Okay, quick question:
Before you actually began playing your instrument(s), did you, or did you not…
… PLAY AIR??!
What I mean is, did you PRETEND to play an instrument before you learned it?
Like “air guitar”…
… “air drums”…
… “air bass”…
… or any variation thereof??
Maybe you STILL like to seriously rock out, like Wayne, and Garth, in this epic, unforgettable AIR-singing and AIR-playing scene:
I TOTALLY played air in middle school, before I picked up guitar and keys. You could BET that, if a Van Halen song came on, I ABSOLUTELY would be super-shredding on air guitar for the total length of the tune. Sometimes with other friends too, who ALSO were air-shredding on their imaginary instruments!
Only it takes it UP a notch!!
Now if you already play instruments, this new product probably is not for you. Aeroband designed the Pocket Guitar for those who do NOT play guitar, yet maybe aspire to, or those who just like the feel of pretending to play when the music’s on and the jam is groovin’.
The product links to your phone via Bluetooth, and when paired, allows you to play pretty realistic-sounding acoustic guitar strums or picking patterns using just a small, simple pick!
At first, I thought that maybe this could be used to actually lay some tracks down as a real musician as well, but part of the circuitry engineering makes that not likely, as we’ll talk about later.
I see this product as especially cool for kids – toddlers and those under 10, for example, who haven’t picked up instruments, yet see their mom and dad, or superstars on TV or YouTube shredding on various instruments.
They’ll want to naturally join in the sonic frenzy, and this li’l piece of music tech allows them to do just that… with hardly any practice needed at all!
The Big, Black Pick!
So the Pocket Guitar, in a nutshell, is a pretty simple product. It’s a small, black, triangular triangle. It resembles a guitar pick, but it’s more bulbous and hollow inside, encasing some circuits, and what feels to be a small gyroscope that you can feel buzz when it’s on and you’re strumming.
The circuits trigger acoustic guitar sounds in a free phone app (available in your App store) that works whether you have an Android or an Apple phone.
As you move your hand up and down from the wrist, emulating strumming guitar strings, the sound samples in the app are triggered, and it sounds, as if by magic, that you are playing acoustic guitar!
Pretty cool idea, and surprisingly, a product nobody had made ’til now.
A good way to describe this product is… it’s like having a portable “Rock Band” in your pocket. Remember that old Xbox and PlayStation game? Played many an hour on it myself, not to mention my youngest son, who ended up being a very accomplished drummer with its rhythmic help!
Aeroband also makes the “Pocket Drum“, which comes as a Bluetooth-enabled pair of drum sticks. With that additional product, you and a friend could actually make real music and play real songs without ever studying music at all per se!
The engineering behind this pick is really decent. The more you play it, the better it performs.
I found that if I strummed with my hand to aggressively (meaning making too large of a movement) the sound samples would skip or hiccup. But when I kept to smaller movements, the sound samples trigger exactly like they should.
So if the music’s loud and you’re expressing yourself a little too much physically, some sample triggering misfires might cue you to take it down a notch. If ya wanna play WELL, that is. 😉
If you don’t do any Pete Townsend-like roundhouse strums, and concentrate more on precision with small movements, you’ll get pretty good results and it can actually sound like you’re playing a real acoustic.
As with any instrument, practice makes progress. The more you mess around with the pocket guitar, the better it starts sounding. Hone your technique long enough and, hey, a local band may have you sit in as their acoustic player.
Stranger things have happened!
The App Chords
Admittedly, there’s a lot that this product does not teach you about music. However, just like “Rock Band” did, it actually is great for teaching rhythm and the basics of song chord progressions.
If you want to play a song, your first step will be to Google the actual chords of a real song you want to learn.
At that point, you can go into the app, choose those same chords, and put them in the correct order as they appear in the song.
Any chords that are not in the song, you simply delete from the page.
When all chords for the song you want to learn are in the correct sequence, you simply push each chord individually in the app while strumming the black pic and VOILA… you’re playing the song on what sounds like an acoustic guitar!
Are all chord variations provided?
No. If you want to express yourself à la Thelonious Monk or some other incredible jazz cat, you’re not going to find the more advanced, complex chords you need to play through the “Real Book”!
The most divergent chords from your basic major triad you find here are the “diminished” and the “augmented” types.
But let’s be real… even without the Gbmaj11/E, you WILL be able to play pretty much any song on the radio, from any era.
Well, maybe not everything from the 70s, but close. lol
One feature I find sorely lacking from the app though is the ability to lay out certain chords for a particular song and then SAVE them. It’s kind of a bummer that can choose specific chords, put them in a specific order, but then if you want to play a different song, you have to lose all the work you just put into the first song.
Hopefully, in new iterations of the app to come, they’ll add this ability to the software. That way you can have dozens of songs and their requisite chords already saved for your next jam session at the touch of a button, and can quickly get to the fun of playing… which is what this product is really all about anyway!
The App Songs
There are two sections to the app:
- Free Play
The “free play section” is where you arrange and push buttons that correspond to a selection of chords that you have chosen.
The “play section” of the app is meant to be where popular songs are listed and the chords to that song are already there for you, so you don’t have to look them up on Chordie.com or some other song chords website.
Currently, however, there are only two songs listed in this act. Both are kind of okay love ballads:
- “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt
- “My Love” by Westlife
The Blunt song is actually listed as “You Are Beautiful”, so the title is a bit off, but the song is the same.
Since there’s no way to program or save your own songs in this app right now, you’re limited to only these two options until the company adds more.
This is an obvious shortcoming, but one I’m sure the developers are aware of, and as this app continues to grow, I’m sure we’ll see more and more songs added.
At least I hope so. Having a large selection of songs all ready to play would go a long way to making this product give immediate satisfaction right out of the box.
The Reverb Wall
I was actually going to use the pocket guitar on one of my latest songs, and see if I could do a convincing acoustic guitar track using just this pic and the App.
Couldn’t do it though. The reason is that there’s substantial reverb on the acoustic guitar sounds, and there’s no way to dial it back or eliminate it.
If you’re playing live, this isn’t much of an issue.
Usually the more ‘verb on the instruments the better, especially if you’re in a small venue.
So you could use this pick and app combination even with the heavy reverb… as long as you’ve honed your technique enough to be able to keep “in the pocket” of the song, that is.
(By the way, the Pocket Guitar even comes with a carrying bag, and a rubber belt clip, so you can keep it handy on those live music ventures!)
But when recording in the studio, all tracks need to be “dry”, meaning devoid of any type of effect, when you record them. That allows you to CHOOSE the specific types of effects that are perfect for the song and the combination of instruments chosen for the song after everything is recorded, not before.
I hope that, in the future, the developers will also allow this reverb to be turned off. At that point I will jump at the chance to use this new technology to lay down some tracks in a brand-new way.
There have been plenty of examples in recorded music were a TOY has added a fun, memorable and unique sonic moment to a song. Why not this product?!
The Cable IS there
It’s pretty standard in the electronics industry, as well as for music & recording gear, to have a needed CABLE to be included with any purchase.
Aeroband didn’t forget!
You will find the Mini-USB cable needed to charge this musical charm under a fold in the box it comes in. Kinda hidden, but it’s there.
It’s not very long, but it’s a standard cable that comes with a ton of phones and electronics devices, so you probably have another one that’s longer floating around somewhere.
The full length of the cable looks like this:
And the end that plugs into the device is this:
Now you’re connected!
The DRUM Connection
Guess what? The PocketGuitar can also be used as a foot sensor for drumming!
Just pick up the PocketDrum sticks and you can attach the PocketGuitar guitar pick to your shoes to have it trigger your kick drum sound… or hi hat!
I do like how Aeroband thought of several uses for the same product and how they integrate for a full band approach to playing.
As all real musicians know, there’s nothing like jamming together with friends and hearing that full sound of more than one instrument!
One word of caution – if you happen to turn the Pocket Guitar App on when your phone is on MUTE… you will NOT hear anything. The app can only work when mute is disabled.
I usually mute my phone so I’m not inundated with notifications all day long. You can get around this by turning OFF your notifications in your “Settings” panel while you’re playing.
I do this same thing when I’m playing live and triggering backing tracks off my phone to play along with.
Beware the mute!!
The Final Strum!
So there ya go! the Pocket Guitar by the company Aeroband! A pretty interesting piece of introductory music tech for those aspiring to melody-making.
If you’re a real musician, this big black pick is probably not going to be your preferred cup of music tea.
But eventually, with subsequent updates of this software, I hope the app and sound samples will get to the point where we can use it as a way different approach to composing, playing live… or even tracking in the studio!
For now, it’s a bit of a test product for the casual music market. If it catches on, who knows how far it will go?
Thanks to Aeroband for appreciating our music expertise here Seriousgas.com and trusting us to review their brand-new product. We know a lot of work goes into these types of things, and we are all about promoting musician’s dreams – not squashing them!
Best of luck to them as they continue to grow and produce products that allowed new and curious minds to embrace the wonder that is music. We all were there at one time, and products like the Pocket Guitar and the Pocket Drum may just be the first steps that a future genius of composition will take!
If the pocket guitar, or the pocket drum, have you itching to try them, you can GET YOUR OWN HERE. This tiny piece of advanced music-making will only cost ya under $40 at the moment. Small price to pay for the smile that comes from instrument newbs playing music for the first time!
Also, if you’d like to support crowdfunding for this company as they try to get music in the hands of everyone, regardless of training, they’re getting ready to launch their second generation of Pocketdrum. Click this link for more details: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/pocketdrum-2-powerful-drumming-from-novice-to-pro/coming_soon
As further revisions and upgrades happen to this product, I’ll be sure to come back to this post and letcha know.
In the meantime, what do YOU think of this new music tech? Sound interesting? Ever played anything like it before? Can you see it Influencing future musicians, or have you perhaps even got one and tried it? Let us know in the Comments.
One thing’s for sure… they should think about putting the “Eagles Greatest Hits” on this app.
Wouldn’t we ALL be playing it?! LoL
Now, go… (SHAKE)… sounds!!