Learning to play guitar is tough. And until you've got some mighty fine calluses to show off, it can be quite painful too. Though there's no substitute for years of sustained practice, a number of devices have popped up over the years that promise to get you up and running quickly and easily. The MI guitar is a little different. Its makers are not promising a shortcut to real guitar wizardry, they simply say that you'll be strumming along to your favorite tunes in minutes.
The roughly Les Paul-shaped body of the MI guitar is home to six velocity-sensitive strings for strumming and picking action. There are four knobs behind the "bridge" (which is actually a capacitive touch mute bar) for tone and volume adjustment, the selection of one of eight different guitar sounds (two of which are bass) and to add chorus and reverb effects into the digital mix.
To the rear, an instrument jack caters for connection to an external amplifier, there's a combination headphone and microphone jack and an auxiliary input jack to play music through the instrument's speaker. The MI guitar can also be used as a MIDI controller courtesy of a USB MIDI out port.
The real pick up and play magic happens at the neck, which is detachable to allow the MI guitar to be packed down for travel. It sports a fretboard layout that's quite similar to the Kitara from Misa, but all buttons have the same width and there's a row of fatter ones along the bottom. The designers say that entire chords can be played with a single button press rather than learn tricky finger positions.
It can be used as a stand-alone music creation instrument – it packs its own speaker and can run on eight AA-sized batteries (or mains power via the included adapter) – but a companion mobile app for iOS and Android can be used to unlock its full potential. The app has been designed to have users playing their favorite tunes pretty much straight away, with a catalog of tunes expected to include "tens of thousands of titles." One song will cost 99 cents, or there's a monthly subscription service for US$5.99 for those who really get hooked.
Backlit fret numbers run along the top of the neck, and there are key and scale indicators to help ensure everything sounds just right. The app shows the button numbers to press and presents lyrics for sing-along karaoke jamming, too. Should your creative genius be allowed to run wild, the MI guitar will always record the last 30 minutes of play so you can share moments of glory with friends and family or study and improve technique in private.
The MI guitar development team has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to bring the Mi guitar into production. Pledges start at U$319 and, if all goes to plan, shipping is expected to start in March 2017.
Have a look at the overview video below to see what's on offer.