ANAHEIM, Calif. — It's called the Fusion Guitar, but the folks who sell the instrument refer to it simply as an "iPhone guitar."
The Fusion Guitar has a dock to plug in an iPhone, to play along with backing tracks, instructional videos or use apps to alter the sound of the instrument. The retail price is $1,200 (Photo: Jefferson Graham)
No, you don't strum the iPhone, or use touchscreen to play notes, although both of those can be done with apps. With the Fusion Guitar, there's a fully functional electric guitar with built-in speakers to rock out, (no need for an amplifier) and a cradle to connect your iPhone 6, 6S or 7. Once connected, you can now hook into the thousands of apps available to offer special sounds and backing tracks and to play along with instructional videos. Connect the guitar up to a power source, and you can charge your iPhone while playing a riff.
We saw the Fusion Guitar at the NAMM Show, which closes Sunday. NAMM is the yearly music store extravaganza showcasing the latest in music and technology with new products that will hit shelves later in the year. The event was expected to have a record 102,000 in attendance, everyone from music stores and manufacturers to well-known musicians like Bon Jovi's Richie Sambora, the Band's Robbie Robertson and Stevie Wonder.
Here are the seven coolest music gadgets I saw at NAMM:
—The Fusion Guitar is described as "the first and smartest all-in-one electric guitar," an instrument "developed to integrate iPhone technology into a regular guitar," says Rick Hall, the USA rep for Australia-based Fusion Guitars. The wireless set-up allows you to play the guitar, amplified, from anywhere, and record directly into the iPhone. There's no Android support yet. It will sell for $1,200 and be available in February.
The Soundbrenner Pulse is a metronome you wear on your wrist. (Photo: Jefferson Graham)
—Metronome on the wrist. Think of the stereotypical piano lesson, with the metronome clicking away, back and forth to keep you in rhythm. Now let's join the new century, and "the world's first wearable for musicians." With the $99 Pulse device, you wear the pulsating rhythm on your wrist, like a watch, and operate it via a smartphone app. The device, from Hong Kong's Soundbrenner, feels a bit odd at first. But if you play music, you also know how annoying those metronome clicks can sound from atop the piano or within a music software program like Apple’s Garage Band. The Pulse has been in the works for several years and raised funding on IndieGogo. Now it's available for sale.
Laurent Bernadac shows off his 3Dvarius electric violin at the NAMM Show. (Photo: Jeanne O'Keefe)
— Electric, 3-D printed violin. The 3Dvarius is a unique $7,000 electric violin, made on a 3D printer, in France. Violinist Laurent Bernadac said he was inspired to make it because he wanted a small violin, in the same shape as a classic Stradivarius, that he could travel with, and use "for more powerful" rock and jazz. It's on sale now.
The SmashMouse offers foot control instead of hands. (Photo: Jefferson Graham)
—Foot mouse. Instead of using your hands to run a computer mouse to start the recording software or fast-forward during an instructional video, there's Smash Mouse, a foot-powered mouse. Rob Dylan of Atlanta says you "Kick it to Click it." The unit is expected to sell for $79.99 and will be available in the spring, he says. "This allows people to use two additional limbs and not just their hands," he says. "Besides music, they could also use it in gaming, graphic design and many other areas as well."
IK Multimedia's iRig Acoustic Stage is a $99 device to amplify an acoustic guitar. (Photo: Jefferson Graham)
—Amplify an acoustic guitar easily. In the past, guitarists would have to buy pickups and have them installed, which could be tedious. IK Multimedia has a great solution with iRig Acoustic Stage, a little $99 device the size of a guitar pick which connects directly into the sound hole opening of an acoustic guitar. It in turns connects to a power pack that plugs into your amp, computer, phone or tablet, and offers a fuller, richer sound than some pickups.
Cenzi Christopher of Songbird Ocarina shows off the new $250 smart Ocarina that connects to a smartphone to make music. (Photo: Jefferson Graham)
—The iPhone meets the ocarina. It's a $250 musical flute of sorts, with four holes and a trumpet like mouthpiece, called the Electric Songbird. The twist is that you can also attach a smartphone to it, and like the Fusion Guitar, play along to a backing track, record or just make a new kind of music. "It's a constant conversational piece," says Cenzi Christopher, of Songbird Ocarina, the company making the new device. Described as an "app and amplifier for the iPhone," the Songbird turns the iPhone "into an expressive" musical instrument, says the company, with the sounds of 36 wind instruments. Just introduced at NAMM, the product is so new, it hasn't even been listed on the http://electricsongbird.com website yet.
The Somnium guitar comes in pieces, and can be swapped out for different sounds. (Photo: Somnium Guitars)
—Modular guitar. The new Somnium guitar aims to solve a problem for guitar enthusiasts--why buy many different guitars, when you can just buy one? With the Somnium, its modular build allows you to remove the bridge, pickups, fretboard and more, to switch gears for different styles. The guitars are expected to sell for $1,500-$2,000 and will be out in the spring.
Follow USA TODAY's Jefferson Graham on Twitter, @jeffersongraham, and subscribe to the daily #TalkingTech podcast on iTunes and Stitcher.