Category Archives: JamStik

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!  🙂

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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!


News from Zivix (Makers of the JamStik+ and PUC+)

If you don’t know Zivix, it is a Minnesota company that has made two digital music products: a MIDI guitar called the JamStik and a MIDI interface called the PUC.  Both items are now in their second generation, delineated by a “+”, which add Apple’s Bluetooth MIDI interface to the devices (the original versions each acted like a wi-fi hotspot).

As I have blogged about in the recent months, Bluetooth MIDI is a game changer as connection is a breeze, and you don’t need wires between your digital instrument and your primary device (so far, only recent Macs and iOS devices), all with very low latency.  Currently, there are only a handful of Bluetooth MIDI devices, but I expect to see many more in the months to come–it will eventually be a standard feature in every digital instrument.  But for right now, old MIDI devices need a interface to become Bluetooth MIDI, and that is where the PUC+ comes in.  The PUC+ can be attached to any kind of existing MIDI device by the 30+ year old 5 pin plug, or wit Bluetooth.  The PUC+ was just announced by Zivix this past week (see video at the bottom of this post).

Yesterday as part of Summer NAMM, Zivix announced a new partnership with Hal Leonard.  From the press release:

“We are pleased to be partnering with Hal Leonard, a company that has been a pioneer in the music education industry and one that has helped shaped its foundation with it leadership over the years,” said Ed Cannon, chief executive officer, Zivix LLC. “This relationship allows us to better engage with the music industry by introducing our award-winning products, and associated software applications for music education. Through Hal Leonard, and their strong dealer network, we gain a fresh perspective and potential integration opportunities, as we continue to innovate and offer easy to use tools and technology to allow more people to engage in learning and playing music.”

“This partnership is a result of continued emphasis and focus on providing solutions to our customers that enhance opportunities to bring in new players and provide creative tools for existing musician. We couldn’t be more thrilled to have the jamstik+ SmartGuitar and the PUC+ Wireless MIDI Interface in our product portfolio.” said Brad Smith, Senior Sales & Marketing Manager of Hal Leonard Corporation. “With us working together, we see a long term vision providing a gateway between their technology and our content to have more people get involved in guitar and new engaging options for existing players”.

Put in simple terms, Hal Leonard will be distributing the JamStik+ and PUC+, and Zivix will be able to access some of Hal Leonard’s outstanding guitar method content.  As music as the music publishing industry bothers me in regards to digital sheet music (or the lack and/or restriction thereof), Hal Leonard’s reach is much greater than “just” sheet music, and they already have existing agreements with other software and hardware providers such as Noteflight and AirTurn.

Currenty JamTutor, Zivix’s “linked” iPad App, teaches guitar via tablature (people don’t even know they are learning tablature).  In the “guitar” world, this is a valuable skill.  The Hal Leonard methods (whether the Hal Leonard Guitar Method or Essential Elements–both are basically the same) focus on teaching traditional notation first.  As music educators, we want guitarists who can read both notation and tablature.  So as you can surmise, I am excited about the opportunity for Zivix to bring Hal Leonard’s notation-first content to Jam Tutor.

This is great news for Hal Leonard, Zivix, consumers, and music educators.

(The PUC+ Announcement appears below)