New "Toy"


I don’t have any real G.A.S. to speak of, but I picked up a “toy” that I couldn’t resist the price of on Craigslist. It’s a Fretlight guitar that looks to be in dead mint condition. It came with everything except the Fretlight cable. I plugged in the guitar to check out how it played. It’s a lot better than I thought it was going to be. It’s essentially a strat with lights (if they work). I looked online, and the cable was $7, nomally $50.

I spent time breaking down the Fretlight guitar. I found that the wood was cracked near the bass side post, that went into the tremolo cavity., and it made the post very loose. Thankfully, it’s a very easy fix, if you’re not overwhelmed by it.

I opened the crack a little with a screw driver and first dampened the area. Put the glue in the crack and held the crack closed for a few minutes for it to set. It set pretty quickly, but takes a full 18-24 hours to fully cure. I used a block in the tremolo cavity and another block wedge to keep the pressure on the crack, to hold it closed. I then took a very small piece of maple veneer. I damped it, and put some glue on one side, and slid it into the tremolo post hole, on the side of the crack, to further hold it.

On the bottom side of the tremolo cavity, there was a little piece of wood that seemed to be chipped off, probably came off because of the crack. I cleaned that area up, and glued a piece of veneer in that area to replace it, which will further strengthen the repaired crack.

I removed the bracing the next day, and put the post back in. As I expected, the post needed to be hammered in with the dead blow hammer. The crack is sealed. The post is set perfectly, and all is good with the guitar.

I plugged the guitar in, and loaded the fretlight software, and the guitar lit up. It’s a very interesting concept. I can see this as an incredible tool for beginners, and anyone that is trying to learn a part of a song.

The included software gives you 3 methods of controlling the lights. The first is pick a chord/scale, like my website, and it lights up the fretboard to show the notes of that scale/chord, etc.

The second is to show you any videos that you purchased from fretlight. I have none, so this is a wasted feature for me, or anyone who isn’t willing to buy extra content.

The 3rd is the most fun for an intermediate or advanced guitar player. You select a genre of music, and pick a key, and it has a “jam like” backing track, and it lights up the fretboard where the notes are for the selected backing track. For example, I can use a rock backing track that uses the pentatonic scale. When I select it, it shows all the notes of the pentatonic in the key I selected.

At first glance, it seems like nothing more than my website…on the fretboard. But, this is very powerful. The extra that it gives you are that it blinks the target notes for the next change.

For example: The basic blues pattern is 1-3-4. So, if I choose my key as A minor, the chords would be A-C-D. When you start the backing track, it shows all the notes. But when the next change is about to occur, it blinks the next target note, in this case would be C. While the C is playing in the backing track, it will begin to blink the D for the next transition. It’s pretty cool if you’re not already aware of target notes. Basically a target note is a not that resides within the chord. Any note within that chord would work, because it sounds like it fits the backing chord. So, of course, the root note would be there. You don’t have to stay within the chord structure of the backing chord, but on the transition, it sounds like you know what you’re doing if you hit a target note.

I’m not sure how long the novelty will last. I’m not a person that looks at the fretboard much at all, so the lights don’t affect me much. In fact, I began to find them slightly annoying, because I had to look at the fretboard, which is foreign to me.

One other thing that bugged me, was that all the LEDs are the same color. This is only an annoyance to me, since I wrote my website in a manner to distinguish between different intervals. It’s a non-issue for 99.9% of the people.

After seeing the blinking, I;m really starting to get interesting in the programming aspect. I might be able to make different types of animations with it. But that’s down the road a little while.

It will be a great tool, for figuring out a new scale, or a lead from a song. Still, for $100, it was definitely not money wasted.

A quick update. I had my younger son, who doesn’t play guitar, trying the fretlight. He was actually strumming chords in minutes. I was stunned.

I guess it proves that it’s a great tool for beginners.

I’m having way too much fun with the Fretlight. Not playing it, but programming it. It’s currently hanging on my wall. I found an unofficial Software Developers Kit for the Fretlight, and I am having a blast controlling the Fretlight with it.

I’ve done a couple of animations on it. One is rain drops (or snow flakes, whichever), just learning the SDK. It’s a blast, and I don’t know why. It’s pretty simple, once you start to understand the workings of the SDK.

I also integrated the back end code from my Find The Notes on the Fretboard website, and I can display anything that the website displays (minus the different colors).

One small thing that I have to fix. My program from the website numbers the strings like guitars do, high e is 1 and the low E is 6. The Fretlight SDK does it in reverse. I don’t know why, but it does. I just had to make a quick 5 minute change, and it worked as expected.

Now it displays everything that’s on my web app, on the fretboard. It’s pretty cool.

I think my next utility for it is to read in a song, etc., and put out a spectrum analyzer on the fretboard.

Like I said, having a blast with combining my 2 passions: guitars and programming.


They should put robo tuners on these guitars for ultimate beginner friendliness.

Does it have to have the cable for voltage and program info? It would be cool if it were more self contained-just download a few dozen songs on it, charge up the battery and play it at a gig for wow factor. I guess it would need some sort of UI on the guitar to do that, though :thinking:

…checking the website, it looks like they have a wireless version now.


I often wondered about those guitars, also good for old pickers like me who may forget what key he is playing in.:sunglasses:


They have a wireless version, but it still needs a wifi connection.


I was looking into this and found a link from 2011 where an engineering student made one of these with an Arduino. It looked like a mess, but it was just a prototype:

Seems like there could be a lot of cool stuff to do with one of these. RGB LED’s would open up a bunch of possibilities-you could show main chords in red, inversions in white, substitutions in blue etc. Maybe display multiple scales simultaneously. Of course it could get too busy and overwhelming pretty quickly, too.

Shit, if nothing else you could program your guitar neck to match the light show. I want one now :grinning: