G2m miDi Converter
and John McLaughlin aside). But the boom in
home recording means more and more players
are using an audio-to-MIDI converter in their
studios, where less-than-perfect technique is
not as much of an issue.
I have a Graph Tech Ghost hexaphonic
pickup system in one of my instruments and
have used Roland and Axon converters that
both perform admirably despite my own
technical limitations. Still, I often find myself
reluctant to deal with the complexity of this
technology. That learning curve, combined
with my infrequent synthesizer needs, usually leads me to fall back on my meager
The Sonuus could lead many users back to
the synth guitar technology just by virtue of
how easy it is to use. The G2M’s solid plastic
case is smaller than an iPhone, though somewhat thicker. And basic operation couldn’t be
simpler: Plug any electric guitar into one end
and a MIDI cable into the other, then jack
into your chosen MIDI device and go—no
hexaphonic pickup is required.
A green power light indicates the onboard
9-volt battery is supplying juice. The power
light also functions as a tuner, blinking more
slowly as you approach the correct note.
You’ll need to start with the string fairly close
to pitch, but tuning is very accurate. And it’s
a welcome addition given how essential correct pitch is for accurate tracking.
A red LED lets you know when battery
power is getting low, and another red Clip
light tells you if the instrument signal is too
hot, which can also adversely affect accurate
tracking. A Boost switch next to the 1/4"
instrument input supplies extra power to
low-output pickups, and a 1/4" Thru output
sends your instrument’s audio signal wherever you choose (for instance, to an amp or
mixer). The G2M also supplies 5-volt power
to MIDI devices that require it.
I plugged a Fender Stratocaster into the
Sonuus unit and tested it by running a MIDI
cable out of the device and alternating
between two interfaces—an M-Audio Firewire
1814 interface and an M-Audio USB Midisport
Uno—that sent a MIDI channel into Ableton
Live software on my Mac. The Uno is a MIDI-only interface, but the 1814 allowed me to
run audio into a separate channel in Ableton
Live, which instantly recognized the incoming
MIDI data. With the flow of data intact, I tried
the converter with various software synthesizer plug-ins, and everything was easier from
the very beginning with the Sonuus.
For starters, the G2M has a unique way of
dealing with audio input level. In interfaces
that require a hexaphonic pickup, the instrument’s overall output is determined by the
pickup’s distance from the strings. Each of
the six separate string levels is then controlled within the converter. It is much simpler
with the G2M. I started with my guitar volume full up and the G2M’s boost switch off.
Finding that the tracking was not as accurate
as I’d hoped, I turned on the boost. The clip
LED then started coming on more than it
should, so I backed off the guitar volume a
bit. Once the light only flashed occasionally—
as recommended in the G2M’s delightfully
brief manual—the unit achieved a level equal
to, or better than, any converter I have tried
with a few simple adjustments.
Sliding into notes was still sometimes prob-
lematic, but vibrato and half- or whole-step
bends worked well. Even slight whammy-bar
dips tracked accurately, giving me more of
the expressive power we’re accustomed to as
guitarists. As with any converter, I found that
tracking varied greatly by synthesizer plug-
in—and there was still the typical variation
between patches within each plug-in. But the
G2M certainly gives you an advantage and
flexibility in coping with those variables.
Will the G2M track lightning-fast shredder
solos? That depends largely on how cleanly
you play. Being monophonic, the Sonuus
unit will sound glitchy if any note rings into
another note. Rather than thinking of this
as a flaw, you could simply practice picking
more accurately (which can only be a good
thing). And if you record the MIDI signal
you’re sending, you can easily go into that
track and fix any bum notes or bad timing,
as well as erase any falsely triggered notes.
One of the joys of MIDI, of course, is that
you can also replace the original sound with
any other MIDI instrument you choose.
I got around Sonuus’ other monophonic
limitations in some interesting ways.
Lengthening the release time of the synthesizer patch caused the first note I played to
keep going while I played the second, and
so on, allowing me to stack chord tones.
Many synths let me tune their multiple oscillators to different notes, thereby also creating chords.
Here’s another trick: I recorded an audio
Gmaj7 guitar chord and loaded its file into
a sampler. I was then able to trigger it via
MIDI with a single guitar note and change
the chord’s key as I played different notes.
Why not just play the different chords?
Because once the chord was loaded in the
sampler, I could manipulate the guitar sound
in ways that audio effects can’t (check out
the audio clip on the web).
Placing Live’s Arpeggiator plug-in in front of
various software synths, I was able to turn
one note into a rhythmic flurry of notes.
Using the Arpeggiatior’s hold function, I
could keep rhythmic parts playing while I
soloed over them. I enjoyed the fact that the
G2M let me solo with a synth tone blended
with a distorted guitar sound. This technique
disguised any latency in the synth tracking,
and it also hid the occasional mistakenly
MIDI offers guitarists used to—and perhaps
bored of—the standard guitar-pedal-amp