Tim Berce’s Fret Friend makes it easier to learn to play the guitar by allowing players to mark the various chord locations. (via Fret Friend)
Playing the guitar is easy, especially if your last name is Hendrix, Halen or Vaughan but for the rest of us it takes a considerable amount of time and practice along with a boatload of frustration, especially for beginners. The problem, at least for some of us, lies in ‘communication’- specifically the communication between the brain and fingers. While the brain can easily read various chords written on tablature, getting the fingers to follow the brain’s instructions on where to place them on the guitar’s fretboard takes seemingly forever
For beginners, this can seem like trying to perform brain surgery by reading a how-to book. In other words, very difficult, however it doesn’t have to be thanks to an ingenious gadget that allows students to place various scales and chords directly onto a guitar’s fretboard. Designed by Tim Berce to make the process of learning chords less difficult, Fret Friend is a wrap that covers the fret board with a flexible composite fabric that can be marked using a white marker.
The wrap fits most every guitar in the acoustic and electric range and is easy to attach as it slips underneath the guitar strings, lines up with the frets and is secured using Velcro, which doesn’t move even when performing slides thanks to an inner rubber backing.
Fret Friend has incorporates many features including being easy to attach, durable and is easy to clean.
Of course, being a novice player myself I had a few questions about Fret Friend and was fortunate to have Tim answer them with more detail about his design beginning with the material and if the marker is susceptible to smudging or smearing- “Fret Friend is made of a composite material. The surface is there to enable guitarists to write on it, yet keep it smooth enough for it not to bother hand movement. The underside is made of rubber so that it sticks to the wooden surface of the fretboard and doesn't move!”
On the issue of being susceptible to smudging, he goes on to say, “It's not susceptible to smudging or sweat - we haven't had those problems yet and we've been testing them for 6 months. You need running water and a towel to rub the pen off once you're done.” Which is a plus in my book, as my hands tend to get sweaty after practicing for a while.
Certainly, another big issue I had was if Fret Friend would affect the dynamics of a guitar such as tone and sustainability, especially for electric guitars and would it dampen the overall tone. Tim assuaged my fears with his reply stating, “If you play guitar right then Fret Friend will not bother you at all while playing.
It won't change the tone and it won't dampen overall playability.” He goes on to say, “2 things to note though. If you hold your guitar wrong (eg. pressing really hard into the guitar neck with your chording hand), it will start damping the sound and work as a marker to tell you "Hey! You shouldn't press so strongly against your guitar neck." The second "issue" is if you have a scale marked in a particular key. It gets pretty confusing to play something else or something in another key on it because you keep focusing on the markings on the fretboard. Easy fix for that - either remove or wipe and redraw Fret Friend.”
Fret Friend is being crowd-funded on Kickstarter and comes with everything needed to sharpen guitar skills including a handy booklet with tips and exercises.
My final question I had for Tim was centered on just how many different guitar types Fret Friend could fit on such as seven or eight string guitars, or those with more frets than the standard 22. His answer didn’t disappoint- “I tried to fit it on a 12 string acoustic guitar and it worked! We're trying to make Fret Friend fit on as many guitars as possible. That's why we're offering 3 sizes for Acoustic and 3 sizes for Electric guitars - that should cover around 90% of the guitars on the market.” As for the fret issue, he goes on to say, “The number of frets really isn't an issue, the only key information is Scale Length. Which basically predefines where the holes in the Fret Friend should be. If our campaign goes really well, we'll offer a classical guitar and bass guitar version of it.”
In an effort to get Fret Friend manufactured and out on the market, Tim has recently turned to the crowd-funding website Kickstarter with a target goal of $25,000, but it didn't make the goal. I am sure you can still get the system. Which nets you the Fret Friend itself along with a marker, a handy booklet with tips and exercises, a backing track in 12 keys and an online scale generator.
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