Jam Guitar at Home & on the Go with JamStik
Crowd-funding effort backs mobile guitar gadget.
April 19, 2013 by Arlen Schweiger

We’ve seen some cool applications of integrating guitar playing into the “Electronic House,” because, after all, there’s a naturally strong connection between music fans and music players.

There was the recent loudspeaker introduction from famed amplifier manufacturer Marshall. The intermingling of guitar manufacturer and A/V manufacturer when Gibson got involved in Onkyo’s business. We love the whole-house audio system that our integrator blogger Joe Whitaker once installed to send guitar riffs throughout every room. Or how about one of our award-winning home theaters, whose screen wall hides a full jam session waiting to happen?

But it’s not always convenient, nor is it easy, to actually learn how to play guitar. That’s where the new JamStik comes into the picture, giving you the opportunity to start shredding whether you’re plugged in at home or on the go.

The innovative product from Zivix brings together a lot of what’s hot in the A/V world right now—it’s portable, it works with iPad, you can interact with apps, serve it up to your home audio system or jam through your headphones.

In a nutshell, the JamStik is a six-string digital guitar that uses a real fretboard featuring real, standard guitar strings. It works with the MIDI platform through Mac and PC to allow you to connect with more than 400 MIDI-friendly apps as you learn to play and also experiment in tuning the guitar to a bunch of different sounds through the apps.

“I’m one of the many people that have always wanted to play guitar but hasn’t yet—this connects,” says Zivix vice president Chad Koehler. “You have a virtual tutor there. One aspect is that it’s a self-tutoring device; the other is the form factor—it’s briefcase and backpack friendly, so you can take it wherever you go.”

The 15-inch JamStik comes bundled with the interactive JamTutor app and JamMix that help guide users through different levels of guitar basics and eventual wizardry, so they are not intimidated with such lessons. They can also connect wirelessly with the MIDI protocol and explore the myriad supporting apps out there, like maybe doing some recording with GarageBand, plus plugging into your iPhone or iPad and let your playing rip over AirPlay.

“We’re feeding different skill levels, so the lessons evolve as your skill levels evolve, or you can start at the appropriate level, and you get to know how to play a scale, play a song and eventually end up being proficient,” says Koehler. “There’s a lot of app modeling software out there, so if you want it to sound like a vintage 1970 Fender, boom it sounds like any guitar you want it to sound like. You can click on the app, and your product will interoperate with that; also within our own software there’s lot of amplifier modeling so you can mess around and jam and say ‘OK I want an acoustic guitar, or a crazy electric guitar with all kinds of reverb on it.’”

The JamStik was recently honored as one of Popular Science’s 2013 Invention Awards winners, but before we see it available—Zivix is targeting it for later this year with a price tag of $299—the company is gathering capital through a crowd-funding campaign that kicked off this week. We’ve seen other A/V companies, and even musicians themselves, go to the crowd-funding channel of late, which also seems to be gaining traction as a means of getting your innovative product out there.

Zivix is using Indiegogo for its campaign (click here to read more or to contribute), which seeks to raise $100,000 in 40 days. Koehler tells of a chance meeting with one of the people from Indiegogo whose wife had bought him four guitar lessons and for numerous reasons he’d only been able to use one—and wished he had access to something like JamStik (which he thought was already available). Now, if everything goes according to plan, he and anyone else interested in learning guitar will be able to do so.

Here’s a video of the mini guitar wonder in action:

See also:
Theater Jams to Hidden Music Stage
Steve Vai Talks Music and Home Theater
6 Guitar Demos That Rock

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Arlen Schweiger - Contributor, Electronic House Magazine
Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com and Electronic House magazine.

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