MIDI Guitar Showcase

linking the newest in MIDI Guitar technology

since 11-23-96

note: this page contains dated info, updates are in progress


To do MIDI guitar, you need some basic equipment. This is a showcase of products available for MIDI Guitar. Most of them have web sites, so we have some pictures and links right from their site!

MIDI guitar is an "electric guitar," so you'll need an amp, some type of guitar (acoustic or electric, nylon (see below) or steel strung), the right pickup, a pitch-to-MIDI converter, and also a synthesizer. To hear it you'll need headphones or an amp. Let's take a look at what's available.

A Typical Set-Up

MIDI-ready Guitars:

  • Godin guitar synth-ready guitars w/great reviews
    Godin LGX with synth access

    Multiac Nylon

    Multiac Steel



    Godin Multiac with synth access this guitar is available in both steel and nylon strung versions. (I have one of these and it's great!)

    Starr Labs makes the Ztar, a switch MIDI guitar that has lots of neat features for live performance, it has a MIDI-out and needs no pitch-to-MIDI converter. They have an optional synth board attachment, and sell factory direct. They're not afraid to list their prices. They've just added string triggers to some models, which I think is great. I used to play a Suzuki guitar controller which was similar, and had lots of fun with it. These Ztars are real fun. The switches don't take long to get used to.

    Fender and Ovation also make a synth-ready guitar, but not quite as high-tech, since they're based on the Roland GK-2a pickup, which comes installed. Takamine also has a classical MIDI-ready with Shadow.


    Fender GR-ready Strat


    Ovation "Roland-ready" acoustic/electric guitars are available with a GK-2 installed. See their link for the latest details. (No picture available).

    Pickups for MIDI Guitars:

    Roland GK-2a

    This is the standard pickup that works with most PITCH to MIDI converters. It works with any steel strung guitar, electric or acoustic.


    This is Axon's pickup similar to the GK-2a.

    RMC Pickup

    This is a piezio pickup that replaces the saddle for each string, you'll need six. They require luthier-quality installation and an electronics package. They are considered to be the state of the art at this time. The RMC pickup is also available for nylon-strung guitars. You can have them installed on your guitar, or try a Godin Multiac with Synth Access for a nice MIDI-ready classical guitar with RMC's factory-installed.

    Shadow SH1600

    This is a six element bridge pickup for classical guitars which also can go to a Axon or Shadow guitar synth. Shadow makes pickups for their units and also ones that are GR compatible.

    Pitch-to-MIDI converters:

    With built-in synthesizers:

    Axon AX-100 their newest Guitar Interface uses neural nets and transients to speed detection. A XG sound card is an internal option.
    The Axon-100 is out but no info yet on their web site! you'll have to rely on the MIDI Guitar Axon Page for the latest details.

    Roland Corporation and Roland Guitar Products -> this site has movies now, too!

    The Roland GR-33

    The Roland GR-30

    The Roland GR-1

    The Roland GR-9

    The Roland GR-50

    Still a classic, the GR-50 is available used and in closeouts, and has some nice features for complex MIDI setups.

    Roland Feature Summary
    Model  MIDI-outs  Polyphony  Tones/strum  Extra MIDI ins  Extra Analog In
    -----  ---------  ---------  -----------  --------------  ---------------
    GR-50      2      32 partials    12        2 inst 1 drum        0      
    GR-1       1         24           2        3 inst 1 drum        0  (+sequencer)
    GR-9       1         28           2             0               0  
    GI-10      1          0           1             0               1
    GR-30      1         28           2             0           (+arp&harm)
    GR-33      1                                              (+arp&harm, pedal)

    Without built-in synthesizers:

  • Roland GI-10 MIDI guitar interface Roland GI-10 This includes a cool input you can sing into.
  • The Shadow SH-075 on The MIDI Guitar Shadow Page
  • Michael Overacker's page with info on the Shadow SH-075.
  • SHADOW SH-075 Manual courtesy of Shadow USA on pdf
  • Shadow also made a SH27 floor unit and a rack mounted unit, the GTM-6. These all have a MIDI out which can be mono or poly, with or without bend.

    Complete MIDI Guitars:

    MidiAxe MIDI Guitar Image
  • MidiAxe a complete midi guitar system.
    Plug in and go!

    Non-MIDI synthesizers:

  • The VG-8 a resource on Roland's non-midi synth from Aurelius Prochazka

    Non-MIDI systems:

  • the G_VOX system a $99 Win95-based guitar converter system that can route to MIDI through your computer. This guitar interface aimed at guitar instruction and sequencing. This is a great way to try out MIDI Guitar if you're not sure. Most owners report this unit is a toy and not to be confused with a workable midi guitar system.


    Once you have a MIDI signal, any MIDI synthesizer will work for MIDI guitar. Here are just a few suggestions:
    SB 32 PnP The Soundblaster 32 PNP is a decent sounding synthesizer and a great soundboard. If you'll never leave your computer's side here's a good choice. It has good support on the WWW and lots of samples and sound libraries available from other users.

    Note: almost every soundcard has a midi interface available through the joystick port. You need an interface cable, such as the "midiman sound card midi module," $15.95 from www.lentine.com.

    The Yamaha QY-70. An XG synth plus full 16 track sequencer with 480 bpq resolution. Great specs!
    This is a nice unit for small gigs or just foolin' around, especially with no computer. With a synth plus a great intelligent arranger.
    I have one of these and it sounds fantastic! It's the closest I've come to a real MIDIguitar workstation. The XG feature set includes being able to use simple multipart sysex messages to add monster layers and splits on each string.
    (Plus, with this and a Shadow SH75 with a battery pack and a Pignose, you can go cordless and wireless and MIDI all the way. How does that sound?)

    My new QY70 Page with more info and lots of links

    Yamaha USA -- QY-70

    One of the primo synths today is the Kurzweil K-2500

    One real nice feature in the K-2000 and K-2500 is triple velocity crossfade layers in patches, which let you layer three sounds and blend between them depending on how hard you pick each note. This is a fantastic MIDI guitar feature. (keep reading)

    The primo synth today may be the e-mu e4 Ultra series

    The e-synth and the other ultras feature 32 voice layering -- 10 times better than the Kurzweil. Thus is the ultimate sound module for midi guitar.


    You don't need anything special for MIDI guitar, but a stereo keyboard amp is recommended for best sound. Others that work well are bass amps, powered PA speakers, and big PA speakers with a mixer/amp.

    Still confused? I have a table of possible MIDI Guitar equipment that will give you an idea how you can mix and match gear.


    OK, we need more on cables here. Look at the Pickup Page for some info on 13-pin guitar cables that most brands use. Shadow and GVOX use proprietary cables. After midi conversion, midi is sent out on 5-pin midi cables. If you're connecting to a soundboard, you'll need a joystick to midi cable (which includes a chip or two) that runs $20 to $50 depending on where you get it.

    Note: All links are non-compensated ($$$) and presented for academic enlightenment. Have fun!

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