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Pros and cons of different guitar to MIDI solutions (iOS Midi Guitar 2, Fishman Triple Play...)?

edited September 12 in General App Discussion

Hey guys :smile:

For my little one-man-show I have an acoustic guitar and a microphone, both connected to my iPhone SE. Using AUM, I process the guitar through Tonebridge (to add some nice FX), and route the guitar and/or mic to Group the Loop (GTL, for live looping).

I'd love to be able to also play some synths through MIDI. I was thinking of attaching my nanoKEY2 to my guitar's body, but that is too bulky. So I started evaluating "guitar to MIDI" solutions.

I'd love to hear your opinions about the pros/cons of those solutions. I'm pretty close to getting one of them, but I'm still a bit unsure which will be suited best for me.

1) Jam Origin's Midi Guitar 2 (MG2)

Being an iOS app, this would be the easiest solution. It translates the acoustic signal of the guitar into MIDI. But it is not too accurate with an acoustic guitar (compared to an electric one). And it is a bit cumbersome to route its MIDI to an AUv3 synth in AUM: as MG2 itself cannot be loaded as an AUv3 input, I would need to have the app running in the background, which adds more manual complexity (and more sources for problems) to my already complex setup around AUM and GTL. On the other side, it has some nice presets and FX (but I doubt I can assign any MIDI bindings to them so I could switch between them using my iRig BlueBoard foot controller) (UPDATE: MG2 does allow to assign midi CC to select settings).

Price: 30-40$ (depending on the In-App-Purchases, I'm not 100% sure which ones will be needed)

(Side note: there is a similar software called MiGiC, but it is only available for desktop computers. It would still be interesting to compare it to MG2 though. Maybe I will give it a try.)

2) Fishman Triple Play Connect (TPC)

Being an additional kind-of-pickup (which can be simply clenched between the guitar's strings and its body, next to the bridge), the TPC (like MG2) also translates the acoustic signal of the guitar into MIDI, but it is much more accurate, as it has a single little pickup for each string (and doesn't have to "guess" as much as MG2). While it adds some more bulk, it's relatively tiny. And it can easily be installed and removed (without altering the guitar), so I could use it with different guitars.

It connects via USB. As I already use a Camera Connection Kit to attach my external audio interface to my iPhone, I can simply add a small USB hub to allow for another connection. It even draws its power from USB, so no additional battery to be charged.

The TPC comes with a great looking app, but sadly it's only available for iPad. As far as I can read from this article, it should be possible to connect the TPC also directly to any MIDI synth, but I'm unsure whether the TPC still is indispensable for fine-tuning the MIDI signals so they are accurate enough for live performance. I mean - if I want to have an "inaccurate" solution, I could get the cheaper MG2 (above).

An additional benefit is that each single string can be sent to its individual MIDI channel. This allows for some more magic when reacting to it, e.g. to trigger a bass synth for the E, A, and D strings, while triggering another synth for the G, B, and e strings.

Price: 200$

3) Fishman Triple Play (TP)

Similar to the TPC, but wireless! A bit bulkier though, and more expensive.

As my guitar's internal pickup has some problems, the TP might be a solution for that too, as it claims to be also a "normal" pickup (or am I getting it wrong? At least I can switch between guitar, synth, and both using a switch) - but how would the acoustic sound come to iOS then?

As there is no need to connect this thing (neither for MIDI nor for acoustic, assuming I don't misunderstand something fundamental here) I could get rid of my external audio interface, too. This could make up for the additional bulkiness of the thing. On the other side, an additional battery needs to be charged here.

But still, the question about using the thing with an iPhone remains the same like with the TPC.

Price: 350$

4) Roland GK-3 (GK3)

Similar to the TP, but no wireless. As such it is a bit bulkier, but also it makes clear that the MIDI and acoustic signals are transmitted through cables (as such there are no questions whether an additional iOS software is needed). Still, I don't know how this compares regarding accuracy. And it seems to be harder to install to a guitar and non-removable (seems to be fixed using screws or something), which is a huge downside, as I don't want to alter the body of my guitar. In general, it doesn't really seem to be made for acoustic guitars.

The following picture confuses me even more: why is the guitar's normal pickup connected to the GK3's input?

5) RMC Acoustic System (RMC)

RMS seems to have several acoustic pickups with an "acoustic to MIDI" solution built right into it. I didn't go though the different options yet, I'm a bit confused here, but they look promising, while also being expensive.

If their MIDI accuracy is very good (much better than the Roland or Fishmans), they might be worth a shot. But installation is very complex and needs to be done by a professional. And it definitely requires to alter the body of my guitar.

Price: 600$ (without installation)


So, what's your opinion here, guys? Did I miss anything? Can anybody compare the products regarding accuracy?

At the moment, I favour the TPC, as it is very straightforward to install, doesn't do any damage to my guitar's body, should be pretty accurate even without the specific app (at least I hope for this), connects straight to the MIDI input in AUM without any additional software running (I guess), and doesn't need an additional power source as its connected through USB.

But also MG2 is still very tempting, as it would be the most hassle-free solution installation-wise. So my biggest question might be: Will the Fishman Triple Play (WiFi or Connect version) be more accurate than iOS Midi Guitar 2, even when I cannot use the "Connect" iOS app (as I don't have an iPad, only an iPhone)?

I'm happy to hear your thoughts. :smile:

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Comments

  • MG2 is very good at detecting and converting to MIDI. I purchased all the IAP"s and it's an amazing capability with the features to mix acoustic sound with any AUv3 MIDI capable synth or effect.

    I wouldn't consider a hardware solution for 2-4x the price.

    Try it and give it a fair evaluation and refund if I'm not correct in my assessment. The developer has a forum as well so you can ask for advice there as well:

    https://jamosapien.com/

  • MG2, no question.

  • McDMcD
    edited September 11

    There's a song on the forum that uses MG2 for the instrumental component:

    https://forum.audiob.us/discussion/40915/box-of-things-richard-yot-and-jankun-collab#latest

    It shows the magical capabilities of MG2 and IOS apps for an acoustic performer.

  • I've got a Roland GK-2a with my GI-10 and it's about as inaccurate as the iOS/macOS Midi Guitar app is. Neither is perfect. The Roland one is a lot older so I imagine they've been able to use alien technology and artificially intelligent algorithms in Midi Guitar that weren't available (or allowed to be) back then. I took my pickup off when I got Midi Guitar.

  • @josh83 : have you determined that the fishman works better on your acoustic?

    A friend who has owned every guitar-to-MIDI solution says the TriplePlay is the only decent hardware solution. MG2, he says is close in quality if you play cleanly. I use MG2 and find it excellent for single note playing and ok for 3-4 note chords though chordal playing requires some adjustments in how I
    play.

    The GK-3 does not track nearly as well.

    I doubt that the fishman transmits audio wirelessly to iOS. Wireless (Bluetooth) audio (unlike MIDI) has inherent latency issues.

  • Thanks for your replies, guys.

    @espiegel123 said:
    @josh83 : have you determined that the fishman works better on your acoustic?

    I don't own the Fishman, so no, I have not determined anything yet (except using MIDI Guitar 2 demo, which shows quite some flaws on an acoustic).

    A friend who has owned every guitar-to-MIDI solution says the TriplePlay is the only decent hardware solution. MG2, he says is close in quality if you play cleanly.

    It would be really interesting whether this is true for only electric guitars, or also for acoustic ones. To be honest, I just tried MG2 again using a piezo pickup and using a microphone, and both does not result in very accurate MIDI.

    I suspect the TriplePlay would be much more accurate on an acoustic than MG2, because it has a hexaphonic pickup which allows way better separation of each string than the "mess" of only one single signal from a standard piezo.

    The GK-3 does not track nearly as well.

    I think the GK-3 is out of the game then. That's some first progress then! :wink:

  • @josh83 said:
    Thanks for your replies, guys.

    @espiegel123 said:
    @josh83 : have you determined that the fishman works better on your acoustic?

    I don't own the Fishman, so no, I have not determined anything yet (except using MIDI Guitar 2 demo, which shows quite some flaws on an acoustic).

    A friend who has owned every guitar-to-MIDI solution says the TriplePlay is the only decent hardware solution. MG2, he says is close in quality if you play cleanly.

    It would be really interesting whether this is true for only electric guitars, or also for acoustic ones. To be honest, I just tried MG2 again using a piezo pickup and using a microphone, and both does not result in very accurate MIDI.

    I suspect the TriplePlay would be much more accurate on an acoustic than MG2, because it has a hexaphonic pickup which allows way better separation of each string than the "mess" of only one single signal from a standard piezo.

    The GK-3 does not track nearly as well.

    I think the GK-3 is out of the game then. That's some first progress then! :wink:

    I would test an acoustic with the tripleplay before making any assumptions. What you say would apply to electric guitar as well as to an acoustic with a pickup. My friend with the tripleplay says that while the tripleplay tracks a little better than MG2 that the difference is not huge (whereas he says the tripleplay is much better than the Roland).

    MG2 is sensitive to setup. If it is not set up well, it tracks poorly. It also requires fairly clean playing. I learned a lot about glitches in my technique when using it.

  • I love MG2 but am I the only one that it craps out consistently when I use it with AUM and as a standalone on two different iPads (pro 1st gen & iPad 6th gen). I can’t get it to go more than a 1/2 hour without it crashing with a somewhat high pitched buzz. I wouldn’t trust it in a live situation on my iPads. Seems to work fine on my Mac, though.

  • I’ve never used any of those hardware solutions like the Triple Play, but MG2 works really well for my use cases. I’ve found that if you mix your processed guitar sound with certain MIDI instruments, you can get some really good results.

    MG2 is a no brainer anyway, for how cheap it is. 20-30 bucks IIRC for the whole shebang and you’ll be in business.

    It takes some tweaking; I use it by launching the MG2 app itself first, then selecting ‘MIDI out’ in the presets. Then you can start AUM, open an audio track with your guitar signal as the source and load MG2 into the effects slot. You’ll then have MG2 available in AUM’s MIDI matrix to route MIDI to pretty much anything. Once you have your guitar controlling something, you’ll want to go back into MG2 itself and tweak the sensitivity, legato, bends, and related settings to taste.

  • MG2 is sensitive to setup. If it is not set up well, it tracks poorly. It also requires fairly clean playing. I learned a lot about glitches in my technique when using it.

    This is true! Again, it does take some tweaking.

  • I was just playing with MG2 here. Noodling around, controlling Addstation’s amazing sounds. Thanks for reminding me of this!

  • @Intrepolicious has the tiger by the tail. I always open MG2 first and then send MIDI out to "Destination" in AUM. Every guitar is different in MG2--you have to spend some time tweaking the settings PER GUITAR. But once you dial it in, save it as a preset and you should be all set. I definitely have to play more cleanly with MG2 tracking me, but I don't perceive that as a downside. I should be playing more cleanly anyway.

  • @Philh0954 said:
    I love MG2 but am I the only one that it craps out consistently when I use it with AUM and as a standalone on two different iPads (pro 1st gen & iPad 6th gen). I can’t get it to go more than a 1/2 hour without it crashing with a somewhat high pitched buzz. I wouldn’t trust it in a live situation on my iPads. Seems to work fine on my Mac, though.

    I haven’t had that issue, yet anyways. Maybe I haven’t gone over the half hour mark?

  • @lukesleepwalker said:
    @Intrepolicious has the tiger by the tail. I always open MG2 first and then send MIDI out to "Destination" in AUM. Every guitar is different in MG2--you have to spend some time tweaking the settings PER GUITAR. But once you dial it in, save it as a preset and you should be all set. I definitely have to play more cleanly with MG2 tracking me, but I don't perceive that as a downside. I should be playing more cleanly anyway.

    Idk, on the flip side, it can mask some sloppy playing too, if you’re using a longer sound like a pad with a bunch of reverb, and use mostly the wet sound.

  • So... OMB guitars... guitars with built in midi conversion and an auto-backing band app. I saw these on Kickstarter a couple of years ago and followed the story as I couldn’t fathom why people would risk hundreds of pounds/dollars for a midi guitar on a promise.

    It has been a bit of a completion / delivery debacle to say the least, but when I saw one of the acoustics with built in electronics on eBay cheap, my own curiosity got the better of me... Most of the complaints were about the quality of the bespoke guitars for the price and the poor performance of the app, I was more interested in the straight midi for synth app input.

    It actually works pretty well. Open strings don’t trigger notes and latency is noticeable over Bluetooth, but with a usb cable it serves as a decent input controller.

    Since I’ve had it I’ve not actually been doing much guitar to midi tracking, I have though used MG2 in the past and think it’s fantastic. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend OMB over that, but I will definitely be using this guitar for midi input at some point in the future.

    Despite all the criticism the OMB guitars get, it’s a fair acoustic with electronics (pickup and built in tuner) for the price I paid (under £100). I think I’d prefer an electric so I’d hear less guitar, but they seem to be much more dodgy in terms of build quality.

    They also sell add on kits to put on your own guitar (plenty of horror stories there) or they now sell decent guitars with the kit installed.

    Anyway, headline from that ramble is that the technology does actually work for guitar to midi (so long as you can get by without open string notes).... and Kickstarter discards are out there to be had cheap.

    Plus it’s a good story of modern times with fools and their money being easily parted (with possibly myself included). Most of the upset backers seem to have gone straight off and pre-ordered Spark amps from Positive grid... no learning some people.

  • edited September 11

    What about this solution
    https://playjammy.com/

    Seems very interesting.

    An example

  • @Intrepolicious said:

    @lukesleepwalker said:
    @Intrepolicious has the tiger by the tail. I always open MG2 first and then send MIDI out to "Destination" in AUM. Every guitar is different in MG2--you have to spend some time tweaking the settings PER GUITAR. But once you dial it in, save it as a preset and you should be all set. I definitely have to play more cleanly with MG2 tracking me, but I don't perceive that as a downside. I should be playing more cleanly anyway.

    Idk, on the flip side, it can mask some sloppy playing too, if you’re using a longer sound like a pad with a bunch of reverb, and use mostly the wet sound.

    Very true. I always assume (perhaps erroneously) that most guitar players will want tracking through a lead. MG2 is awesome for slow evolving pads; in fact, one of my favorite use cases.

  • MG2 here, it's by far the best tracking option I've tried, though it's definitely better with my electric than my acoustic.

  • @steve99 said:

    Plus it’s a good story of modern times with fools and their money being easily parted (with possibly myself included). Most of the upset backers seem to have gone straight off and pre-ordered Spark amps from Positive grid... no learning some people.

    @Iskander said:
    What about this solution
    https://playjammy.com/

    Seems very interesting.

    An example

    The OMB and Playjammy do look interesting. I’d have to be really committed to the concept to shell out that kind of dough though. The $30 MG2 app is a good place to start, and to decide if it’s really something you want, or need.

    @lukesleepwalker said:
    .

    Very true. I always assume (perhaps erroneously) that most guitar players will want tracking through a lead. MG2 is awesome for slow evolving pads; in fact, one of my favorite use cases.

    Yes, for ambient or soundscape pieces, MG2 does the job for sure.

  • so which ones are polyphonic ?

  • I wonder if using an EQ before entering MG2 might help reduce the occurrence of duff notes?

    Have always been interested in trying MG2, but the concept of playing really precise kinda goes against the grain of my gritty, lazy playing style. 😊

  • I'll be honest I don't really play all that precise.... ever, and MG2 seems to track just fine for me.

  • The idea of using MG2 as an ethereal accompanist sounds viable to me.

    Acoustic guitars are not ideal for intricate hexaphonic tracking. The resonance of the body and other strings will make tracking notes per string difficult.

    Playing an electric guitar through an amp modeler along with some hexaphonic processing (see SY-1000 below) would give you the most options, I think. But I doubt it's worth the expense for your use case.

    I want to point out that the hexaphonic pickups like GK-3 are not merely for MIDI. They seem adequate for MIDI if properly installed and played with some finesse (roughly equivalent to Triple Play), but users of something like a Boss SY-1000 will process their hexaphonic inputs directly without passing through the error-prone, latency-increasing pitch-to-MIDI stage.

  • Thanks, guys.

    I got some feedback on a YouTube video:

    Here's the quotes:


    Josh: This is beautiful! I'm so close to getting a FTP (probably the Connect version which uses USB instead of WiFi), but I'm very curious: is FTP really more accurate than the Midi Guitar 2 app? A lot of people say that this app is nearly as accurate as the FTP, but I assume they only tried the app on an electric guitar, and that it wouldn't compare as well on an acoustic. Could you please give it a try and compare it? The app is free (in demo mode which would be enough to compare). Thank you.

    Scott: G2 is probably better for mono lines but it struggled with chords, especially where close intervals. For chord work FTP all the way. I have the paid iPad version of MG2

    Josh: Thanks for this very fast answer. This is what I suspected: Piano-like chords are glitchy in MG2, while playing mono lines works pretty well. I haven't tested MG2 on an electric guitar yet, maybe the results will look a little different there (I expect MG2's accuracy would be closer to the FTP on an electric guitar than on an acoustic one). Maybe you tried it already?

    One last thing: how important is the Connect app on iOS regarding accuracy? As I'm only having an iPhone, I would not be able to use the app (it's iPad only), and I could only use the "unprocessed" MIDI input.

    Thank you! I'm very happy to hear your thoughts and experiences.

    Scott: It's not important. Use the FTP in hardware mode and something like MIDIflow to manage velocity curves, low velocity cut off, and routing to instruments. You need to set FTP up on PC using FTP software first. On acoustic with bronze strings it will work but you have to ramp up sensitivity on the bronze wrapped strings as it's the steel core it picks up

    Btw I have used the MG2 with my Martin HD28 - see my Derwentwater piece for acoustic guitar video and read the description to see what's happening. I will say the midi recorded in cubsasis from MG2 in that instance was really messy but as it's largely slow attack pad sounds you don't notice. Piano would be been carnage lol!

    I will say I had to edit some glitches out of the midi but as a pad background device it worked pretty well. Check out my Amelia video to see what FTP and an iPad are capable of...

    Josh: Ah, so you mean that I can configure the device on the computer (I have a Mac), and then connect it to my iPhone with the settings applied? This would be really beautiful. Aside from that, I have Elixir strings on my acoustic - you reckon there are strings which would work better for FTP?

    Scott: GHS White Bronze are fully magnetic which is what I had on the variax in this video. They track great but will compromise your acoustic tone. It's a trade off

    And yes, configure on Mac then use on iPad. You have to put the ftp in hardware mode when connecting to iPad but not sure what procedure is for Connect. On mine you turn on while holding up

    Josh: So why do they compromise the acoustic tone? And what makes them track better than Elixir strings (their "special" thing is that they have a very thin plastic coating which prevents them from corrosion, so they sound fresh for much longer). I'm sorry for all these newbie questions, I'm just a beginner in all these respects. ;-)

    And one last question: does the WiFi FTP version also transmit acoustic signal? Because I spot a switch between "guitar", "mix", and "synth". So is the audio also transmitted through WiFi? If so, how can it be received by the amp, iOS device or computer?


    That's all so far. Any comments about what he's writing?

  • edited September 12

    @josh83 before you splash out I’d strongly recommend trying stuff out with MG2 to see if your iPhone can cope with the synth app load.

    My own looping path went from guitar alone to guitar and mic and drums. Then I started adding synths and I hit a lot of device performance issues (on iPad and phone). Now if I want to do both I’ll use 2 devices, one for processed guitar, then feeding that analogue signal into my AUM iPad. In theory I could send MG2 midi from the guitar iphone too, though I’ve not tried that yet.

    Alternatively, try out Yonac’s Roxsyn, it’s not pitch to midi, but the results are not dissimilar in some synthy respects, would certainly give an extra layer to what you’re doing.

    Edit: actually a simple setup with ThumbJam (Keys) DrumJam (Loop and pads) Quantiloop (host) was ok on iPad Air 2 or iPhone 7+, but it’s much harder to maintain app discipline in the AUM playground, that’s when things tend to meltdown for me, hence 2 devices.

  • The Jammy is a different kind of solution, simulating the guitar experience with non-tuned low-tension strings like the original Jamstiks. I haven't really taken to it, but others really like it and the company are really committed.

    I did a rather rough-and-ready comparison of MG2 with the new Fishman-powered Jamstik Studio in another thread; both came out pretty well, and I'd cheerfully recommend either. It's still the Artiphon Instrument 1 for me above all of these, but like the Jammy it does what it does by not trying to replicate the physical-guitar experience, so it's not really a MIDI guitar solution so much as an expressive MPE controller for guitarists who want a more Linnstrumental kind of touch on synth voices.

  • edited September 12

    @steve99 Thanks for reminding me of this. My app load is pretty small, as I don't really need any special high CPU synths. Running AUM with GTL, Tonebridge and a single additional synth (Chameleon at the time being, but not too happy with the presets) is all I need (all these are glued together through some custom Mozaic scripts). But this is another reason why I'm thinking of getting an FTP, as using MG2 would also need some additional CPU (and add to the latency of the external audio device).

    @Masanga: thanks for this comparison. Did you do it on an electric or an acoustic guitar? I'm still suspecting that MG2 would be much inferior to an FTP on an acoustic (while being quite on par on an electric).


    Meanwhile, Scott has replied on YouTube again.

    Josh: So why do they compromise the acoustic tone? And what makes them track better than Elixir strings (their "special" thing is that they have a very thin plastic coating which prevents them from corrosion, so they sound fresh for much longer). I'm sorry for all these newbie questions, I'm just a beginner in all these respects. ;-)

    Scott: The fishman is a magnetic pickup so relies on having a magnetically active string vibrating to "intefer" with the magnetic field of the pickup and generate the signal. Bronze is not magnetic - it won't create any output from the pickup, the steel core underneath the bronze wrap is but the bronze acts like a shield hence the sensitivities relating to the bronze wrapped strings need to be higher for the FTP to "see" the steel core. Bronze affects the tone of a string greatly - try a standard electric set of strings on an acoustic- it sounds VERY different. The GHS White Bronze strings are fully magnetically active - the wrap and core - but they are not actually bronze. Bit naughty calling them that - they do however sound more like a traditional acoustic string than an electric string. It's undesirable to be running the string sensitivities really high on the FTP because you are more prone to picking up cross talk from adjacent strings.

    Josh: And one last question: does the WiFi FTP version also transmit acoustic signal? Because I spot a switch between "guitar", "mix", and "synth". So is the audio also transmitted through WiFi? If so, how can it be received by the amp, iOS device or computer?

    Scott: Yes it does but that guitar signal is only accessible through the fishman PC/Mac software.

    Scott: MG2 in mono mode really is very expressive - more so than FTP.

    Scott: Remember that any guitar to midi system will challenge your technique. If you don't play cleanly you'll get some painful mistriggers as the system looks to convert everything it "hears". You can mitigate this by setting a cut off velocity - in other words a level below which no midi is generated to help with handling noise. Also by modifying the velocity curve into a parabolic so the harder string hits are kind if amplified and the softer string hits are made significantly quieter. So you're trying to make the note heard clearly where you are obviously hitting the strings hard - the ones you're deliberately trying to make sound if that makes sense. That's essentially the dynamics control on FTP but needs to be juggled with the range control. There's a sweet spot.

    Josh: Thank you so much for explaining all this. I will wait until I get the electric guitar of a friend, then I will compare MG2 between my acoustic and the electric. If I feel that the electric performs much better, that's evidence enough for me to believe that MG2 really isn't comparable to an FTP on an acoustic. I will then get an FTP Connect for sure, probably with a pair of GHS White Bronze strings. I will report back to you about my experiences. Keep up the good work!

  • edited September 12

    @josh83 said:

    @Masanga: thanks for this comparison. Did you do it on an electric or an acoustic guitar? I'm still suspecting that MG2 would be much inferior to an FTP on an acoustic (while being quite on par on an electric).

    Yes, this was electric; I suspect you're right that an acoustic would give very different results.

  • @josh83 thanks for sharing that thread!

    Although I've wanted to, I still haven't pulled the trigger on MG2. This may help convince me to make the purchase...

  • Just a little update: I'll be getting an electric guitar from a friend tomorrow. I will then compare MG2 between my acoustic and electric guitar. :blush:

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