gTar uses an iPhone to teach you the guitar
By Dave Parrack
May 22, 2012
Learning to play any musical instrument can be a mammoth task, especially for those who aren't naturally gifted in that regard. The guitar is particularly difficult to learn to play, with a steep learning curve and some extraordinary finger dexterity required right from the start. Therefore, any tool designed to make the process less painful is welcomed with open arms by budding guitar gods. A company called Incident is hoping that will be the case for gTar, a new digital guitar that utilizes the power of the iPhone.
Incident, a company based in Santa Clara, California, has designed a new digital guitar it hopes will come to the aid of guitarists of all skill levels. The device looks like a cross between a real guitar and a Rock Band/Guitar Hero guitar; it's easy to spot it isn't "real" but it's more authentic than the videogame peripherals that appear to have peaked in popularity several years ago.
The gTar comprises a digital guitar with strings, frets and various other of the different components that make up the instrument. The big difference is the presence of an iPhone (4 or newer) running a specially-designed app.
Instead of pick-ups to amplify the sound of the string being strummed, the gTar has sensors along the neck that are able to detect, in real time, which note is being played. This information is then relayed to the iPhone docked in the body of the gTar, which produces the actual sound.
The app comes bundled with songs that the user can choose from to play along with. Despite the name, the gTar is not limited to guitar sounds, with the app making it entirely possible to play a grand piano by plucking the notes instead. Whatever the song and whatever the instrument, users have a choice of three levels of difficulty: Easy, Medium, and Hard.
Easy means just playing the open strings, and hitting the wrong string means no sound is produced. Medium adds fretwork to the mix, but there is still no danger of messing up thanks to the built-in SmartPlay feature. Hard means needing to play the correct notes; not doing so will result in every mistake being heard. This learning curve is the gTar's strength, as real guitars start and end on the Hard level of difficulty.
The gTar is initially being sold through a Kickstarter project. Incident asked for US$100,000 to fund the initial production run and has already raised more than that amount. Approximately $70,000 of the target was raised quickly by backers paying US$350 each to get their hands on the first 200 gTars produced. The company has stated the final retail price will be $449.
The device has also made an appearance at TechCrunch Disrupt 2012, where it was actually on show and demonstrated to work as advertised. This is an important step in the Kickstarter model, which requires a certain amount of trust to exist between the project creators and the project backers.
In the future, Incident plans on releasing an SDK (software development kit) that will allow third parties to create apps for the gTar. The possibilities are only limited by the breadth of developers' imaginations.
In conclusion, the gTar is a relatively expensive way to learn to play guitar. On top of the $350-and-up asking price for the gTar itself, you'll also need to own or buy an iPhone. However, this isn't just a learning tool. Even if and when you do reach Jimi Hendrix-like status, the gTar can still be used as a digital guitar to hone your skills on or to show off to friends. It also looks good.
There are other options to consider though, such as Rocksmith, a game/training tool available for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. This lets you use a real electric guitar to play well-known songs with visual guidance. At least with Rocksmith you end up with a real guitar after the lessons have come to an end rather than a digital copy. There's also the iTar, which incorporates an iPad into a somewhat guitar-like body.
The video below shows the gTar in action along with some brief words from the founder and CEO of Incident.