I have dabbled with MIDI and guitars on and off my whole life and I’ve often found it a disappointing experience. My main gripes have been using expression as well as tracking issues. But watching the recent Paul Davids YouTube video about the Rob O’Reilly Expressiv MIDI Pro 2 model and its fretboard scanning technology, it feels like things are about to change.
As a language allowing communication between synths, sequencers and effects, MIDI has been invaluable to me throughout my musical career, especially in the studio. But it has never been good for guitar work, as it often tracks erratically and cannot handle bends very well.
For me, Paul Davids’ video (see below) sparked some hope for MIDI guitar. ROR Guitars’ Expressiv MIDI Pro 2 model appears to improve MIDI tracking with a bespoke fretboard scanning technology that seems to overcome a lot of the old issues that plagued previous MIDI guitar systems.
MIDI Guitar: How precisely can you play?
Despite the advances that ROR Guitars may have made here, you will still be at an advantage if you can play cleanly. MIDI isn’t very good at handling data other than note on or off, so funky muted lines and sloppy playing techniques won’t translate very well. But if you can play with precision, it looks like MIDI guitar has finally come of age.
Putting the work in
Working with MIDI in the guitar world isn’t simple. Even given the possibilities of individual string gains and XY mapping or various play modes you still have to map everything to your guitar. That involves assigning parameters of your effects and synths to controls on your guitar. Luckily, the Expressiv MIDI Pro 2 guitar comes with a 32-character illuminated LCD to make it easier to see what you’re doing. Plus, you have an XY control pad and a set of tap buttons you can assign to control practically anything you like. I suspect that’s where the fun really starts.
I highly recommend taking a few minutes to watch Paul Davids taking this guitar through its paces. MIDI guitar has made a leap forwards in 2021.