The 7 Best MIDI Guitar Controllers (2024)
Most of us are familiar with MIDI controllers, which are used to control virtual instruments and synths by attaining sounds to the controller from your DAW. MIDI guitar controllers do the same job but in the shape of a guitar.
They come in two different versions; the first one is a guitar-shaped MIDI controller, and the other one is a MIDI pickup which turns your actual guitar into a MIDI controller. So, you can play any attained sound like piano, saxophone, drum, etc. from a guitar.
My top recommended choice is the Jamstik Studio MIDI Guitar. This is a high-quality electric guitar with full MIDI capabilities, made for the studio.
My second recommended choice is the Sonuus i2M MP. This is an affordable audio-to-MIDI converter option for those on a budget.
- The 7 Best MIDI Guitar Controllers (2024)
- 1. Jamstik Studio MIDI Guitar
- 2. Sonuus i2M MP
- 3. Expressiv MIDI Pro 2
- 4. Roland GK-3 Divided Pickup
- 5. TriplePlay Fishman
- 6. Artiphon Instrument 1
- 7. Behringer FCB1010
- Can a Guitar be a MIDI Controller?
- How do you Make a Guitar MIDI?
- How do I Make my MIDI Guitar Sound Real?
- How does a MIDI Work with Guitar Pedals?
The 7 Best MIDI Guitar Controllers (2024)
Let’s compare them in more detail.
The Jamstik Studio MIDI Guitar is a high-quality choice that provides an authentic guitar feel. This headless, 24-fret electric guitar has full MIDI capabilities that come together in a portable, quality product that offers exceptional studio performance.
- Authentic guitar feel
- Full MIDI capabilities
- Bluetooth connect
- Purchase bundle included (gig bag, cables, strap locks, manual, guitar pick)
- A bit pricey
- The tuning mechanism could have been done better
The Jamstik Studio comes in six different color options as well as a left-handed option. The purchase bundle includes all the necessary accessories you’d need from a gig bag to an Allen keys and the much-needed manual.
Specs-wise, the Jamstik Studio is essentially an electric guitar with two humbucking pickups, a coil tap switch, a three-way switch, and a standard 1/4” out. But the beauty of this guitar is the Bluetooth connection option which you don’t see often.
|Bluetooth, USB-C to USB-A, 3.5mm TRS to MIDI
Overall, if you want an ideal MIDI guitar companion for the studio, the Jamstik Studio is an excellent choice that delivers quality, good sound and comes with all the needed accessories.
The Sonuus i2M MP is a simple device that receives the audio from your instrument and converts it to a MIDI signal through your computer. So, you can use your preferred DAW and use your instrument as a MIDI controller easily. It is a USB-powered plug-and-play-style device that works with low latency.
- Ability to use your own instrument as a MIDI controller
- Works with many instruments and vocals
- Simple and user-friendly
- Not much
It is a tiny device with a simple and user-friendly system. It works with guitars, 4 and 5-string basses, wind instruments as well as vocals. It delivers a fast-tracking and high-quality sound, but the letdown is that it only works monophonically, which means you can only play one note at a time.
|MIDI audio interface/converter
|USB to ¼” jack
The Sonuus i2M MP is an affordable, great, and simple device for musicians who want to use their instruments as a MIDI controller.
3. Expressiv MIDI Pro 2
The Expressiv MIDI Pro 2 is perhaps among the best MIDI guitars in the world. This state-of-the-art studio companion comes with so many features that blow all other competitors out of the water. Naturally, all this comes at a steep price.
- Highly intuitive MIDI guitar
- Traditional guitar feel
- 16Mhz processors
- Full MIDI capabilities
- XY pad
- Very pricey!
The MIDI Pro 2 offers an authentic guitar feel while having powerful specs. It features 16Mhz processors to handle any latency issues, an intuitive XY pad for added control and creativity, and a fretboard scanner that turns your strings and frets into 144 unique velocity-sensitive switches.
This is quite a complex instrument at first due to the many options and controls. However, the intuitive 32-character LCD display menu system will let you customize it fully to cater to your needs. Best of all, it looks and feels like an actual electric guitar so transitioning will not be so difficult.
|USB out, 5-pin DIN MIDI out
Overall, this pricey gadget has all the necessary features for the perfect studio companion. You can unleash your creativity with the many features and sounds to create something beautiful.
The Roland GK-3 is an external midi guitar pickup that attaches to your electric guitar and allows access to Roland Guitar Synthesizers to expand creativity and control while making music.
- Practical design
- Built-in controls for Roland Guitar Synthesizers
- Easy to install/mount
- Comes with all the necessary hardware
- May not fit ALL guitars
- Some sounds aren’t up to par
The GK-3 is very easy to mount on your guitar, although, first make sure that the model you have will actually have ample space for the Pickup to fit beneath the strings. As for the mounting process, it comes with all the necessary hardware and instructions on how to properly set up this practical device.
|Standard 1/4″ jack
All in all, if you want a practical and versatile MIDI pickup, the Roland GK-3 is an excellent choice that allows access to Roland Guitar Synthesizer sounds, features a standard 1/4″ jack, and best of all, comes at a reasonable price range.
The TriplePlay Fishman is a small gear that turns your guitar into a MIDI controller. It is called a hexaphonic MIDI pickup which builds a wireless connection between the DAW on your computer or smart device and your guitar with low latency and accurate processing. It allows you to assign different sounds to your guitar, allowing you to play any kind of instrument through it.
- Low latency accurate processing
- Playing a real guitar as a MIDI controller
- Versatile and practical
- A bit of a learning curve to get clear results
The TriplePlay Fishman is easily fitted to your guitar with no damage and is powered by a lithium rechargeable battery that lasts long enough for extensive playing. You can use the Fishman’s app to gain access to loopers, sequencers, virtual instruments, and effects, but many users report that it has a pretty complicated installation process.
Although the pickup is relatively successful at getting your playing nuances, you will have to adapt your playing style and technique to get the most out of it.
|Hexaphonic MIDI Pickup
Overall, it is a great tool that stimulates creative practicing and playing, also giving you a tone of different and cool sounds to play through your guitar in live performances.
The Artiphone Instrument 1 is a unique and one-of-a-kind guitar/MIDI controller hybrid. It is a MIDI controller in the shape of a plastic guitar neck with an innovative design that allows you to play many different instruments with a single button through its loud built-in speakers, headphones, or amp.
- Multi-instruments in one package
- Highly portable and lightweight
- Built-in speakers
- Solid build
- Android is not officially supported (though it is USB-class compliant, so might still work)
The plastic fingerboard is great and fun to use, with a pressure and velocity-sensitive design that allows the users to strum, bow, tap, slide, and drum. It has 6 innovative digital strings with 12 frets which you can turn off and use the device as a fretless instrument.
You can connect the device to a computer to use as a MIDI controller or a stand-alone digital multi-instrument. It has a USB, ⅛” Output jack, and Bluetooth with low latency connectivity options. It works with iOS, Windows, and Mac, but it does not officially support Android yet (though it is USB-class compliant, so might still work).
|MIDI Guitar Controller
|USB, ⅛” Output, Bluetooth, In-Built Speakers
Although it does not offer a traditional guitar design or playing experience, the Artiphon Instrument 1 is a futuristic guitar design that is easy to use, highly versatile, and portable for musicians after a modern digital instrument.
The Behringer FCB1010 is one of the most popular MIDI foot controllers today with its versatility and valuable features. It comes with 10 programmable MIDI switches, 2 expression pedals, and 2 footswitch jacks with a sturdy stompbox, which gives you great control over your MIDI effects and plugins.
- Sturdy build
- Versatile with 10 MIDI switches, 2 expression pedals
- 2 programmable footswitch jacks
- A little bulky
It is a big controller that isn’t connectable through USB, but you can use a MIDI converter to plug it into a computer. That way, you can use your DAW to remap the Behringer FCB1010 with third-party software. It is a bit hard to navigate through the LCD panel for mapping.
|MIDI Foot Controller
In short, the Behringer FCB1010 is a great and affordable MIDI foot controller to control your MIDI effects and plugins easily on stage or while recording if you have the space for it.
Can a Guitar be a MIDI Controller?
Yes, there are MIDI guitar pickups and audio-to-MIDI converters that receive the signal from your guitar turning it into MIDI signals to be processed in a DAW of choice. If you want to use your guitar as a MIDI controller, you can choose one of these devices.
There are also guitar-shaped MIDI controllers, which are actually MIDI controllers meant to be played like a guitar on which you can even use guitar techniques such as legatos, bends, and slides. Although they are close to real-guitar playing experience, you will need some time to get used to playing these devices.
How do you Make a Guitar MIDI?
As mentioned before, with a MIDI guitar pickup like TriplePlay Fishman or an audio-to-MIDI converter like Sonuus i2M MP, you can turn your own guitar into a MIDI controller. These devices allow you to convert your guitar signals to MIDI signals so that you can make your guitar sound like any other instrument configured in your DAW.
How do I Make my MIDI Guitar Sound Real?
Although MIDI Guitar Controllers are still evolving, there are some impressive-sounding devices like The Jamstik Studio MIDI Guitar and Artiphon Instrument 1. These are electronic devices like other MIDI controllers like MIDI keyboards designed to replicate the guitar playing experience with utmost reality. So, you can use any guitar technique like bends, slides, legatos, and strumming chords with these instruments to sound more realistic.
However, the realism of the sound comes to your VST Virtual Studio Technology Instrument in the end. You have to own suitable virtual instruments and plug-ins to make the electronic devices sound realistic. There are many great ones that you can use with some DAWs or as standalone software, with which you can create hyper-realistic guitar sounds.
How does a MIDI Work with Guitar Pedals?
There are many MIDI-enabled guitar pedals that you can use with MIDI instruments, and there are also MIDI foot controllers to use with your real guitar for switching between your MIDI plug-ins and effects.
You can use your MIDI guitar controller with MIDI-enabled guitar pedals. These pedals allow the users to change presets and control the parameters like knobs and switches via continuous controller (CC) and program change messages.
Simply, connect the MIDI out port of your MIDI controller to the MIDI in of your guitar pedal. This way, the MIDI controller sends commands to the pedal programming it as you like with endless setting options.
I know it sounds complicated, but it is not when you take a few steps in the MIDI world. You can check out this video to learn more about using MIDI with guitar pedals.
On the other hand, MIDI foot controllers work similarly but the other way around. You can think of them as a “blank page” pedal that you assign the effects and plug-ins you want from third-party software, a DAW, to use these effects with your real guitar.
MIDI guitar controllers are getting better and better with technology giving guitarists much more control and creative opportunities through the MIDI world. You can use a MIDI guitar controller or a MIDI pickup/converter to turn your guitar into a MIDI controller to benefit from the wide world of MIDI while playing guitar.
My top pick is the Jamstik Studio MIDI Guitar, a high-quality electric guitar with full MIDI capabilities, made for the studio.
My budget pick is the Sonuus i2M MP, an affordable audio-to-MIDI converter option for those on a tighter budget.