It's easy to make fun of Guitar Hero now that the craze is over, but one thing is for sure: It created a new enthusiasm for the guitar as an instrument, in these days of DJs and remix artists. We've seen a rash of startingly innovative new ways to teach people how to play the guitar, from the Rock Prodigy series to Wild Chords. Those are great, but Tabber could be better.
Perhaps taking a cue from those learning keyboards with keys that light up, the Tabber approach makes frets light up when and where you are supposed to play them (video below). Tabber was created as a hack in 24 hours at Music Hack Day Boston, and honed at Music Hack Day San Francisco over this past weekend, but it's real. And it works with any guitar.
To use Tabber - once it is released (it's currently in prototype form), you'll slide a slim sheath over your guitar's fretboard, which its creators say doesn't affect its sound much. That's where the lights go, and they cover up the first 12 frets of the guitar. To make them light up, you feed MIDI notes into the guitar from an as-yet-unreleased app running on your iOS device. The lights can run from a battery, meaning that the whole set-up is mobile and requires no computer.
"Tabber solves the fundamental problem with all existing learning methods: it keeps your eyes on the guitar," according to its official description. "Tabber is your visual teacher, guiding you through songs, chords and scales…. Users of all skill levels can interact with the software to learn, but also to awe their fans. Tabber is fully open-source so anyone can create light patterns in addition to the ones we have built in and use Tabber as a stunning visual performance."
Yes, in addition to teaching you how to play, Tabber can display light patterns on stage once you learn your chops and start booking gigs - a win/win.
You can't buy Tabber yet, but the people behind it seem serious about releasing the light-up sheath, app, and even Tabber guitars. They include co-creators Rob Sanchez and Ryan Rogowski (a.k.a. Music Everywhere), Kipp Bradford (who plans to sell the hardware on kippkits), and Nick Holcomb of Holcomb Guitars, who is working on "full-blown Tabber guitars."