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Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Give a tech reporter a smart guitar and one hour, and she will learn how to play “Where’s Dad?” If you don’t know this song, don’t worry, neither did we. 

That sums up our test session with the Poputar, a smart guitar made by Chinese company Beijing Shigan Technology Company, also known as Popumusic. Its first product, a smart ukulele, was “an epic momentum of consumer technology,” the company claims. Popumusic has sold 400,000 units of its two smart instruments worldwide since the 2016 launch of the Populele smart ukelele. The company is currently doing crowdfunding on Indiegogo as a way to promote this guitar on the western market for the first time. Production and shipping will start in December this year. 

The Poputar is a lightweight acoustic guitar with LED lights embedded in its neck. The instrument syncs with an app made by the same company that registers what you are doing on the guitar and gives you feedback as you play, much like karaoke games on a Playstation. The neck-lights indicate where you should place your fingers to play chords. 

The app includes bite-sized video courses that take you from the basics, including how to hold the guitar and pluck the strings, all the way to mastering popular songs like “Let it Be” by the Beatles and Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy.”

The Poputar promises to teach you to “play a song in five minutes.” Unsurprisingly, this is not what happened when we tried it.

The app was not loading properly when we tested it, so we wasted a lot of time waiting for the video courses to load. A Popumusic spokesperson later told us that this was a VPN-related issue. 

The Poputar didn’t live up to the five-minute promise, but it was an enjoyable experience, and I felt like I learned something. Hey, I got a 79% on “Where’s Dad?” so I must have inched closer to becoming a guitar virtuoso. 

It is definitely worth a try if you are a complete novice and want to master the basics, or if you just want to learn how to play “Wonderwall” by Oasis. If you want to get Carlos Santana’s level, you need to hire a teacher somewhere down the line.

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Shi Jiayi

Shi Jiayi is the Shanghai-based visual reporter helping provide multimedia elements about China’s fast-changing technology and culture. She holds a B.A. in Convergence Journalism from the University...

Eliza Gkritsi

Eliza is TechNode's blockchain and fintech reporter. When she isn't obsessing over the rise of distributed ledger technology in China, she helps with editing.