1. metllicamilitia's Avatar
    Disclaimer: This review is pretty intensive and in-depth. It is long and there is no TL;DR version.

    What is the Jamstik+?
    The Jamstik+, made by Zivix LLC, is an update to the original Jamstik. This is a product I've known about since the original Jamstik and just haven't had the opportunity to play around with yet. The Jamstik+ is essentially a miniature guitar with five frets, though it is so much more than meets the eye. To start with the Jamstik+ uses real guitar strings. Yes, real guitar strings and it's amazing. The strings are double strung, meaning the there are two ball ends of the strings, one ends at the headstock, and the headstock is stubbed just long enough to allow for the ends of the strings. These strings also don't react quite the same way as they do on a standard guitar as they are intentionally kept taught except over the frets. This is accomplished using the faceplate at the base of the fretboard. I'm not going to lie, as a guitarist myself, picking on taught strings was a little weird to get used to at first.



    At the base of the body, you'll find the pickup just before the Jamstik+'s unique bridge, which serves as a string guide through the body of the Jamstik+. Just past the bridge, you'll find one of the few buttons on the device, this particular button is a mute button which will mute all the notes that are currently ringing. On the bottom of the Jamstik+, you'll find the microUSB charging port/connection port, the battery charging indicator light, and a 3.5mm jack. Moving to the back of the Jamstik+ you'll find the cutouts for the included guitar strap and the battery compartment. In the battery compartment under the battery, you'll find an Allen key for adjusting the string tension, and the second ball end of the proprietary Jamstik+ guitar strings. Finally, on the top of the Jamstik+, you'll find the power button and status indicator light as well the menu button and D-pad. The D-pad is used to change the location of which five frets you are playing on, the octave you are playing in, and more as the buttons can be mapped depending on what application you are using.



    I said the Jamstik+ was so much more than meets the eye, that's because you can connect to your Android or Apple devices using Bluetooth and you can even connect to a PC, which may be necessary to use the USB cable. Now currently Zivix LLC does not have any of their apps available for PC, however, that is not an issue for the Jamstik+. I'll delve into the Jamstik apps a little later on, suffice to say they are designed for learning rather than an experienced guitarist. An experienced guitarist is going to be more intrigued by the Mac and PC options because the Jamstik+ isn't just a Bluetooth capable miniature guitar, it's also a MIDI controller. This allows the Jamstik+ to be a much more useful tool for a musician. For example, the Jamstik+ can be used to play any instrument within Apple's GarageBand, it is also useful for the Guitar Pro application. One of the things that excites me the most about the ability to use the Jamstik+ with Guitar Pro is that Guitar Pro will write out the music as you are playing it.



    It is also worth noting that the Jamstik+ requires Bluetooth 4.0, Android 6.0/6.0.1, Windows 10, Mac OSX 10.10, iOS 8, or later to work. There is a list of known compatible devices on the Jamstik website including starred devices that are known to work without issue on those devices. So what is the Jamstik+? The Jamstik+ is essentially a musician's electronic Swiss army knife, so let's get into it.



    Usage/Opinions
    Being a guitarist myself, getting used the Jamstik+ was no issue at all. It is a little weird only having five frets, no headstock, and mini body. There are some things I wish the Jamstik+ could register, like palm muting. Palm muting is a technique that is exactly like it sounds, you use the fleshy side of your palm to mute the strings as you're playing them and is pretty much a requirement for rock and metal music as it gives that distinctive chugging sound while playing. The other weird part to get used to is being forced to fret everything 100% properly due to the infrared sensors under the fretboard. On a regular guitar, I can play just fine, however, if I play the same way on the Jamstik+ my fingers may activate the infrared sensor by being too close to the fretboard. It may be weird for me but it is absolutely great for new players to help them learn how to fret everything properly. I never found anything that didn't work like it should, only things I need to work on myself.

    I spent some time on the phone with a product specialist from Zivix to be sure I understood everything well enough for this review, and one thing I was told was that as long as you connect the Jamstik+ via the Jamstik+ app and don't close out the app your Jamstik+ connection will transfer over into other apps. The only time I saw this not work properly was on Android, though to be fair, I am using a phone that isn't on their list of phones known to work properly with the Jamstik+. That being said, that was the only issue I ran into and all I had to do was turn off the Jamstik+, turn back on, and reconnect in whatever app I was using. One of the most amazing things about the Jamstik+ is how responsive it is, you get real-time response over Bluetooth which is incredible.

    I am a self-taught guitarist, which means I skimped on a lot of things I shouldn't have. It happens with self-taught musicians of all types. The JamTutor app is a great tool for beginners and people like myself who skimped. Being able to have real-time feedback during the lessons really helps with learning proper technique and fixing the things I skimped on. For me, that means proper finger placement and usage, timing, chord changing, and not looking at the fretboard while I play. The apps also offer a host of other information that is really great for learning and they are things I didn't spend a lot of time learning when I should have. To have all that information available to someone who is just learning how to play guitar truly is indispensable. So what is all this great information? And the tools? Let's take a look.

    The Apps
    I mentioned that Zivix LLC makes a few apps specifically for the Jamstik+ and now I'd like to dig into those apps. There are four main apps that you can download to get started with your Jamstik+. These apps are Jamstik+, JamTutor 1, JamTutor 2, and JamMix (Apple only, Mac version needs to be downloaded from the Jamstik website). Each of these apps offers something a little different. JamTutor 2, for example, is as you would expect, an extension of JamTutor 1. The JamTutor apps are designed with the intention of getting you started playing guitar. Don't worry if you haven't played before, the lessons were designed to teach people who have never played before. The Jamstik+ app is a really great playground app giving you access to multiple instruments, tunings, chords, and scales. JamMix is a fun app that will allow you to create your own backing tracks using preset audio tracks for various instruments within a particular style and then lets you play along with it. Simply put, Zivix makes some of the best learning tools I've ever seen, and they just happen to be in easy to use app form to boot. Now let's jump into these apps which I have included screenshots and screen recordings of from the iPad app. Although all the mobile apps look the same, there is some slight variance for the Mac apps.

    Jamstik+




    At first glance, the Jamstik+ app would appear to be a very basic app without much functionality, and you would be wrong. The Jamstik+ app is essentially a virtual guitar textbook. When you open the app you are presented with the main screen that shows the fretboard, a chord identifier, sounds menu, and a few other options. There is a store for different sounds and there are a good number of free downloadable instruments and a few paid ones as well. There is a help button in the top right that will bring up text boxes telling you about everything on the screen. This can be very useful until you familiarize yourself with the app. Also in the top right corner you'll find the settings, which will allow you to browse info on the Jamstik+ and more settings, frequently asked questions, the sound store, a list of compatible apps, Jamstik news, a toggle to allow the Jamstik+ to play in the background, and a toggle for notifications. Then in the upper left hand corner, you will find the select a Jamstik+ option to connect to a Jamstik+.




    In the Jamstik+ settings, you can do a lot more minute customizations. Going down the settings you can choose to reset the Jamstik+ to default settings and choose the sleep timeout time. Under those settings, you have MIDI settings which lets choose whether or not to use single MIDI channel mode, change the MIDI channel of the first string, and change the minimum and maximum velocity of the MIDI. Then in the general settings, you can disable all the MIDI velocity, adjust the controller, threshold, pitch angle, and enable/disable the accelerometer. Next, you have picking settings, these allow you to adjust the string hold time, enable/disable the volume curve, and adjust the level for the volume curve flattening log. Moving along to the fretboard settings, you can choose to enable/disable sustain, string bending, left-handed use, hammer-ons/pull offs, hammer-on velocity, and tapping mode. You can also adjust the amount of the time you have to tap the strings for hammer on and pull offs adjusting by milliseconds, default settings require quite a fast finger to use hammer-ons and pull offs. Finishing out the settings you have the tuning settings. Here you can actually fine tune your Jamstik+ by transposing the current tuning, which will shift the notes higher or lower, and you even set the frequency of the strings individually. It's worth noting that these settings follow the Jamstik+ regardless of what device you are using.





    In between the live chord diagram and sounds menu, you will find two buttons. The top button opens up a chord library and will show any chord you select on the fretboard for you to practice. The lower button also brings up a library, this time a library of scales, and just like the chords, the scale you select will be presented on the fretboard for you to practice. Now on the right side of the screen, you have more options available. The top option is for the D-pad, and on a smaller screen this icon may look like a flower. When you open up the D-pad options you will see the current functions of each of the buttons. If you select the arrows next to a function of a button you can change the function to a different one from the list that opens. The next option is for tuning. The icon is a tuning fork with sound waves emitting from it. In this options you can see the current tuning of the Jamstik+ and selecting the arrows next to the tuning will bring up a list of tunings to choose from. You will also see what frets are currently active on the Digital Capo section and you can manually change them simply by pressing on another section of the fretboard. Underneath the Digital Capo section, you have the Octave section, which will show you what octave range is active in relation to the tuning, and you may select to go either up an octave or two, or down an octave or two.




    The next option is for pick intensity, indicated by a pick with a starburst in it. In this menu, you are shown all six strings with a dot on a line for each string. There are some options above the strings which are Custom, Minimum which is blue, a green, a yellow, and Maximum which is red. Selecting one of these changes where the dots are on the string lines, as well as changes the Trig and Boost levels which are to the right of the string lines. For the custom setting, you can adjust the Trig and Boost levels manually. These adjustments actually adjust the amount of force required by you to hit the strings with before the Jamstik+ will register that you hit the string. Moving on we have the accelerometer options, this icon is a circle with three arrows going in different directions from the center. These options allow you to turn the accelerometer on or off on the Jamstik+, select the MIDI controller number (if necessary), and set the maximum and minimum pitch angles. The final menu is indicated by a checkbox. These options allow you to turn on or off string bending, tap mode, single channel, and hammer-ons/pull offs.




    As I said, the Jamstik+ app is much more intensive than it initially appears. All these options allow you to really play around with the Jamstik+ at your pace and is a fantastic learning tool. From having large chord and scale libraries to learn from and the ability to see what you're playing and get real time chord names as you're playing, the Jamstik+ app is certainly a great tool to help with your playing. Especially if you're like me and didn't take the time to learn many chords and started playing your own, the Jamstik+ app will let you know what those chords are. As basic as it seems on the surface, don't discount this virtual textbook.



    JamTutor 1




    I would consider the Jamstik+ app a passive learning tool and JamTutor 1 is an active learning tool. Upon opening JamTutor 1 you are brought to the main menu, on the right side is where you will find an option to connect to a Jamstik+ if you are not currently connected, and if you are it will show which Jamstik+ is connected. On the left side of the main menu at the bottom, you will see two options, a plus symbol and a set of gears. The plus symbol will bring up an option for more lessons, and the gears bring you to your main options for the app. In the main options, you can adjust the volume output of the Jamstik+, reset your lesson data, view controls, and connect a Jamstik+. Under the view controls option, you will be presented with a front and side picture of a Jamstik+ as well as a list of all the buttons and what they do within the JamTutor app.




    Back on the main menu going up from the bottom you have the Open Play option. This is very similar to the Jamstik+ app in that you can select chords and scales to display on the fretboard and practice and it also has a chord identifier. In the lower right corner, you have a settings option which brings up the menu to change the instrument you are playing, bring up a help menu, and return to the main menu. Above Open Play in the main menu you have Arcade Mode, if you've ever played Guitar Hero you'll be familiar with how Arcade Mode operates. When you choose Arcade Mode you are showed a list of the lessons you can choose from to play, and when you select a lesson it will take you into Arcade Mode and will ask if you want to play Normal or Practice. Normal mode will score you on your playing just as Guitar Hero does and Practice mode will wait for you to hit all the right notes before progressing any further without scoring you. This is great when you are just learning how to play and need more time to get your finger placement correct and to work on changing chords faster. Arcade Mode also has a settings button in the lower right corner which gives you the options to restart the song, end the song, change the instrument you are playing, bring up a help screen, and return to the main menu.




    Moving on up the main menu, you have Challenges. Challenges is an extension of the lessons where you can practice what you learned in a more fast paced environment. Instead of having the lesson to guide you, you only have the highlights on the fretboard that you have to follow along with. This is another great tool to help with finger placement and speed. Once again the settings button here is in the lower right corner and will allow you to change the instrument you are playing, bring up a help menu, or return to the main menu. This brings us to the coup de grâce, the purpose of the JamTutor app, the lessons. When you select the Lessons, you are again shown a list to choose from. The lessons are done in a great way. There is a small amount of text occasionally, however, the bulk of the lessons are video and you follow along with the videos. Every other part of the lesson brings up the fretboard to play with and the others take you into Arcade Mode. I find this to be a very effective way to engage a new guitar playing as having them focus their attention on the screen helps keep them from spending too much looking at the fretboard while playing. This is another fantastic tool for learning.



    JamTutor2
    There's not a lot to say about JamTutor 2 because it works exactly the same as JamTutor 1. The only difference is JamTutor 2 has fewer lessons and they are more advanced lessons than the lessons in JamTutor 1. Following the same layout of JamTutor 1 makes JamTutor 2 just as essential and useful of a tool for learning.

    JamMix



    The JamMix app is another great tool for learning how to play along with various styles and instruments. When you open up the JamMix app you need to select a song (a style), and there are seven to choose from. The songs you can choose from are Electronic Vision, Unleash the Beat, Pump it Up, Dub Grinder, Free Flow, Hit the Floor, and BluesJam. After you select your song, JamMix will load up the instruments for the song and you set your own backing track, which is the Mix part of JamMix. You have five presets to choose from on each of the six instruments for each song, and playing a fret on a string will start the prerecording for the instrument that is associated with that string. Playing a different fret will change the preset, and playing the open string will turn that instrument off. Above the instrument section, you have three more options to toggle on delay, high pass, and low pass. When any of these are active you can manually adjust the response by dragging the purple dot around the box to the desired response.



    Once you've dialed in a backing track you're happy with, then you can choose the Jam button on the right hand side of the screen, and from here you can select which instrument you want to play with and you can start playing along. There is even an option to turn on OneFinger Chord under the Jam button, which will allow you to play chords with a single finger. On the left side of the screen, you have a Jam volume, or Mix volume slider, depending on which section you are in, to adjust the volume of either one. At the very top of the screen, you can see what song you're playing under and can change the song touching on it. To the right of the song it will show you the BPM of the song, and to the right of the BPM, you can see which Jamstik+ is currently connected. In the upper right hand corner you have the settings button, and just like all the other Zivix apps, this will allow you to bring up a help screen or return to the main menu.



    Let's say you're like me and don't get to jam with other musicians often, let alone musicians who play different styles and speeds; then the JamMix app becomes another indispensable tool to help with playing along to styles and speeds that don't match your own as well getting you more familiarized with playing along to other instruments. It's also a lot more fun than just playing along to a click track or metronome to help with playing in time.



    But wait, there's more!
    Yes, there are even more apps that you can use the Jamstik+ with because it is a MIDI controller. For this section, I'm just going to list some of the others apps that work with the Jamstik+ by platform. These apps all work using Bluetooth MIDI input, or even direct connect via USB on Mac. All these apps offer a host of sounds and functions to create all kinds of sounds and using the Jamstik+ plus as a MIDI input device with them is perfect for a guitarist to play synthesizers with. These apps range from free to upwards of $50 or more, so take a look at them and check out some reviews if you're interested in them. The Android side is a little hit or miss due to the open nature and ever changing nature of Android and as apps either add or remove Bluetooth MIDI support things can change quickly. On Android, I will list a couple apps and a developer whose apps usually work with the Jamstik+ and for any other apps, you just need to search MIDI and try some out.

    iOS
    • GarageBand
    • Fourchords
    • Sample Tank
    • Novation Launch Key (iPad only)
    • Nave (iPad only)
    • Geoshred MIDI
    • Sunrizer (iPad only)
    • Arctic Keys
    • Animoog
    • iSEM (iPad only)
    • Cubasis 2 (iPad only)
    • BeatHawk


    Mac
    • Ableton
    • Protools
    • Logic Pro X
    • Reason
    • Acid Pro 7
    • Guitar Pro 7 (USB only)


    Android
    • WalkBand
    • iGrand Piano
    • iLectric Piano
    • FL Studio (developer)


    Conclusion
    In the end, the Jamstik+ is so much more than just a Bluetooth mini guitar for learning how to play guitar. Even using just the apps made by Zivix, an experienced guitarist can still learn more and have a great practice tool in their pocket and backpack. With the Jamstik+ being a full-fledged MIDI controller though, the possibilities of what you can do with it are nearly endless. You can connect to many apps that allow MIDI input, whether it be on a phone that accepts Bluetooth MIDI input, or a computer that accepts either Bluetooth or USB MIDI input. For a guitarist, the functionality within Guitar Pro is absolutely amazing. Guitar Pro will register what you are playing on the Jamstik+ like a real guitar and if you are writing out music in Guitar Pro all you have to do is play it on the Jamstik+ and Guitar Pro will write it in as you play. With the future of MIDI changing quickly, a device like the Jamstik+ will absolutely be a device to have. It is already a beast in its capabilities and those capabilities will only continue to expand. So the real question, is it worth its $300 price tag? I would have to say absolutely. Just the tools Zivix gives you themselves are worth the price tag, but all the other apps you can use to create content with the Jamstik+ make it a virtual steal. You can buy the Jamstik+ in a few different color options directly from Zivix on Jamstik.com. One more note, the Jamstik website currently shows the Jamstik+ at $280, I'm not sure if it's a sale or a permanent price drop, either way, now is the time to buy.
    05-15-2017 11:35 PM
  2. metllicamilitia's Avatar
    Added the rest of my screen shots.
    05-23-2017 11:46 AM

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