Nylon-String MIDI Guitars

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Nylon-String MIDI Guitars

Postby Guitar Slim » Thu Jan 24, 2008 5:02 pm

In another thread, fellow member cancon was showing of his cool Godin nylon-string electric, which has a very different design from the typical "classical with a pickup inside." I brought up the fact that some of the Godins also have MIDI output (!), but I didn't want to hijack that thread any more than I already had, so I thought I'd start a new one.

cancon wrote:The Godin does provide synth access. If you would like more information, try this link.
http://www.godinguitars.com/godinmultgrconsap.htm
(http://www.godinguitars_DOT_com/godinmultgrconsap.htm)

Aside from the regular 1/4" electric guitar connector, there is a 13 pin connector for direct control of devices such as the Roland GR or Axon AX100 guitar synths.


I was real excited about this. For years I've wanted to be able to use a nylon-string guitar to control a synthesizer. I'm not the greatest keyboard player in the world. I'm best at playing fingerstyle nylon (insofar as I'm any good at all), so a nylon-string MIDI controler would really enhance what I was able to do with a synth.

But after looking into it, I confess I was disappointed :cry: . Godin has apparently solved the problem of a MIDI pickup usable with nylon strings (typical "hex" PUps require steel strings). But, you still need to spend the $ thousand+ for a guitar synthesizer to use it. I was hoping you could just plug it into any MIDI device -- even a PC with MIDI -- and use it to "play" all the different sounds.

Apparently you still need an analog-to-MIDI converter, which is not built into the guitar and can only be had by buying a dedicated guitar-synth like a Roland or an Axon. So my question is, is there anyone out there aware of recent developments in this area? Is there a stand-alone analog-to-MIDI converter out there, that works with guitar-MIDI pickups, and that can be plugged into any MIDI device? I know AXON claims they can do this -- but, you still have to spend the money for the guitar-synth rig. I'm interested in just a pickup and converter, that I can plug into my existing PC or keyboard -- and that won't cost me an arm and a leg.

Just curious if anything like this exists, or is on the tech horizon. Or what the technical roadblocks might be to making something like that...
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Re: Nylon-String MIDI Guitars

Postby sxedio » Thu Jan 24, 2008 7:40 pm

As far as I know Roland and Axon are the main players in the area. Converting guitar audio to midi is not trivial. The hexaphonic pickup helps by providing six monophonic audio feeds so there's no need for the algorithm to distinguish between e.g an A major chord and a single A note (they do contain pretty much the same harmonics). But there's the old time-frequency uncertainty: in order to pitch a note you need to find the fundamental frequency and in order to do that you need to wait for a few cycles so that you can observe the periodicity. But your A string is at 110Hz so a cycle is at about 9.1 miliseconds and waiting for a few cycles gives a perceivable latency. The guitar synth manufacturers are trying to get away by not actually waiting for a few cycles but instead looking at the transients, i.e the way the string immediately responds to the plucking, rather than the mode of vibration to which it will eventually settle. This still requires non trivial calculations. Hope this makes clear that analog to midi conversion is not as trivial as microphone to line level conversion, or analog to digital conversion, so it will be some time before the technology can fit inside the guitar and work with a single 9v battery.
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Re: Nylon-String MIDI Guitars

Postby Guitar Slim » Thu Jan 24, 2008 8:32 pm

sxedio wrote:As far as I know Roland and Axon are the main players in the area. Converting guitar audio to midi is not trivial. The hexaphonic pickup helps by providing six monophonic audio feeds so there's no need for the algorithm to distinguish between e.g an A major chord and a single A note (they do contain pretty much the same harmonics). But there's the old time-frequency uncertainty: in order to pitch a note you need to find the fundamental frequency and in order to do that you need to wait for a few cycles so that you can observe the periodicity. But your A string is at 110Hz so a cycle is at about 9.1 miliseconds and waiting for a few cycles gives a perceivable latency. The guitar synth manufacturers are trying to get away by not actually waiting for a few cycles but instead looking at the transients, i.e the way the string immediately responds to the plucking, rather than the mode of vibration to which it will eventually settle. This still requires non trivial calculations. Hope this makes clear that analog to midi conversion is not as trivial as microphone to line level conversion, or analog to digital conversion, so it will be some time before the technology can fit inside the guitar and work with a single 9v battery.


Thanks for the reply! But one built into the guitar isn't necessarily what I was looking for. Presuming I could get a pickup installed on an existing guitar, I envisioned an outboard converter -- but one that is not built into a complete synthesizer. From what I've read, Axon claims you can do it with their units -- plug it into another synthesizer and use the guitar to control it, that is. But -- they don't market it as a separate box. Right now, that capability is only available when you buy the complete guitar-synth.
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Re: Nylon-String MIDI Guitars

Postby KenK » Thu Jan 24, 2008 8:56 pm

Hi Slim-

I've had a Godin Multiac for years and it's become my main gigging axe for jazz or related forms.
I love the thing!
I occasionally perform some cg pieces on it and while it feels right, it's still an "electric" guitar.
But it does the job.

As to your question:
Is there a stand-alone analog-to-MIDI converter out there, that works with guitar-MIDI pickups, and that can be plugged into any MIDI device?

Well yes. The Axon is just that.
When I bought mine, (just before the Axon came out) the only options were the Roland GR-? (not sure what the number was)
or the Roland GI-10.
I opted for the GI-10 because I didn't like the so called synth options on the GR whatever it was. (Now it's the GI-20) You couldn't really edit the tones-only combine them. That isn't what I wanted.
The GI-10 had no sounds but could trigger any synth.
Now they've updated it to the GI-20. Just under $400.
http://www.rolandus.com/products/produc ... jectId=563
It appears that the GI-20 can plug directly into your computer.
My old GI-10 requires a midi/computer interface, but I don't need that for live applications.

The Axon had a lot more options, velocity and pitch oriented splitting of patches for one.
It probably tracked faster than the GI-10 but cost a lot more.

I read somewhere that they now only need to "read" half of the wave to get the pitch.
So it should be pretty good by now.
With my old GI-10, the conversion delay is only an issue for the lowest four or five notes. The rest are converted quickly enough.
And it's not so bad anyway.
You do need to play extremely precisely though.

If you have any more questions about what my experience has been with it I'll be happy to babble endlessly about it. :D

BTW- the pick up on the Godins is made by a company called RMC, and I think they sell stand alone pus designed for any acoustic guitar. If you go that way, you'll need to have major surgery on whatever guitar you put it in.

The end result is very usable.

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Re: Nylon-String MIDI Guitars

Postby Guitar Slim » Thu Jan 24, 2008 10:39 pm

KenK wrote:The GI-10 had no sounds but could trigger any synth.
Now they've updated it to the GI-20. Just under $400.
http://www.rolandus.com/products/produc ... jectId=563


Thanks so much Ken. I did a bit of research on the subject about a year ago, just for a lark. I guess I misunderstood what I was reading. This GI-20 sounds like it's exactly what I'm interested in, at about half the price of even the cheapest guitar-synths I've seen. I have a number of soft-synths and samplers on my PC (most are plug-ins that came bundled with my recording software). I can play any of them "live" with my cheap Casio keyboard, and sequence and record them with my current software. But I've always wanted to be able to "play" the synths with an instrument I can actually play. And this unit also sounds like something I could continue to use if I ever upgrade the soft-synths or the keyboard!

I have an old CG that it wouldn't be too painful to perform surgery on. I also have an old Japanese Strat. Neither are my "main" instruments. I'm presuming that installing the pickups on an electric would be a simpler procedure, and even though this started as a nylon-string thread :oops: that option is tempting...

Anyway, thanks for the info!
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Re: Nylon-String MIDI Guitars

Postby KenK » Fri Jan 25, 2008 12:25 am

Hi Slim-

My first midi pu was on a Japanese strat!
I had it "professionally" installed and considering what I've heard from people who've done it themselves, I'm glad I did.

The one advantage a strat would have over a nylon string is the pitch bend thing.
Not only can you use it for bending notes but you can also assign the pitch bend function to other parameters in a synth patch. (Such as opening a filter or changing lfo speed.)

But I'm so used to the width of nylon string guitars that I feel kind of clumsy on my old strat.

Good luck with it.
Let me know if you get something.

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Re: Nylon-String MIDI Guitars

Postby devp » Sat Jan 26, 2008 12:48 am

hi all

Ive tried guitar synths c couple of times

first about 10 years ago the roland GK2 pickup on a strat withthe gr33 synth controler

it did not track wel and there were other problems like latency so I gave up

a couple of years ago I bought a Godin multiac sa with synth onboard and a roland Gi 10 it was a nice guitar and sounded ok through an amp but the midi had not improved enough to solve the tracking problems . Playing into a software packege ie sibelius was the main goal so as to ease arranging ect but would constantly pick up overtones instead of the notes required.
I read an article by John McLaughlan on his experience of the godin while making his recent DVDs and he spent a lot of time and effort (and cash probably)getting it to work well this included having the guitar modified in some way by Godin. It seems to work great on the DVDs.

I once again gave up on the whole thing.I sold it to partly fund my present Instrument.
I dont know anything about the Axiom . May be now the Technology has finaly arrived

If any one has a Midi guitar that truly does what it says on the box , maybe they could post some MP3 or video

The idea still really appeals to me

cheers

Paul
Last edited by devp on Sat Jan 26, 2008 4:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Nylon-String MIDI Guitars

Postby KenK » Sat Jan 26, 2008 7:24 am

devp wrote:... a couple of years ago I bought a Godin multiac sa with synth onboard and a roland Gi 10 it was a nice guitar and sounded ok through an amp but the midi had not improved enough to solve the tracking problems.

Hi Paul,

Hmm...Since you got rid of your midi guitar set up it's kind of pointless to offer advise, but;

I wonder how much time you spent w/ the settings on the GI-10.
Each string has an individual sensitivity level, plus there's a separate "touch sensitivity" setting for your basic way of playing. Besides that there are two data reduction settings that I usually have on. Any of these things could've been the problem or the solution.

Both my strat w/ the GK pu and the Godin Multiac have tracked fine for me.
The latency issue is something you can learn to deal with, and that can be made worse by other issues- software or system lag for example.

Using it for scores was something I did a lot of and there was always a bit of tweaking required, removing ghost notes or dealing with unwanted pitch bend readings.

I think the problem a lot of guitarists have with it is they aren't familiar with the whole midi universe and likely don't spend enough time fine tuning their set up. You really need to tweak all those settings I mentioned to match the guitar's output to your playing style.

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Re: Nylon-String MIDI Guitars

Postby devp » Sat Jan 26, 2008 4:37 pm

Hi

Hmmmmmmm..........advice given through experience is obviously valid , it was not an over night descision to part with either midi set ups
I spent a lot of cash and invested a lot of time tweaking the system.
I am very familiar with the controls of the Gr10 the sensitivity setting the pitch bend paramiters ect
also the set up of the hex pickup on the Godin.
The cleaning up of scores is almost as labour intensive as inputing by mouse/keyboard(qwerty)
a cheap midi keyboard(piano) is a much more efficient device for score writting.
All I was advising was that the Godin/Roland may not in practice do what it says on the can
The John Mclaughlan Interview I refered to was from 'Guitart International ' magazine well worth a read if you intend to part with that sort of cash.
I am not anti midi I use it all the time ,but not with guitar as an interface,
I did say I am not familiar with the Axiom so Ican't comment
I also said If any Delcampers have video or mp3 of midi guitar syths in action I would like to hear/ see it .
because the next time I dip my toe in that particular pond I would like it to be the last.

cheers

Paul
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