- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 4, 2006

Each week, the Browser features some pop-culture places on the World Wide Web offering the coolest in free interactive sounds and action.

Guitar meets the car

Volkswagen and musical instrument maker First Act have teamed up to give owners of a new Jetta, GLI, GTI, Rabbit and New Beetle a custom-designed GarageMaster guitar that is playable through the vehicle’s sound system.

The marketing campaign for this cool technology, which uses a preamp to emulate vintage amp sounds when it is plugged into the car’s auxiliary jack, is also supported through a slick Web site (www.vdubs rock.com/) that mixes a bit of entertainment, an education and a contest for the budding guitar player.

The site loads to some screeching rock riffs, and visitors check out the guitar and cars by passing the cursor over their images. Clicking on the instrument leads to the interactive Anatomy of an Axe area, which highlights the GarageMaster’s major components. Visitors simply look for the two dozen sparkling points on the front and back of the guitar. Pass over the points with the cursor, and pop-up text boxes explain a bit about parts such as the preamp on/off switch, pickups, headstock and battery compartment.

While you’re on that page, I would suggest a click on the link to watch the clever VW television commercials that feature rock ‘n’ roll stars Slash (Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver), Nigel Tufnel (Spinal Tap) and John Mayer playing the guitar through the cars.

Two other sections of the site are found along a fretted guitar neck on the right side of the screen.

First, Rock God Battle is a contest in which guitarists either submit a 30-second performance video or stop by a VW dealership to shoot one by Nov. 21 to compete for the title of Uber Rock God. The best entries make it to eight paired matchups of contestants, who are judged by online visitors. Critics can jump to the Judge the Battles area to watch a bunch of preliminary contests and quickly vote for their favorite.

The ultimate winner, who will receive a special-edition black GarageMaster signed by Slash, will be chosen Dec. 19.

Before entering the competition, musicians will want to check out the Get Schooled in Rock area for some video guitar lessons. Not only does Dweezil Zappa offer five helpful streaming segments that cover topics from hand positions to simple scales, but a guitar at the bottom of the screen also highlights the strings he uses in the instruction as he, of course, plays through the Volkswagen.

Remember the cars on the site’s first screen? Well, visitors who go back and click on three of the VW models can customize and watch the vehicles in action through a simulation at a special Volkswagen site (www.vwfeatures.com).

A click on the GTI, Rabbit and Jetta offers a way to configure the vehicle by clicking on parts and choices to define its trim, body, color, transmission, wheels and interior with some fun multimedia as a payoff.

Configure the 2007 Rabbit and pick its partner to watch lovebirds go through a quick courtship that concludes with a chance to look at their “offspring” via a family tree. Configure the GTI, and the owner is chastised by the beautiful Helga as she sits next to the driver and teases him with her special brand of angry flirtations. Configure the Jetta and watch as a big boulder, UFO, rhino, giant tree, ball of twine, a lizard foot, chicken truck and even Humpty Dumpty crash into it.

Have a cool site for the online multimedia masses? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at the Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail ([email protected]on times.com). Joseph also writes a Web-exclusive column for the Washington Times Web site where he reviews educational software and family-friendly video games. Check it out at www.washington times.com/familytimes/romperroom.htm.

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