Product Reviews

Learn Guitar with Jamstik+

James Bruce 08-03-2016

Before I tell you about this device, I should note that a month ago I had never picked up a guitar in my life. I didn’t even know what a fret was.


By practicing a couple of nights a week for the past month, I’ve got from zero guitar playing ability, to something I’m at least reasonably impressed with, and I’m confident I’ll get better as I practice even more. More importantly, I’m having a ridiculous amount of fun as I learn. That’s the power of the Jamstik+. Will it work for you too?


Although the Jamstik+ looks like a plastic gimmick at first glance, it really isn’t. These are real guitar strings, it weighs a lot more than you’d expect (though not as much as a real guitar), and you’ll actually be learning how to play a guitar when you learn with the Jamstik+. It’s really the essence of a electric guitar, condensed down into a tiny portable package.

Zivix Jamstik+ Zivix Jamstik+ Buy Now On Amazon $299.99

I feel wrong even comparing this to something like Guitar Hero accessories, because it’s absolutely nothing like them, but I’m sure someone is thinking “why is this any different to those games on the XBox”, so let’s address that point now. While the likes of Guitar Hero uses a guitar shaped controller, with buttons that are skeumorphically placed to look like the real thing, and sounds like the real thing if you time it right, fundamentally they have nothing in common with actually playing a guitar. The Jamstik+ however, does. If you learn to play on the Jamstik+, you’ll be able to play a “real” guitar too.

jamstik review - box


On the technical side of things, the Jamstik+ is a MIDI guitar controller which connects over Bluetooth or USB to software running on iOS, Mac or PC (though the first party software is only available for iOS and Mac). There’s no audio output, so you can’t connect it directly to an amplifier  it needs the software layer in the middle in order to produce a sound. This does however have the advantage that you can change the sound in software; whether you prefer a classical guitar or something dirty and electric, this can be changed on the fly using the keypad on top. This also gives you quick access buttons to progress in the levels or repeat the current song.

Since it’s a standard MIDI controller, you can also use the Jamstik+ with a huge range of third party software out there, include the popular GarageBand by Apple, or other pro tools.

jamstik review - pad on top

In terms of MIDI guitar controllers, it’s averagely priced, though I’m unable to find any others that operate wirelessly over Bluetooth, and there certainly aren’t any other portable options.


The smaller size does come with limitations though, and astute readers will notice the Jamstik+ only has 5 frets, compared to 19 or more that you might find on a full-size guitar. Apart from that obviously being fewer, I’m not qualified to state if that matters or not, so I’ll defer to the manufacturers on this point in their FAQ:

When learning guitar for the first time, it is important to get to know the chords that can be made in the first five frets. There are tens of thousands of songs that only use the first five frets. Within the first five frets, you can also learn movable “barre chords” that can be applied to the entire guitar neck.

Also in the box is a micro USB cable, and two picks.

jamstik review - overview


Connection to my iPad (3rd gen) was easy: I hit the power switch on the guitar and booted up the basic Jamstik+ app. It was listed in the devices tab, and connected immediately. There was an initial firmware update, but this consisted of clicking the firmware update button, then waiting 5 minutes. For anyone that’s ever faffed around with Bluetooth devices and firmware updates, you’ll shocked at why everything can’t just be this easy. I was up and running within 10 minutes of opening the box.


jamstik review - playing

Only mildly annoying is the fact that it doesn’t auto-connect when you turn it back on again. Each time you open the app to practice or learn, you need to re-select the Jamstik from the devices menu.


A number of first party apps are available to download, as well as countless third party apps which work with any standard MIDI controller (such as Apple’s Garageband).

jamtutor lesson


JamTutor is where you’ll spend most of your time learning. It consists of a series of lessons (with video tutorials) that start from absolute zero, as well as an arcade mode, which resembles a slightly less polished but far more difficult version of the classic Guitar Hero and Rock Band games.

jamtutor arcade

Within a few minutes you’ll be rocking out in your first arcade mode game of plucking single strings – and it’s immensely satisfying. I’ll admit right now to having played that level ten times before moving onto the next lessons. Difficulty seems to ramp up quickly, so I’d advise you to master each lesson before moving on (such as quickly switching between the E and A chords). Of course, there’s nothing to stop you supplementing your learning with some helpful YouTube tutorials too – anything there will be transferable to the Jamstik+.

JamMix is an unstructured creative application, featuring loops, smart chords and lots of other fun musical stuff. A separate application named simply JamStik+ is the official companion app, to be used as a testing tool and reference guide, with helpful diagram of chords and scales. Pro users can also adjust the octave that the 5 frets represent.


I should also note that the apps are available in beta for Mac, though as yet not for Android or Windows. The Jamstik+ can still be connected to Windows and used as a MIDI controller.

A quick word on latency: there isn’t any. Not enough for it to be discernible by myself, anyway. This was a common complaint of the original Jamstik, but appears to have been completely eradicated in the updated Jamstik+.

Should You Buy a Jamstik+?

The Jamstik is aimed at two audiences: those looking for a light, portable MIDI-guitar for practice while travelling and creativity; and complete beginners. Clearly, I fall into the latter category, and while I won’t pretend to know anything about what a professional guitar player might look for in a MIDI-controller, I can confidently say there’s nothing like the Jamstik+ on the market. It’s light, it’s portable, and it’ll get you jammin’ with nothing more than an iPad. If that’s what you’re in need of, look no further.

jamstik review - strings

For complete beginners, the learning process of the Jamtutor software combined with the Jamstik+ is a powerful experience. Gone are the days of expensive musical one-on-one tuition. I’m firmly of the belief that all teaching processes will eventually be replaced by a machine, and this shows exactly how good it can be.

However, we should put the price of the device into context with other, similar learning methods for beginners. The closest comparison would be the RockSmith software package How Rocksmith Can Help You Play Guitar Like a Pro It doesn't matter how long you've been playing the guitar for, you can always get better. Here's how Rocksmith can help even the most experienced players improve their skills. Read More , for PC or consoles, which has a similar learning interface and works with a regular sized real electric guitar, thanks to a USB adaptor cable. The software and cable bundle costs around $50. You can also buy a full size electric guitar and amp set from Amazon for as little as $100, putting the grand total at around $150 for a beginner looking to learn how to play guitar. The Jamstik+ is nearly double that, so it’s a little hard to justify if your only intent is to use it for learning, especially since you’ll probably want to buy an actual guitar at some point too. The primary difference with other software solutions is that optical sensors underneath the fretboard detect precisely where your fingers are placed, so you can correct yourself immediately. In that respect, it’s better for the absolute beginner who wants an accelerated learning process; Rocksmith feels more suited to users who have at least a little to start with. The compact size of the Jamstik+ may also be beneficial to students or those living in studio apartments who just can’t justify a full size guitar.

You can buy the Jamstik+ on Amazon for $270 at the time of writing, or $330 direct from the manufacturers including a handy carry case.

You may also get your hands on an older version for $149.99 from our deals site.

Zivix Jamstik+ Zivix Jamstik+ Buy Now On Amazon $299.99

Our verdict of the Jamstik+:
A must-have for guitar pros looking for portability, and a great learning platform for beginners – just expect to shell out more for a real guitar once you’re addicted!
9 10

Send your products to be reviewed. Contact James Bruce for further details.

Related topics: GarageBand, Guitar, MakeUseOf Giveaway, MIDI.

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  1. Blaine Mandel
    July 6, 2017 at 8:45 pm

    Love to win one

    Nice article

  2. Stephen Tenhet
    April 12, 2016 at 7:27 pm

    Well, since this review, Jamstik+ is "supposed" to work with Android devices.

    They have a very small list of compatible devices using Android 6.0.1 that are supposed to have been tested for use with the Jamstik+.

    My Samsung Galaxy Note 5 has been updated to 6.0.1, but the Jamstik apps tell me my device is incompatible. Apparently something about the aspect ratio of my Samsung Galaxy Note 5 according to the Jamstik folks.

    The Nvidia Shield K1 is one of two tablets listed on their website as "confirmed" compatible. Unfortunately, the K1 does not (yet) support 6.0.1 - so despite their assurances the K1 will NOT work with the Jamstik+ apps. And, Nvidia has no idea when 6.0.1 will be available for that device.

    No word from Jamstik how/why they list this tablet as "confirmed to work" when clearly it will not. Whether or not the remaining 5-6 devices they list will work is unknown. So, iOS is still the only real option for Jamstik+ for the majority of would be customers.

    • Stephen Tenhet
      April 13, 2016 at 5:45 pm

      As of today April 13, 2016 - the jamstik folks got Nvidia to release update 1.2 for the Shield K1. This brings the shield up to 6.0.1. It should now work with the Jamstik apps!

      Great customer service from Jamstik.

  3. Anonymous
    April 4, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    so who won? o_O

  4. André Mendes
    March 31, 2016 at 10:52 pm

    Who won?!

  5. Anonymous
    March 28, 2016 at 7:52 am


  6. ran93r
    March 21, 2016 at 8:26 am

    Another vote for Rocksmith, as someone looking specifically to learn guitar, I would have a hard time recommending the Jamstik over Rocksmith to them.

    Still... nice controller all the same.

  7. Callum
    March 17, 2016 at 8:51 pm

    If you already have an electric guitar and want to learn how to use it, with the Playstation or Xbox and a special amp adapter you can play the game Rocksmith, which lets you play actual songs on an actual guitar through a Guitar Hero like game (but you're actually learning how to play the guitar). The 2014 version also features arcade games that can improve certain areas of your guitar playing (eg, skipping strings when plucking, playing loudly versus softly, etc). I'm pretty sure it's less than $100 given that you already have the videogame console and the guitar.

  8. Michal Chorowski
    March 15, 2016 at 10:04 am

    I need one :)

  9. Federico
    March 13, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    Always wanted to learn how to play guitar

  10. Jerry Fielden
    March 12, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    Sounds cool, cheers!

  11. Prabhath
    March 12, 2016 at 7:11 am

    Great stuff

  12. Anonymous
    March 12, 2016 at 5:02 am

    Yes, this sound easy and fun to do. I have always wanted to learn guitar. James explains it well and his words are believable. If it were a little less expensive or I had the cash I would get it.

  13. Ed Roth
    March 12, 2016 at 2:18 am

    This looks like a great time. Something to accompany my children when they play.

  14. Joan Susan
    March 11, 2016 at 11:21 pm

    There was no place to put that code for the Jamstik giveaway, anywhere on the whole page! Why bother to lie about it, or fool people?

  15. Doug A
    March 11, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    Looks promising. As a MIDI controller, it would be nice if a Windows version is made available at some point.

    Thanks for the review - it would be good to know if 5 frets is enough. I bought a 49-key keyboard MIDI controller a little while ago to try and learn piano, but after I bought it I found that most software recommends a minimum of 66 keys, so I had to upgrade.

    I guess the advantage of Rocksmith, as you noted, would be learning on a full size guitar, but portability certainly lets you take it more places, and it could be a great conversation starter!

  16. Christian
    March 11, 2016 at 8:30 am

    Great stuff !! Thanks for the fair presentation that provides a clear guidance to know if appropriate !!! A small extract to see what level of playing you reached would have been helpful too!!!
    I may go for it, I <3 it !!

  17. Paul Ruff
    March 11, 2016 at 7:45 am

    I would give it to grandkid, hope she wins.

  18. WW
    March 11, 2016 at 5:49 am

    I've always wanted to learn to play the guitar. Jamstik could be the one thing that get me going... Really like the portability factor.

  19. Sam Parkes
    March 11, 2016 at 12:29 am

    I wants it!

  20. Anonymous
    March 11, 2016 at 12:29 am

    If you're looking to actually learn to play, Rocksmith would be a better deal, and unlike Jamstik you're not restricted to iOS devices. Rocksmith also takes into account left-handed players because that's all based on your guitar. If on he other hand you're looking for something to simply have fun with, Jamstik is a pretty expensive toy.

  21. Laura Randall
    March 9, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    Oh man, I've always wanted to play the guitar, but never have, this will definitely help me.
    Thank you for the chance to win.
    Good Luck everyone!

  22. Chris
    March 9, 2016 at 8:30 am

    You make no mention of left-handed players. Is there a left-hand mode?

    • James Bruce
      March 9, 2016 at 8:41 am

      Excellent point. No. Just like a real guitar, you would need a special model. They do however sell left handed models on their web shop.

  23. Anonymous
    March 9, 2016 at 7:56 am

    I don't know how you do it either. I think your entry is your post. A few years ago I decided I was going to learn to play and I was horrible but found great joy in it. Then went through some tough times with the economy and had to sell everything. I have been thinking about starting it up again. Maybe today is the day.

    • James Bruce
      March 9, 2016 at 8:05 am

      Enter using the widget at the end of the review. If you cant see it, please disable adblockers or privacy related plugins.

  24. Scott Greene
    March 8, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    What did that say giveaway? How to I get registered to win? I just started following this blog yesterday and love it, how do you pick giveaways? If like to win a way to start learning to play the guitar

    • James Bruce
      March 9, 2016 at 8:05 am

      Enter using the widget at the end of the review. If you cant see it, please disable adblockers or privacy related plugins.