As more and more of the guitarist’s rack goes virtual,
there is a greater need for something to control
it all. MIDI-controlled effects offer unprecedented
ways to alter guitar performance, and programs such
as Native Instruments Guitar Rig can be used to build
elaborate guitar-processing setups, with almost every
knob and button accessible via Control Change
messages. Modern DAW software apps typically include
a wealth of guitar-oriented plug-ins, in addition
to sophisticated recording and mixing capabilities—
all crying out for MIDI control. On top of that, tons of
synthesizer plug-ins are just waiting to be played
from your four- or six-string axe.
Guitarists, like most humans, have a limited
number of appendages to handle all of the opportunities
to alter, modulate, and automate. Pedals
are fine, but they are generally lacking in the
precision afforded by our fingers. Clearly, we need
a controller that we can use with our hands, that
minimally intrudes on our instrument and technique.
The Livid Instruments Guitar Wing brings the
finer control of a keyboard controller to your electric
guitar. What’s more, it is a Bluetooth device,
eliminating the need for a wired connection with
your computer: The package includes a USB-type
|Fig. 1. The Guitar Wing attaches to the lower horn of your electric guitar
or bass. Spacers are included to fit the device onto instruments of
Guitar Wing fits onto the lower horn of your
electric guitar or bass by means of a plastic,
rubber-covered clamp attached to the bottom of
the control surface (see Figure 1). The included
spacers can be used to accommodate guitars
with different dimensions, and you can adjust
the angle of the wing to one of three positions.
The unit fit snugly on my Epiphone
Guitar Wing’s surface is covered
with pads, buttons, and channels
that serve as touch faders. With
the exception of four switches on
the side of the unit, all controls
are illuminated, color coded,
and animated to indicate activity.
A micro-USB port—strictly
for charging the unit’s Lithium
Ion battery—sits on the side next
to the power switch. The power
switch feels stiff and unyielding,
and with its knurled edge lying flat against the side
of the wing, it makes it difficult to toggle. An easy-to-grasp, protruding switch would make it easier to
access, especially in live performance.
By default, all control objects (with the exception
of the accelerometer) send MIDI Note On
messages, and the pads can send a combination
of notes and Control Change (CC) messages. Guitar
Wing’s accelerometer enables motion control,
sending independent messages over X, Y, and Z
axes; you are free to send CCs, Pitch Bend, After-touch,
or no message, if your movements require
no extraneous output.
A WING AND A PLAYER
Livid supports Guitar Wing with a host of useful
apps as well as downloadable templates and
installers for many popular DAW and standalone
programs, including Apple Logic and Mainstage,
Bitwig Studio, Native Instruments Guitar Rig, and
Propellerhead Reason, among others. Ableton Live is particularly well supported, with controls
for the transport and tracks as well as scripts for
Max for Live and other effects plug-ins.
The feature that I find to be most significant
is the ability to remotely control transport, track
arming, recording, location, and all of the core
DAW features that go into the recording process.
If you’ve ever tried to type in commands or manipulate
a control surface while wearing finger picks,
you’ll know what I’m talking about.
The Logic X recording and location features
worked like a charm. I could quickly create and
locate to markers, set up the click track, set up
punch points, control the channel volume from
one of the fader strips, move to the next channel,
enable playback and pause—all using the last couple
of digits on my picking hand.
|Fig. 2. The standalone version of the WingFX software offers
a great preset for any solo guitarist performing with loops.
The screen shows each button, switch, and fader’s assigned
function to keep you from getting lost.
For near-instant gratification, Livid offers WingFX,
a standalone and plug-in app that is useful for playing
audio loops, overdubbing parts, processing guitar,
and altering pitch on-the-fly, among other features
(see Figure 2). Engaging the software’s help
button clearly labels every control. In the default
preset, the four rectangular buttons loop audio files
and let you browse for new material on-the-fly.
You might want to do some file organizing in
advance, because the browser has no file-audition
feature. Buttons toggle a host of built-in effects, including
distortion, bit crushing, delay, reverb, and
motion-controlled wah-wah, which is fun to use.
Anything you want to manipulate with the DAW's
plug-ins is easily accomplished with the MIDI
Guitar Wing makes an irresistible pairing with
Fishman’s wireless TriplePlay MIDI guitar. It was
hard to tear myself away from using my guitar as
a complete MIDI controller to play an Arturia
Matrix 12 V soft synth. One of the Guitar Wing
fader strips divides into two separate functions,
so I taught one half to alter filter frequency in a
soft synth and the other half to alter resonance,
all while using the TriplePlay to hit rich chords.
Possibilities abound for audio and MIDI recording
using the Guitar Wing.
|Fig. 3. I’ve combined two screens of the Guitar Wing Editor showing assignments for the
pad, as well as setting up control using the motion sensor (indicated by a trident-like
icon). Notice that each axis of the motion sensor has an independent menu.
The Guitar Wing Editor is in beta, but it is surprisingly
stable, well implemented, and readily
available (see Figure 3). The user interface provides
a graphic representation of each of the gadget’s
control features. Clicking on one provides a
window with drop-down menus of MIDI messages
and color-coding options for the selected button,
switch, or fader’s on/off state, and the physical
button immediately reflects the change. Global
amenities include file saving and loading, factory
resets, and toggling the editor between advanced
and basic parameters.
The main problem I had with the system had to
do with pairing the Wing with its receiver, which
was occasionally problematic and often required
the separate Guitar Wing Connect utility app. By
the time you read this, the editor and the WingFX
will have that capacity built in.
WINGS OVER THE WORLD
Nonetheless, the Livid Instruments Guitar Wing
is just what every 21st Century guitar and bass
player needs; a versatile, ergonomic, and, most importantly,
easily played controller for all the things
you can do with strings and a computer.
Easily attaches to
most electric guitars
and basses. Versatile.
Lots of downloadable
resources to adapt to
many music software
apps. Brilliantly ergonomic.
Power switch is difficult
Former Electronic Musician
editor Marty Cutler
regularly writes reviews
and articles, while working
on a book of digital guitar
applications and honing
his progressive bluegrass