Best Midi Guitars

Best Midi Guitars

If you’ve heard of guitarists talking about midi guitars and don’t have a clue what they’re talking about, read on for all you need to know about the midi system and how it works with guitars. Alternatively if you know all about midi guitars and are looking to update your kit keep reading. As we have all the latest on midi guitars.

What Is MIDI?

The Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) is the product of various electronic languages that allow instruments to communicate with each other using a digital system. During the 1970s there were many different languages used by various instrument manufacturers. Needless to say, this made things difficult to operate and caused a great deal of confusion in the music industry.

In 1983 a team of representatives from the music industry got together and created one standardised digital language and called it Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI). Since this standardisation, all digital instruments from different manufacturers communicate in one language with each other. 

How Does A Midi System Work?

The MIDI controller is connected via a USB or 5 pin midi cable to a synthesiser. Select the middle C note on the midi keyboard and it will tell the synthesiser connected to it (using a digital signal) the middle C on the synth. Release the middle C note and the keyboard tells the synth to turn off the middle C.

What Does MIDI Do For The Music Industry?

MIDI is a good thing for music because it allows the use of thousands of synthesised and modelled sounds which will provide musicians with new inspirations for the creation of original music. Midi also brings all of the modern software for producing music to the musician. Using Digital Audio Workstations like Logic Pro, Ableton Live, Reason, Cubase, MainStage, ProTools, DAW’s, Garageband and many more allows the creation of professional and dynamic music far simpler than was ever before possible.

What Does MIDI Do For Guitarists?

The MIDI system has been used by keyboard controllers since it was first introduced back in the 1970s and 1980s. Guitar based MIDI controllers proved to be far more difficult to integrate accurately. This was due to the way the systems tracked the pitch from the sound of the string which caused a delay and tracking issues.

Expressiv: MIDI Guitar System

The Expressiv MIDI system for guitars is the first (and so far only) system that works in the same way the keyboard system works but for the fretboard of the guitar. By using a smart fretboard scanner the MIDI knows exactly which string and where you’re pressing and works in real time (so no lag or delay). This means your strumming hand is free to control modulation, octave shift or pitch bend using the touchpad, buttons and joystick (onboard).

Plus with just the flick of a switch, you can change from standard guitar to synthesiser control. This means guitarists of all levels can access sounds previously only available to keyboard players. All you need to do is plug a standard USB cable directly into your computer and you’re ready to play without any hardware, drivers or power supply.

This gives you the ability to mix sounds, record, compose, sequence songs and perform live music using any hardware or virtual MIDI compatible device. You literally have all of the power and technology at your fingertips without losing any of your playing style or guitar.

How Many Play Modes Available With Expressiv MIDI Guitar System?

The Expressiv: MIDI guitar system has 3 modes which are;

  1. Guitar Mode
    This gives you a standard guitar output from single coil pick-ups.
  2. Tap Mode
    Just tap the frets to output notes, this allows you to play with both hands due to the super high-speed tracking.
  3. TouchPad Mode
    Just by pressing the string and touching the touchpad to output the note. You can bend notes, adjust the volume of the note and control many other parameters just by moving your finger.

Expressiv:MIDI Guitar System controls can be used for any MIDI parameters making it a totally flexible system. The four-way joystick gives control over many parameters. You can assign volume, filters, pitch-bend, or whatever you would like.

So basically, you get the choice between playing your guitar in the regular way through an amp or by using a computer and turning the guitar into a fretboard synthesiser. Either a guitar unit which is modelled on the shape and size of a traditional guitar or a MIDI pick-up which translates the signal from the guitar to MIDI.

What Are The Options For MIDI Guitars?

There are a number of options available when it comes to MIDI guitar controllers all with different functions and features. You’ll need to do your research to find the right one for you, but to help you, ask yourself what it is you’re hoping to achieve?

Do you want a MIDI guitar that looks and feels like a “real” guitar? Or do you want to use your existing guitar but with a MIDI pick-up?

MIDI Guitar Functions

MIDI can be used to control many different devices; for instance, many touring guitarists use MIDI based foot pedal controllers to select between various effects and presets during their shows. Some loopers and delay pedals use MIDI to correct any timing issues between different effects.

You can even convert the sound of your guitar into different instruments like flutes, pianos, saxophones, drums and of course a large choice of synth sounds. The most common way used by guitarists to convert the sound of the guitar using the MIDI system is by use of a MIDI pick-up. The pick-up used is a separate pick-up mounted onto the guitar (not your guitar’s existing pick-ups). The only problem with this external pick-up is unless you have a black guitar, it does stand out a bit.

Of course the pick-up on its own doesn’t work, it has to be connected to a processor to produce any sound. The interesting thing is you don’t have to plug the guitar into the amp to get a regular guitar sound. The sounds are all reproduced via the MIDI device pick-up, it’s not just for making synthesised sounds.

This allows you to switch between a MIDI tone and your standard guitar sound, or blend both together.

What Are The Pros & Cons Of Using MIDI Pick-Up?

To make your decision easier below are the good and the bad of using a MIDI pick-up.

MIDI Pick-Up ProsMIDI Pick-Up Cons
Doesn’t use guitar pick-upsExpensive
Produces both guitar tones and various instruments & synth tonesNot suitable for all guitars
Great for live showsLarge
Suitable for many guitarsUnsightly looking
Great trackingOnce fitted, difficult to remove

MIDI Guitars

MIDI guitars are completely different to MIDI pick-ups because you’re not converting your existing guitar’s signal to MIDI. The MIDI guitar produces MIDI so there’s no need to convert. They look similar to a guitar but very plastic looking and there are no strings. As the MIDI has no strings, it’s played by tapping the point on the fretboard where strings would be.

This makes for good double hand tapping, if you use that particular mode, or you can actually pick the string to sound a note. String bend sounds are done using a tremolo bar and the instrument just doesn’t feel like a regular guitar. Some people treat the MIDI guitar as a toy but others recognise the various sounds and uses they can perform.

What Are The Pros & Cons Of Using A MIDI Guitar?

There are good and bad points for using a MIDI guitar, we’ve listed them below to help you make your decision.

MIDI Guitar ProsMIDI Guitar Cons
Ability to create sounds not possible on standard guitarsDoesn’t look or feel like a standard guitar
PolyphonicCompletely different technique needed to play
Due to the way it can be used, it makes you more creativeYou can’t switch to standard guitar sound
Doesn’t sound like a real guitar

Frequently Asked Questions

Are MIDI guitars any good?

MIDI guitars have their place, but they’re an expensive way of accessing a guitar-like instrument.

How does a MIDI guitar work?

A MIDI guitar sends the vibration from the string to the processor and converts it into a pitch which is then synthesised to make that sound from any number of instruments.