In today's rapidly evolving iOS / Android world we are seeing more and more ways to play and learn to play music with both traditional and electronic instruments. From ROLI's Blocks to the Jamstik+ it's never been easier to jump right into music and more importantly get excited about it.
That's always been the huge barrier to entry for traditional instruments, they take a LOT of practice and are often very frustrating. The days of boring lessons seem to be taking a backseat to new ways of learning to play, from piano to guitar to ukelele to samplers; there's an app for that.
Jamstik+ is a guitar-like controller that doubles as both an instrument and a teaching prop with the included app JamTutor. The Jamstik+ is the second iteration of this product, and with the JamMix and JamTutor Apps you can jump right into learning the guitar or just jamming out for fun, but I would suggest going with JamMix to start. If you just want to mess around and pretend to play, Guitar Hero is probably a better bet.
JamTutor teaches you how to play by learning chords and then progressing with a Guitar Hero like user interface to visualize a complete song. Despite it being easier than a traditional lesson, it does take a little practice but doesn't get frustrated because it's pretty dope when you play out an entire song for the first time.
The actual unit itself is like a stumpy little string instrument a little shorter than a Ukelele. It's well built for what it is and does give you the real sensation of holding the neck of a guitar and forming chords with your hands. The unit itself requires a connection to an app to make a sound, it does not stand alone as an acoustic instrument nor do you expect it to once you examine it carefully, it's a controller, not an actual instrument.
There are five frets and six chords on the Jamstik+ which is plenty to start with power tune buttons on the side. You simply charge it up via the USB charger, and you are good to go for about 8 hours or so until you need another charge. The unit is really light, and you pretty much can practice anywhere you want with some headphones and your mobile device.
Starting to Play
The controller can be used with the apps mentioned above and even Garageband, but if you are a total beginner like me, I would start with the JamTutor app which again looks very similar to Guitar Hero for you gamers and is pretty straight forward. You can go step by step until you feel ready to advance to the next challenge. If you do this thirty minutes a day or so, you will see improvement within a week most likely.
I used my iPad Air 2 which was great because of the screen size, not sure how it would be on a smaller phone.
Once you start to dial into the Jamstik+, you can choose a variety of outputs, I stayed with the acoustic guitar output as I wanted that campfire vibe, but you can rock out with various other styles, especially if you are in Garage Band.
I've messed around with acoustic guitars before, and the strings and overall feel felt pretty similar, although I don't have an acoustic lying around for comparison, I don't think that matters when you are first starting up, again this is more of a teaching aid than an actual performance instrument.
As you advance you will eventually want to get a real acoustic guitar as the Jamstik+ has, it's limits. The sensors are not all the friendly to hammering out epic guitar solos, but again let's not worry about that just yet.
In short, this is a fun way to learn how to play chords and get a basic understanding of the guitar. While some might find it a bit pricey for a learning aid, just think about how much guitar lessons cost.
I'm slowly but surely starting to get the hang of it and for a total guitar rookie I'm pretty stoked. So if you are looking to take the first steps of learning guitar, then it's worth considering. Again PLEASE note, this is not a miracle worker and does require practice and patience, if you are not ready to give that then step away from the vehicle and go back to your Xbox.
There is also a different type of user that might find the Jamstick+ to be a useful tool in creating and performing music. Guitar's have their limits and the Jamstik+ can be a powerful MIDI controller in the right hands, just take a look at the videos below and you will be blown away.
The Jamstik+ is available HERE and comes in black, blue and glamor metal white and currently retails at $329.99.