Jamstik MIDI Guitar Controller for iOS/Mac
By Ara Ajizian |
There's no shortage of devices out there to interface with your iOS devices for creating music. And that's a good thing, because this whole mobile thing is going to be around for a while, and the devices and apps that fuel our creativity will only get better and better. New to the game is the Jamstik, which bills itself as "The Guitar for your iPad." It's a unique guitar MIDI controller that employs real strings, real frets and the ability to optimize it to the way you play for a more authentic playing experience. It has a lot more going for it too, so let's dive in and check it out.
The Jamstik's five-fret neck and real strings offer authentic guitar feel
What You Need To Know
Getting started with the Jamstik and your iOS device is a hassle- and cable-free process. That's right, this baby's all wireless. Once fired up, the Jamstik will show as a WiFi "network" in your settings, and you simply join it like you would any other for a low-latency connection. Working in tandem with the WiFi connection is the jamstik Connect app, a free download from the App Store. With it, you can manage all settings of the Jamstik, including an advanced HTML editor to fine-tune response to your playing. Basic settings are available and give you a good starting point for understanding the way it plays. The jamstik Connect app also gives you a few models to get your feet wet with.
Another contributor to the Jamstik's responsiveness over previous guitar MIDI controllers is its "finger sensing" technology. The fretboard uses infrared light to scan what your fingers are doing, allowing the Jamstik to respond quickly once you pluck the string.
The real fun with Jamstik starts when you start to integrate it into your favorite apps (Jamstik claims to be compatible with hundreds). The jamstik Connect app gives you a great list if you need some inspiration, from IK Multimedia's SampleTank and GarageBand to more eclectic ones like Moog's Animoog. Just like a 25-key MIDI controller, you can use the "notes" on the Jamstik to control any instrument, all the while maintaining the familiarity of a guitar.
The Jamstik can also be a useful learning tool. Another free app, JamTutor, presents you with different exercises that can really be helpful to a beginning guitarist. It also brings new meaning to the phrase "silent practice," as the Jamstik itself barely creates any sound at all, meaning you can feel free to learn in virtually any environment. It's a fun, interactive way to learn that can help you hone your chops when the real thing isn't convenient. Another free app, JamMix, introduces you to making real music with loops, beats and more.
The Jamstik also has a few other tricks up its sleeve. One is a concept Zivix calls "infinite frets." Although it only has 25 notes, using the D-pad on top of the Jamstik allows you to jump to a new range, effectively giving you twice the range of a standard guitar. Additionally, the Jamstik's lithium-ion battery gives you hours of play on a single charge, and conveniently charges via USB.
As fun and inspirational as the Jamstik can be, there are certain hurdles that players may encounter. It's priced at $299.99, which could be an issue for players on a budget. There is a learning curve for sure in getting the Jamstik optimized via the HTML editor, but plenty of documentation, how-to videos and demos on the Jamstik website can help guide you through. Lastly, the Jamstik is at its best when it's being used along with music-making apps, which typically cost money. So be prepared to spend some money in the App Store if you pick up a Jamstik. It's money well spent, however.
The Jamstik has taken advantage of advances in mobile recording to givethe guitar MIDI controller a new lease on life. It delivers a playing experience close to the real thing because it uses actual strings and frets, and allows guitarists to effectively "play" any virtual instrument using the technique they've mastered on guitar. It's a fun way to learn that doesn't encourage bad habits. Once you get past the initial setup and get familiar with the Jamstik, you'll find it's an inspiring and functional instrument that can really spark your creativity.
Learn more about the Jamstik at jamstik.com
How to do loop recording in GarageBand with the Jamstik
Ara Ajizian, Harmony Central's Editorial Director, has been playing bass and guitar as well as singing since he was 18, and soon that love of music combined with a passion for writing; launching what's now a decade-long career immersed in the gear world. He's thrilled to be back on the Harmony Central team after two years as Managing Editor for Musician's Friend covering gear, bands and events and gigging in the Los Angeles area.