JamStik modernizes guitar-playing for the smartphone age

JamStik/Courtesy

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“Guitar technology really stops in the 1950s,” according to Zivix music product specialist Chris Heille. “Guitars have basically been stuck, (with guitar players) relegated to one set of sound and expression. We want to give them another tool.” Zivix’s new JamStik sets out to expand the horizons of guitar-playing in the context of new technology and mobile devices. In an interview with The Daily Californian, Heille and Zivix Vice President Chad Koehler introduce the JamStik and its advances for music and technology aficionados.

So what is the JamStik, anyway? It’s a musical controller for mobile devices that simulates the guitar-playing process, according to Koehler. Compatible with iOS, the JamStik allows users to record and play music on most of today’s mobile applications. “Our key mandate was to create a device that has the real, tactile feel of a guitar,” he said. This is made possible by the product’s real guitar strings and six frets, which also recognize the nuanced sound of string bends. The JamStik also boasts virtually no latency in comparison with existing mobile guitar devices. And users are not held down by the bulkiness of a guitar — the controller looks essentially like an electric guitar neck. “One of them is just the size to fit in a backpack,” Koehler said.

The JamStik is also unique as “a fantastic teaching tool,” Heille said. “It can actively teach instead of reactively teach … With the JamStik, it actually sees your fingers.” Zivix has developed programs to teach users how to play the guitar in a more effective way. Its patented IR sensors can recognize finger positions and accordingly correct them. These sensors also do not rely on pitch recognition to tune the device, according to Koehler. “The original vision was to put it into a guitar,” he explained. With the guitarlike devices that already existed, “there weren’t any tangible benefits to take with you … We believe there’s more people who want to play music than actually do.” Thus, the JamStik seeks to expand the possibilities for people who want to learn guitar.

And for already experienced musicians? “There’s so much more you can do,” Heille said. The JamStik can be used with existing applications like GarageBand to simulate different instruments, such as the piano or synthesizer. Zivix is also developing applications that will enable people to remix and compose new music, essentially using one device to create entire tracks. “We’re not out to replace guitar but extend the territory that guitar covers,” Heille said of the JamStik’s purposes. The device will enable more people to enjoy guitar playing, or something very similar, with greater convenience.

Currently, Zivix plans to release the JamStik around November. “We’re very excited,” Koehler said. “It’s sort of unlimited once you have it … out-of-the-box fun.”

Contact Josephine Yang at [email protected].