Lineage: Digital axe or tactile MIDI controller?

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The white model of the Lineage MIDI guitar(Credit: Inspired Instruments)

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Originally crowd-funded as the YRG-Pro Midi Guitar on Kickstarter back in 2012, Inspired Instruments' flagship MIDI guitar has been reborn with a new name and improved functionality. Now called the Lineage, the device boasts full-scale strat-like look and feel, an onboard LCD GUI and a 10-hour battery life.

After producing the YRG-1000, the YRG-1000 Gen 2 and the updated Radius MIDI Guitar Neck, you’d assume Inspired Instruments is on the right track by now. Its latest model is a dedicated MIDI controller that looks and feels like an electric guitar. Connect it to your computer via USB or old-school 5-pin MIDI and you’ve got yourself a fine digital controller-axe. Sure, you can plug in a 1/4 inch jack directly to an amplifier, but what you will hear are a bunch of onboard samples triggered by a very advanced MIDI controller, not the organic sum of string tone, body resonance and vintage coiled pickups.

For any of the traditional charm you lose, you gain a mountain of functionality. Standard or custom tunings can be set with the push of a button on the Lineage’s touch-screen interface, without the need for tweaking each string’s delicate intonation settings. Tension can be set for each string, independent of the tuning, allowing easier bends or more concrete, stable tuning. And unlike traditional guitars, the string gauge has no bearing on pitch or tone, so all your strings have the same familiar (albeit plastic) feel. This means fewer breaks, no rust, less downtime, and softer, smoother calluses for the aspiring hand models amongst us.

The Zones function allows you to set different samples for each area of the fretboard, or each string. In theory one could rock out a mean Bavarian polka with the bottom string playing tuba, and the top five strings rocking out the accordion grooves. The slide whistle solo breaks could be handled by finger-tapping above the 7th fret. The possibilities are endless.

There's also a Mono Mode that allows each string to be represented on a separate MIDI channel. This means that advanced data like bends and vibrato information would be written independently for each string, so you could bend one string a semi-tone whilst its neighbor went up a whole tone.

When playing the Lineage in Normal mode, right hand "plucking" controls the velocity of each note, while the left hand assigns pitch information. Enable TAP mode, and the fretboard will operate independently, allowing Van Halen-style finger-tapping solos, or finger-triggered drum beats. Muting with your fret hand won’t simulate the acoustic equivalent, but a handy touch-operated palm mute for the right hand has been added.

The marked difference between the Lineage and Inspired Instrument’s other YRG models is the look and feel. It has a solid wood body, with a standard "strat-width" neck and a 13-inch radius’ fretboard. The whammy bar has been redesigned to feel more like the real deal. An LCD GUI has been added for on-board control, and the built-in rechargeable battery pack will allow for up to 10 hours of playing of on-board samples.

Compared to other innovative guitar-inspired MIDI controllers on the market like the Misa, and Expressiv, Lineage seems to be appealing to traditional electric guitar players more so than experimental electronic mavericks. Some might question the decision to add the weight and size of a real electric guitar to the Lineage. Can you imagine what would happen if this logic was applied to the key-tar when replicating a piano?

The Lineage could be a great time-saving option for players who are composing, scoring and tinkering with guitar parts, and could serve up some pretty neat party tricks as well. But in terms of picking up (‘cause hey, isn’t that why people learn guitar in the first place?), potential groupies would be walking away politely smiling by the time you could say "Musical Instrument Digital Interface."

Inspired Instruments is currently taking pre-orders for the Lineage and is according to a company spokesperson the first production run should be available to customers by early Q4. Supporters of the 2012 Kickstarter campaign will be happy to hear this.

The video below shows the original YRG-Pro, but it provides a taste of what the Lineage can do.

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