If you want to be a rockstar, you’ll probably want to learn an instrument. In our series Want to be a Rock Star?, we’ll test a few programs out!
Like a million other people out there, I want to be a rock star. Live music has an incredible influence on everything from what events I look forward to, to even my mental state. Over the years, I’ve tried to learn guitar multiple times. I’ve owned at least five guitars and within a few weeks, I would always quit. Then, I came across something magical: an Indiegogo campaign promising to teach me the guitar in 60 seconds.
It sounds like it’s too good to be true. And obviously, if you read it and thought to yourself, “I’m going to be an incredible guitarist in 60 seconds,” you need to take it back a step. But Fret Zealot really does deliver.
The Fret Zealot works essentially by fitting their hardware on your guitar and using their software to light up the fret board you just fitted on and following along.
Founder and CEO, Shaun Masavage told me,
We’re incredibly dedicated to updates and upgrades, so it’s going to rapidly get better over the next few short months. Our goal is to truly have something for everyone. If we can’t provide it, we have a free SDK (software development kit) that we’re providing to partner apps so they can display their information on Fret Zealot via Bluetooth from their own apps!
We didn’t make Fret Zealot to “cheat” learning guitar, but rather help the 90% of people who give up for a plethora of different reasons.
At the same time, we have really cool features for the other 10% at all levels. By using iOS and Android as our control platform, we’re future-proofing the product since mobile devices have become the central focus point of our lives in terms of controlling technology.
We want to take away the excuses from all players, but not stress them (either mentally or financially) too much, so they can learn at their own pace in their own way.
Their guitar recommendation for best use with the Fret Zealot is an Epiphone or Gibson, but any guitar with a 24.75″ scale length works best. I’ve got a few guitars at home (to be honest, I was already in the process of really learning again, before receiving the Fret Zealot), but I wanted to get a guitar that fits it perfectly.
Can we all agree that Facebook Marketplace is incredible? Before I bought, I decided how much I was willing to spend on a nice Epiphone. I didn’t want the low end, but I also didn’t want to drop a ton of moola on a Gibson, so I put the cap at $200 and found a gorgeous black and white Limited Edition Epiphone “1963” J-45 reissue at $199 and made an offer that the seller accepted.
I’ve gotta say, before we get any farther into this, this guitar is gorgeous. It’s not a beast, it’s not tiny, but it’s just a comfy size and super unique with the black and white. The previous owner also made a few modifications that take it up a notch.
But on to the Fret Zealot itself:
Insert slow clap here. As soon as you get it, you’re going to be impressed with what’s inside. And honestly, not even just what’s inside, but the thought that went into how it was built, how the packaging was colored, and the bonus items like picks and stickers. The unboxing video above is exactly what I found in mine and it gives you a good idea of what you’re getting into.
Take. The. Strings. Off. I read somewhere that you can just loosen them and leave them on for the install. But seriously, it’s a bad idea. Don’t do this. Once you have them off, it’s super easy to apply the Fret Zealot, and you can just restring it once it’s good to go. I wish it was a little stronger on the sticky side near the first fret, but I haven’t had any trouble over the last few weeks with it staying on or getting in my way.
The app is good, albeit extremely simple. Fret Zealot pairs easily to your phone via Bluetooth and everything is laid out in a way that makes sense. The three areas it focuses on are Play, Learn, and Fun.
Play is exactly what it sounds like. This section has all of the songs that are ready for you to learn using the app and includes a tuner. To learn the songs it plays a MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) of the tabs with you at normal speed, half speed, or super slow speed (while you’re learning). You can also pick the guitar parts within each song that you’d like to learn (electric guitar, overdriven guitar, distortion guitar, etc.), rate the songs, and favorite them to play with later. Currently, there are over 75 songs on it, but as more people use it, and more lessons are added, that number will grow.
The most recent update to the app added AI/Listening Mode. The app listens to you play and moves the song forward as you play the correct notes. Play at your own pace and it lights up the fretboard to show you the way. This single update changed everything for me. If these are the updates over the next few months that Shaun was talking about above, then anyone who gets in now is going to be pleasantly surprised around every corner.
Learn shows you chords, notes, scales, and video lessons. Want to learn how to play the cowboy chords (E major, E minor, A major, A minor, D major, D minor, G major, and C major)? Just plug it in on the app and the fretboard will light up for you (there’s even chord voicing, which shows other ways to play the same overall sound with different fingering). It’s super easy to see exactly where to put your fingers. Almost like a teacher in the room with you.
Fun, which you’re going to have throughout all of this, is basically a way to show off exactly what the LEDs are capable of with settings that make your fretboard look like a rainbow, sparkler, bolts, and more. I assume that once I am a famous rock star, thanks to Fret Zealot, I will use this to show off for my legion of fans… But seriously, it’s awesome to see your fretboard light up in a ton of different ways.
No question about it, this is still a work in progress. As it says in the app: “All Levels (Coming Soon).” But the lessons that are available at this points are fantastic. Not only do you have video lessons from Justin Guitar, but the app is linked to the lessons, so when he says to “put your fingers here,” your guitar lights up. So, unlike every other learning platform out there, you’ve got an almost personal touch, in the room with you while you learn.
They’ve also broken the lessons down into levels, stages, and songs. So you can pick something like “beginner, stage 2” or “beginner, stage 1, songs” which teach you the basics of guitar and then implements them across specific songs you are most likely already familiar with like Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” or Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line.”
Another exciting part of the lessons here is that there’s one titled, “Guitar Center (Coming Soon).” Partnering with a group that most guitarists will be familiar with like them is a huge step for Fret Zealot. If this is only the first big partner, we’re sure to see a lot of other ones coming after it is launched.
The rating below is for one reason only, there are only three lessons available as of today. Once the Learn section of the app is built out, all lessons are introduced (and possibly even more partners brought on), this will be the best way to learn without having a guitar teacher on retainer in your home.
Is Fret Zealot perfect? No. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t be or get you on the right path to your rock star dreams. Playing with it over the past few weeks have been an eye-opener to what technology is capable of in the teaching of music. Not only does this make it simple to see, hear, and learn the notes, but it does it in a way that makes the user want to continue.
Once more lessons and songs are added for all skill levels and/or another big guitar teaching app like Yousician jumps on their offer to use the SDK, this will be the go-to guitar learning app on the market.
The rock stars of tomorrow are possibly already at home, waiting for this to arrive on their doorstep.