I’m fascinated by the possibilities of the Instrument 1 but as a long-time guitar player I know the equal distance fret spacing won’t work for me—sight-reading and position shifts would be a problem. From eyeballing some photos of the I1 and superimposing an image of a Les Paul over an I1 it looks like there would be room for fifteen or sixteen traditionally-spaced frets on the current fingerboard. Not knowing the technology under the fingerboard I don’t know if it would be possible to (easily) offer a version with traditional fret spacing. I’m imagining something like the Sensel Morph’s overlays.
You might be surprised – though equally you might not; even if you’re able to try one out it probably won’t tell you anything, as it takes days rather than minutes to get used to. My own experience was that I found it disconcerting for the first day or so, but the fingers turn out to know more than the head does and I found my muscle memory very quickly adjusted, like driving a different car. Within a few days it came to seem completely natural; you come to realise the fret spacing on physical guitars is essentially a bug, not a feature. But I do play mostly on a classical neck, and I never use the I1 bridge triggers as plucked strings; for existing guitarists it’s the tap mode that really shines.
I owned a Starr Labs instrument briefly and couldn’t adjust to the spacing on it (all the buttons were the same size). I suppose given time I could adjust but then it would interfere with sight-reading and improvising on a regular guitar neck. It just seems simpler to have both guitar and an I1 variant with the same fret spacing. One can dream.
Well, it’s only simpler if all you want it to be is a rather unsatisfactory guitar emulator – but of course that’s not really what the I1 is for; it’s a multi-instrument that takes the guitar model as a base for a whole range of user-determined range of playing including keyboard and pads, which rely on equal spacing. If what you want is a MIDI instrument that you play like a guitar, the I1 very much isn’t it; the bridge triggers allow a very imperfect approximation of picking, but they’re not really up to the skills of moderately experienced players. What it offers guitarists instead is a kind of ROLI keyboard for the guitarist’s left hand, with MPE expressive dimensions built into the key pressure, aftertouch, and accelerometer titlt.
It’s a sufficiently different way of playing that I find the fingers recognise the fret spacing as one of the things they’re adjusting to; I go back and forth between guitar (electroclassical) and I1 all the time, and it’s actually easier than going between classical and electric necks on guitar. For me, at least, the fret spacing doesn’t interfere at all with either sightreading or melodic improvisation; what does is the very different string-bending technique, and the impossibility of playing actual guitar arrangements on I1 because you have to adapt them for tap playing. Those are more likely to be the dealbreakers. But it’s fantastic for melodic playing and if anything reinforces rather than throws off your existing left-hand fingerknowledge.