If you remotely work with digital music, you’ve likely seen the standard MIDI controller. This is a keyboard with some extra knobs or buttons on it. In addition, it offers sufficient control over software instruments and their sounds.
However, there are several other lesser-known types of controllers with wider range of control and expression capabilities. And they’re worth a look if you’re working with electronic music. MIDI guitars are one such alternative form of controller.
They provide a different form of interaction with music software. In addition, they shorten the learning curve for those already familiar with guitars.
A MIDI guitar usually come with an audio converter, such as a specially designed pickup. This takes the pitches played on standard guitar strings and converts them to MIDI data for synthesizers to interpret.
In addition, a MIDI guitar can be made up of rows of buttons on a guitar-like neck. This translates to the different strings and frets of a physical guitar.
The player plucks short strings on the body of the guitar controller that approximate the strings on a physical guitar. Consequently, this helps the software determine which fretboard buttons to register and the notes to play.
The Benefits of Guitar Controllers
The advantages of a guitar controller to a keyboard controller are clear. Guitar players will have little difficulty adjusting to this form of playing. Moreover, the guitar controller provides unique forms of expression, unlike the best MIDI controller. In addition, certain chord voicing, playing styles, etc., are easier to play on guitar than they are on a keyboard.
Accordingly, this device open up a new world of possibilities in the realm of digital music for guitar players. Since many of these are keyboard skills, using a keyboard mean they will take a long time to learn.
What Controllers are Out There
If you’re sold on the idea of a MIDI guitar controller but don’t know where to start looking, there are a few beginner-friendly devices you can start with. First on the list is the Rock Controller from Starr Labs, a miniature MIDI string controller. The Rock Controller gives you access to strings and a small fretboard to get your feet wet in music creation.
In addition, the Rock Controller can help you become accustomed to the different feel and playing style of a MIDI guitar controller. At the same time, you will still enjoy it as a portable, relatively inexpensive, and useful instrument.
The next model to look at is the Starr Labs Ztar. It combines strings near the bridge of the guitar with a fretboard full of buttons. This will ensure that you get the most accurate and effective reproduction of notes you play. The Ztar has several features that set it apart, including:
- 6 string and 24 fret fretboard
- Several options to jump octaves, change poly/mono pickups, and more
- Pattern triggering and management
The main disadvantage of the Ztar MIDI controller is its fretboard interface. Some users might find the buttons off-putting while some were able to find a work a way out. Even with this relatively idiosyncratic input method, the Ztar is well worth a look. This is because it is a MIDI guitar controller with full range and comprehensive input options.
And these are hard to come by in the world of digital MIDI controllers. You can find more info on on the two products from starrlabs.com
More Options for You
Another one on the market is the You Rock Guitar. It combines strings near the bridge of the body with a detachable MIDI-capable neck. With its low price point and excellent styling, the YRG designed for hobbyists and professionals alike. Moreover, it offers an extremely low-latency MIDI translation for the notes you play. It also comes with a detachable head, which ensures it is portable and easy to store.
Latency is one of the most frustrating elements in electronic music creation. Consequently, advancements in latency-limiting technology are a significant affair in the world of electronic music. Latency measures the delay between a key being pressed or string being plucked while playing. It also measures the production of a sound from a synthesizer.
The lower the latency, the better, as a touch on a string or key immediately translates to sound. As digital instruments move toward lower latency, they become more like physical instruments. They allow their players to switch quickly between sound and key press so that everything works rhythmically.
The YRG aims for minimum latency with its MIDInstant software. MIDInstant is a fast MIDI converter that translates a player’s motions into MIDI data faster. These are the features that sets the You Rock Guitar apart from the pack.
Finally, we have the Yamaha G10 Guitar MIDI Controller.
The G10 some of the useful features on this model is an advanced, futuristic-looking, string-based MIDI controller for guitar players. This features helps bridge the gap between physical instruments and their digital counterparts.
The advantages to the G10 are clear. It’s the cleanest transition available between physical guitars and MIDI guitar controllers. If you are already familiar with the device, switching becomes easier for you.
Although the G10 has lots of positives, it is not free from some setbacks like other instruments. One of the drawbacks is that it requires a relatively high latency to translate guitar sounds into MIDI data.
There are subtle differences between playing a digital MIDI guitar and a physical version of the instrument. However, the layout of the G10 may be too close to the physical version to teach these differences to players effectively.
For example, hammer-ons and pull-offs are two types of articulation on a guitar that don’t use the right hand to pluck the strings at all. MIDI guitar controllers are not particularly good at translating these into actual MIDI data.
Moreover, if you are used to playing legato, you may be frustrated since the MIDI software sometimes fail to translate that style into data correctly. However, if you overlook these deficiencies on the G10 you’ll find that you can adapt your playing style accordingly. One of the selling point of the G10 is the almost nonexistent learning curve of playing it if you are already familiar with a physical guitar.
Which is the Best MIDI Guitar for Me?
The answer depends on two factors: your experience with playing guitar and the kind of use to which you want to put your new equipment. If you’re a new guitar player, you may be better able to adapt to the MIDI functionality and layout of instruments like the YRG or Ztar more easily.
These instruments require a different touch than other models out there. You just need to ensure you can differentiate between playing a MIDI guitar controller and a physical guitar. This is because the techniques and habits learned on one may not transfer well to the other.
If you’re a more experienced guitar player, you may want to start out by looking at an instrument like the G10. It gives you the experience that is closer to playing a physical guitar. Again, you’ll need to adapt your playing style when working with this guitar controller. However, with some practice you’ll soon find yourself opening the doors to software synth and transcription options you’ve never had before.
How do you want to use your MIDI guitar controller?
If you’re looking for something to transcribe your playing, the G10 may be a perfect fit. With this instrument, you will only be making the fewest adjustments to the notes you play to see them in your notation software. Once again, you should be prepared to make some adjustments to your playing style.
In fact, don’t expect everything to come out perfectly on the first try – you’ll likely have to do some editing by hand, but it’ll be a significant step up from the process of notating everything by hand. Pay attention to issues you run into and adapt accordingly. Do this and you’ll find yourself transcribing music efficiently and effectively than you ever have before.
If you’re looking for the ability to play and/or solo live with your instrument, either the YRG, Rock Controller, or Ztar will do. They offer you the physical layout of a guitar with the added capability of MIDI. They’ll probably be your best bet if you’re a performing or touring musician looking into the realm of synthesized sounds. The YRG is particularly useful in this regard with its detachable neck, making it the most portable of the group.
MIDI Guitar Controllers in a nutshell
MIDI guitar controllers offer several benefits, including:
- a decreased learning curve for experienced players
- the opportunity to transfer guitar skills and knowledge to a synthesized environment, taking advantage of new sounds and opportunities for expression
- portability and relative ease of use
- a wide range of options to control synthesizers from a single hardware device
Software instruments and MIDI controllers are not yet without drawbacks. For instance, latency remains a serious issue for software synthesizers and DAWs, limiting the ability to trigger notes correctly and necessitating a different playing style in some cases.
However, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. Consider the ability to carry an enormous array of sounds, effects, and instruments in a laptop’s synthesizers. This is a huge improvement from the limited sounds and expressions of most physical instruments. And now, artists have started using these techniques in new and diverse ways.
A MIDI guitar controller is the perfect gift for a loved one or for yourself. It breathes new life into digital music by offering thought-provoking instrument to access music through creativity.
Try it Out
Stop by your local music shops to see if they have any MIDI guitar controllers in stock. And if you can, try your hands on a few model before buying, from that shop or from a friend who have one. You’ll have a better idea of the kind of instrument you’re looking for. You will also be able to identify unique demands and the advantages of working with this kind of instrument.
No matter what you end up doing with your controller, you’ll find yourself experimenting with new ways of looking at music in a world whose idea of what constitutes music and musical instruments is constantly changing.