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Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Why Would I Want a MIDI Guitar?

Q. What is MIDI Guitar?
A. MIDI Guitar lets guitar players play a synthesizer with their guitar.

Q. Why use MIDI Guitar?
A. It lets you expand your playing sound and technique into new areas.

Q. What do I need for MIDI Guitar?
A. You need a Guitar Synthesizer and a matching pickup. Click here for some possibilities.

A typical set-up is shown here (a Roland GR-1, GK-2A, and 13 pin cable):



Q2. How Much Do Things Cost?

A. Lots of people ask about price; here's a sampling of catalog "street" prices:
From Interstate in West Berlin WI Winter 1998 catalog (800-462-2263)
  • Yamaha G50 $599.98
  • Yamaha G1D Guitar Divided Pickup $199.98
  • Yamaha B1D Bass Divided Pickup $159.98
  • GR-30 with GK-2A pickup $849.98
  • GK-2A alone $209.98



    From Musician's Friend Home Recording 2000 catalog (800-776-5173, musiciansfriend.com)
  • Roland GR-33 alone $599
  • Roland GR-33 with GK-2A $799
  • Roland Ready Strat $559.99 case $99.99
  • GR-30 $699.99
  • GR-30 with GK-2A pickup $829.99
  • GK-2A alone $199.99
  • 13 pin cable 15' $59.99
  • 13 pin cable 30' $79.99


    From Manny's Music 1-800-4-48th-st Spring/Summer 1996 catalog #13
  • Axon AX100 updates?
  • Roland GK-2A alone $210.00

    Q3. Which unit is better?

    A. How should I know?

    Q4. How can I do MIDI with my...

    Q. I have a MIDI ____ for my guitar, how do I get it to be MIDI guitar?
    (where ____ = Zoom, Boss, ART, Korg, ... effects unit)

    A. If you're not doing MIDI guitar right off, you probably have one of the many fine digital effects units available for guitar players. These are great and save a lot of stomp space under your feet. They have a MIDI IN/OUT/THRU so you can switch your effects program from another synth or computer or footpedal. Your 1/4" phone plug connects your guitar to the unit. This is NOT a MIDI guitar rig. You need to read up to see what equipment you really need.

    Q5. How About the GVOX system...

    A. First, I've never tried one, but readers report that they work fine for people learning to play guitar (as advertized) but they do not work well as a substitute for pro-quality equipment. I recommend a used Roland GI-10 and GK-2a package if you can find one instead. Also, GVOX has gone out of business. The GI-10 is a much better value since you can always resell it for what you paid for it. It is pro-quality and so close to the latest models most players can't really tell the difference.

    Q6. I already have a synthesizer, I don't need/want a GR-33...

    A. Congratulations! :-) The actual tone module is the least expensive part of, say, a Roland GR-33. It might cost $50. So don't let internal sounds cloud your selection. The real cost is in the hardware/software package that reads, detects and translates pitch data from six strings at the same time.

    Q7. I have a classical guitar...

    A. You have two choices: convert your existing guitar with RMC pickups (~$600 + labor) or buy a Godin brand synth access guitar (~$800-1300 used-new), who makes three nylon models with RMC pickups installed.

    You still need the pitch-to-midi converter and cables (e.g. a Roland GR-30 with cable).

    MIDI will not capture slapping, tapping, and pounding on the guitar's top, and even worse, the converter could mistake these motions as something really awful-sounding. Don't get me wrong, I believe nylon and midi are the peak of midi guitar, but your expectations must meet physical reality.

    Q8. Is it really MIDI Guitar?...

    A. We're using MIDI Guitar to refer to digital guitar, guitar synthesizer, electronic guitar, and MIDI guitar. Not all "MIDI Guitars" are midi, but they are synthesizers or link to synthesizers of one form or another.

    The Roland VG-8 system is really a guitar effect that uses hexaphonic (six-channel) digital signal processing (DSP) but is not a true synthesizer. We don't consider it a MIDI guitar, but we like to talk about it anyway.

    Q9. How Do Roland units compare?

    A. Roland has made various models, many recent ones are compared in a chart at the MIDI Guitar Showcase, look there to start. If you're looking at a used model and trying to see if it's at a good price, the GR-50, GI-10, GR-1, and GR-9 all seem to go for around $300 used, though they have different capabilities you want to check out first. Older than these or other brands (other than Yamaha or Axon), you're on your own, free is better.

    Q10. I have more than 6 strings...

    Welcome pedal steelers and 7 string guitarists! You just need to buy two of everything and you're all set. Roland equipment seems to do better than the competition in non-standard guitar tunings.



    Q11. I don't get much signal from my MIDI system...

    Are you using stainless steel super slinkeys? Trust me, stainless steel is NOT magnetic. You need iron, nickel, or cobalt to be magnetic. There's something magic about most grades of stainless that make it barely magnetic. Try steel strings or phosphor bronze and see if you get a better signal.

    Also, try using heavier strings than you normally might use once. You may be pleased with the higher output, especially if using a magnetic pickup such as the GK-2a.



    Q12. How Do I mount my pickup...

    Save the screws for later. Use "poster putty" and mount the pickup with a piece the size & shape of a pen cap. Use three dots of it to mount the control unit on the face of your guitar. Poster putty comes off clean, and you can always screw into your guitar at another time.

    Q13. How Do I convert a 24 pin to a 13 pin connector...

    Good question. Anyone REALLY know? The wiring diagram is posted at:
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/midiguitar/files/24%20Pin%20Info/

    Q14. How Do I go wireless...

    Well, I don't know of anyone doing this, but it's certainly possible. I'm thinking two RMC fanout boxes, 7 transmitters, and a belt powerpack oughta do it. Take your 13 pin cable to the RMC fanout box, plug in a transmitter to each of the 6 string outs (and your pickup out for 7). Take the 7 receivers, fan them back into a 13 pin cable with the second fanout box. If your pickup system uses phantom power from the 13 pin cable, you'll have to rig up a battery pack too. I think you could do this for about $4,000.

    Q15. I bought a used unit with no manual...

    Manuals are on-line for the Axon AX100 and Shadow SH-075. Roland sells manuals through their customer service, 213-685-5141. Other manuals are out of print, there a few midiguitar@egroups.com list members that have shared manuals for rare units.

    Q16. How do I hook my GK-2a pickup to my MIDI Keyboard?

    You go back to the store and buy any one of these: Roland GR-33, GI-10, GR-1, GR-9, GR-30 or Axon AX100 or Yamaha G50. You forgot the most important and expensive part, the converter!

    Q17. It's been two months and you haven't answered my e-mail!

    Sorry, since my e-mail address is on a web page, I now get 20 junk e-mails every day that don't get caught in the bulk e-mail filter! By the time I wade through these it can be a month before I find your e-mail! Problem is, I never need the things they are offering.

    End of FAQ



    Copyright 1996-2002 Joel B. Christian