Programming Synths for MIDI Guitar

With MIDI guitar, you need MIDI guitar-friendly synth presets

Part of making MIDI guitar feel “right” when triggering synths has nothing to do with the guitar and its tracking, but is due to the presets being optimized with keyboards in mind. Editing the synth presets so that they’re guitar-friendly makes playing MIDI guitar a far more enjoyable experience. Here are the most important tweaks you need to make.

Separate channels. The guitar will most likely send data from each string over a different channel. So, use synths in multitimbral mode, where each voice has its own channel. Depending on the synth, the fastest way to do this is to optimize a voice for one string on one channel, then copy over to the other channels.

Polyphony. Set each voice for one-note polyphony. Think about it—with any guitar, you can’t play more than one note at a time on a given string. MIDI guitar feels more realistic when it responds in the same way (and may even appear to track better). In the image at the top, Native Instruments’ Kontakt has six Clavinet voices, set to channels 1-6, for MIDI guitar. Note how maximum polyphony is set to 1.

Legato mode. If there’s a legato mode, consider using it. Then if you slide up the neck, you won’t retrigger a note at every fret along the way…then again, maybe that’s the effect you want!