I lamented the lot of the MIDI-hungry guitar player some time ago when reviewing the YouRock Guitar. In short, however, there are a number of technologies that attempt to provide guitarists with a means of getting MIDI data from their guitar playing skills but, even after 25+ years of trying, none of these technologies has really fully cracked the problem.
Three main approaches can be identified; the MIDI pickup, fretboard based note triggers and audio-to-MIDI conversion. Roland’s GK-3 pickup is an example of the first and the pickup essentially detects the frequency of vibration of each guitar string and converts that into a pitch and then into a MIDI note. The YouRock Guitar is an example of the second approach with its rubber ‘strings’ on the neck that are, in effect, sensors so the device knows which string/fret combination you are fingering and therefore which note you want to play.
And in the third category we get software-only approaches. In this group sits an app such as MIDI Guitar which I originally reviewed on the blog back in May 2014. In this approach, rather like pitch correction software such as AutoTune which can work in real-time on a live vocal, MIDI Guitar detects the pitch of the incoming guitar note. However, instead of then correcting that note so it is ‘in tune’, it then converts the detected pitch into the appropriate MIDI note.
Anyway, Jam Origin’s MIDI Guitar has today received its first update since April 2013 but it does look like quite a substantial one. This software is also available on the desktop and has also been given a fairly substantive overhaul. What we are seeing with the iOS app in this release is some of the same refinements made to the desktop version appearing in app format.
This includes a name change – the app is now MIDI Guitar 2 – but the most significant improvement is in the underlying algorithms used to convert the incoming audio and generate the required MIDI notes. There are, however, further options included within the app for adjusting its behaviour to suit your needs (including a new Advanced page of options).
As before, however, MIDI Guitar 2 is a free app and, if you had used the original version, and purchased any of the IAPs that opened up the full feature set (including the MIDI out option so you could pass the MIDI data on to your favourite iOS synth apps), these will ‘restore’ in the new version; you don’t have to re-purchase the IAPs.
With this kind of app, I think this ‘free+IAP’ approach is commendable. It allows you to give the technology a through workout to see if you are comfortable with it before you stump up what is, in app terms, a relatively high price. That said, UK£14.99 for the MIDI outputs IAP is significantly less expensive than the desktop version of MIDI Guitar, a switch-based system such as the YouRock Guitar or a MIDI pickup. As all three of these different approaches have their strengths and weaknesses, being able to try before you buy is most welcome whatever the actual cost.
Much of the actual functionality remains as before so feel free to check out the original MIDI Guitar review for the details. However, having given the app a quick test drive this afternoon – and sending the MIDI data on to SynthMaster Player – MIDI Guitar 2 did perform very well on my iPad Pro test system. I didn’t A/B the latency of the two app but, once you adapt your playing technique a little (and all MIDI guitar systems require this), then the apps seemed pretty responsive to me. I could certainly imagine using it for laying down melody and bass lines without any difficulties. No, it’s still not foolproof, but no MIDI Guitar system is. However, given the relatively modest costs of the IAPs, and the very solid monophonic performance (the app offers a polyphonic mode as well), it is certainly worth exploring.
As an entry into the world of MIDI guitar playing, MIDI Guitar 2 is a pretty inexpensive solution to a problem that simply doesn’t have a perfect answer as yet. Perfect? No… but very functional and punching well above its weight? Most certainly, yes…..