Now its guitarists’ turn to complain about digital technology watering down its instrument. While there no doubt will be many axe players with an ax to grind over the Magic Instruments digitized Guitar, that won’t stop the small San Francisco start-up from delivering its first instruments in early 2017, after its $50,000 Indiegogo campaign goal was met in a matter of hours.
Drummers and keyboard players have had a gripe against drum machines, quantized sequencing, arpeggiators and a still-growing list of technological shortcuts that let people sidestep hard musical training for decades.
With the Magic Instruments Guitar, there’s a new alternative for people to simulate playing a guitar in minutes, using single-button chords along the fretboard and a karaoke-style iOS/Android app that assists in learning to play songs. This new approach differs from MIDI guitars like the old Casio DG-20 (below), which was mostly a normal stringed guitar that sent MIDI data, and the more sophisticated Starr Labs Ztars (above), whose button fretboard didn’t simplify the playback in the same way Magic Instruments' does.
The MI Guitar has six strings you can strum to create chords when pressing a single fretboard button or pic, to play individual notes. The strings are velocity-sensitive and play internal guitar and bass sounds out of an internal speaker, 1/8-inch headphone jack or standard 1/4-inch guitar output, or they can send MIDI data over USB to act as a MIDI controller within DAWs or other software. There is also a mic input, and the instrument keeps a continuous recording of the last 30 minutes of your playing, so you can share anything when the mood strikes.
There’s also a hardware volume control, tone (treble/bass) control and effects (chorus/reverb) control. The neck has an accessory mount for setting up the app on a smartphone, and it’s detachable for portability.
Magic Instruments co-founder Brian Fan studied piano at Juilliard, yet quit trying to learn guitar — as he said 90% of people do within the first year — because he found that his piano skills and knowledge didn’t transfer to guitar. However, that gave him the idea to found Magic Instruments in 2014, and earlier this year, the company graduated from the famed Y Combinator startup incubator program.
They’re now aiming the MI Guitar to musicians and songwriters who don’t have the time to learn traditional guitar, karaoke enthusiasts and well, anyone who wants to pony up the price.
If you’d like to get in on the $299 intro price, find a Tardis right away, because those 300 units disappeared from the MI Guitar Indigogo campaign quickly. There are still a lot of spots left for Guitars discounted off the $499 MSRP, as well as other bundles and down payment plans.
The companion mobile app will have thousands of popular songs to learn to play from a karaoke-style interface showing the lyrics and chord numbers for which buttons to press. Individual songs will cost $0.99 or $5.99 for an unlimited monthly subscription.
How To Play A Chord with Magic Instruments Guitar