Do you want to make your guitar sound like a synth, or something else completely different? In this guide we’ll look at how it is possible to do just that … using MIDI. You can use either hardware or software (or a combination of both) to convert the sound of your guitar to a MIDI signal. This then means you can experiment with different tones and sounds not usually possible on guitar. Turn your guitar into a saxophone, piano, flute, drum kit or access a massive range of synths.
If you’re looking for a way to experiment with your guitar and come up with something completely new, then guitar-MIDI is a great option. Expand your guitar-playing possibilities.
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Option One: The Sonuus i2M and G2M
The Sonuus i2M is the budget MIDI-Guitar solution. If you want to use your guitar or bass as a MIDI controller, then the cheapest way of doing this is with the Sonuus i2M Musicport. This cheap bit of kit will let you use any musical instrument as a solo MIDI Instrument. And the added bonus is that it will also act as an audio interface – which means you can record your guitar too.
If you need to know a bit more about the difference between Audio and MIDI then do check our very popular post on this subject. It uses the keyboard as an example, but the principle is exactly the same.
Or, if you are not bothered about the recording capabilities of the i2M, then Sonuus also make the G2M which is purely an easy way of turning your guitar into a MIDI guitar controller. The other benefit of the G2M is you can use it to directly control other hardware without having to connect it through a computer.
The video below shows a guitarist turning his guitar into a synth using the Sonuus G2M. The i2M will work just the same … with the added benefit of audio recording capability too. Currently the i2M is selling for $99.00 which makes it one of the cheapest and most exciting accessories you could buy for your guitar, or the MIDI only option of the G2M is currently priced at $79.00.
All you will need after that is some music making software. Try Reaper (has a long free trial and then very inexpensive), Fl Studio if you want to splash out, or you could try Audacity for FREE audio recording (but not MIDI).
Watch this guy show you how the G2M works …
Beware – the Sonuus i2M and the G2M are both incredible piece sof kit for the money but they are MONOPHONIC devices. In other words, one note at a time. They don’t do chords. That costs a lot more! (Though obviously, if you are using the i2M as an interface to record the sound of guitar then it will record everything you hear….)
Option Two: The Roland Way
This is the Pro Guitar to MIDI solution. So the most common, but frankly massively more expensive, MIDI-Guitar method is to purchase a Roland GK-3 MIDI Guitar Pickup. The GK-3 is an external pickup you mount onto your guitar and is completely separate from your guitar’s normal pickups. The MIDI pickup works by capturing each individual string’s vibration and sends that information separately to a decoder. The decoder will then convert that information into MIDI.
This does mean you need to purchase TWO pieces of equipment. The Pickup and the Decoder. The GK-3 needs to be paired with a processor such as the Roland GR-55. The GR-55 looks like a typical guitar multi-effects pedal, but it is more than that. This processor is the brains of the MIDI system. The MIDI pickup sends the string vibration information to the processor, which then converts each string into a pitch and uses the synth you set on the pedal. All the sounds you hear depend on the processor.
The Roland GK-3 and GR-55 combined are NOT cheap. But checkout the video demo below. You get what you pay for!
Here are the two bits of Roland kit you need to do what Alex Hutchings did there … plus a third, cheaper option that will achieve the same thing (and includes the GK-3 pickup)
The Guitar-MIDI Pickup
The Cheaper Gk-3 Alternative
You can save a little bit by buying the Guitar MIDI Pickup and Decoder in one package.
Another way of saving money here, is to buy the Roland GK-3 Pickup, and combine it with the BOSS GP-10, which you can also buy in a package with the Roland GK-3. this is a much cheaper option and will get you up and running with your guitar-MIDI creativity.
Option Three: The Fischman TriplePlay Wireless MIDI Controller
The Fishman TriplePlay Wireless MIDI Controller looks very similar to the Roland GK-3, but it is more like a wireless and superior G2M. It concerts your guitar playing to a MIDI signal. You then plug the wireless USB receiver into a MIDI-compatible device and boom. Your guitar is now working as a MIDI controller. It’s a wireless unit so you have no cable from your guitar to a pedal or other equipment..
Because the TriplePlay does it all its magic in one unit, it’s a far cheaper system than the Roland. It is more expensive than the G2M, but in this case it is Polyphonic – so can handle multiple notes at once. This makes the Fishman massively more versatile than the G2M … but at a higher price.
The TriplePlay’s wireless receiver uses a standard USB connector. So while the wireless receiver is designed to plug into straight into a PC or Mac, you can use it with any other MIDI hardware too with a USB to MIDI adapter. The Fischman comes with software so out of the box you can easily become a MIDI Guitar Ninja.
The video below shows you a bit more information about the Fishman TriplePlay
Option Four: The Guitar MIDI Software Solution
There is also a very inexpensive software-only solution, called Jam Origin MIDI Guitar 2 Software which is demonstrated in the video below. No need to buy any hardware, the Jam Origin Software will certainly extend what you can do with your guitar.
Option Five: The Livid Guitar Wing
This third option is a different approach. The Guitar Wing provides an expressive, MIDI control surface designed for guitar and bass players. It easily attaches to any electric guitar or bass and communicates wirelessly to your computer or USB-MIDI host. Guitar Wing is the world’s first controller with native Bluetooth LE MIDI capability for Yosemite OS X and iOS 8 devices. You can use the Guitar Wing with the bundled effects plug-in, WingFX™. Or dive into the vast world of software, controlling programs like Logic, Garage Band, Ableton Live, Guitar Rig, Reason, and many others.
Now this is different to the i2M and the Roland Guitar-MIDI system. It is not a pitch-MIDI converter. But it does give guitarists an intuitive and handy MIDI control surface. Which means you can instantly access and control digital effects at your fingertips. See the Guitar Wing in action in the video below.