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Using your guitar as a MIDI instrument might not be the most obvious of use cases, but can open up new possibilities and sounds. We look at the best MIDI converter for guitar on the market right now.
Regular readers of this site might know this: I started off my music career as a guitarist. Before there was Cubase, Pro Tools, and later, Ableton, there was a used Cort, a used Ibanez, and finally, my own Stratocaster. This shaped a great deal of how I think of music. I still call myself a guitarist first and foremost, producer second.
Now the guitar has always been an analog instrument. You plug it into a computer and you can only record audio files with it.
That's changing now. A new breed of instruments are turning the humble guitar into a MIDI instrument. This means that you can strum your guitar and have it recorded in your recording software as a MIDI note.
As you can imagine, this opens up a world of options in terms of sound and performance. Once a note is recorded, you can add all the effects and instruments you would normally add to your MIDI tracks. Want your guitar to sound like a synth or a pluck? Just drop a synth instrument on top of the MIDI track.
The real possibilities, however, emerge when you take the MIDI converter live. A low latency MIDI-to-guitar converter can help you bring entirely new sounds to your playing experience. If you're looking for new sounds that go beyond the guitar, you'll find this to be quite a revelation.
But before you can start using MIDI converters in your performance, you have to first buy the right gear. I'll help you find the best MIDI converter for guitar in this article.
Our 5 Best MIDI Converters for Guitar
Here's our pick of the best MIDI converters for guitar you can buy right now, divided by category:
Best Overall: Roland GK-3 Divided Pickup
- Efficient selector switch to choose different settings
- Sold with different accessories for attachments
- Large and smooth knob for easier control
- 1/4 –inch headphone jack for the guitar
- Sends separate string signals to devices that are GK-3 compatible
The Roland GK-3 Divided Pickup is one of the best Pickups for mounting on almost all standard guitars. When it is mounted, it picks up all the vibrations of the different strings. It will then send them to the GK-compatible devices where the sound is amplified and enriched with effects.
You will notice the deep thought that went into its creation. They have not left anything out. It is even shipped with tape for attaching it to the guitar.
It has a very efficient selector switch, which you can use to change from normal guitar tone to synth and vice versa. The select switch works hand in hand with the big knob that is used for controlling moves fast and accurately.
For the standard guitar, the ¼-inch input is enough. For easier mounting, the pickup has been designed with an adjustable curvature. You can adjust it to what suits the curve of the strings of your guitar. It is mostly used with the GR-55 synthesizer.
The Roland GK-3 divided pickup performs by sending separate signals from every string to any device that it is compatible with. As long as your guitar is electric or acoustic with steel chords, you can fit this pickup ever so easily. Remember, you don’t need to do any drilling on your lovely music instrument. There is zero latency; tracking is fast enough for all of your MIDI needs.
What we don’t like
Although it is installed on the guitar top without drilling, it can still be a hard nut to crack. Thus, we find the need to hire a professional, or watch videos and stuff to install it right.
Best Budget: Sonuus i2M Musicport
- Tuned settings to use with 4/5-string bass or guitar
- Able to detect and keep wrong notes to the minimum
- Plug-and-play, drivers install and configure themselves fast
- Fastest tracking and Minimal latency
- Small, quite compact and easy to carry along
- Needs no power supply to work
The Sonuus i2M Musicport combines hardware and software with incredible features. It delivers the MIDI quality that the manufacturer says it can give you.
If you are a nerd for good-looking hardware, you have found your match in this audio-to-MIDI converter hardware. It is small, just about the same size with the guitar jack that has a diameter of an eighth of an inch. When plugged in, a beautiful LED glow lights up the logo in orange and green.
You will enjoy user-friendliness and simplicity. Audio to MIDI devices do not come any easier to use than the Sonuus i2M Musicport. You just need to plug in the guitar on one side and MIDI comes out of the other side. However, for this stunning simplicity, there is a small price to pay. You can only play monophonically, which means that you can only play one note at a time.
When you buy the best MIDI converter for guitar, you have to tune it to match your playing style. The i2M is not any different. You will look forward to CD quality kind of pitch conversion from a guitar or bass signal, in an assortment of different modes. Single note tracking has never been better than you get with this little box of music.
What we don’t like
It cannot chart out the cords for the user so if one wants that, they will have to get a divided MIDI pickup for their guitar to divide all notes in a chord.
Best Performance: Roland GR-55
- Durable metal build
- 2 PCM synthesizer engines
- 2 USB ports
- Foot control features
- Audio player
The Roland GR-55 is a feature-rich guitar synth to help you take your music mixing needs to a higher level. It is the best MIDI converter for guitar. Considering its features, it is easy to see why.
This synthesizer has been designed with metal casing and build. Compared to other synths that are made of plastic, it can withstand more abuse.
With three PCM synthesizer engines, be ready to be blown away. This machine delivers all the basses, the guitars, synth voices and amps that are synonymous with the GR series of products.
You have over 900 sounds to choose from. Another important factor of performance is the super fast tracking. The synthesizer responds as soon as you start to play. You get high quality pitch detection. The synth also detects changes in the pitch, behavior and speed of playing to respond in the best way.
What we don’t like
COSM could be better and while while the synth sounds are many, some of them are outdated
Budget Alternative: Sonuus G2M
- Monophonic MIDI converter guitar to MIDI
- Note detection feature – able to minimize the wrong notes
- Has an inbuilt tuner for tuning the guitar
- It can be used with wind instruments, voice, bass and guitar
- Uses 5-pin MIDI connection
- Uses a battery for power
The Soonus G2M is a single note (monophonic) converter for guitar to MIDI. Something that makes it the best midi converter for guitar is that you don’t need to do any guitar modifications. Any electric guitar can also be used as a MIDI guitar.
I consider this a universal converter because I do not require any special pickup to mount it on my guitar. I can go right into the jam, so to speak. Designed to be used with a monophonic MIDI guitar, the Sonuus G2M is mostly used with bass lines and solo guitars. It feels good not to have to mount things on your favorite guitar. There is no need to modify your guitar at all!
You will enjoy using the G2M with music notation software. If you have such software, do not worry too much about how you will have to play a certain part to get the best effect. Just plug the G2M and start playing right away.
What I love about this device is that it is more advanced than the Sonuus i2M Musicport or the Aurorax Cable In-Out.
The G2M can produce a synthesizer sound, which you can mix with your live guitar to give your live performance an extra edge. You will achieve so many layers of sound when you plug your guitar into the G2M.
What we don’t like
That this device does not have polyphonic tracking is a big miss, especially considering the other advanced features that it comes with.
Performance Alternative: Fishman TriplePlay
- Rechargeable Li-Po battery
- Comes with the software for editing your playback
- Operates wirelessly
- Hardware that is easy to remove when not in use
- Adjustable range for the pickup height
The Fishman TriplePlay is a pickup that encompasses everything that you need to get the very best performance out of your guitar. It not only has great hardware, but it also has a full suite of software. It is wireless so you do not have to worry about the entanglement of cables.
It has a rechargeable lithium polymer battery that lasts a full 20 hours. You can jam until you drop, quite literary! The battery is integrated with a mini USB access panel in the back, so recharging is quite simple.
The hardware is easy to mount and unmount. The most common hardware parts include the TriplePlay controller, which you will mount on your guitar top. The second one is the TriplePlay Pickup that goes near the bridge of the guitar. The third most important hardware is the wireless receiver. You will plug it in one of your computer’s USB ports.
The software is fully comprehensive. You will enjoy the full benefit of recording and editing your music. It can also playback your recording. This software has Native Instruments like GuitarRig LE and KOMPLETE Elements. It also has Notion Music PROGRESSION 2, IK Multimedia and PreSonus.
The guitar controller and the pickup operate wirelessly. However, the range is quite big at 70 feet, give or take a little depending on your guitar model. The wireless USB receiver comes with 16-bit processor and is made of long-lasting composite material.
What we don’t like
- This is a good product and so we do not have any big concerns. The only thing we can say we do not like is the long download time for software and updates.
- The battery time could be longer so that you do not have to worry about charging, when you have set a couple of days aside for making music.
Over to You
MIDI converters for guitars are still a work-in-progress technology. Even the best converters on the market are not 100% accurate, nor have they all sorted out their latency issues. I encourage you to pick an option from this list, but be prepared to be slightly underwhelmed by the results. Not a lot. Not a little. Just slightly.
Else, wait for the technology to improve.
For more recommendations and advice, don't hesitate to reach out to me here.