Fret Zeppelin Device Teaches Guitar in Sixty Seconds
Tom Spendlove posted on January 13, 2017 |
Engineers have developed a flexible LED strip to attach to any guitar surface and show the user how ...

Shaun Masavage, John Tolly and Brandon Borko from Edge Tech Labs all had a passion for music and specifically the guitar. Shaun was a tab rocker, pulling up tabs from the internet and trying to play them. This could prove difficult because by the time he had proper finger placement for the tabs he would forget the song's melody. The team developed Fret Zeppelin as an addon device to teach guitar in sixty seconds, and are running a Kickstarter campaign for the first production run of parts.

Fret Zeppelin sticks onto acoustic or electric guitars with an adhesive, and sits below the guitar's frets. LEDs light up and tell you which strings to push and allows you to play a song the first time. The Fret Zeppelin app can be used to show a song's chords, display tabs, program the LED lights, and tune a guitar.

Shaun Masavage talked to us about the development of the project. He said that this system satisfied his needs as a tab rocker, allowed John Tolly the music theorist to concentrate on technique, and let Brandon Borko the improvisationist jam up and down note lines staying in the same scale.

The biggest design decision was figuring out how many frets to cover. The final decision was one octave plus one hand position, totaling sixteen frets. After considering a smaller version they decided that people would grow out of the system too quickly. The team investigated the device to sense hand position as well as display proper positioning, and might add that feature on to future offerings.

The adhesive that attaches the strip to the guitars was a big design issue. The adhesive needed to be safe for all guitar surfaces, be removable, and align itself to the neck of the guitar. There are a few installation GIFs on the update page showing installation of the device. It's recommended that strings are removed from the guitar before installation but the team is trying to find the best method to get around that process.

Some tweaking is currently being done on the protective top coating of the strips, to keep the thickness at half of the fret's height while still maintaining manufacturability. During the manufacturing development phase lots of monitoring was done at the PCB factory around soldering. Flexible PCB requires that the components don't pop off of the board when bent at more than ninety degrees, and after a rough start modifications to the under fill technique allows the soldering to stay in place.

This is the third Kickstarter project from Edge Tech (we previously reported on their DrinkMate device) and has almost hit its $48,000 target in the first week of funding. The genesis for this idea started back in 2012 when the cost and feasibility of flexible circuitboards wasn't quite as feasible, and there's a great prototype section on the page showing several developmental stages. The campaign ends on February 8, 2017 and first units are expected to ship in October. 

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