Pix & Stix bring real-world guitar picks and drumsticks to GarageBand

These rubberized accessories promise to amp up the fun you can have playing music on your iPad -- but they're still no substitute for the real thing.

Pix & Stix: An iPad-friendly guitar pick and pair of drumsticks.
Pix & Stix: An iPad-friendly guitar pick and pair of drumsticks. Studio Proper

Apple's GarageBand gives wanna-be and real-world musicians alike the instruments they need to make music on an iPad. But when it comes to drums and guitar, there's something lost in translation; your fingertips just don't measure up to the feel of drumsticks and a guitar pick.

Of course, the real deal won't work on an iPad's screen; wood and plastic aren't conductive materials, so their taps and strums will go unrecognized.

Enter Pix & Stix, which give you a rubberized, conductive guitar pick and pair of drumsticks. (Slogan idea: "For those about to rock, we equip you.")

Though designed with GarageBand in mind, Pix & Stix will work with any guitar or drum app. I tested them with an assortment and got the same mixed results.

Let's start with the Stix -- er, sticks. They're shorter and lighter than a traditional pair, though substantial enough that you can get a good grip and really go to town.

Also, because they're made of rubber, there's little risk of damaging your iPad's screen.

Whether you know your way around a drum kit or not, it's a lot of fun to beat on GarageBand with sticks instead of fingers. That said, the sound produced by the tips striking the screen tends to drown out -- or at least compete with -- the sound produced by the digital drums and cymbals. To really get the most from the experience, you'll want to plug in some amplified speakers.

As for the pick, it's actually larger and heavier than the average plastic pick. And although it's very comfortable to hold, in my tests it simply didn't work well. Scraping or tapping a rubber triangle along the iPad's screen just doesn't match the experience of picking a string, which requires a light touch. Here, the notes I struck didn't register unless I put some extra force on the pick.

I think most musicians, amateur and pro alike, will prefer to strum with their thumbs or fingertips. Whereas the drumsticks offer simple, engaging fun, the pick is just frustrating.

Consequently, I suspect the Pix & Stix will be a hard sell at $29.95. On the other hand, for any drummer looking to take GarageBand to the next level, or any parents hoping to encourage their kids' musicality without spending a fortune on a drum kit, this might be an ideal accessory. Your thoughts?

 

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