July 12, 2013


"World’s Easiest Guitar to Play" Speeds Learning Process 10 Times Faster than Traditional Method

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The Fretlight Guitar has red dots that illuminate to show players
where to place their fingers for chords and scales.
Before getting into this press release, I'd like to make a few of my own comments about this product. Having taught guitar lessons for the past decade, and teaching myself to play prior to that, I wish that I'd had something like this at my disposal -- both for my own learning and for the purpose of teaching my past students. This is a very practical solution to learning scales and chords (where to put your fret-hand fingers) that I always thought would be helpful. I'm glad someone put this business concept into action.

There will likely be some players out there who scoff at the idea of learning this way. To them, part of the "grit" they developed as a guitarist came from the agony of staring at chord and scale books and figuring out how to get their fingering right. But I see this as no different from the Red Coats being too stubborn to break their straight-line formation in the Revolutionary War. Sometimes adaptation is critical for survival, and surely there will be guitarists who take advantage of this technology to get far ahead of their peers in the learning curve. In the end, results are what matter the most.

The Fretlight Guitar, like so many breakthrough innovations, was born out of a remarkably simple idea to provide a practical solution to a long-standing problem: the difficult and often frustrating process of learning to play guitar. Industry statistics show that 80 percent of people who start to play the guitar give up within 90 days of starting. Even for accomplished players, hitting a plateau is not uncommon. Methods for learning the guitar, whether for beginners or advanced players, have changed little since the 1950s.

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Scale Pattern is mapped out on this Fretlight guitar.
The eureka moment for Rusty Shaffer, an avid guitar player and mechanical engineer, came when he envisioned a guitar that would speed the learning process by lighting up chords and scales right on the fretboard, showing the player where to place his fingers. “For me and for most players, going back and forth from chord and scale books to the guitar was slow and agonizing,” Shaffer recalls. “I kept thinking, why can’t this information be put where I really need it – right under my fingertips?” In 1987, Shaffer invented the Fretlight Guitar, forever transforming the experience of learning to play.

To develop and market the Fretlight Guitar, Shaffer founded Optek Music Systems, Inc. As new technologies emerged, Shaffer upgraded the electronic components and craftsmanship required to manufacture high-quality guitars with embedded LED lights that show the fingering positions for chords, scales, songs, riffs and even tablature.

During the early years for the Fretlight Guitar, Shaffer found that within the music industry, particularly among the iconic, old guard manufacturers, there was little excitement about an innovative guitar that incorporated new technologies. Such modifications were seen as scary, and unnecessary. Retailers were hesitant to rock the boat, presenting Optek with distribution challenges. Shaffer, however, utilized online sales channels to generate awareness of the unique nature of the Fretlight Learning System, and the Fretlight Guitar quickly developed a devoted following.

With the advancement of interactive digital technology, the potential for the Fretlight Guitar took a giant step forward. By connecting through a PC and Mac, the new Fretlight used a combination of software and video instruction to dramatically simplify the process and accelerate the learning curve up to 10 times faster than ever before possible. The video lessons could be slowed down and looped so fingerings could be practiced at a comfortable pace, building instant muscle memory, retention and confidence.

By 2004, using new, cutting-edge technologies, engineering and manufacturing methods, the Fretlight Guitar and learning system had evolved into the revolutionary and disruptive innovation that Shaffer had envisioned. Shaffer re-launched Optek Music Systems in Windham, N.H. that year while working full time as an intellectual property attorney. In 2010, after relocating to Reno, Nev., Optek was recapitalized and soon introduced a complete new line of premium electric and acoustic Fretlight Guitars.

With the tenacity of an entrepreneur and the power of a dream, Shaffer’s determination paid off. In 2011, Guitar World magazine bestowed its prestigious Gold Award to the Fretlight Guitar, proclaiming that “using a Fretlight Guitar with Fretlight Ready Guitar Pro 6 software is easily the fastest and most effective way to learn how to play songs and expand your scale and chord vocabulary.” Today, Fretlight Guitars are sold nationwide through select music specialty retailers known as “Fretlight Showrooms,” and available online at Fretlight.com.

Fretlight is changing the way beginners learn to play, bringing former players back to the guitar, and allowing advanced players to audition new scales and improvise new solos. The Fretlight Guitar lets players concentrate on the neck of the guitar, eliminating the back and forth routine from traditional books and diagrams, enabling players of all levels to improve faster while having more fun in the process.

Each Fretlight guitar comes complete with free Fretlight Studio Software, Beginner 101 and 102 interactive video lessons, plus the Hal Leonard Fretlight Ready Lennon & McCartney play-along video. Thousands of tabs can be downloaded from the internet and learned on the Fretlight Guitar using the optional Guitar Pro 6 Fretlight Ready software. Videos are also available featuring songs by Stevie Ray Vaughan, David Gilmour, Eric Clapton, Bob Seger, Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix and many other guitar heroes. Fretlight provides live chat, product support and online customer service for players at all skill levels.

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