The 7 Best MIDI Guitar Controllers (2023)
The MIDI world is progressing each day with new gear and opportunities for musicians. 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.
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.
The MIDI guitar controllers allow you to control your virtually attained sounds from a controller in the form of a guitar unit instead of playing them from a keyboard or any other shaped controller. You can play synths, piano, saxophone, drums, or anything you can think of from a guitar-shaped unit which is great for musicians who do not like or know how to play keyboards.
My top pick MIDI guitar controller is Jammy, a portable and easy-to-use MIDI controller in the form of a pretty realistic guitar with real strings.
My top pick from MIDI guitar pickups is the TriplePlay Fishman, a great wireless MIDI guitar pickup that successfully turns your guitar into a MIDI controller.
The 7 Best MIDI Guitar Controllers (2023)
Let’s compare them in more detail.
Jammy is a relatively new brand focused on digital guitars with innovative technologies. Their main product, Jammy G, is a digital guitar as well as a MIDI controller that comes in a portable and detachable form equipped with real guitar strings for better expression and a real guitar feel.
Featuring 6 real guitar strings on a detachable hard plastic neck with 15 frets, Jammy G is built with 4 detachable parts: the neck, body, and two detachable frames. It is a highly portable MIDI guitar, which you can put in a regular-sized backpack when detached.
- Portable and lightweight
- Real guitar strings
- Versatile with app-enabled two different modes
- Hard plastic neck might be a little bit hard to get used to
Jammy G has two different modes: an audio mode and a MIDI mode. The audio mode allows you to play it as a regular guitar connecting it to headphones or an app. You can choose between electric and acoustic guitar mode and add effects using the Jammy App on your smart device.
With the MIDI pickup, you can connect the Jammy G via USB-C or Bluetooth to your computer and use it as a MIDI controller with your favorite DAW. This is where Jammy G shines, as you can create expressive sounds playing guitar and achieving drums, synths, bass, or any sounds you would like. You can also use classic guitar techniques like bends and legatos, which you can’t get with other MIDI controllers and are great to experiment with.
|Type||MIDI Guitar Controller|
|Connection||Bluetooth and USB-C for MIDI Controller⅛” and ¼” jack outputs for regular guitar|
The plastic neck and the small guitar are pretty hard to get used to for guitarists, but the potential of sonic versatility that can be achieved with Jammy G is promising. The company also offers Jammy E, an upgraded and more portable model, as a pre-order right now.
Jammy guitars won’t replace real guitars, but they don’t really need to. They are great for musicians who want a high-quality, portable, easy-to-use guitar-shaped MIDI controller.
2. TriplePlay Fishman
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
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.
|Type||Hexaphonic MIDI Pickup|
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. 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.
3. Artiphon Instrument 1
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 or headphones or an amp.
- Multi-instruments in one package
- Highly portable and lightweight
- Built-in speakers
- Solid build
- Android not officially supported (though it is USB-class compliant, so might still work)
The plastic fingerboard is great and fun to use, with 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, Mac, but it does not officially support Android yet (though it is USB-class compliant, so might still work).
|Type||MIDI Guitar Controller|
|Connection||USB, ⅛” Output, Bluetooth, In-Built Speakers|
Although it does not offer a traditional guitar design or playing experience, Artiphon Instrument 1 is a futuristic guitar design that is easy-to-use, highly versatile, and portable for musicians after a modern digital instrument.
4. Jamstik Guitar Trainer
The latest model of the Jamstik Guitar Trainer series, Jamstik 7, is a compact wireless digital guitar and MIDI controller with real strings. It is aimed at entry-level guitarists and musicians who want to learn more about MIDIs and music production. It has real guitar strings and optical pickups in a compact body to allow the musicians to play this MIDI guitar anywhere.
- Highly portable
- Real strings and real frets
- Great features for learning guitar
- Runs on AA batteries
- System does not read real guitar techniques like legatos, slides very well
The Jamstik app is great for beginner guitarists, as it teaches you to play your first chords in minutes. You can also use Jamsitk 7 with a DAW of your choice, playing it with any plugin to get different instrument sounds from your device.
|Type||MIDI Guitar Controller|
With its app, Jamstik 7 Guitar Trainer is a decent portable MIDI guitar for entry-level guitarists to learn and practice guitar while on the road. It is also a good choice for stepping into music production with a MIDI guitar controller, but it would not satisfy more advanced players.
5. Sonuus i2M MP
Sonuus i2M MP is a simple device that receives the audio from your instrument and converts it to 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 also vocals
- Simple and user-friendly
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.
|Type||MIDI audio interface/converter|
|Connection||USB to ¼” jack|
Sonuus i2M MP is an affordable, great and simple device for musicians who want to use their instruments as a MIDI controller.
6. Guitar Wing
Guitar Wing is a different tool than the previous devices on this list. It does not process sounds like other MIDI controllers, pickups, or interfaces. Still, it works as a MIDI control panel and allows you to communicate with your DAW wirelessly and easily with a piece attached to the rear of your guitar. You plug your jack into your audio interface, the USB wireless transmitter to your computer, and everything is ready.
- Easy, plug and play style device
- Great way to control effects, and DAW through your guitar
- Wireless connection works smoothly
- Could take time to get used to
- May not fit every guitar
It features six buttons, five slider switches, three faders with LED lights, and five pads, which you can be assigned different tasks from your DAW. So, you can adjust effects like pitch, modulation, filters, reverb, distortion, delay in real-time playing your instrument. You can also use it for recording easily by assigning tasks such as record, play, stop to the buttons.
It may take a little time to get used to the layout playing real-time, but it is not that challenging. Another problem might be that the attachable device may not fit your guitar as it is designed with traditional guitars like Strats, Teles, Les Pauls in mind.
|Type||Wireless MIDI Control Panel|
|Connection||Wireless USB Transmitter|
Guitar Wing is a great tool that makes playing easier for guitarists who want to use MIDI as an effects processor. But, if you want a traditional MIDI controller to recreate notes and process the sounds, this device is not for you.
7. Behringer FCB1010
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 Behringer FCB1010 with third-party software. It is a bit hard to navigate through the LCD panel for mapping.
|Type||MIDI Foot Controller|
In short, 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 Jammy 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, 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, you 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 round. 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 recommendation is the Jammy G MIDI guitar controller, as it offers an authentic guitar playing experience with MIDI benefits in a compact portable design.
If you want to go on with your guitar while having the sonic versatility of the MIDI world, TriplePlay Fishman MIDI guitar pickups would be great for you.