Can you gamify music learning? I mean real music learning. Of course, you can become good at the Guitar Hero game. But that does not a musician make. So should musicians gamify the learning that goes into their serious pursuit of the craft?
More on that in just a second. (Note: If you’re not familiar with what gamification is, see here.)
What is FretTrainer
Fret Trainer is an app that helps you learn the guitar fretboard by making a game out of it. It shows you a dot on a fretboard, and you have to name the note. Or a note on a staff, and you name the note.
It’s fun. And a little addictive (in the way all good games are). And you genuinely get faster at it.
The design and function of the app are great. I had it installed and was playing my first notation game in about 15 seconds.
There’s a free version and a paid version. The paid version ($1.99) unlocks higher portions of the fretboard, and removes ads.
Back to Gamification
My question is: how well does this translates to real world musical proficiency. And by that, I mean the ability to play a real instrument (electronic instruments included) to compose, perform, and record music meant to engage an audience at both an intellectual and emotional level.
One of the skills that FretTrainer aims to address, presumably, is sight reading.
Sight reading is often so seamless (once you get good at it) that it happens without conscious direction. Good sight readers don’t see a note and say “A” in their head, and then make a conscious decision to play an “A” with their fingers. They almost see and play at the same time.
In fact, I know a very, very smart individual (it’s not me) who has long asserted that we have a form of “thinking” in the nervous system of our hands and fingers. Decisions get made right there in the neural fibers of our fingers. How else do you explain the instantaneous decision-making that jazz musicians make as they improvise together? There’s no time to run electrical impulses up to the brain, reach a decision (even unconscious), and return a decision back to the fingers for the next note. And this individual is an advanced electrical engineer, so I trust his estimates of the speed of electrical impulses more than most peoples.
So, does it help to teach my brain to match iPhone dots with the symbol “Bb”? I’m not sure.
The app is great. It works well, it’s fun, and I suspect it genuinely helps you learn the fretboard and standard notation significantly better than you already do. And, for guitar players, by the way, there’s usually a LOT of room for improvement in learning to read standard notation.
I would love to know more about the long-term benefits of this type of learning. If you have any personal examples to share, or reference to relevant research, please leave them in the comments below!
More Details From the Developers of FretTrainer:
Fret Trainer is the ultimate educational game to learn the notes and chords on the fretboard of the guitar and other stringed instruments. There are 6 instruments available to practice on: Guitar, Bass, 5-String Bass, Mandolin, Ukulele, Banjo.
Choose your instrument and pick one of the many games available to you to practice the fretboard until you have mastered every fret and every chord pattern.
Customize your experience by selecting which section of the fretboard you want to practice on. Practice the first frets, a section in the middle, or the entire fretboard.
Fret Trainer is available on iOS and Android.
Fret Trainer Main Feature
- 6 different instruments available.
- Explore any of the 63 musical scales with any root note.
- Choose any range of frets that you want.
- Use the Staff game to learn the position of notes on the musical staff.
- Common tunings included for every instrument, or add your own.
- Compete with your friends on Game Center.
- Left-handed mode is available.
- The app provides the random repetition needed to really commit it to memory.
- The interface is clean and easy to use.
- Full left handed implementation.
- It doesn’t play the actual notes.