The latest gadgets putting the prog into progress

A picture of a guitar fret gizmo


Learning to play the guitar is a burning ambition for many, and over the years various methods of making that process easier have emerged, from Bert Weedon’s Play In A Day… to modern-day YouTube tutorials. The hard truth is that it’s never that easy for beginners, but FretX tackles the problem of which fingers go where in an ingenious way – a thin sleeve, wrapped around the guitar neck, which has LEDs that neatly light your way. Again, it works in conjunction with a smartphone app and allows you to master up to 20 chords in an hour. Beat that, Bert!



The drum machines made by Roland in the 1980s have shaped the sound of modern music, from the clangy cowbell of Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody to the experiments of Radiohead. To celebrate three decades of the TR-909, Roland have launched a modern-day version that’s sleeker, lighter and USB-powered. Although £369 might seem a bit steep, second-hand versions of the original go for more than £3,000, so you might well see it as a bargain.


We’ve featured a few Roli innovations in this column, and this 10-centimetre-square block festooned with flashing LEDs is another unusual proposition. It’s faintly reminiscent of Yamaha’s Tenori-on (it’s square, you trigger sounds by skipping your fingers across its surface) but the company describe it as a “Lego-like” system: bolt-on blocks expand it into a looping, sequencing, arpeggiated marvel, all powered by a free iPhone app. The promotional video may exaggerate the ease with which you can come up with good music, but it’s darn cute to play with.

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Rhodri Marsden