I’ll start by saying this is definitely a review that not everyone needs to consider. The Livid Guitar Wing MIDI Performance Controller is a specialized MIDI controller. So much so I had no idea what I was looking at the first time I saw a photo. Then I saw it in place and suddenly, everything made sense.
For too long, keyboard players have had most of the fun when it comes to MIDI. How many guitarists sit in front of a keyboard or even a keypad controller and feel out of their element without six strings between them and their music? Am I the only one with my hand up? You buncha liars!
Sure, we’ve had foot pedals and stompboxes and sometimes MIDI even helps us out with patch changes and stuff, but to access loops, effects, sequences and more from the instrument… it’s been like a pipe dream or an expensive synth/guitar hybrid. There was no casual MIDI controller for guitar. That is until the Livid Guitar Wing MIDI Performance Controller.
The concept is simple enough. Outfit a guitar with a series of pads, triggers, switches and other controls to act as an extension to a performance-based DAW. Yes, simple concept. But guitarists generally aren’t fond of mucking up favorite instruments with potentially gimmicky additions. Worse still is the visually offensive designed guitar that builds the tricks into an instrument a guitarist wouldn’t be caught dead playing.
Electric guitars almost all have one thing in common — some sort of lower bout cutaway for access to the upper frets. It’s there that the Guitar Wing lives.
Great, you’re thinking. All I need is more cables running to my guitar. But wait, says I, the Guitar Wing is completely wireless! You answer back, what voodoo is this? I continue the nonsense by saying that’s no voodoo, that be Bluetooth.
Bluetooth is the perfect solution for wireless MIDI transfer. While the protocol is just now getting fast enough for good quality audio streaming, MIDI is a series of instructions, comparatively very small amounts of information compared to the data produced by high quality audio sampling.
The Guitar Wing puts controllers capable of producing MIDI CC data onto a device that clamps safely onto the bout cutaway, perfectly placed for manipulation by the picking hand.
In that space there are 18 controllers. As well as trigger pads — which are velocity and pressure sensitive with aftertouch — three touch strips give a tactile response with movement that emulates pitch bend and warping sounds. There are other assignable function buttons, but the great fun comes from the onboard accelerometer. It outputs MIDI control messages based on how you move your guitar around in three-dimensional space.
Priced under $150, the Guitar Wing gives guitarists an affordable control surface that provides similar function to desktop DAW performance controllers.
If the Borg from the Star Trek universe throw together a band, the guitarist will have a Guitar Wing. It does look like an alien technology grafted onto a conventional guitar. Since it’s a MIDI controller, it doesn’t interact with the guitar on the guitar itself, it’s merely serving as a guitarist-accessible MIDI controller. If you’d strapped something like a Korg nanoPad to a guitar, you’d have a similar proposition.
However, there are even more basic uses for the Guitar Wing. When you’re laying down guitar tracks in the studio, reaching over a guitar or bass can get distracting. I’ve knocked over drinks, plonked video monitors and come close to poking holes in speakers. Mapping transport control to, say, the four rectangular buttons on the Guitar Wing puts these functions under wireless remote control. That alone almost justifies the price, removing the slavish DAW control of mouse and keyboard.
The Guitar Wing can certainly set up to control effects for the guitar, and that has appeal to many players, but really that’s just scratching the surface. What intrigues me the most is the potential for controlling accompaniment. Recording and playing over tracks is fine, but for me, I find it somewhat lifeless. Of course my hands are too busy on the guitar to reach and tweak tracks in real time, giving them some life.
However, when I can now tap a round performance pad, those tracks need not be so stale. The quick and dirty thought that occurs to me is a backing track made of bass, drums, percussion and keyboard parts. Imagine tapping a trigger, and a shaker and tambourine beat start up. Eight bars in, tap the trigger for bass. Later, add the keys and drums. Drop parts out, or, using the trigger sensitivities, tap lightly and drums come in quietly, giving dynamics where before there was only what was recorded, every time. All the while guitar parts are played live over top.
The possibilities are limited by imagination. This is a very interesting concept in musical control from the body of a guitar.
The build of the Livid Guitar Wing is in keeping with other MIDI performance controllers. There’s a lot more rubber here, because the device fits almost all electric guitars universally and without modifying or damaging the instrument.
There are some concerns in user reviews about the response of some of the controls on the device. During testing, none were experienced, not after a few minutes familiarizing with the controls. There are plenty of videos on YouTube, both from Livid and from independent users demonstrating some quite dextrous use of the Guitar Wing.
Given the tone of the users leaving negative reviews, I suspect that the issue has to do with their ability to play with the Guitar Wing and an expression of frustration. Lack of imagination meets instant gratification. Rather than practice, let’s write a scathing review.
Contrast that with positive users and you read “cool,” “fun,” and “useful.” A reasonable complaint in a 5-star review wishes for better pressure sensitivity. Another user notes that hooking the Guitar Wing to MIDI capable devices without a computer middle-man works just fine. There aren’t a lot of reviews, which is unfortunate, since this could be a great way to distribute and grow ideas for using the Guitar Wing.
The Livid Guitar Wing MIDI Performance Controller is a cool tool at a great price. Really, only the ACPAD for acoustic guitars does anything similar, and it’s three times the price and not available for retail sale. If you’re a guitarist looking for new ways to create sound, the Guitar Wing is a must-have.