As a wannabe guitarist, I find that the hardest thing to do is sit down and actually play guitar. When I first saw the Jamstik, a five-fret mini electronic guitar, I was impressed. It was about as big as a sub bun and featured strings that never had to be tuned. To play it you simply chorded and strummed as usual and you could transmit your MIDI-translated noodlings to a mobile app or your desktop. But there was a fatal flaw: latency. While a true expert could turn this thing into an orchestra, all of the amateur musicians I showed it to were frustrated by the built-in latency in Wi-Fi. You’d strum and the noise would come out a half-second too late. It was unnerving but, given practice, acceptable.
Now, however, the Jamstik+ offers a MIDI guitar without compromise. I’ve been playing with this new model since CES ended and can honestly say that this is one of the best portable electronic guitars I’ve played (and I’ve played most of them) and well worth picking up if you want to do a little jamming in your hotel room on the road or need a sort of Moleskine for music. In short, the Jamstik+ is a musical sketching tool par excellence and, in the right hands, a fun stage instrument in its own right.
Think of the Jamstik as a keyboard for guitar players. The six strings – which are programmable – offer exactly the feedback you’d expect from a guitar and the new version even includes a Fishman pickup for improved electric guitar feel.
What can you do with it? In the hands of an expert you can get something like this:
In my hands, you get something like this. I apologize in advance:
The company has worked hard to make latency as low as possible for all wireless MIDI instruments, not just the Jamstik, which has helped bring a number of interesting technologies and improvements to iOS. This means that GarageBand “just works” with the Jamstik+ and offers a superior experience to the previous Wi-Fi-based connection.
“The little digital guitar that sees your fingers for instruction and MIDI performance is opening new doors for both the ‘guitar curious’ and ‘guitar familiar’ crowds,” said VP Chad Koehler.
Because this thing is surprisingly compact and now surprisingly usable, it’s a great noodling instrument and a great way to get keyboard sounds out of a stringed device. It’s fun for novices and the company is working on a number of improved educational tools for users who want to learn a little Stairway. For experts the device is liberating. It feels great to be able to make amazing sounds using the skills and picking styles that define a guitarists ability and it’s a great tool for making and recording music.
I’m glad Jamstik kicked out the jams with this device and improved things immensely. It’s a neat little guitar that is fun to play, fun to learn, and fun to carry and I can definitely see this as a travel buddy in the near future. Finally technology has caught up with the art of the git-fiddle.