The Comprehensive Guitarist's Guide to MIDI

If you're a guitarist researching MIDI, look no further! Here's everything you need to know.

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The Comprehensive Guitarist's Guide to MIDI


In this comprehensive guide, we aim to provide guitarists with an in-depth understanding of MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) and its integration with guitars and effects. MIDI technology has revolutionised the way musicians create and perform music, and it offers numerous possibilities for guitarists to explore. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced guitarist, this guide will equip you with the knowledge and tools needed to harness the power of MIDI and enhance your musical journey.

Understanding MIDI

MIDI, short for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, is a protocol that allows electronic musical instruments, computers, and other devices to communicate with each other. It serves as a universal language for musical devices, enabling them to transmit and receive information such as note data, control messages, and synchronisation signals. MIDI data does not represent audio itself but rather the instructions needed to produce and control sounds. So, a message sent from one device can cause another device to change its settings or start making sounds.

MIDI and Guitars: Unlocking Creative Possibilities

1. MIDI-Enabled Guitars

MIDI-enabled guitars, also known as MIDI controllers, are specially designed instruments that feature dedicated MIDI capabilities. These guitars are equipped with pickups or sensors that detect string vibrations and fretting positions and convert them into MIDI data. This allows guitarists to trigger a wide range of sounds from synthesizers, samplers, and virtual instruments, expanding the sonic palette beyond traditional guitar tones.

This Jamstik guitar is a MIDI controller!

However, it's worth noting that because this is not in any way an acoustic instrument, the playing feel and style can be very different to a traditional guitar and may not be to your liking. Many people liken it to learning to play a completely different instrument. But if you're already proficient in guitar, and have no idea how to play keyboard, then this could be a good way to work with synthesizers and other virtual instruments.

2. Guitar to MIDI Conversion

For guitarists who already own a beloved instrument, but wish to integrate it with MIDI technology, guitar-to-MIDI converters are available. These devices can be connected to your guitar's output, or placed somewhere on the guitar body, bridge, or neck (depending on what kind you purchase), converting the analog signal into digital MIDI data. This opens up a world of possibilities, as you can now control external MIDI devices using your guitar, while still maintaining the unique characteristics of your instrument and its audio signal.

Devices that convert string vibration to MIDI data have come a long way, but they still usually require a bit of post-production work to make them sound truly amazing.

3. MIDI Effects Pedals and Processors

MIDI effects, pedals, and processors provide guitarists with powerful tools to shape and manipulate their sound. From pitch correction and harmonization to time-based effects like delay and reverb, and modulation, MIDI processors allow for precise control over various musical parameters. With MIDI, you can explore endless combinations of effects, creating unique textures and atmospheres that add depth and richness to your playing.

The BOSS 500 series (as well as many other brands and pedals) have deep MIDI control baked in. You can switch between presets and control almost every parameter with MIDI.

Effects and processors with MIDI usually have large memory banks for storing presets which are all instantly recallable with a single MIDI message. They also usually have MIDI control messages assigned to each knob, switch, setting, and parameter so that you can control anything on the device without ever even touching it.

Integrating MIDI into Your Guitar Rig

1. MIDI Controllers and Footswitches

MIDI controllers and footswitches are essential components when integrating MIDI into your guitar rig. These devices allow you to control multiple MIDI-enabled pedals, effects units, and amplifiers simultaneously, providing seamless switching between presets, effects, and even entire setups. By programming custom MIDI messages, you can create complex arrangements and automate changes with ease. Our BRIDGE6 or BRIDGE4 are designed specifically for this and have excellent reviews from beginners and experienced MIDI wizards alike!

Our BRIDGE6 can do whatever you need it to do... just ask nicely.

2. DAW Integration

Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) play a crucial role in modern music production. MIDI integration with your DAW opens up a whole new world of possibilities for guitarists. You can record MIDI data directly into your DAW, enabling precise editing and manipulation of your performances. Additionally, MIDI synchronisation allows you to sync your guitar parts with other virtual instruments and recordings, resulting in tight and cohesive arrangements.

You can also use a MIDI controller to control buttons, settings, and transport controls in your DAW. Foot-pedal record punch-in buttons are so helpful!

3. MIDI Routing and Patching

MIDI routing and patching refer to the process of connecting and directing MIDI signals between devices. With the right MIDI interface or hub, you can establish complex MIDI setups that cater to your specific needs. By routing MIDI messages and setting MIDI channels intelligently, you can create layered sounds, split your guitar's signal to control different devices simultaneously, or even trigger backing tracks and sequences while you play. Live looping is another area where MIDI can really simplify a complex rig.

Tips for Optimising MIDI Performance

To ensure a smooth and reliable MIDI performance, consider the following tips:

  1. Quality Cables and Connections: Invest in good-quality MIDI cables and connectors to minimise latency and avoid signal loss.
  2. System Optimisation: Optimize your computer and MIDI devices by updating drivers and firmware regularly, reducing background processes, and allocating sufficient system resources.
  3. MIDI Channel Management: Learn how to assign and manage MIDI channels effectively to avoid conflicts and ensure accurate communication between devices.
  4. Velocity and Expression: Experiment with varying levels of velocity and expression in your playing to unlock the full potential of MIDI instruments and sound modules.
  5. MIDI Mapping: Take advantage of MIDI mapping capabilities in your software and devices to create custom control assignments that suit your playing style and preferences.
  6. Expression Pedals: Introduce more dynamic sound effects and elements to your playing by using expression pedals to change MIDI values on the fly while playing your guitar! It's like a Wah pedal but you can connect it to multiple settings at once.


By now, you have delved into the fascinating world of MIDI and its integration with guitars. Whether you choose a MIDI-enabled guitar, a guitar-to-MIDI converter, or MIDI effects and processors, the possibilities for sonic exploration and creative expression are virtually limitless. Remember to optimise your MIDI setup, experiment with different configurations, and let your imagination guide you as you embark on an exciting journey of musical discovery.

Embrace the power of MIDI so you can think less and create more!

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