Guitar Wing puts wireless expressive control within reach
By Paul Ridden
January 24, 2014
For guitarists who like to experiment, digital signal processing technology has opened up whole new worlds of tonal exploration and control. Unlocking the parameters, effects and features in computer-based software while playing can be a cumbersome affair though, often involving some nifty tap dancing on multi-effects units like the G5 or stopping every so often to adjust the settings on a tabletop MIDI controller. The Guitar Wing from Livid Instruments attaches to the instrument itself and offers wireless function control of software plug-ins, Digital Audio Workstations (DAW), iOS apps, MIDI effects and so on, all within reach of the picking hand and available while playing.
Livid Instruments has spent the last 12 months or so designing the Guitar Wing alongside controllerist pioneer Moldover, with input and assistance from Living Colour's Vernon Reid. After testing and refining numerous prototypes, the pre-production design includes five pressure-sensitive pads, three touch faders, six function buttons and four select switches.
It has a built-in accelerometer, RGB LED button backlighting and status indicators, a TI processor at its heart and is powered by a Li-ion battery that's charged via USB. Specifics about onboard memory (for saving presets and the like) are yet to be determined, but the Guitar Wing will come with a software-based Wing Editor application for tweaking parameters and settings.
The adjustable device clamp and grip can be secured to and detached from the lower horn of an electric or bass guitar's body. Obviously, if your chosen gitfiddle is a Flying V, a Gittler or something that Prince might strap around his neck, then ideal placement could be an issue.
"We thought a lot about the Guitar Wing design and wanted to make something that fit most electric guitars," Livid's Mike Fratamico tells us. "It has an adjustable arm so it can be modified to fit almost anything with a horn. Obviously there are a few guitars it just won't work on, flying V being one of them, as well as acoustic. We had to balance design with universality, we didn't want to design something that worked for every situation but didn't look great on your guitar."
The Guitar Wing class-compliant MIDI controller wirelessly connects over Bluetooth LE to an included USB MIDI dongle, which promises driver-free operation when plugged into a computer. Livid says that players can integrate the expressive wireless controller with almost any music creation software to tweak effects on the fly, take control of recording sessions from the instrument, trigger samples, effects and loops, and generate new sounds.
The device also includes the WingFX plug-in virtual effects rack, which can serve as a standalone application for Windows or Mac machines, or as a VST/AU plug-in for a favored DAW. The software allows users to choose from a number of stomp-style digital effects, puts pitch shifting or wah at your fingertips, can trigger music samples in formats such as WAV, MP3 and AIFF. It has a built-in tuner, too, and can even be used to program the LEDs for an on-instrument light show.
Livid Instruments has launched on Kickstarter to bring the Guitar Wing into production. Early support has been strong, but there are still some early bird single device packages available at the time of writing for US$149. The expected retail price is $199, and if the project gets funded, shipping is estimated to start in April. The designers are also making the Guitar Wing SDK available for developers to add more functionality to the platform.
"We think there is a big market for these kinds of devices and this is just our first model," says Fratamico. "We plan on having multiple modes for multiple styles and instruments. We promise we won't leave lefty's out too."
The Kickstarter pitch video is shown below.