Hands-on review: Loog Pro Electric beginner’s guitar
Image credit: Loog
Fewer strings, flashcards and an app help aspiring young musicians make a quick start on developing their skills.
This slim, stylish, three-string guitar is aimed at getting small people (it’s aimed at children aged 8+) to start plucking and strumming, but it could also appeal to guitarists of all ages who enjoy having one of each type of toy, because it really is a bit different.
The guitar we tested is the Loog Pro Electric but you can also buy acoustic models. The look and feel is clean and modern. It’s crafted in solid wood with a maple, 18-fret neck. The strings are close to the neck so it’s not hard to hold them down cleanly. The distance between frets is a bit cramped but most adults could play it fine: it’s not designed for big fingers but the fact there are only three strings simplifies matters.
The rationale behind the three strings is partly just to make learning easier. A ukulele’s four strings are easier to master than a guitar’s six, three is easier still. But there’s also teaching basic music theory: Loog simplifies things by getting children to play chord triads (the root, third and fifth of each chord).
Tuning plays a part because tuning and finger placement on the Loog ares the same as the top three strings on a guitar (we say ‘top’ but for non-guitar-players’ benefit we should explain that the ‘top’ strings are physically at the bottom for some reason we never quite understood). So the chord shapes you learn will form the foundation of playing a guitar or indeed a ukulele.
What’s more, the Loog comes with flashcards of chord diagrams and there’s a free Loog Guitar app (iOS and Android). The chord diagrams show you how to make each three-string chord and also show you the other three strings of a six-string guitar, so you can learn the full shape. The diagrams could do with being bigger and clearer; instead too much space is given to cute cartoons.
The app is also cute; set it up and you design an avatar for yourself. We liked the fact that it didn’t ask for an email address or other personal information. But the app’s built-in tuner did not impress. You can get good apps for this or use a separate clip-on tuner instead. Video lessons built into the app teach you how to use a tuner and then how to make chords and strum through simple chord progressions.
Elsewhere on the app, you can play games, play along to a drummer and – best of all – play along to a digital songbook featuring YouTube videos of songs. It’s a small but varied list: from The Beatles and The Rolling Stones to Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift.
To access the songs you must play each of the required chords to unlock it. Then you see the pop video and the name of which chord to play, which is good. But it would be better to have a visualisation of when to play each chord. That said, children do pick up the songs quickly with practice. The flashcards come in handy until you master the chord shapes.
We tested it with a mini amp (it’s smaller than you think, not much bigger than a paperback book) that can be powered with a 9V battery but we understand that a new version coming soon will have an integrated amplifier.
In all, the Loog Pro Electric was a fun instrument to learn on and definitely the right size for small hands, but to get the most out of it you’ll want to use the app as well as the flashcards. So it’s a toy for parents who want to get their children to use screens more constructively... not one for parents who want to get their children using screens less.
You might want to keep younger children off screens once they’ve done the initial lessons, so we’d have liked to see the Loog come with a songbook (Loog doesn’t sell any but you can buy Loog-specific songbooks online at places like Amazon). We’d have also liked a plectrum. And a strap so children are less likely to drop their guitar.
That said, the instrument is well made and sounds pleasant. Children can learn simple chords and start making music fast. They get less frustrated... and your ears suffer less. But it’s also worth considering a ukulele because they’re also small and teach the basics.
This is even smaller than Loog Pro models and is aimed at children aged 3+. If a pre-schooler is doing a ‘show’ for you, half as many strings means half as painful to listen to, right?
Makala MK-S Entry-Level Soprano Ukulele
Avoid the colourful ukuleles in toyshops because the real thing sounds much better and is still affordable. The four-string chord shapes on a soprano uke translate (transpose) into guitar chords so again it’s good preparation for playing guitar.
Yamaha Acoustic Guitalele
A quarter-sized guitar (that doesn’t mean it’s a quarter of the size, it just means the neck is shorter), this has six strings but it’s tuned like a ukulele. Again, the skills will translate onto a full-sized guitar. Alternatively look at quarter and half-sized guitars, designed for children and also for travel.
Around £70 uk.yamaha.com
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