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CNN  — 

From picking up chords to memorizing tabs, becoming a talented guitar player is a whole lot more than just grabbing a guitar and plucking the strings. Unfortunately, the feasibility of owning a guitar and actually putting it to use by committing to learning it isn’t for everyone. If you’ve ever wanted to learn to play the guitar without actually purchasing one, Zivix’s Jamstik Guitar Trainer is for you. Better yet, it’s available for $199, down from $229, on the CNN Store.

Whether you need to know every single basic about playing an instrument or you want to have a useful musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) at your fingertips, the Jamstik is one of the coolest ways to achieve both things in one small, affordable package. If you’re curious whether it’s worth the investment or need to know if it’ll benefit the music lover in your life, read on for our experience.

Rock star ambition

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The Jamstik Guitar Trainer is for anyone who’s ever wished they were onstage, playing hit after hit to a crowd of screaming fans. First and foremost, however, it is not a guitar; it’s a MIDI controller that’s meant to be connected via app to another device. Otherwise, you won’t be getting any sound out of it, so be advised. It’s actually better than lugging around an entire instrument, especially for beginners. It takes the place of a full-size guitar and works to teach you everything you need to know about playing the instrument as well as providing you with ways to make it work in terms of music creation.

This diminutive musical powerhouse is about 18 inches long and looks exactly like what a guitar would if you chopped off most of the neck and the entire body. You’re meant to hold it as you would a real guitar, but it won’t sound anything like one — that is, unless you have it hooked up to an app or something else to view the included software. It’s all about helping you stay mobile while offering a quick and simple way to learn the way of the guitar. And perhaps most helpful of all is the fact that it doesn’t ever need to be tuned. The steel strings feel fantastic against your fingers, but you don’t have to worry at all about how they sound when plucked.

This isn’t the first model of the device, as it’s been updated specifically for 2020, so it carries plenty of new features with it: a matte finish, spring-loaded strings and, most importantly, an updated D-pad for navigation. But even though you aren’t getting an entire guitar here, you get a sturdy build that’s also quite light. You can use a strap to wear it around your neck or shoulder, and it feels great. It’s a good way to get used to the heft that a guitar might offer. It feels weighty in the hands and gives your hands plenty of purchase to wrap around it and get to know the lay of the frets.

Musical connectivity

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Of course, the physical Jamstik is one thing. Where it truly shines is in its ability to connect to the companion app (via Bluetooth). The way the Jamstik works is simple. All you need to do is touch the strings and your movements will appear on-screen wherever you have it connected (iOS, macOS, PC, Chrome, etc.). Using special Infrasense Optical String Pickups as well as FretTouch Finger Sensing Technology and Infrasense, it can tell where your fingers are on the strings and help offer feedback based on what it learns from you.

So you’re watching your fingers on the strings light up on the app, and this helps you to learn and memorize chords without having to either make noise with a real guitar or disturb others. The sound comes only from the app, so you can have solo sessions without having to worry about where you are or turning the volume down. You can watch on-screen to get feedback on how you’re holding the strings and if you’re working through standard tuning, etc. as well.

There are other ways to interact. You can play through lessons, workouts for your hands and even special arcade options that keep you on your toes so you never have to stop learning, even if you stop and come back to learning with the Jamstik periodically. You can use the Jamstik Portal App to quickly learn your first scores and burn through AI-generated lessons to learn more. You can also go online and sign up via the Play.Jamstik.com portal to learn anywhere. Your progress is universal across browsers, so you can play on your phone and jump to the desktop if you prefer at any time.

But the Jamstik isn’t all just for learning. If you already know what you’re doing, you can opt to use it to make music within programs such as GarageBand. It’s a simple way to record guitar parts or similar sounds (which can end up sounding terrifying if you don’t know what you’re doing at first). That’s what makes Jamstik such a versatile option, because you can use it for a variety of options.

Bottom line

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Jamstik is a great option for anyone looking to learn more about playing guitar or who needs a way to create music without relying on connecting the real instrument to their computer or apps via mobile devices.

It’s lightweight and simple to use yet sturdy enough to rely on for daily practice. The robust training app tools make for an interesting and exciting way to learn the most important parts of playing an instrument without making it feel like a frustration.

If you’re looking to try something that’s reliable and simple to learn with (instead of packing it up and going to actual guitar lessons), the Jamstik is an excellent alternative. It feels like a dream to play, and it’s comfortable in your hands. Also, at just $199 from the CNN Store, it’s less than the price of a great guitar, which means you end up saving money in the long run until you’re ready to pick up the real thing.