He was perched on a bench in the Austin, Texas, twilight — music pouring from the very center of his soul. Light, like heavenly beams, bursting from his core. He was, in a word, beautiful. He was, in a word, luminous. He was, in a word, inanimate. Yup, we’re talking about a guitar.
But it was no run-of-the-mill guitar, no. We’re pretty sure your basic six-stringer would be banned from a hackathon, which is where we first set eyes on Tabber Guitar, a yet-to-be-mass-produced tool that was making the rounds (its intrepid team in tow) at SXSW.
The conceit of the tool is simple (and pretty!): In its current form, Tabber is a guitar with lights embedded in its fret board. The flickering of those lights instructs users which strings to pluck and when. According to co-founder Robert Sanchez, this iteration of Tabber started to take form back in October, becoming more polished during a series of music hack days.
Aware that some people might not want to tote around a light-up guitar all the time (we don’t know who those people are), Sanchez and Co. have worked up a new version of Tabber: a sheath that users can slide over their guitar’s neck. The device will connect to a user’s phone and an accompanying app will gather info about songs and send it back into the sheath. Sanchez says the team is currently working on an integration with Spotify that would allow users to stream songs while playing them. (They will also need to figure out licensing issues in the future for all song tablature.)
If the app sounds a little paint-by-numbers-esque, it’s because it is. Right now Sanchez and his partners aren’t really focusing on music theory. “The core function that it serves is that instead of reading music, you can keep your eyes on the guitar,” he says. However, more technical lesson tools will be added later on. The team is also working on apps for other instruments, like the bass. Sanchez, a former high school rock band drummer, is looking forward to the day when his hi-hat will illuminate as well.
And Tabber isn’t just for beginners, according to Sanchez. “When we first started showing it around, we met a lot of guitarists who didn’t need the learning aspect, but liked the performance aspect. Lights have always been so intertwined with music.”
The crew just launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the production of the sleeves, so depending on how jazzed the Web at large gets about the light-up guitars, we could be seeing them on the market soon.