How to Use Jamstik+ as a MIDI Guitar Controller

Although invented more as a way to learn guitar, the Zivix Jamstik+ can also trigger virtual instruments via MIDI

Jamstik+ from Zivix is an interesting solution for guitarists who want to play MIDI instruments. While it’s not a guitar, it feels mostly like a guitar because it has real strings, a neck, and frets—but it doesn’t make any sound. On the plus side, you don’t have to change or tune the strings. Also, the basic version has only five notes, so it’s more of a “first-position chords” guitar. You can’t go much past a barre G or first position A played as C, and of course, playing leads high up on the “neck” is not possible, although you can transpose the range over which it plays.

Because it’s physically small you’ll need to use the included strap, and it’s a little harder to work your way around the neck than a guitar. However, it doesn’t take long to acclimate yourself and if you want to lay down a MIDI part based on playing rhythm guitar, you’re good to go. Just remember a few tips:

  • Jamstik+ generates controller data that’s not relevant to what we’re doing. So, in your host of choice you can disable everything except notes to help thin out the data stream.
  • Glitches really aren’t an issue, because the Jamstik uses infrared sensors to detect when your finger is on a fret. However, you can generate sub-20 ms notes that while not problematic, aren’t needed. Your recording software may have a function that lets you delete all notes below a certain duration or velocity with a couple mouse clicks.
  • Jamstik+ can work wirelessly with Bluetooth LE MIDI as well as with a wired USB MIDI connection.
  • For best results with synths, use Jamstik in its multi-timbral mode, so each string goes to its own channel in a multi-timbral synthesizer. This not only sounds more realistic, but plays more like a guitar. If your synth has a legato mode, that can give even better results for some types of musical material.