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Optek Fretlight

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I remember the days, long, long ago, when hours of my time were spent hunched over the fretboard of an electric guitar in the vain hope of pulling off a stunning guitar solo or coming up with a riff that would sell a million records.

Unfortunately I failed miserably in my quest to become lead guitarist with a world famous heavy metal band, which is why I entered the only-slightly-less glamourous world of IT journalism. But that’s because I didn’t have the right teaching … at least that’s the story I’m sticking to.

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With the help of a new development in the world of axe technology, however, I reckon I would have stood a better chance. Optek’s innovative Fretlight guitar has bright red LEDs embedded in the fretboard at every fingering position, which light up scales, tunes and chords and progressions that you can follow with your fingers.

Just plug it into a free USB socket with the 10ft long cable provided, fire up the software and, using the Guitar Power software included with the guitar, you can display pretty much any scale or chord you can think of, and then some, from simple major and minor to pentatonics and everything in between.

There are thousands upon thousands to choose from – all you have to do is pick one and practice. So as well as being a good tool for beginners, this guitar could be a boon for more advanced players who have skipped that tedious stage, learning all those scales and need something to help them fill the gaps. Even someone who has played the same old scales for years and wants a bit of inspiration will find the Fretlight’s ‘follow the dots’ method of learning scales far quicker and easier than attempting to memorise a chart from a book.

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Better still, there is all manner of software available for download from the Optek website to make your progression from slayer of tracks to axe-master even easier. In the box with your Fretlight, for instance, there is a trial version of M-Player, which takes special Fretlight-enabled midi files and highlights the fingering of the guitar part on the fretboard for you to follow. You can slow files down to make them easier to follow and loop all those tricky sections until you’ve mastered everything you need to.

But is the guitar itself any good? After all you can embed all the technological trickery you like but it won’t do one jot of good if the frets are skewiff or the action on the strings is so high that playing a bar chords feels like a masochistic exercise with musical cheese wire.

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