FretZealot Gives Sixty Second Ukelele Lessons
Tom Spendlove posted on July 03, 2019 |

Shaun Masavage has been working at the same idea for seven years. Struck with inspiration to teach any level user to play guitar, Masavage and his team at Edge Tech Labs developed a system to use lights for guiding finger placements. This translated later to bass guitars, and Fret Zealot is now back with a tool for teaching Ukelele, running a successful Kickstarter funding campaign.

The basics of this ukelele tool are the same. Thin LED strips are placed on your ukelele neck, and show the user where to place their fingers to play different notes. The app helps to tune the ukelele, translate songs to finger placements, and for advanced users helps to learn chords. Different light show effects can also be controlled through the app.

Shaun answered a few questions for us about the development of the new tool. He said that since releasing their guitar product they've had constant requests for a ukelele version. Ukeleles are approaching 70 percent of sales for the guitar market because of their smaller size, softer nylon strings and relatively smaller learning curve. A four string strip of LED lights is easier to manufacture than a six string unit, but the smaller form required the team to push the microcontrollers closer together. This resulted in a change from single sided flexible circuitboards to double. Double sided increased the thickness of the boards, and thickness relative to the frets is one of the critical design features. The internal quality specification states that the product needs to be 0.8 millimeters lower than the fret when installed, and new quality assurance procedures had to be implemented. Another challenge was the variety of ukeleles. Soprano, concert, tenor and baritone styles all exist but with different lengths and widths. After doing research and interviewing music stores it was decided to focus on the concert and tenor ukeleles.

Fret Zealot continues to perform primarily the same functions across product generations while feeling like they're innovating each time. This also shows how a tech transfer that should be easy - "make it like the guitar system but smaller" - can have design complications that require some creative problem solving to overcome. This Kickstarter campaign is already successful and ends on July 12, 2019.

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