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Getting Started Instructions

Setting up software

From the downloads page select the software for you system. Once downloaded follow the onscreen instructions to complete the install of both Xtractor and Analyser.

Setting up hardware

All you need in order to learn with Gigajam is an instrument and your computer. The two do not have to be connected. Xtractor can be used to play along with and the course can be read and worked through step by step.

However, if you want to use the recording features and feedback of Xtractor/Analyser then you will need a MIDI instrument and a MIDI interface to connect your instrument to your computer.

If you do not have MIDI then just jump to the Beginning to Learn section.

MIDI Keyboards

Nowadays, most electronic keyboards are MIDI enabled. Look for sockets like these on the back.

GM Midi Logo
MIDI IN and OUT sockets.

Often, you will also see this logo on your keyboard somewhere.

GM Midi Logo
GM MIDI logo

MIDI Drums

The same goes for electronic drums as for keyboards, look for the same sockets and logos.

Acoustic drums can produce MIDI with the addition of drum triggers; small microphones that connect to each drum and then into some hardware that turns the drum hits into midi data.

MIDI Guitar and Bass

Unlike keyboard and drums, your average electric guitar or bass does not have MIDI capability.

MIDI has to be added to a guitar. This is usually achieved through the addition of an extra pickup: a six-way pickup that generates a separate signal for each string. These six signals are then fed into a box of electronics that converts the pitch of the signals into siz channels of MIDI data. These are often referred to as ‘pitch-to-MIDI converters’.

These solutions can be expensive. There is a cheaper alternative. The Yamaha EZ-AG guitar is a modern MIDI controller device.

Yamaha EZ-AG. Guitar MIDI Controller
Guitar MIDI Controller

Despite its unusual appearance, the EZ-AG plays and feels like a guitar. It has MIDI sockets and a synthesizer built in. It is the electronic keyboard equivalent of a guitar. There are some things you cannot do with this instrument, such as bend strings. However, it is a great platform to start learning on. It also works better with MIDI than the pitch-to-MIDI solutions.

Setting up your MIDI Interface

Modern MIDI interfaces tend to be USB based devices, the usually look a bit like this.

Image of the USB MIDI interface
USB MIDI interface

They consist of a USB plug for the computer, two MIDI plugs for the instrument, and a box in the middle of the cable containing the hardware.

Get the latest drivers from your manufacturer and follow their instructions for installation. For some interfaces this is just a matter of plugging in the USB and letting your computer automatically recognise it.

Next, plug the interface into your instrument. Make sure that all the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ are connected properly. MIDI is a two way street, each device will send data out of its ‘MIDI OUT’ and listen for data on its ‘MIDI IN’.

Think of it as a river-like flow of data. Connect the MIDI OUT of your instrument to the MIDI IN of your computer and the MIDI OUT of the computer to the MIDI IN of the instrument.

Testing your MIDI setup

First, make sure that on your instrument you turn ON the ‘External Clock’ (sometimes this might be referenced as turning OFF the ‘Internal Clock’). Search for either of these things in your instrument’s manual and follow the instructions there. It is usually a simple menu choice somewhere or a combination of buttons.

Once that is done, load the Xtractor of your choice. It'll look like this, or similar if you chose something other than guitar.

Guitar Xtractor
Guitar Xtractor

Click the button in the bottom right, as marked on the picture. You will now have an expanded Xtractor.

Expanded picture of Xtractor

Now right down at the bottom is "Your performance" and a little volume meter. Play your instrument and if everything is working the bar graph will light up.

You might not hear what you play though. Click the setup button and select where Xtractor should send its MIDI output.

MIDI out settings

You should usually select the interface that you have plugged the instrument into so that the backing band goes back to the instrument and plays with its voices.

If your guitar is connected with a pitch-to-MIDI solution then you will have no GM MIDI voices on the hardware. You will have to use another MIDI device for playback. Your system may have a built in device such as Microsoft GS Wavetable or Quicktime MIDI. On the Apple Mac, Quicktime works well with no noticeable latency. On a Windows PC, a soundcard that supports General MIDI is required as the Microsoft GS Wavetable Synth produces too much audible latency for playingalong and accurate analysis.

Beginning a lesson

Reading the lesson

Go to the first lesson on the website. Read through the notes carefully. If you wish to, you can listen to the notes by clicking the play button next to each paragraph.

Playing along

Sooner or later you will come to a practice session such as this one.

Practice Session
Practice session

We recommend you watch the video first, you will then see and hear exactly what it is you will be doing.

Once you have watched the video, click the Xtractor button. Your browser will download a small file and open Xtractor. Click play in Xtractor and play along.

When you are happy with your performance and want to know how well you are doing then move on to recording (if you have a MIDI enabled instrument connected to your computer).

Recording your practice performance

Click the record button in Xtractor and play the exercise.

When you are finished, click the Analyser button  This graphical analysis will show:

  • Top line: What you should have played.
  • Bottom line: What you did play (with coloured feedback for how well you did).

At the bottom of the analysis is your total percentage score.

An example Analyser screen

Improving your performance

Close Analyser, rewind Xtractor, hit record and try again. Practise to improve on the points highlighted by the analysis.

When you are done – analyse again.

Repeat this process to improve your performance. When you are happy with your result you can save it for evidence and move onto the next part of the lesson.

Final thoughts

If you have any specific problems then see the support section.