Cool new toy--Casio MG510 MIDI guitar! - Jemsite
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-15-2003, 10:31 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Cincinnati, OH USA
Posts: 1,357
Cool new toy--Casio MG510 MIDI guitar!

OK, now I know some of you are already thinking... "Brent's lost his mind. How could the company made famous for the SK-1 sampling keyboard acutally produce a cool guitar?"

Dead serious, though, this is actually a decent guitar. I've been looking for a strat-knockoff for a while so I could install EMG's and a Roland hex pickup in it. I found this Casio for sale pretty cheap, played it for a few minutes, and decided it was worth wrapping up. The MG510 model basically looks like a black strat with a black pickguard, black pickups, black hardware, etc.

The basic specs:
- basswood body
- ebony fretboard, 22 frets
- vintage trem, graphite nut
- passive H/S/S configuration, volume, tone, 5-way switch, coil-tap switch
- made in Japan, in the Fuji Gen Gakki factory

The MIDI implementation is really cool. Instead of having the Roland-type 13-pin connector, it's got a standard MIDI 5-pin connector, so it can be plugged directly into a synth, computer, or sound module. Like the Roland, it's got a knob for MIDI volume and a switch for guitar/MIDI/both output. In addition, it's got a built-in tuner (sweet!), octave up/down switch, and chromatic/normal switch (basically determines whether bending strings & sliding sends a MIDI pitch bend signal or not). Finally, the "program change" mode allows you to switch presets on your MIDI device by turning the volume knob OR fretting any note on the fretboard. Has individual trim pots to control the output level of each string and a series of DIP switches for various MIDI configuration (channel setting, etc). The MIDI electronics are powered by a battery pack consisting of 6 AA batteries, or can be powered by a 9V wall wart.

My overall assessment: Pretty cool for a 15+ year old MIDI guitar. Tracking isn't quite as good as the Roland MIDI gear, but it's a lot simpler and less expensive, so my expectations weren't too high. The guitar has a nice feel to it. The stock pickups are decent--the single coils sound good, humbucker is a little flat but no worse than most modern day stock pickups. Overall, the build quality and innovative MIDI implementation makes it well worth the generally low price on the used market. If you see one for sale and are interested in MIDI guitar, it's a much cheaper way to "get your feet wet" and doesn't require drilling holes in one of your current axes to install the Roland MIDI pickup. Even if the MIDI implementation totally sucked, it'd still be worth it as a strat knock-off!

Next steps for me: I just got an EMG 89/SA/SA set, which I'm going to use to replace the stock pickups. I'm also thinking about rewiring it to run on MIDI phantom power so I won't have to use all the AA batteries or have a wall wart running into the guitar. I've even debated replacing the vintage trem with a Wilkinson and adding locking tuners, but I'm not yet sure if the extra $$ spent will really bring that much benefit.

A little more info on the guitar is available here:

Pics of mine coming soon!

bduersch is offline  
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-18-2003, 11:29 PM Thread Starter
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Location: Cincinnati, OH USA
Posts: 1,357
Got some time to snap a few pics today...

Here's the front of the guitar. Note the major "black" theme:

Up close you can really tell how badly I need to polish it!

Here's a close-up of the MIDI controls:

I did a little setup and tweaking of the hex pickup sensitivity over the weekend, and I'm now getting better results with tracking of notes. For the money, this has been a heck of a guitar!

bduersch is offline  
post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-27-2003, 10:26 PM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 34
What's next a guitar that can play itself? hehe very cool
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-28-2003, 12:19 AM
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Location: DFW, Texas
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Pretty cool...glad you stumbled on a cool new venue for tone. I've been thinking about some type of guitar synth myself...may have to look into one of these.
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-28-2003, 09:41 AM Thread Starter
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Location: Cincinnati, OH USA
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I haven't gotten much play time on it recently... I took it apart for a pickup upgrade (got an EMG 89/SA/SA set with the SPC & EXG tone pots that are in the Gilmour pickguard) and it's turned into a pretty major project--there are 3 internal circuit boards, and somehow the guitar pickup signal gets routed through them to the output jack. Since the EMG's have a special jack, it's taken me longer than expected to trace the guitar signal through the circuits!

I'm sure this will be worth it when it's done, but it's in so many pieces right now I don't know if I'll ever get it back together!

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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-29-2003, 05:55 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: South East England
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I don't understand how it works, I thought MIDI was digital, but a guitar isn't? Could someone enlighten me here.
sanitarium is offline  
post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 10-28-2003, 09:37 AM
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How is the guitar signal modified : through a keyboard or through a pad bank (like the Roland GR 33) ?
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 10-28-2003, 10:16 AM
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The guitar signal is converted from pitch to a MIDI signal within the guitar itself. It uses a special hexaphonic pickup (separate pickup for each string) and translates the string's pitch information into digital note numbers, which then get sent to a synth via MIDI.
darren wilson is offline  
post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 10-28-2003, 01:16 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by sanitarium
I don't understand how it works, I thought MIDI was digital, but a guitar isn't? Could someone enlighten me here.
A guitar, with traditional pickups, sends an analog signal.

A MIDI guitar sends a digital signal (which is later translated into an analog signal). In the case of the Casio, it sends the digital signal to a synth module (in my Korg Triton), which converts the digital signal into analog.

bduersch is offline  

basswood body , black pickguard , black pickups , ebony fretboard , graphite nut , locking tuners , vintage trem

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