Best MIDI Guitars of 2020 – Ultimate Round-up

Thalia
| Last Updated: February 15, 2021

Digital processing strongly influences current musical genres. One of the most innovative uses is the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) guitar.

MIDI makes it possible for two or more instruments to communicate. You can take a normal guitar and make it sound like a wide range of other things. Those include musical instruments, such as an organ, saxophone, trumpet, or just about anything else that makes a musical sound.

If this sounds like something you need for your guitar, check out our guide below. 

Our Top Picks for MIDI Guitars

  • All-in-one headless guitar
  • 3-way dual humbucker setup
  • Bluetooth, USB-MIDI and MIDI
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  • Easiest way to get MIDI
  • Less unwanted ghost notes
  • 1,500 sound patches included
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  • 7-fret fingerboard guitar
  • Bluetooth and USB-MIDI support
  • Travel-friendly format
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Comparison of the Best MIDI Guitars

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Headless guitar with audio and MIDI option
  • HH pickup configuration with 3-way switch
  • Bluetooth, USB-MIDI and standard MIDI supported
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  • Easiest way to get MIDI from guitar
  • Hand-position technology eliminates ghost notes
  • More than 1,500 patches bundled with the product
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  • Basic MIDI Controller with 7-fret fingerboard
  • Bluetooth and USB-MIDI ports installed
  • Travel-friendly format and weight
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  • Best MIDI Guitar pickup
  • 3-way mode - audio, hexaphonic MIDI and mixed
  • Dedicated Up and Down patch buttons
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  • Best Audio to MIDI Converter
  • Supports all guitar and string instruments
  • Transcribe your vocals into MIDI notes
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  • Best MIDI Bass Guitar pickup
  • Works marvelously with V-Bass and GR-55 units
  • Thin design compatible with all basses models
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What is a MIDI Guitar?

Unlike a traditional guitar that uses sound vibrations created by strings, a MIDI creates electronic sounds that mimic musical notes and instruments. That means you can play a six-string guitar with a hexaphonic pickup that is capable of sending the sound from each string to a completely different effect.

How to Choose a MIDI Guitar

For people used to playing the guitar, the best MIDI would be one that most resembles a guitar. The more you can use your current playing knowledge, the easier it will be to convert to a MIDI guitar. Several MIDI guitars include programs that teach you how to play chords and scales. Many also automatically record your playing so that you can get instant playback. That helps when composing and creating new music. 

Some general features to look for in a MIDI guitar include:

Mimics Multiple Musical Instruments 

You can be a truly one-man or one-woman band with a MIDI guitar. The MIDI controller can play drums, keyboards, bass, and other instruments to back your playing. 

Teaches You How to Play Chords and Notes

When it is time to practice, you can load a program and learn to play scales, chords, and more. The MIDI enables faster learning to improve your playing chops. 

Supports Musical Composition

Got a tune in mind? You can play the melody on your MIDI guitar and hear it played back. If you like it, you just wrote some original music. 

Portable and Plays Anywhere

You also want one that is compact and portable. When you are done playing, it breaks down easily and packs away in a comfortable backpack. 

The more the MIDI enhances your playing and musical talents, the more useful it becomes. It also helps to get one that fits your budget.

Quick Take: 
Top 3 Picks

Review of the Best MIDI Guitars

MIDI guitars and controllers are incredibly useful pieces of technology. Many combine the best elements of a traditional guitar, synthesizer, and various effects to produce truly exceptional music. The best ones inspire creativity and enable composers to do truly great things. The following are among our current favorites.

So, with that list in mind, we set about crafting a list of the best options for MIDI guitars on the market today. Here is what we found:

Jamstik Studio MIDI Guitar (Blue Matte)

PROS

  • Rosewood fingerboard with 24 frets
  • HH pickup configuration with a 3-way switch
  • Headless electric guitar with audio and MIDI option
  • Custom gigbag, strap locks, allen keys, and cables included
  • Bluetooth, USB-MIDI, and standard MIDI protocol supported

CONS

  • Tremolo bar is missing
  • HSH configuration would be preferred

What Recent Buyers Report

Guitar players report that they finally have a reliable MIDI controller in guitar format and they can’t say a bad word regarding intonation or the regular sound output quality.

They only felt that the tremolo bar was missing and that it would fit ideally to such an interface.

Why it Stands Out to Us

It’s very rare to find an electric guitar that has integrated both audio and a reliable MIDI interface with minimal latency on the market. It supports work on both USB-MIDI and standard MIDI via the provided TRS-to-MIDI cable and it can also handle Bluetooth connectivity so it’s compatible with all kinds of mobile devices.

Speaking of craftsmanship, this is a well-made electric guitar made of Mahogany with HH pickup configuration and 24 headless fretboards and it will also provide you with all the accessories needed, so get your favorite strap and you can take it to the gig straight from the box.

Bottom Line

Whether you need electric guitar sounds to combine with guitar pedals or a MIDI controller so you can pull out all the sounds from your VST library, Jamstik Studio MIDI Guitar will be your ideal instrument. 

It’s the best way to buy a proper guitar and expand your sonic palette.

Fishman TriplePlay Connect MIDI Guitar Controller

PROS

  • Easiest way to get MIDI from guitar
  • Supports all DAWs including iOS devices
  • Precise and responsive guitar string detection
  • Hand-position technology eliminates ghost notes
  • More than 1,500 patches bundled with the product

CONS

  • Doesn’t fit on all guitars
  • Android OTG adapter could be included

What Recent Buyers Report

People say it works properly, but it may require raising your action a lot, which may affect your playing techniques eventually.

They love how easy it is to set it up and remove - just bear in mind that it may not fit on Telecaster models nicely.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This pickup is on par with Roland products, but it got the winning edge because of the VST bundle and the additional connectivity it provides.

Purchasing this instrument gives you free access to some decent software such as SynthMaster One and sampled content from EastWest and Native Instruments so overall, you have more than 1,500 patches at your disposal. It allows you to use iOS devices as well thanks to the TriplePlay Connect App provided with the purchase.

Besides that, it has implemented new hand position technology that should eliminate ghost notes from playing, a typical problem with many MIDI detecting devices.

Bottom Line

MIDI pickups are a professional solution that will allow you to perform with MIDI guitar not just in the studio but in real-time live situations and expand sound capabilities to the max. Fishman models have great quality control and they appear to be very responsive, so you shouldn’t have any difficulties with them.

Best for the Money:
Jamstik J7GT Guitar Trainer

Jamstik Guitar Trainer

PROS

  • Infrasense Optical Pickups
  • Travel-friendly format and weight
  • FretTouch Finger Sensing Technology
  • Bluetooth and USB-MIDI ports installed
  • Entry-level MIDI Controller with a 7-fret fingerboard

CONS

  • Limited fretboard range
  • May take time to fully adapt

What Recent Buyers Report

Buyers tell you to forget about getting the same playing experience as with the real guitar. But, it will also allow you to play many other sounds on it, so it’s fun to mess around. The smaller size makes it comfortable for all ages, even younger kids.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Most MIDI Guitar equipment is either in MIDI pickup or full guitar. This model takes a middle ground by combining infrasense optical pickups and FretTouch finger sensing technology and an extremely travel-friendly design. 

So, while it looks like a mini-guitar it allows you to play it on various platforms even including iOS devices. Such an approach makes it ideal for all players who are learning how to play as they can watch their finger positions on the screen while performing. And thanks to the apps coming with the instrument, you will be learning how to play without any additional gear in a second.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a simple and cheap product that will help you note down the basic notes to your songs, you have the right instrument. 

This is ideal for all people who would need to have something more portable with them so they can carry guitar even on a vacation without carrying any extra luggage.

Best MIDI Guitar pickup:
Roland GK-3 Pickup

Roland GK-3 Guitar Divided Pickup

PROS

  • No drilling required installation
  • Dedicated Up and Down patch buttons
  • Most famous MIDI Guitar pickup on the market
  • Optional attachment plate for mounting on specific guitars
  • 3-way mode operation - audio, hexaphonic MIDI, and mixed

CONS

  • Volume knob is a bit shallow
  • Requires hexaphonic MIDI interface to work

What Recent Buyers Report

Buyers were satisfied with its performance in real-time situations. They also say that it’s easy to install even on Les Paul guitars and find it to work ideally with Roland GR-55 guitar synth processor. It appears to be easy to install and we couldn’t find any relevant complaints about it.

Why it Stands Out to Us

If you ask someone familiar with MIDI Guitar pickups, Roland GK-3 will probably be the first recommended model. Like the rest of the Roland equipment, build quality is exceptional and it will handle real-time situations perfectly.

It’s very easy to set up on any guitar and it comes with a switch selector so you can pick between your audio, MIDI, or combined signal in a second, just like you would switch your pickup positions.

If you combine it with other Roland equipment, you will have Up and Down buttons to navigate sounds right on guitar, just like a synth player would do.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a reliable MIDI Guitar pickup, Roland GK-3 is your best choice. It’s almost a pioneer in this area and it’s very long on the market so you can be sure that everything is going to be alright with your product, just like many bass players use it regularly.

Best Audio to MIDI Converter:
Sonuus i2M Musicport

Sonuus i2M Musicport - Universal Audio to MIDI Converter and USB Audio Interface

PROS

  • Very affordable studio accessory
  • Transcribe your vocals into MIDI notes
  • USB Plug & play setup with simple hardware
  • Supports all kind of guitar and string instruments
  • Reliable and accurate converter with Hi-Z audio inputs

CONS

  • Not designed for live performance
  • You will have to adapt your playing technique

What Recent Buyers Report

If we disregard the fact that they were aware that they will have to readapt their playing preferences and technique, they are satisfied with the possibilities they got from this and had great fun with it.

However, they do not recommend it for performing live due to latency issues.

Why it Stands Out to Us

It’s one of the rare reliable audio to MIDI converters on the market. Its work is simple - it detects the notes you performed and transfers that information accurately to MIDI format with near to zero latency and true plug-and-play connectivity.

It will work not just with the guitars but bass guitars and some ukuleles as well. And what may be even more fun, it supports transferring vocal notes into MIDI format so you can even the melody you want to play and the basics will be recorded. 

Finally, you can sing the melody and this unit will write it down in MIDI format.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a simple and cheap product that will help you note down the basic notes for your songs or just to have fun, Sonuus i2M might save you some money compared to other products, especially if most of your MIDI needs are oriented to studio work.

Best MIDI Bass Guitar Pickup:
Roland GK-3B Pickup

Roland GK-3B Bass Divided Pickup , Black

PROS

  • All necessary installation parts included
  • Works marvelously with V-Bass and GR-55 units
  • Thin design compatible with all bass instruments
  • GK-3 pickup optimized for bass guitar string tension
  • Integrated switch for regular tone, Synth sound, or mixed performance

CONS

  • May get unresponsive with heavier strings
  • Requires extra device before you can use it with the computer

What Recent Buyers Report

Buyers say they were able to work in the studio conditions nicely. Live performances are hit and miss though. Due to the law of physics, heavier bass strings may get a bit more unresponsive as they resonate slower so the pickup is unable to detect the note so fast.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The market for bass guitar MIDI pickups is not that large so we have to appreciate Roland’s effort to provide the same quality of GK-3 model to the pickup specially designed to fit the bass note range and making it fully compatible with even 6-string basses. 

It shares the same build quality and ultra-thin design exactly like GK-3 and allows you to select either normal or MIDI signal and even combine them in a single sound source.

This MIDI guitar pickup is optimized for bass guitar instruments and that’s why they have a bit higher sensitivity so it can cope with lower bass sounds precisely.

Bottom Line

Roland GK-3B is the best MIDI bass guitar pickup you will find on the market. It will bring so much diversity to your bass sounds so that combined with the proper processor you may even get close to substitute any other instrumentalist if needed.

Suzuki, 49-Key Digital Sound Guitar (QC1)

PROS

  • Ideal for composers
  • Separate song and rhythm cartridges
  • Comes with 80 chord combinations 
  • Gives you an entire band in one electronic instrument
  • Supports all musicians from beginner to expert skill levels

CONS

  • Needs 8 C-size batteries
  • Takes time to learn all it does
  • It looks like a really big remote control

What Recent Buyers Report

The Suzuki 49-key digital sound guitar strums like a guitar, plays like a keyboard, and provides a full backing band. It is a highly addictive instrument that really helps you to explore musical styles and genres.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is a great MIDI guitar and keyboard instrument that really supports creativity. One person can create drum, bass, and rhythm tracks. Then you can play melodies or chords over them to create entirely new musical forms.

Who Will Use This Most

This is a composer’s and songwriter’s dream. Once you master the controls, you get limitless musical possibilities that fully support the explorations you have considered for years. It also helps you to seize a moment of creative clarity and turn it into a complete musical work.

Bottom Line

If you can learn how to use a multi-function remote control at home, you can learn how to use this MIDI instrument. Add in some actual musical talent and the potential truly is limitless.

JAMMY G (Jammy Guitar) App-Enabled Digital MIDI Guitar & Controller, Modular Portable Foldable Guitar Fits in Your Backpack, Always Tuned & Ready to Play, with Detachable Frame, Strap, & Carrying Bag

PROS

  • Features new firmware to improve left-hand techniques, including slides, bending / vibrato and hammer-ons / pull-offs
  • Mobile app enables tuning changes and customization
  • Six strings and a 15-fret neck make it the most guitar-like of the bunch
  • Breaks down into a highly portable instrument, with an included backpack
  • Measures 27 inches long to keep it compact but big enough to play like your favorite guitar
  • Records what you play so you can replay it right away, which greatly helps with composition

CONS

  • Needs work on bends, vibrato, and similar common playing variances

What Recent Buyers Report

Can work very well when the sensitivity is properly adjusted, and software downloads improve the programming. Downloadable programs enable endless customization and potential future enhancements.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is a truly cutting-edge MIDI controller that has a heck of a lot to offer. Like many newer products, it should improve as supporting software and technology improve.

Who Will Use This Most

Technophiles who enjoy guitar and synthesizer effects will love this rig. You get a lot of great technical features that provide limitless customizing potential. It is great for practicing chords, writing music, or just having fun.

Bottom Line

This is slightly ahead of its time, with a solid presentation that promises to improve with free downloads and upgrades.

No products found.

PROS

  • Plays just like a guitar
  • You never need to tune it
  • Small, light, and very portable
  • It really does have strings and frets
  • Designed to teach you how to play guitar

CONS

  • Works best with an iPad or an iPhone
  • Only has five frets, which limits the chords you can play

What Recent Buyers Report

It is a great device for those who want to learn how to play the guitar. The five frets are good for learning chords but limit the playing range. Works best as a teaching tool to learn guitar.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The portability and ability to pick and play just like it is a bonafide guitar make this a very fun and useful MIDI player. It would be great for plucking new tunes while traveling from gig to gig.

Who Will Use This Most

If you want to learn how to play the guitar without an actual guitar or a teacher, the Jamstik is a great option. It also works great for practicing melodies and composing music pretty much anywhere you might be. That makes it a great travel companion.

Bottom Line

The most guitar-like of the bunch and a great way for beginners to learn to play guitar. More experienced players will appreciate being able to practice anywhere and compose while on the go.

PROS

  • Can tune individual “strings”
  • Acts as a guitar, violin, piano, and drum kit
  • Plays like a conventional or a lap steel guitar
  • Works with either frets or as a fretless stringed MIDI controller
  • Can slide, tap, strum, or drum on it to get melodies, chords, and tonal effects, like string bends and slides

CONS

  • Does not replicate stringed instruments as readily as indicated
  • Software works much better with Mac than it does Windows systems

What Recent Buyers Report

Those who love it said it is light, fun, and plays a lot like a guitar. An included power brick provides portable power. Some say the “strings” do not respond as readily as indicated. Many said the software works best with Mac devices.

Why it Stands Out to Us

It is a very light and compact MIDI player that truly plays like a guitar. Like any MIDI, you have a learning curve to get the best use out of it. Those who take the time should be happy with results.

Who Will Use This Most

This is another great option for composers, especially with the earplugs to keep your creativity away from the wrong ears. Traveling musicians can use it to compose while on the go.

Bottom Line

You get a very fun MIDI player that feels great and can do a heck of a lot when you learn how to use it correctly.

Livid Instruments Guitar Wing Wireless Control For Guitar

PROS

  • Affixes to any guitar or bass
  • Does away with effects pedals
  • Embraces growing digital effect trends
  • Controls peripherals with your fingertips
  • Can download more effects to customize the controls

CONS

  • Controls sometimes are difficult to operate
  • Might require modifications to fit some instruments

What Recent Buyers Report

Works very well at integrating peripherals, lighting, effects, and other stage implements via your MIDI controller. When integrated with your computer, you have complete control of your stage show at your fingertips. That includes the effects of your guitar tone.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This stands on the cutting edge of stage-integrated electronics. It should continue to improve as supporting technology develops and improves, too.

Who Will Use This Most

If you use a computer to run a lot of your guitar and stage effects, this is the ideal tool for you. Purists who prefer analog tones likely will not like it, but those who appreciate advanced technology will embrace it.

Bottom Line

It is a great idea that might be slightly ahead of its time. As it improves and the supporting technology evolves, you just might be looking at the future of guitar effects and stage technology in one package.

What Are MIDI Guitars Best Used For?

A MIDI guitar can do many things, and the list continues growing. Ultimately, its best use depends on why you bought it. For most, it is to expand their musical abilities. That pretty much is the same with any instrument. The MIDI just does it a bit differently. Here is a closer look at how.

Learning to Play Guitar

Downloadable programs will teach you to play scale and chords on your guitar. You can practice replay your scales and chords and listen to how they turn out. The more guitar-like the MIDI controller, the more it can help you to learn the instrument.

Jamstik J7GT Guitar Trainer

An Entire Band in One Instrument

A MIDI controller is capable of replicating several instruments and musical genres. You can have an entire band backing you while playing on your MIDI guitar or other instrument. With the MIDI controller, you can make the perfect backing band and play your solos over it.

Composing Music

You can play rhythms and melodies and play them back instantly for the best results. If you like what you hear, others likely will, too. A MIDI guitar is a great way to create and compose new music just about anywhere you go.

Pros and Cons of MIDI Guitars 

A MIDI guitar offers many advantages compared to a standard guitar. They are compact, affordable, communicate with computers, and give you full control of your stage show, right at your fingertips. As the enabling technology continues to improve, so will its usefulness for musicians of all levels.

Pros

Below are the main pros:

Quality MIDI Guitars Expand Playing Potential

You can learn how to play the guitar and other instruments with software and apps designed to support your MIDI system. 

Capable of Inspiring Awesome Creativity

You can learn to master the guitar, compose music, and have fun working on new changes to old tunes. Most MIDI guitars let you play backing instruments while you practice and play. You can create new musical lines and hear them immediately after playing them. 

Can Work With House Sound Systems

You also can use your MIDI guitar to communicate directly with the house sound system in many venues. Instead of using traditional guitar pedals and amplifiers, you just send your signal to the house sound and use its PA system.

Cons

Below are the main cons:

Technology Undergoes Continual Change

Like any continually changing technology, MIDI can be a hit or miss. When the technology is working as intended, you get a truly liberating musical experience.

Artiphon Adaptive Multi-Instrument MIDI

Conclusion 

The MIDI guitar is a great bit of technology that continues to improve and grow in usefulness. As technology improves, like cloud computing and communications, so does the supporting software and applications for MIDI guitars and controllers. That means they will continue growing in importance and usefulness.

People Also Ask

MIDI technology has been around for many years. Most people associate it with keyboards and do not realize it has wider-reaching uses. The following are some of the more frequently asked questions regarding MIDI technology and its use in guitars.

Is MIDI Still Used?

MIDI is here to stay. Synthesizers always use MIDI programming, and they are the new standard for keyboards in small bands. As the technology inevitably improves, so will its usefulness for guitarists and other musicians.

What Are MIDI-Enabled Devices?

A MIDI-enabled device is one that takes a digital MIDI signal and converts it into a sound. A MIDI controller creates the signal and sends it to the enabled device. The MIDI-enabled device converts the digital signal into sound.

How Does a MIDI Guitar Work?

A MIDI guitar has a MIDI controller that converts your inputs into a signal. That signal goes to a MIDI-enabled device, which converts the digital MIDI signal into a sound. A MIDI guitar might be a controller only, or it will have a controller and a MIDI-enabled device to produce sound.

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Thalia

Thalia has spent most of her life loving two things - writing and music. Thalia's passion for music saw her learning to play several instruments throughout her childhood and teen years. This passion also led to her earning two qualifications in Sound Recording Engineering, which she now uses by writing about musical instruments, studio gear, and the processes involved in making and producing music.