Review – MIDI Guitar and MIDI Bass by Jam Origin

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If you have great guitar skills but not-so-great keyboard technique, then maybe this software is just what you need to quickly lay down MIDI tracks for your arrangements.

by A. Arsov, Jan. 2014

MIDI Guitar is definitively one of the most useful pieces of software that I’ve gotten in last few years. I’m a guitar player and my piano technique is not among the best (to be gentle with myself). I can play keyboard, but it is always a challenge for me: finding the right melody, the combination of chords, and the appropriate finger placement to play it all. I used to have one MIDI guitar back in the day, but it was an old technology – almost useless – so I disconnected the MIDI pick up and so I still use this old Casio Guitar as a normal electric guitar. New MIDI guitars, or even just MIDI pick-ups are a bit too expensive and if you even get one you should spend some quality time to integrate it to your setup. Not my cup of tea anymore.


The (Jam) Origin of the Denmark Revolution

I didn’t even know that software like MIDI Guitar existed until I was browsing through some tutorials for Samplitude. There I found a video explaining how to connect a sequencer with this piece of software that comes from a Denmark – a MIDI Guitar. Five minutes later I’d already played my guitar through the demo version of MIDI Guitar, recording some MIDI clips. There are still few things that you can’t play or record with MIDI Guitar, but even with this first version, the end result is quite similar to the one that you can get with the newest Roland equipment (that I tried at my friend’s house). Quite impressive.

MIDI Guitar can transform your guitar signal into polyphonic MIDI data. Pitch bend recognition works perfectly. Playing lead is more than solid if you don’t push it over the limit, playing dirty, fast or moody parts. I discovered that it works better with my second, Casio guitar, since my Tele has strings too close to the neck and the software had problems recognizing note off on occasion. After I switched guitars, everything worked as it should. You still must take care about your playing technique, but having all those chords and melodic lines at the reach of your guitar neck and being able to record it in real time as a MIDI track, or simply by controlling the synth or sound library, is a real bonus. I was always a bit jealous when I see keyboard players recording chords and solo in one take, but now I’m also there.

It works great on not so fast solos and even better on slow arpeggiated chords. So, no fast strumming, this is still just a MIDI guitar and not a Wonderland contrivance, but I have to admit that I was amazed how accurate it detected all MIDI notes when I strummed a few chords slowly. If you are a lousy keyboard player, than this could be just the right thing for you. Even if you are moderately accomplished keyboard player, this software could be still useful, as licks are pretty different for guitar as they are for the keyboard.

What Does It Look Like?

For $99.95 USD you get a nice piece of software. Connecting it with DAW is straightforward, as you can find video instruction on Jam Origin site for almost all sequencers that are on the market right now. So, five minutes later, the adventure begins. Of course you need a decent ASIO audio card with latency 512 ms or less (recommended by Jam Origin) for plugging a cable into your audio card. Part of the adventure is trying all the options to get results that are as good possible. The user interface is nicely designed, so you can’t really lose yourself in it, in spite of their being plenty of controllers. On the first Essential window you can set sensitivity and pitch band range along with Output and basic Mixer setting. Nothing fancy there. The mixer offers an input sensitivity slider along with a MIDI velocity slider. It is really nice how everything is arranged in order. After a little trial and error I got nice dynamic response on the MIDI side along with optimized sensitivity. We all know that guitarists are ladies and not ones smart enough complain too much when spending hours tweaking three knobs trying to get “that” sound. So, those five or ten minutes spent on this piece of software are just an intro for a long period of acclimation for finding “that” sound. “You know” (with a gazing pinky).

The next window is a bit trickier, as there is not only a gain, bass, treble, and mid knobs, but much more. It’s similar to the first window, but in this Advanced window you will find sliders for fine tuning your pitch bands, or even to deselect them. (Did I mention that pitch bend works as a charm?) Use it for selecting the general sound of your guitar, default, bright or dark. You can also select polyphonic or monophonic (no, it is not a bigamy issue, my dear guitar fellows, it is about one string as opposed to many of them.) Third is a plugin window upon which I haven’t elaborated. At the end of the day I’m a guitar player, so I spent whole day toying with this and it doesn’t leave much time to discover all the tiny things.

Play, Play…

The whole thing is “set it and forget it”, because when all the settings are decided, all you have to do is to finally record twenty seven songs in the first day. You can now accomplish all those things that you left for another day, one when you’ve finally learned to play those bloody keyboard parts well enough to record all the things that easily come under your finger on the guitar. Trust me, this plug in will postpone the day when you will learn to play your keyboard from the soon to the never. As quickly as I discovered what could be done and what couldn’t, I spent hours playing and recording – believe it or not, just download demo and try it yourself. It is such a joy to play all those synths competently in real time, not just banging with three fingers on a keyboard as we did before.

Yes, now I’m a keyboard player. And how am I playing my keyboard? With a guitar of course.

So, I had never heard of this company and this plug in before, but now I know them. And now you also know them. Share the knowledge, my dear fellow guitarists!

P.S. MIDI Bass is still in the test stage, I’ve tried it, found few drawbacks, talked with Ole. It will be fixed, and at the moment looks promising.

More info and demo along with a video presentation on:    http://jamorigin.com/press/

 

$99.95 USD. Almost no space used on your disk, light on CPU and very addictive.

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