable in terms of song difficulty. In other ways, Rocksmith 2014 is all around a big improvement from the perspective of someone who could already play bass (not particularly well, but ok), but not guitar. I suspect it's probably better for the absolute beginner as well, but seeing as I didn't choose that option when setting up my profile, I have no idea how

      • by Xoltri (1052470)
        Yeah it's not perfect, there are some things I find annoying. However for the most part, I like the adaptive difficulty. The most difficult part is in a song when it transitions from single notes to chords, often I have to pause to figure it out. It does help ease you into a song though generally, and is especially fun for beginners who have no previous experience. I bought a bass guitar as well and that is even more fun for beginners as it has only 4 strings.
      • by Ardyvee (2447206)

        Ah, that. Yes. The adaptive difficulty. Maybe it's because I wasn't a complete beginner to bass, or that I've spend some time playing DDR games to the point that I got used to following serial instructions so playing "learning a song" is usually something I can get to a fairly high percentage on the first try (and, sadly, enable master mode during the first play-through).

        There have been some parts where I honestly couldn't wait until the game would give me a higher difficulty simply because my hands complai

    • Rocksmith made my left hand fingertips so hard and calloused that it slowed my typing speed, I can barely feel the keys with those fingers.

      I played guitar for 10 years and never got very good, three years of Rocksmith and I'm better than I ever hoped I would be. It's an incredible practice engine.

      I was talking with a guitar teacher at the local music store, told him about Rocksmith, and he said you would get two one-hour lessons for the same amount of money.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    http://xkcd.com/70/

  • by tedgyz (515156) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @05:58PM (#46050923) Homepage

    "hooks to your iPhone"

    Why is it everyone targets the iphone first, despite far more android phones in the market? Is it that iDiots more easily part with their money?

    • My guess is, less fragmentation == less coding.

      Plus, if I'm not mistaken, Android's software for interfacing with audio equipment kinda sucks the big one.

    • by Gumug (1005067)
      It could be that the form factor for the iPhone/iPod Touch, is easier to design for, since there are only two sizes out.
    • Re:You lost me at... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Adult film producer (866485) <van@i2pmail.org> on Thursday January 23, 2014 @06:09PM (#46051039)
      He does mention in the video there are latency issues with Android that prevents them from writing useable software for the guitar.
      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        It's just a lame excuse. Yeah, some low end hardware has latency issues. There is still a lot of Android hardware that doesn't. Google made a big effort to fix that sort of thing way back in 4.0.

        I don't understand why western companies have so much trouble with this. Japanese companies just provide a list of phones they have checked it works with, covering the most popular models.

    • A lot of those Androids are indeed of the el cheapo type. Oh, and why is it that every idiot who doesn't understand a market hates on people who buy?
      • by tedgyz (515156)

        I understand the market. I just don't understand why people so easily pay so much more for it. I know it is all about cachet and impressing your friends, so I guess rational thinking goes out the window.

        If you buy ALL Apple products then all is well. As soon as you introduce a non-Apple product it all goes to sh1t. For example, my son has an android phone and a windows laptop. His frat house has Apple TV. Guess what? He can't do anything with it.

    • by Krishnoid (984597)
      In this case (audio at 3:20):

      Because of [Android's] MIDI production system; their system has too much latency in it (goes on to say they're going to port it to a browser-based system).

    • The iPhone has only gone through a few iterations so accommodating different case configurations is easier that with the Android phones. That being said, it seems pointless to have a phone mounted on the instrument when you could just as readily design it with a dedicated, embedded Android device.

    • by knarf (34928)

      Both the money issue - iPeople are very much wont to shell out for the next craze - as well as the rather high audio latency on even the latest incarnation of Android. With a bit of luck the latter problem will be solved when the new Android runtime (ART) goes mainstream. The former problem is unsolvable as it seems to be part of the target group's identity to want to show others that they *can* spend money on basically unnecessary things.

      • by tedgyz (515156)

        Good point. Why do billionaires live in lavish, oversized homes? Because they can. My wife and I both agree that if we got rich, we still would not live in a mansion. You can only be in one room at a time, unless you are The Doctor.

        Here is the sad truth though - many iThing owners are not rich. Case in point: My sister-in-law could not pay the rent living with her parent's but she could afford her iphone and accompanying AT&T monthly fees.

    • by dbraden (214956)

      Apart from Android not providing the needed levels of latency, the iPhone has a marketshare of 42% in the U.S., which is a really big chunk. iPhone owners are also easier to monetize (they are more likely to actually buy stuff from the app store).

  • iPhone + reTard = gTar

  • by Anonymous Coward

    GNU + tar = gTar. Great archive Tool? Or just great Tool? Or just a Tool?

  • Looks like there's only one pickup, that's way too close to the neck -- which will cause the sound to be more toward the low end, meaning you'll lose the high end -- or worse, it's using . The tremolo also looks really weak, not sure how well it'll stay in tune. It also looks like a cheap piece of crap.

    "The average price of a guitar is $399" -- yeah, because you've got the low end Dean starter guitars for $99 and the high end professional Ibanez for $3K.

    Going the route of Rocksmith and a $99 Dean guit
    • There is NO pickup. The strings are not tuned. (Yes, I was surprised to read this too.)

    • Looks like there's only one pickup, that's way too close to the neck -- which will cause the sound to be more toward the low end, meaning you'll lose the high end -- or worse, it's using . The tremolo also looks really weak, not sure how well it'll stay in tune. It also looks like a cheap piece of crap..

      I was thinking the same thing, so I looked at their site. From the website: "While the gTar doesn't have any pickups, ...snip... uses standard electric guitar strings, so they're easy to replace. But remember, since the gTar is a fully digital instrument, you don't need to worry about keeping the strings in tune. " I don't know what the fret action is on this thing, or how it handles fret buzz. But a $99 guitar will not stay in tune very well, and typically has either god awful high/uneven fret action, or

  • Sweet! So, unlike my 50 year old guitar, this will be obsolete in a few years when smartphone sizes & connectors change. Oh right, that will *never* happen ...

    Also, can this thing take a beating?

    • by Roblimo (357)

      I dunno.... I bought an acoustic Epiphone at a pawnshop in Killeen, Texas, when I was stationed at Ft. Hood. Not 50 years back, but a good while. I still have it. I'm still not very good on guitar, but what the hell. I still prefer the real thing. It's been to at least four or five countries with me. Yep.

  • Rocksmith 2014 (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Rocksmith 2014 will actually teach you to play guitar and songs. I'd go with that first where you can use any electric guitar with it.

  • by ThatsDrDangerToYou (3480047) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @06:20PM (#46051165)
    ... a gnu version of tar.
  • As A Guitarist... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @06:22PM (#46051185) Homepage Journal

    As a person who's been a mediocre guitarist for over a decade, I both like and dislike this Slashvertised product.

    Pros:
    - The bridge looks kinda neat
    - with the right software, music teachers would find it very useful for teaching scales and other basics
    - $400 isn't *exceedingly* expensive

    Cons:
    - $400 for a specialty instrument is kinda expensive
    - Ugly. As. Sin.
    - HUGE, awkward body. I sure as hell won't be teaching anybody with short arms to play with this thing
    - Light up fretboard only encourages you to stare at it while you play, which you're really not supposed to do (I do, but as I already implied, I'm not very good)
    - More fancy electronics == more stuff to break
    - WTF is that slotted thing at the end of the fretboard? A pickup? Some sort of crazy vibration arrestor?
    - I can't see a 1/4" jack anywhere on that thing... how am I supposed to hook it into my Marshall?
    - I don't have or want an iPhone
    - from the website: "we have a free SDK that can be used to build all kinds of applications on the gTar" Oh, great, so my fucking geet-box is going to have proprietary software on it? No thanks.

    I'm sure there are plenty more pros/cons, but that's what I've got so far.

    • The 1/4" jack is embedded in the bottom of the guitar, along with the power button, USB port, and pick connector.
      There are no pickups because the strings don't even get tuned - the thing on the end, I think, senses the amplitude of the string vibrations so you can play it with your fingers. This means no note bending, etc. The implication is that it figures out what note you've played by sensing which if the segmented frets are connected to which strings.

      That what's I've gleaned from the website information

  • Other than maybe the part where it connects to a smartphone instead of a computer, this is certainly not the first, and not even new. Fretlight ( http://fretlight.com/ [fretlight.com] ) has been doing it for years. The only place this is anything new is in gTar's imagination.

  • by Bigbutt (65939) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @06:32PM (#46051277) Homepage Journal

    Both of these let you plug a real electric guitar in to your Xbox360 or PS3. Rocksmith also works on a Windows box and Rocksmith 2014 also works on a Mac platform.

    BandFuse is TAB based where Rocksmith looks more like Guitar Hero (as I understand, I never played the plastic controller "guitar" games) with a note highway.

    Rocksmith 2014 (newest) has 50+ songs available and 20 or 30 more DLC songs released since Oct 22nd 2013 when it was released. It's also capable of using any of the DLC and original content from Original Rocksmith ($9.99 transfer fee for the on disk content and if you're on a Windows or Mac platform, you must own the Original Rocksmith for access to the Original Rocksmith DLC).

    For the $400 cost for a gTar you can get a real electric guitar that yes, you have to actually tune and start to play songs.

    I did take lessons before the first Rocksmith came out so I have a year of some training first. I do like Rocksmith (I have a Windows and Mac system so don't have BandFuse) and have really enjoyed practice and playing the almost 1,000 arrangements available for the game.

    [John]

    • You can also get shitloads of additional songs for Rocksmith and Rocksmith 2014 from online communities. For learning purposes only, naturally. Kind of like mods for other games. Only songs that are not released as DLCs, naturally.
  • a new version of Gnu Tape ARchive.

  • The second they get this working on android I'm sold. And I've been playing guitar for 20yrs.

  • How long before Apple decides they want to sell their own and bans the gTar app? They already sell instrument training via Garageband, so they might not even bother and just declare it competition banned already.

    Suddenly, one hopes there are other phones with exactly those dimensions and same connector.

  • by DeathElk (883654) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @07:13PM (#46051741)

    I see no advantage to this.. thing over traditional blood, sweat and tears learning methods. The thing doesn't even tune. The most fundamental part of learning any instrument is feeling the natural acoustic harmonics generated when the instrument is slightly out of tune, compared to when it is in tune. This is ear training, and no shortcuts can be taken there. This device can not replicate that. Even an unplugged electric guitar generates audible harmonics that are fundamental to learning music.

    The other issue I have is the requirement to concentrate wholly on the fretboard, not the score. This method may teach the student a few scales, licks or songs, but they will not develop the subconscious fingering accuracy required to truly advance. This will only come by throwing away this.. thing, and buying a proper guitar.

    • Though it deserves high marks as a toy, as something to learn how to really play on, it suffers from several sins, and I wouldn't recommend it as a way to learn.

      - Focuses the attention on your hands, exactly the wrong place, as you point out. (For the non-guitar players: looking at your hands while you play is like looking at your fingers while you type. If you do that, you will never be able to type quickly. Or play proficiently.)

      - Teaches TAB notation, which is an inferior way to model music (no markup fo

  • can it teach you to play this [youtube.com]?

    (yes that *is* me from, i believe, 1992 or so)

  • >""The First Guitar That Anybody Can Play," hooks to your iPhone."

    Correct wording: "The first guitar that anyone that also owns an iPhone can play". All my small devices are Android and shall remain so....

  • by dbIII (701233) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @08:57PM (#46052567)
    I already use gtar, because Solaris tar tends to bomb out at 2GB.
    • And that is tonight's joke for the greybeards.

      • To be honest, I first thought about tar as well and I'm neither a system administrator nor a "greybeard".
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I already use gtar, because Solaris tar tends to bomb out at 2GB.

      ... but.. does the compression go to 11?

  • sorry, but as a musician (guitar, bass, cello, sax, ...) I consider this extremely lame. Esp. that
    1) Iphone and not android
    2) teaching mode does not teach you how to play so it sounds good (eg. how tones have to ring etc)

  • Literally, that. If you keep tilting your head like that guy in the picture, you're gonna have a sore neck real soon, real bad. Have fun with that.

    Meanwhile, I'll play cool songs on my real guitar of my choosing that I'm learning to play with Rocksmith.

  • http://fretlight.com/ [fretlight.com]

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... [youtube.com]

    a real guitar with lights on the fretboard that you can play through an amp normally...

    not a stupid "case" for your iPhone...

  • I suppose some people are so unwilling to take the time to learn, or to do something properly, that there's always a ready market for a stupid device to make it "easier". It doesn't work. What do a load of flashing LEDs, (controlled by a smartphone, what else) add beyond what printed chord charts, or guitar tab provide? It's exactly the same information.

    Instead, why not spend that $400 on an acoustic guitar (you can get a really good one for that money), and practice putting your fingers on the right string

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