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January 24, 2002|Jon Healey

Air Guitar Goes Virtual

Lurking within every music fan is a star waiting to be discovered. For the leaping, strutting performer within you, MusicPlayground Inc. offers software-powered guitar picks and drumsticks that can insert you into dozens of rock, pop or country songs.

MusicPlayground software includes specially recorded versions of hit songs, ranging from lounge-music chestnuts such as "Strangers in the Night" to relatively fresh pop baubles such as "Ironic."

You pick a song, then select the part you'd like to perform--guitar, bass, drums or vocals. That portion of the recording will be muted, and your sounds will be inserted.

For the masses of undiscovered rock gods who don't own a guitar or bass, MusicPlayground offers the V-Pick, or virtual guitar pick. It's about the size of a conventional pick, and it connects via a long wire to your computer's USB port.

When you strum something solid with the V-Pick--a tennis racket, for example--your computer emits the guitar or bass sound corresponding to that spot in the tune.

Similarly, striking the V-Stix virtual drum pad with drumsticks simulates the sounds from a real drum kit.

The software also lets you plug a real instrument or microphone into your computer's sound card and play along with the song, following the notes or words displayed on the computer screen.

There's no "Stairway to Heaven," at least not yet, but there's the next best thing: "Free Bird."

The package comes in two flavors. The $29.95 Concert Edition includes the V-Pick for guitar and bass, 25 songs and software. The $69.95 Band Edition adds a virtual drumstick and 25 more songs.

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