At NAMM a few years ago, the brilliant controllerist Matt Moldover demoed a guitar he had designed with a slew of MIDI control pads, switches, and touch faders. This Robocaster guitar was to be available through Visionary Instruments as a custom build for a hefty price tag.
Last year’s NAMM revealed the Guitar Wing, developed by Moldover with Livid Instruments —a way to add those pads, switches, and touch faders to almost any guitar at a thoroughly affordable price of $189.00 (street).
The Guitar Wing is a MIDI control surface designed for guitar and bass players. It attaches to any electric guitar or bass and communicates wirelessly to computers, or to USB-MIDI hosts for use with hardware like Axe-FX or Eventide pedals. A class compliant MIDI device, it doesn’t require drivers to work as a controller for Ableton, Garage Band, Logic, Pro Tools, Guitar Rig, Reason, and many others—templates are available for many of these platforms. The Livid site provides a Guitar Wing Integration Guide for project templates, setup instructions, and other resources.
If all you have is a computer but no software, you can still use the Wing with the Wing FX effects plugin, featuring pitch shifting, filters, autochop, reverb, delay and distortion as a standalone application. If you do have a DAW, you can use Guitar FX as a plug-in within the DAW.
Guitar Wing features four large pressure-sensitive circular Pads that send MIDI note and CC aftertouch messages. A smaller pad on the end of the lower guitar bout turns on the Motion Control accelerometer. A long Touch Fader sends note on/off when touched and CC messages as your finger moves along it. A Dual Touch Fader at the top acts as two faders, each sending note on/off and CC messages. Four Function Buttons, the two triangular Direction Buttons, and the four Side Buttons each send note on/off messages when pressed. A USB charger cable lets you charge the Wing after about eight hours of use.
I unboxed the Guitar Wing and got it running pretty quickly. It fit easily and solidly on my Fernandes Strat, and came off easily as well any time I wanted to revert to stock. It won’t fit on your ES 175 but, with its adjustable angle hardware, most Strat, Tele, and Les Paul shapes should accommodate it.
Ableton Live immediately recognized it as a controller. Using Live’s MIDI learn function, I quickly had the first two Pads turning my overdrive and fuzz plug-ins on and off. I set the third pad to turn on Live’s Autopan, which I had set up as a choppy Tremolo; I set it to latch, but you can set it to momentary as well. I used the Touch Fader to control the Rate of the Autopan. Getting the latter to happen was a bit tricky. When you initially press the Touch Fader it defaults to note on/off. To get it to only send CC messages requires touching it, and then simultaneously touching another function Pad or Button, as demoed in the video below.
A software editor will be coming soon, which will allow you to program the Pads and Touch Faders to do on/off, CC, or both. Still, once I mastered the double touch method it was easy enough to program the Pads and Touch controllers to do Note, CC or both. I was able to program Pad four to turn on the Live Frequency Shifter plug-in and also adjust the frequency with pressure (see my video below) for some really cool effects.
I set two of the four Side Buttons to turn on Live’s Reverb and Filter Delay, and one of them to turn on a Tal Dub tape delay emulator. I used the Dual Touch Fader to adjust the Tal Dub’s delay length and frequency. I then set up the Motion Control accelerometer to adjust the Tal Dub’s feedback so I could do runaway feedback effects while changing the delay length and frequency. I set up one of the four Function Buttons to turn on a drum loop, a second one to operate the record/overdub/play button of Live’s Looper, and a third to clear the loop. I was amazed that the Wing immediately operated Live’s Looper, since with the Keith McMillen SoftStep it had required a separate type of programming from the usual on/off switch setup to work.
The only problem arose when I shut Wing off and tried to reconnect it. Unlike some other wireless USB gear—Hot Hand for example— Guitar Wing requires that you disconnect the USB stick and plug it back in so that it will look for a connection before turning on the Guitar Wing. It can take more than a couple of seconds to connect, which led to some confusion that was cleared up with the help of the Livid folks.
Once it was all set up, I marveled at the ergonomic brilliance of the Wing. I have been using a Korg nanoKontrol, Source Audio Hot Hand, and Keith McMillen’s SoftStep, for many of these same functions, and they all work quite well, but the Wing offers the freedom to move around, without being tied to a foot or tabletop controller, or having to move my right hand far from the strings. It also affords the potential to either eliminate the other three from my setup, or greatly enhance my control capability by adding one or more to the Wing.
We are lucky that the talented guitarist and controller whiz that is Moldover teamed up with Livid, a company highly experienced in the field of USB control, to create this potential game changer in the world of modern guitar performance. The Guitar Wing is a Guitar Moderne Great Gear winner for sure.