When I started playing the guitar in the early 80’s, I dreamed of having a cool electric guitar with some cool technology. It is now 2015 and I have now played a small, portable guitar that connects to my smartphone and tablet. The Jamstik+ is a wireless, compact MIDI guitar that needs no tuning and costs $299. Let’s take a look!
The Jamstik+ is quite unique looking. Kind of like you took a guitar and cut the heart out to make a new kind of instrument. The Bluetooth enabled guitar sports real steel strings and frets giving it a realistic feel. It works with iPhone, iPad, or Mac and a wide variety of music applications. The fret board senses finger placement allowing new players to learn chords and seasoned players to improve their playing.
The tiny guitar weighs in at 1 lb. 9 oz. and measures 16.4″ long by 3.5″ wide and 1.8″ thick. The replaceable battery boasts 8+ hours of playability making the device perfect for trips!
Connecting the Jamstik to the iPhone is quick and easy using the Jamstik Connect app. The app is basically a walk through on how to connect and is not necessary to play music with the device. There are numerous apps that can connect to the Jamstik+ and I used the Jamstik+ app to play music through my phone including Garage Band, Pro Tools, and Logic Pro X. A complete list of apps can be seen here. Since the Jamstik is basically a midi input device, so each application will allow for different sounds and features that can be utilized. The Jamstik+ app provides a good number of instruments and sounds that can be played, but I would imagine some of the professional style options provide more options and improved sound quality.
Once connected and playing, the Jamstik is quite interesting. Despite the small size, it only took a minute to adjust to the short, five fret neck. The buttons on the side of the device provide a multitude of options from octaves, alternate tuning options, and capo placements. The adjustments can also be made within the Jamstik+ app. Without being able to slide more than five frets at a time, almost any area of a guitar is playable on the Jamstik+ if the settings are adjusted accordingly. A bar at the base, where a bridge would be on a guitar, acts as a temporary mute switch and is easily activated. The fretboard senses where fingers are and displays the chord names with the shapes. All of this is instant and intuitive.
Playing the Jamstik+ is similar to playing a real guitar thanks to the steel strings and real frets. The action is similar to the average acoustic guitar so playing can be pretty effortless. The strings are plucked or strummed just as you would do with a regular guitar and the device plus app provides all of the sound. The only adjustment I had to make was not getting vibration feedback in my fingers from the notes. I did not realize how much guitar playing came from feel and vibrations. This issue is not a deal breaker and takes a few moments to adjust to, but does not take away from how well the device works. When I play chords I do a lot of extra picking and hammering while strumming and the iPhone app did not handle that very well, so I used it mainly to strum. While the Jamstik+ obviously does not feel and play exactly like a real guitar, it is the closest device I have ever felt that was not a guitar.
The Jamstik+ can be great for travelling and having a small option to play or practice without having to lug a full size guitar along. I think it can also be great for professional musicians who use midi devices and want to play it through a guitar rather than a keyboard. Below is a video example provided by Jamstik that shows some of the options.
Another great use for the Jamstik+ is to learn to play the guitar. My 5th grader wants to learn guitar but our crazy schedule is not allowing us to get him to a neighboring town to take lessons. We plan on having him use the jamTutor app to see if he can learn some basic chords and strum patterns. If I can get him that far, I will be able to help him improve from there.
Overall, I am quite impressed with the Jamstik+. The device is small and portable yet boasts a variety of uses. Having real frets and steel guitar strings make it as close to playing a guitar as you can get without the actual instrument. Being able to connect to a variety of iPhone, iPad, and Mac applications makes it a tool for recording artists. I love the fact that a novice can learn chords and the basics on the Jamstik+ and plan on utilizing it this way with my son. Basically, the device can be valuable from beginners all the way to recording pros. I see the Jamstik+ getting a lot of use in my house.
The Jamstik+ retails for $299.99 currently and can be found on their website.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample
What I like: Small device with a real guitar feel. The fretboard sensor can display the current chord being played while also teaching beginners how to play.
What can be improved: I do wish the device handled hammering better since that is included in my style of play.