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First Look: Magic Instruments' rhythm guitar makes you sound like a pro with the push of a button

You don't need time or talent to get started with this guitar.

Not everyone is blessed with musical talent. But that’s OK, because technology can make up for what we lack. I just tried out a digital guitar that made me feel like a virtuoso despite having no skills whatsoever.

You’ve probably played Guitar Hero or Rock Band before, and using the new rhythm guitar from Magic Instruments is a similar type of experience, though it feels less like a game and more like a real jam session. This guitar won’t teach you how to position your fingers on the fretboard, because those complicated finger gymnastics have been replaced by buttons. To play a chord, you press a button and start strumming.

A karaoke-style app guides you through a song by putting numbers over words so you know which button to press and when. The app will have tens of thousands of songs at launch and cost $5.99 a month to access all of them, or you can pay 99 cents per song.

Magic Instruments

The Magic Instruments guitar requires no knowledge of sheet music, so it’s not designed for people who want to learn how to play the old-fashioned way. But not everyone has the time to commit to beginner guitar lessons, and even if they do, picking up an instrument as an adult is incredibly difficult. That’s why Magic Instruments cofounder and CEO Brian Fan created the digital guitar. Despite having years of musical experience as a pianist, Fan found that teaching himself to play the guitar was an exercise in futility, especially with a new baby to take care of. Using his music expertise and tech background, Fan dreamed up an easy-to-use interface and tapped industrial design team Ammunition Group to create the finished product.

The Magic Instruments guitar’s button-based fretboard isn’t at all similar to a real fretboard, but the sounds it makes are just like an electric guitar. You can strum chords or finger pick notes, and apply digital effects like reverb and chorus. It has a standard output jack, a headphone jack, and a MIDI out so you can use it with your Mac to record songs in GarageBand.

I also loved the look and feel of the guitar. It’s lightweight at 5 pounds and stylish to boot, with a matte white or matte black finish.

Magic Instruments just launched a 30-day Indiegogo campaign to raise $50,000 and is prepping to ship the first wave of orders early next year. The preorder price is $299, and the guitar will retail for $399.

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