Category Archives: JamStik

JamStik 7 and 12 Indiegogo Campaign Now Live

I have been a supporter of Zivix products for a long time. Zivix brought the JamStik (wi-fi), Puc (wi-fi), JamStik+ (pickup and Bluetooth MIDI) and Puc+ (Bluetooth MIDI) and AirJamz to market–using crowdfunding a good percentage of the time.

Each generation of Zivix’s devices have addressed customer suggestions and concerns, and have incorporated newer technologies. The company has continued to improve its software and has expanded to Android applications as well. Examples of continuing improvement was their early adoption of Bluetooth MIDI and the addition of a pickup in the JamStik+.

The existing JamStik is a five-fret wireless Bluetooth MIDI device, using real metal strings in a portable format. New players can use the JamStik with the JamTutor app to learn to play the guitar while existing guitar players can use the JamStik as a way to interact with digital audio workstations and notation software. The newest JamStik models will use new “FretTouch Finger Sensing Technology” and “Infrasense Optical String Pickups.” I am excited to see how this new technology works. Seeing as the previous models worked very well–I know the 7 fret and 12 fret models of the JamStik will be an improvement.

This is also the first new Bluetooth MIDI device I have seen on the market for some time. Bluetooth MIDI is wonderful–and I simply believe that most music educators (and musicians) simply do not know it exists!

As a bonus, Zivix is a “local” company for me, located near Minneapolis, Minnesota.

When I started following Zivix, I was teaching high school guitar classes. Since that time, I moved to the middle school level and have introduced the ukulele to my middle school students. Admittedly, I play ukulele a lot, and I simply do not play guitar very often (this is quite common). I do bring the JamStik with me to conventions and professional development sessions to show to others.

Beyond Zivix’s own focus to help people learn music through their products, I have used JamStiks in an educational setting. I have done so in both a 1:1 setting with a small class of difficult students and have also used the JamStik as an instructional tool in a guitar classroom. The JamStik is far easier to carry around a classroom than a full sized guitar or even a backpacker guitar (which I purchased to use in the classroom before the JamStik came out)–and your finger position on the JamStik can be shown to the whole classroom via the JamStik+ app. I would not want to teach a guitar class without a JamStik–and if you teach guitar in a school–I can’t recommend it highly enough–either for your use or for 1:1 situations where a student would learn better through a digital experience or through additional enrichment.

Earlier this year, Zivix announced a new 7 and 12 fret model of the JamStik+. The biggest complaint I have heard about the JamStik from guitar players in the past is that the existing JamStik only has five frets. These new devices solve that issue–although many guitars have 20 to 22 frets. I’m sure that “Pro” players will lament the lack of 8 to 10 frets from a regular guitar…but let’s be honest…most casual players will never leave the five frets of the original Jamstik.

I’m excited for the new JamStik models–not only will they have more frets, but they will be packed with new technology–and I am told that the plastic body will be made in Minnesota. Imported items are fine…but if an American company can keep production elements in the USA, that is nice, too.

I also keep dreaming of a ukulele version of the JamStik–and the 12 fret JamStik makes this a possibility as many soprano ukuleles only have 12 frets (however–the cost of a ukulele Jamstik might be too prohibitive when a travel ukulele like the Flight TUS 35 sell for $60 or less).

As the Indiegogo campaign is underway, you can purchase one of the new JamStiks at a reduced cost from what they will sell for later. And unlike many crowdfunded projects, Zivix has already seen several crowd funding projects from start to finish. As of this post, the project has already received 149% of its required funding–so you know you will receive yours–and Zivix has always delivered. The JamStik 7 will ship in August and the JamStik 12 will ship in Q1 2019.

Interested? Join the Indiegogo campaign!

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/jamstik-7-jamstik-12-modern-midi-smart-guitars-iphone-bluetooth#/

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New JamStiks Coming Soon!

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Zivix, a company dedicated to making  interaction with music fun and educational through the use of technology has just announced two new products at NAMM.  The new products are the JamStik 7 and JamStik 12.  While details have not yet been released, I am expecting both models to work via BLE MIDI on most platforms.  I also expect full integration with existing Zivix software, such as JamTutor (A gamified experience that teaches how to play the guitar and how to read tablature at the same time0

The original JamStik was great, and acted as a WiFi station to connect to a device.  That original JamStik used infrared sensors on a five fret device to act as a MIDI interface.  The second JamStik, the JamStik+, added a pickup for greater sensitivity and connection via BLE MIDI.  On both versions, the D-Pad added functionality such as a capo.

”Real” guitarists often complained about the limitation of five frets—but for an educational device, it was perfect.  While I haven’t taught a guitar class for a few years, I would have loved to walk around the room with the JamStik, projecting the JamStik Plus App imterface on a screen (showing which strings are pressed and sending audio over room speakers without having to walk around with a full guitar).  To be honest, I don’t know why any teacher who teaches guitar in a classroom setting would NOT want to do this!  I did run a small class with WiFi JamStiks a few years ago…and it was a successful experience.  Remember…this is a device with real strings, so skills transfer to real instruments.

Furthermore, if you are a guitarist who plays no other instrument, I know of no better and more affordable method to interact with MIDI on a device…from notation to DAWs.

These new models address the “limited fret issue” (again, a questionable complaint in the first place), with the seven fret model aimed at beginners and the twelve fret model aimed for professionals.

I’m hoping for a 7 fret ukulele model!  🙂


JamStik now works in Chrome

If you have a JamStik, or teach on Chromebooks, you may want to look at the latest announcement from Zivix, the creator of the JamStik.  They have created a web platform that runs the JamStik in Chrome.  I haven’t tried this yet, but it is a really exciting possibility, particularly for schools that are 1:1 with Chromebook.

To learn more, visit: https://play.jamstik.com/


Want to Win a JamStik?

One of my favorite pieces of tech in the last years has been the JamStik.  I first learned about it from Kevin Honeycutt (an educational speaker, former art teacher, and musician). Oddly enough, the company that makes the JamStik is in Minnesota, not too far away from my home.

The latest version of the JamStik is called the JamStik+, which includes Bluetooth Low Energy connection to newer iPads (iPad 4) and MacBooks (2012), and now also includes Android functionality (check your device for compatibility).  The JamStik+ also included some extra tools to increase the sensitivity of the device.

As it only features the first few frets, the JamStik isn’t a guitar replacement–but it is certainly an educational tool for guitar.  Training apps are free to download and turn learning guitar into a game–a realistic “Guitar Hero.”  The JamStik also acts as a way to interact with MIDI information for guitarists.  If I were teaching guitar, I would be using the JamStik as an instructor–and I still think a classroom set of JamStik devices in a 1:1 school makes a lot of sense (contact Zivix for educational pricing).

There are a series of devices that I wholeheartedly recommend…AirTurn, CME XKey Air, Adonit Jot Dash, Apple Pencil–and the JamStik is one of those.

Interested in a chance to win a JamStik?  They are hosting a giveaway before Christmas–so sign up here and see what happens.

Zivix also sells the PUC+ which connects a MIDI keyboard to BLE MIDI, using a battery–a unique solution that works for a LOT of existing products.  Zivix also sells AirJamz, a watch-like device that lets you play Air Guitar.  The company is always working on ways to bring music interaction to consumers in new ways.

Note: I don’t receive any “kickback” for the link to the giveaway–I just figure that it might be worth your time to win one of these great devices.


JamStik+ Review (plus Video Link)

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On Friday, my JamStik+ arrived from Zivix.  The JamStik is a small guitar that connects to your iPad or Mac.  The original JamStik was sponsored in part by a Indiegogo crowdsourcing campaign, and the JamStik+ was sponsored by a very profitable KickStarter campaign.

From a distance, the JamStik and JamStik+ look identical.  The original JamStik connected to your device via wi-fi (the JamStik itself became a wi-fi hub).  Since the time the original JamStik shipped (a year ago), Apple introduced a new Bluetooth MIDI standard for iOS and Mac OS. Zivix quickly moved to make their wi-fi products into Bluetooth MIDI products.  The JamStik+ brings Bluetooth MIDI to the JamStik, as well as an additional pickup.  These changes result in a device that is easier to connect (although the wi-fi version was not difficult) and more sensitive.  The fretboard finger position sensors (IR sensors) remain unchanged.

If you follow this blog, you know that I am 100% in support of Bluetooth MIDI, and I expect most platforms to adopt this standard as Apple is now on the international Bluetooth advisory board (they also recently joined the USB board).  Compared to the old days of MIDI (a more than 30 year old standard), Bluetooth MIDI is truly “turn on and play.”  The hardware and software take away all of the old challenges of MIDI.

In my playing of the JamStik and JamStik+, both devices feel the same.  It is simply easier to connect to the JamStik+, and the JamStik+ is slightly more accurate as I play Zivix’s JamTutor, which is a free app available to JamStik owners. For the record, the original JamStik uses an app called “JamStik Connect” to establish the MIDI connection, while the JamStik+ uses the “JamStik+” app to simply turn on the Bluetooth MIDI connection and to provide audio events (sounds/instruments).  Once you have that MIDI connection (wi-fi on the original JamStik, or Bluetooth on the JamStik+), you can use the JamStik with any Zivix app, or with any of hundreds (if not thousands) of Core MIDI apps on the market.

It is worth mentioning that “real” guitar players still complain about the device and the fact it isn’t a “real” guitar.   A quick look at the device should have told them it isn’t a “real” guitar, as it only has five frets.   In truth, this device really isn’t for them–except for the fact that it can be used as an input device into apps like Notion.  This means that a guitar player who does not play piano could now use the guitar an a entry method.  I would think that would be appealing to “real” guitar players.  I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Zivix make a full size JamGuitar some day, since they have the basic technology figured out already.

One of the things I have seen with guitar players in guitar classes is that many players come in unable to read music–but they can read tablature.  They like to look up tablature on the web.  If your JamStik is connected to your iPad via wi-fi, you can’t look up tablature.  If you have a JamStik+, it connects via Bluetooth, meaning students can still use wi-fi on their device (JamStik+ will operate in the background).

Both JamStiks bring a number of features to education: real strings, no tuning required, and a small footprint.  You can use Zivix’s JamTutor apps (one is available, another is coming) for individualized instruction, or you can use an existing guitar method, as all of those methods only use the first  five frets (if that) of the guitar.  Zivix recently reached a distribution agreement with Hal Leonard, and I am hoping that some of Hal Leonard’s guitar methods find themselves embedded in future Zivix apps.  Wouldn’t it be great to have an app that taught student guitar via gameification, but taught notation/literacy in addition to tablature?

If you adopt JamStiks, you do have to figure out a plan for charging instruments, and I keep bothering the folks at Zivix to provide a lab set of JamStiks for schools that would include a storage cart, extra batteries, and strings.  I had a set of nine (original) JamStiks to use with some students last year, and under daily use, the devices hold up well.  We have not suffered a broken string, and battery life is still good.  If you do use JamStiks, I encourage writing down each device’s Bluetooth or wi-fi identifier, and then printing that identifier on a label (P-Touch?) so that students know what device they are connecting to.  Tony Strand used (original) JamStiks with his guitar program and had good results.

Original JamStiks can be bought at the Zivix website (www.jamstik.com) for $199 (probably while supplies last) and the new JamStik+ can be purchased for $299.  This is within striking distance of a quality school guitar (plus case).  If you are interested in a classroom set, I would contact Zivix directly and inquire about education pricing.

As you can tell, I love this device and its potential for music education.  I love the updates to the JamStik that are found in the JamStik+.  If you are a music educator and you have any dealing with guitar–I have a suspicion that you will like this device, too!