Musicians have always been willing to embrace weird things, like the Flying V guitar, Spandex pants, and Ozzie Osbourne. But the Finger Friendly Guitar Company Keyboard on Kickstarter may be extra hard for folks to wrap their heads around. It's a mechanical device that attaches to the neck of a standard guitar with Velcro and covers the fretboard with buttons.
The idea behind the keyboard is to remove sore fingertips from the guitar-playing equation. When you first learn guitar, one of the rights of passage is developing calluses, especially if you're working with a steel-string instrument. To get there, you have to go through some pain as your tender fingers work through the process. For some new players, it's too much to deal with and those guitars get left to collect dust in a corner.
Don Bacon is the inventor of the keyboard. He wants to make learning guitar easier and less discouraging while also making it easier to sound chords without having to stretch your fingers out into new and interesting positions.
The 3D-printed prototypes are certainly eye-catching. The keyboard is a big black contraption covered with colorful dots over each button. It also has thumb levers that allow you to play the sixth string with your thumb. It's kind of like a fever-dream hybrid of a Guitar Hero video-game guitar and a real guitar.
The keyboard is aiming for a $15,000 goal to go into production. It's nearly up to $3,000 with 47 days to go, so it at least has a shot at garnering enough backing to make funding. Each keyboard is going for a $75 pledge.
Bacon seems to be just as curious as I am as to whether or not the keyboard will strike a chord with customers, writing, "If I'm right, happy days! If I'm wrong, I'll make enough keyboards to thank my Kickstarter supporters and then wander on down to the Nice Try Saloon."
The guitar player in me who spent endless hours stretching my fingers to make a proper C chord and building up calluses wants to laugh at this device. I wonder how a player trained on it would be able to transition to a regular playing style, or if these would start popping up at open-mic nights in coffeehouses across the country. Ultimately, I have to suppress the urge to scoff. If this is what it takes to welcome a new guitar player into the ranks, then who am I to judge?