Jam Origin’s MIDI Guitar 2 (MG2) is a software-only, guitar-to-MIDI converter. It doesn’t require any special jacks, pickups, or multipin connectors—just give it your guitar’s audio output. MG2 works stand-alone, but can also insert as a plug-in into your guitar’s audio track, and generate a MIDI output. This shows up as an available MIDI input to an instrument track.
Unfortunately, when used as a plug-in, I encountered numerous issues—primarily degraded pitch bend performance and problems with VST3 instruments (apparently this is a common issue). I just couldn’t get it to work in a satisfying way.
However, there’s a workaround—and it works well. Pitch bends translate more smoothly, and it doesn’t matter whether the virtual instrument you’re driving is VST2 or VST3. Of course, like any MIDI guitar, you’ll need to clean up the data a bit but mostly, this involves just deleting notes shorter than a certain length. Pitch bending often needs editing, but on the other hand, MG2 handles vibrato very well.
The Solution: Virtual MIDI Ports
The solution is not to use MG2 as a plug-in. Instead, run it in stand-alone mode, assign its output to a virtual MIDI port, and set Studio One’s virtual instrument to that same virtual MIDI port. This approach bypasses any potential issues caused by taking MIDI data from an audio plug-in out, passing it through a DAW, and feeding it into an instrument.
Unlike the Mac, Windows doesn’t support virtual MIDI ports natively. However, the loopMIDI accessory program from Tobias Erichsen solves that. Download the program, and install it. The loopMIDI icon shows up in the taskbar. Right-click on it, and choose Configure loopMIDI (also check Autostart loopMIDI while you’re at it). Configuring just means hitting the + sign to create a port (fig. 1).
After installing loopMIDI, we need to tell Studio One there’s a new MIDI control device. Open Studio One (because you checked Autostart, loopMIDI will already be running), and choose Studio One > Options > External Devices. Click the Add button, and set up loopMIDI as a MIDI keyboard (fig. 2).
Next, set up MG2 in stand-alone mode (fig. 3). Note that there’s no problem with running MG2 and Studio One at the same time using a PreSonus ASIO interface (probably others as well).
In the Audio Interface section, specify the interface driver, and the input where MG2 will expect to find your guitar’s audio. Jam Origin recommends using 44.1 kHz with 128 samples of latency, and I didn’t argue. Set MG2’s MIDI Interface output to the loopMIDI port. This is where MG2 will send the MIDI data derived from your guitar.
For the final step, insert your virtual instrument into Studio One, and set its input to loopMIDI (fig. 4). Note that you don’t need to insert a guitar track, unless you want to record your guitar part as well as drive a virtual instrument. I insert a guitar track anyway, if for no other reason than to be able to use Studio One’s tuner—pitch-based guitar-to-MIDI converters seem to like accurate tuning.
Optimizing MIDI Guitar 2
To recap, your guitar goes into an audio interface input, MG2 in stand-alone mode listens to the audio input and converts it to MIDI, and then the MIDI data goes to your virtual instrument. However, we’re not quite done, because MG2 has various customization options.
The stand-alone version can play instruments, but we don’t need to do that because we’re triggering instruments in Studio One. So for the Instrument, choose No Instrument.
There’s a choice of polyphonic or monophonic tracking, depending on whether you want to play chords or single-note lines, and set bend to the same range in semitones as your instrument.
Experiment with Legato, which can even give infinite sustain. Gain and Curve help tailor your playing for the best triggering. In my experience, MG2 seems happiest when you don’t hit the strings too hard. In any event, those are the basics. Sorting out MG2’s settings in detail isn’t necessary, because you can go to the Jam Origin website and delve into the documentation there.
I must say that when I first tried using Jam Origin, I was frustrated, and felt I had just wasted $99. But after using the standalone/virtual port workaround, now I’m a happy camper. Sure, MIDI guitar isn’t perfect. But MG2 can lay down some tasty MIDI lines, and as to sawtooth-based power chords… well, let’s just say they sure are fun.