Pocket Guitars/Chord Trainers
Though clearly billed as a practice tool, the Pocket Guitar concept (provided in varying forms from multiple low-end Amazon brands) doesn't have enough qualities of an actual guitar to make it worth your time.
I'm not sure where the idea of the pocket guitar originated. My guess is that the design hasn't been trademarked or patented, because there are several different versions of it from a handful of low-grade Amazon brands.
They're all quite cheap.
In this review, we'll cover the basic concept and tell you how we feel about the usefulness of this design.
For those that couldn't already tell, we'd recommend looking elsewhere for chord help.
Compare to Other Programs
Programs that can actually help you - with a real guitar - would include any of the three in this table. We've reviewed, partnered with, and consistently recommend these programs as a means to provide you reliable guitar lesson content at no additional cost.
This helps us support Guitar Chalk and keep our content going. If you're thinking the pocket guitar isn't for you, consider giving one of these programs a try instead.
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The Basic Premise
The concept behind the pocket guitar' design is quite simple. It's a short guitar neck - usually with four frets, that can be put into a "sheath" and used to practice chords whenever you want.
To be fair, some of these add an LCD screen that displays chords and the metronome tempo on the would-be headstock above the fretboar. This makes the concept a little more useful, though it does not track the chords or provide any real-time feedback, as programs like Uberchord do.
Instead, it just displays the chord so you can practice.
I'm not saying this doesn't make it somewhat more convenient, but we simply don't need another place to get chord diagrams.
Aside from these two features, the casing is some kind of plastic with extremely cheap steel strings, which you can tune (somewhat) with an included allen wrench. Also important to note, the fretboard is not made of wood, but is also a cheap plastic like the surrounding case.
If you aren't already convinced, this poses a number of serious problems for using the pocket guitar as a practice tool.
We'll give that part its own section.
The concept of the pocket guitar is flawed from the group up.
Even if I'm willing to forgive the cheap and gimmicky "as seen on TV" nature of the product, it's simply not a reliable replica of what it's like to play an actual guitar. When learning guitar, posture, movement, weight distribution, flexor tendon use, right-hand movement, strumming, and other right hand concerns are all very important.
These aspects of playing guitar are totally lost when you use something like the pocket guitar to practice.
Not Applicable to the Experience of Playing an Actual Guitar
I've long contended that pattern memorization can be a part of learning guitar but, in and of itself, is not enough.
When you learn chords on the pocket guitar, you're practicing a pattern without strumming and without any context. You don't even get the advantage of knowing how it feels to hold a guitar in your hand which is absolutely part of the learning process.
If you learn chords with this device, you're learning in a way that is dysfunctional and will immediately become less applicable when you pickup a real guitar.
Another massive problem with this design is that there is absolutely no sound.
You can't really even pretend to strum the strings because they're covered near the right-hand side by the plastic sheath.
- No right hand form
- No strumming
- No sound
Again, this makes it impossible to actually practice chords or even basic single note patterns. Because you won't know if you're getting the chords right if you can't play them. It feels like I shouldn't have to say that, but for some reason this concept is entirely lost on the companies that create and sell these devices.
Without sound of some kind, you cannot practice chords.
Cheap Products and Shady Marketing
Particularly with the way Amazon conducts their reseller business, it's easy for companies to market products like this in mass quantities at a really low price. The Chordbuddy system falls into a similar category of products (though even that is marginally more helpful than pocket guitars).
You'll find that these products almost always come from companies overseas, using things like drop-shipping and Amazon seller accounts from a variety of brands you probably don't recognize.
And while they're not all bad, the products they produce tend to be quite cheap.
In the case of the pocket guitar, it's relying on a low price point, insanely low manufacturing costs, and an "as-seen-on-TV-style" marketing technique that surprisingly still sort of works these days.
In no situation do we recommend spending money on a pocket guitar.
Even if you want to play quietly, there are far better ways to do that. We'd recommend saving your $10 and focusing on practicing with a real guitar, instead of cheap toys that don't give you the full experience.
Sorry pocket guitar - we know it's tough, but it's fair.
Your Questions and Comments
Do you have questions about our take on the pocket guitar design? Maybe questions about some of the alternatives we've recommended?
If so, drop us a line in the comments section below.
I'll jump on and help out as best as I can.
See you there.