Hi there! I’m an ex pop punker who lives in Nashville and demos songs for artists. I would like to make demoing easier s as be faster so is the artiphon for me? I have GarageBand on my iPad and MacBook, I write primarily radio country now but still love to go back to my roots sometimes as well. Can this thing really give me what I need?(banjo, bass, drums, all authentic sounding) but also gives me distorted power chords and a p bass feel in my my songs as well? The videos look amazing I’m just hesitant to pull the trigger. Thanks.
Ordinarily I’d say go for it; it’s an absolutely amazing device and anyone with any kind of music-making interest should have it in their life, especially if they’re coming from any sort of guitar background. But in this case I think you’re right to hesitate; emulating existing instruments closely and authentically isn’t really what the I1 does, and acoustic guitar sounds are almost impossible to get to sound remotely plausible (not just on the I1, but on anything).
Like other guitar-style controllers, but slightly more so, the I1 is okay for strumming and genuinely, jaw-droppingly brilliant at tapping, but a world of pain for any kind of picking; the rubber bridge triggers are capable of some serious expressive effects, but they’re not strings, don’t feel like strings, and don’t respond like strings, and any moderately competent fingerstyle or plectrum player will only find them maddening. If you want something you can play like a banjo using your existing banjo skills and which will sound like you playing a banjo, it doesn’t (yet) exist and the I1 certainly isn’t it. The only types of plucked instrument it can emulate at all realistically are hollowbody jazz and electric blues/rock guitar, and those only for solo lines and only in tap mode, where you can play blisteringly fast and expressively with note bends in particular actually easier to play than they are on real strings. Slide sounds can also be good, though I’m not a slide guitarist and so not really a judge of how satisfactorily the I1 lets me do what I’d want to do on a real instrument; likewise bass, where I really like it with something like the ROLI Double Bass and Bow patch in Noise and Equator, but suspect a real bass player (upright or guitar) might be more scornful.
Don’t let any of that put you off; it’s still an incredible device and will find its place in your musical life, quite possibly somewhere you never knew existed. For any guitarist with the slightest interest in synthesised sounds, it’s an absolute gift from the gods, and its tap capabilities are just extraordinary. And it’s only fair to say that some people really like it for fingerstyle accompaniment and manage to work with the limitations of the bridge triggers much better than I can – and that I’m not a banjo player, and you may well find it responds better to banjo technique than it does to guitar picking. (It certainly sounds cool with a banjo sound in auto-pick mode.) But as has often been said, it’s a new instrument and its own thing rather than an emulator of old ones, and the search for a guitar controller that actual guitarists, particularly acoustic guitarists, can play without throwing it across the room still remains something of a grail quest. What it will do is take your existing instrument skills, particularly your fingerboard technique, to places and sounds you never imagined existing. But it’s best to think of it as the beginning of a new journey rather than the destination of a current one.
I would try before you buy. Instrument 1 is a MIDI controller. The library of sounds you have access to will be the sample and instrument libraries you have on your computer, tablet or phone.
If you are making quick demos on GarageBand it really depends what your aiming for. Some people might track a keyboard bass part that will be played on an album or live with a real bass for example. I’m not sure that Instrument 1 could “replace” a guitar, banjo or drum kit any more than GarageBand can replace ProTools.
Instrument 1 can be inspiration in an of itself but that is because it’s different. You can save patches for different playing styles or tunings. Play it more like a keyboard or drum pad than a guitar. While it has a guitar look it has equally sized frets and wider fret board than some players are used to. For some that is daunting.
If you have access to acoustic instruments and microphones the Instrument 1 could be another tool in GarageBand. If you are looking to completely replace everything acoustic with a software sounds that is tricky. Whether Instrument 1 fits the bill depends on your expectations. In my opinion it’s fairly hard to perfectly emulate but it depends on the song. I’ve seen keyboard players mimic guitar techniques. Composing in software allows for post editing unlike live shows. As Nick notes, some guitar techniques don’t translate perfectly to Instrument 1. Whether any to differences to physical instruments are “deal breakers” or points of inspiration depends on you. For myself I like Instrument 1 as an addIon to my quiver of guitar and other midi controllers.
Hi Bryan. Thanks for your post. Under normal circumstances we’d invite you to the office in Nashville for you to try it out. Sadly, that’s not much of an option at the moment. I do disagree with Nick a bit on the question of finger picking (I find that to be the main way I play it, and I come from a guitar and lapsteel background) but I agree that the playing experience is unique. Let us know if you have more questions that we can help with. You can shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Best!
Yeah. This is a very thorough answer. I agree with all that Nick says as I have been using my A1 for a couple of years. It is not a stringed instrument. Try it before you buy it. It is more portable than a keyboard and works very well with a Mac, PC or smartphone. Its speakers are built in wonders in themselves. The quality of software you use will make a big difference to the needs you have. For example, I use Kontakt 6 and Joshua Bell violin samples that are amazing.
Let us know what you decide and how you make out with an A1 if you try one.