on April 1, 2011
First, my background with midi guitars: I've owned a Godin midi guitar along with the Axon midi guitar unit. I also use midi synths/interfaces such as Reason.
Pros: Lowest action possible on a guitar (there are no neck strings, the neck is virtually a keyboard with very sensitive 'string inlays' on the neck). The pitch bend and modulation switches work very well. The outputs are impressive: one 5pin midi out, a 1/4" out, headphones out, and usb. It interfaces flawlessly with Reason, the main sequencer I use, using either usb or midi connection. The onboard samples are actually much better than I thought they would be, especially some of the synths. I will address the latency as a separate topic from pros and cons. The software control panel is also very nice, similar to the Axon control panel for their unit. Virtually every variable is adjustable on this device and the developers seem to plan to keep opening up new bios features in future updates. Customer support is the best I've ever talked with. Setting up your guitar with the control panel is highly recommended as you will be optimizing it to respond to your style of playing by adjusting velocity tables, individual string sensitivities, etc. They sent me three different guitars to try (the first one I got had a dead panel). They paid for all the shipping and even called me once or twice. The customer support system online is also very nice, it keeps a running dialog between you and service reps via a forum post type of system. You can't say this company isn't dedicated to their patrons; they stand behind their work.
Cons: As some have noted, the instrument is plastic and light. I'm a bit circumspect on its robustness so I treat it cautiously. I doubt it would survive if dropped on a hard floor more than once but that is pure speculation. I do believe it will withstand lots of use though. I do not use this device as a videogame controller but as an interfacing tool for midi sequencers for composing. It can do alot of things other midi guitars will struggle with (rigorous chord strumming, tapping, etc) but like any midi guitar, it is NOT for replacing a real guitar. To that end, it is hard to nail down specific negatives about this kind of design because so many will have different expectations and needs. If anything goes wrong with the device, I will update this review in the future.
Now, for the latency questions. If you use the guitar by itself with no external sequencers, there will be no latency. Interfacing with externals is good but it needs to be clarified, as this is where users will probably experience variability between their setup and someone else's: first, any latency occurring when interfacing externals will be due to the external device processing the signal from the guitar (Wittsworld). What follows is my personal experience with my setup. By using the 5 pin midi out I had almost no latency. Specifically, it depends on what mode I used. Using the picking strings, I had in the range of 3-6ms, probably eliminated if you have a zero latency monitoring card. If you use TAP mode (just using the neck alone as an interface) then the latency is virtually eliminated. By using the usb connection, the latency was also very good. However, with usb, the string picking mode latency was noticeably higher compared to the 5 pin connection - but the TAP mode was still extremely low latency (I use usb and tap mode by default with no problems). The neck really is a nice piece of engineering and tap mode is really great. With string picking you can strum chords without glitching, unlike other midi guitars that rely on the original guitar design with strings running the full length of the guitar - which typically results in much more unpredictability when playing. Unrelated to the guitar, when using external sequencer samples, a few may have a delayed attack for effect (creates a perceived latency on the particular sample) that you normally can adjust/eliminate in whatever sequencer program you're using.
Last/random thoughts: As noted in the beginning, I've used quite expensive/elaborate midi guitar setups (~1500-2k usd). If what you want is a device to interface with midi sequencers without having to learn keyboard/piano then this is the ultimate device in my opinion. The latency is minimal and virtually non-existent at best and there is very little glitching to worry about due to the isolation of the neck and picking strings. For 10x less then an ideal midi guitar setup, it's hard to go wrong. It is a really amazing piece of hardware. Hopefully, they will stop with the videogame aspect altogether and just make this a pure midi guitar project. This review may seem full of adulations but there is no such thing as a perfect device - and this one is far from perfect. However, in the context of the midi guitar market, it is my most preferred option and, in my opinion, the best performing, best featured, and luckily most affordable, option on the market.
If I have missed anything, leave a comment.
on March 19, 2011
I got this guitar as a musician; not for gaming, so I can't speak to how it is for that. But, for MIDI tracking, this easily outperformed the Roland synth pickup that I attached to my Les Paul. However, it was nowhere near as good as the MIDI tracking on my Godin Jazz guitar. But, for the money, I think it's the best guitar synth out there.
You should be aware of its limitations.
1) Pull-offs are impossible
2) The tremelo bar action feels very cheap, though it is functional
3) You will have to adjust the tension on the strings
4) The presets are pretty weak, so you will be relying on external synth sounds.
5) The entire guitar is extremely light (all plastic) which makes for an odd playing experience.
on May 31, 2011
So, I write this as musician. I bought it thinking I may use it with RockBand but ended up using that thing for other stuff:
1. Travel guitar. Can't bit, light like hell, can be taken in two pieces, no tuning, just perfect for me.
2. Open tunings, no need to break strings, just tap a bios setting, you get any guitar tuning you want on it.
3. MIDI controller, for that it's a blast. I put things into BandinABox with it, use it for earmaster input and
it's unbeatable. The MIDI works very, very well.
4. Doings lots of work with little hand impact. No strings, no pressure on left hand, you can do pentatonic scales forever
and the sound is actually quite bearable. On top, you can put it into a mode and it will barf at you when
you are playing off-key. Now, that's cool.
5. Children first guitar: Avoiding the frustration of strings getting into little fingers. This was the only guitar
my daughter liked & learned to play few chords.
Now: is that a full guitar replacement, no way, the response on the strings is no match to real guitar, no matter how
well you tune the tension, response and such stuff.
No pull offs to open strings. If you play a fret, hammer-on another fret and pull-off the hammer, it works but when the
string is open, the pull-off does not work obviously, it cannot determine normal taking off the finger vs. pull-off. But
that's no biggie.
As to build quality: for that price it's excellent, about as sturdy as plastic can go. The fretboard is working extremely well.
So, generally a great device.
on February 21, 2012
The You Rock Guitar has an identity problem: It is (1) an alternative input device for playing Guitar Hero and similar games, (2) an easy-to-play beginner's guitar for learning basic chords and strums, with built-in correction for bad notes, and (3) a fairly sophisticated MIDI controller that allows guitarists to easily control hardware and software synthesizers. This creates problems right off the bat because of the radically different markets for these various products. I was interested only in the MIDI controller, and that is the aspect I will review here. But I have to say that, for an accomplished guitarist, buying a little plastic guitar in a box covered with pictures of happy children pretending to be rock stars was not easy. Even the name was hard to get past.
But get past I did, because this is a remarkably sophisticated device, especially given how inexpensive it is. As a MIDI controller, it is very close to being adequate for serious guitar work. The simulated strings on the neck -- which are really `buttons' in disguise -- work extremely well, and playing the YR feels very much like playing a real guitar with a very low action, making it quite easy to play. Similarly, the strings for the right hand feel just like the real thing and respond quite well to strumming.
Unfortunately, they are less successful in handling fast picking and finger-style playing, with occasional missed notes and loudness that varies unpredictably from note to note. There are numerous settings to fine-tune the guitar's sensitivity both overall and to each individual string, but I was never able to find a combination of settings that produced a consistent performance. I also found that the YR was unable to keep up with fast picking, so I had to slow everything down and pick more deliberately to get all the notes to sound. These are problems that routinely plague MIDI guitars, and the YR was no worse than others I have played that cost several times as much. But I was still a little surprised that the YR had the same problems because it completely avoids the usual frequency-to-MIDI translation by using direct button presses to identify notes. Perhaps I was simply overloading its CPU.
In addition to the conventional playing style, with the left hand fretting the strings and the right hand plucking them, the YR supports the tap method, in which simply pressing the frets with the fingers of one hand sounds the notes. I was particularly interested in trying out this technique on the YR because it seemed ideal for it given its direct, button-based note generation. That mode does, in fact, work quite well on the YR, and I have seen YouTube videos of people getting spectacular results from the YR using this technique. My only disappointment here is that the velocity-sensitivity of the YR applies only to the right hand. When you use the tap method, every note has the same volume. For me, that just stripped away too much expressiveness.
In short, this was not the MIDI-guitar solution I had hoped it might be from the reviews I read and the videos I watched. However, I should point out that I've been playing guitar for over 50 years (yes, it's been that long), and I have developed a playing style that places exceptional demands on any MIDI guitar. I didn't really expect MIDI-Nirvana, but I did hope that the YR could provide me with a fun little knock-around guitar I could take on the road with me. If the tracking were a little faster and more consistent, it would have.
But I can add another perspective that might be more useful to someone with less experience with the instrument. I have taught many students how to play guitar, and I think that most beginning guitarists would find this to be an excellent way to learn to play. It's very easy to fret, it automatically catches out-of-scale notes to help the player learn which notes work given the chords, and it provides backing tracks that could make learning a lot more fun. I also think that many intermediate guitarists would enjoy playing the YR, especially if they were more interested in strumming or playing lead than in finger-picking.
All in all, the YR is a remarkably flexible and powerful guitar-style controller given its price point, and I am giving it a four-star rating despite the fact that it didn't fit my particular needs. In fact, I would have given it five stars had the supporting materials matched the quality of the guitar itself. It shipped with a helpful wall chart and a short manual that was reasonably well written, but the documentation was out of date and gave very little idea of the true potential of this instrument. Only if you go to the web site do you discover that (1) there is new firmware that radically enhances the guitar's capabilities, (2) there is a "supplement" to the manual that describes these features in detail, and (3) there is an interactive editor that allows you to make advanced settings on your computer rather than navigating the menus on the tiny screen on the guitar itself. None of this is mentioned in the documentation, despite the fact that the new features were released quite some time ago. Given all the work that must have gone into creating this product, I would think they could at least update the manual to reflect the current feature set and let the buyer know about the editor. I can only wonder how many people get this thing and never even suspect its many hidden talents.
In summary: If you want to upgrade your controller for Guitar Hero, or learn how to play a guitar as it is actually played, or simply have a small guitar you can snap apart and take with you wherever you go, you should be very happy with the You Rock Guitar. And if you already know how to play the guitar and want a flexible, easy-to-use controller for a MIDI synthesizer, then the YR may work well for you provided you understand its limits. But if you're in the latter group, be sure to update the firmware, read the supplementary documentation, and download the editor or you'll be missing half the power of this remarkable instrument.
on July 12, 2011
I play keys, but my co-writer plays only guitar. I am using Sonar 8.5 and a Roland Juno-G as a remote instrument through a MOTU Ultralite and a return through a M-Audio 4x4 MIDI hub. The lag we experienced while testing was very small, about maybe 3-5 milliseconds.
Considering the path from the YRG through the MOTU, through the computer, back through the MIDI hub to the instrument, we found it to be entirely acceptable. One method we plan on using to offset the difference in performance is to use an on board sound monitored locally through an amp, while recording silently in the DAW. After recording, maybe three small nudges left and the track should have no problems lining up.
In hindsight, we didn't even try to go direct MIDI right to the instrument "in", cutting out three stops along the way. In that setup we would just record from the MIDI "through" of the instrument. I was being lazy and the setup worked fine as is. At first he was a little disappointed in the response on the strings, then we increased the sensitivity in the control panel and that did the trick.
But what is great was when we threw down a quick scratch track with keys and guitar and within a few minutes the guitar player was laying down an incredibly expressive synth sax line, that would have been impossible for me to duplicate using keys. This is exactly what I got it for and I wasn't disappointed. Even with the slight lag, after just a few minutes he was hitting the next note just slightly early enough to sound great. It's not sporadic, the lag is entirely predictable and consistent. So I agree with the learning curve statement given in an earlier review.
Considering the cost of any available alternative for MIDI guitar conversion, I personally believe this to be a incredible value. I have only owned it for about two weeks, so I will note any future problems in the comments section. One thing to note is that if using USB power, you might want to look into getting a fairly long USB cord. I don't own any of these so I have no idea about their quality.
10 foot cords:
Belkin F3U138-10 Pro Series 10-Foot USB 2.0 5-Pin Mini-B Cable
USB 2.0 A to 5-Pin Mini B Cable - 10 Feet
15 foot cord (was hard to find):
RiteAV - USB 2.0 A to Mini-B 5-pin Cable 15 ft.
I'm using a long MIDI cord (20') and the weight of the cord was allowing the MIDI connection to fall out. Since I had a vecro wrap already on that cord, tying the velcro around the guitar strap leaving about a 6" loop in the MIDI cord solved that problem and removed any tension on the MIDI connection.
Similar to these:
Hook & Loop Fastening Cable Ties 6inch, 60pcs/Pack - 6 Colors
The color coding helps me to figure out the outs and ins at the MIDI hub, without tracing wires. Of course is good when you also have ¼" instrument cords lying all over the place and you don't know which goes where. The same color on each end and no tracing required.
on February 9, 2012
In all the time I have been using Amazon, there have only been a handful of times when I wrote a review. However, I had to comment that I am EXTREMELY pleased with the YOU GUITAR. Within a half-hour of use, I had figured out how to produce all the effects of my normal guitars, with the added bonus of playing with a "classical" sound, if I felt like it, or like a metal "shred head", with lots of "guts" and "feed-back" if I was in the mood.
So, let's address some of the comments made in other reviews.
1. "The YOU GUITAR doesn't allow me to do hammers/pull-offs" : WRONG. I noticed that if you had a finger on a string, you COULD hammer or pull-off a higher note. SO, simple suggesttion would be to mechanically capo the first fret so the guitar considers the strings "closed", allowing you to hammer/pull-off on the fret-board.
2. "The plastic construction seemed somewhat fragile, and if I dropped the guitar it would probably break": Well, folks, if you're a drugged-out rock-aholic that regularly walks in to walls, or drops your guitars, ANY guitar would break.
3. "The Whammy seems a little flimsy" : True. Just don't hammer the whammy. It is quite sensitive, and doesn't need much of a touch to produce a strong whammy effect.
4. "The pre-recorded tracks are not so good": Have to agree here. I also noticed that the rhythm's don't always stay consistent. But personally, I will be running the main tracks/beats/rhythms out of my comp software, with the guitar as the solo leading instrument, so I can disregard this feature with ease.
5. "Tapping out on the fret-board is not as fast and crisp as with a standard guitar": This was the only weakness I found to be true. Tapping out does not respond as quickly as it should, so occassionally, some notes will drop out. However, unless you are playing "Flight of the Bumble-bee", fooling around with a few changes in playing style should be workable.
The only thing I have left to figure out is how to get the best string "action" on slides. But I am confident that I will be able to find a solution to this as well.
All in all, the plusses of the YOU GUITAR are far greater than its minuses, and for a couple hundred bucks, I don't think you are going to do any better.
A FEW MORE NOTES, AFTER 24 HOURS OF MESSING WITH THE YOU ROCK GUITAR:
1. I have noticed that YOU ROCK offers a web-site where additional tracks and synths can be purchased. Different grades, from "regular" to "Professional" seem to be available, so this may address some of the initial weaknesses found in the stuff that came with the guitar.
2. I REALLY like the style of this guitar. I prefer smaller-bodied instruments, and the "no-head" and simple black body and design greatly appeal to my "minimalist" nature.
3. The somewhat "heavy" action needed to pluck or pick the input strings was o.k.,
by me (although I may alter them *slightly* in the future). I am an advanced classical guitarist, and an intermediate rocker shred head, with a fair amount of
strength and technique in both hands. Figuring that most of you out there are in roughly the same category, the heavier action won't be a strain.
NOTES ON PLAY:
"Classical Gas": No problem. The guitar is up to the technique of Parker, Segovia, Montoya....etc, with a clear classical synth. More stately music such as Vivaldi or
Bach... again no problem. "FOTBB" is problematic, as the speed and fingering of this
piece seems to over-power the capabilities of the guitar at times. For classical
fun, try running "TAP" mode while pluckiing and playing with the fingers as normal. This gives a rather interesting out-put reminiscient of a rather funky guitar duet.
"Rocking, Metalicity and Shredding": Speed shreds are problematic. But if you go for more plaintive, slightly slower progressions, and don't look to pump out ten notes in 1.5 seconds, no problem. The "guitar" synth quality is great, with some really fun set-ups, such as "Dirty electric" that sounds like a 25-year old Stratocaster run on an amp soaked in beer...
"The Blues": Good Blues and/or R&B guitar synths. I like to play in the style
of Diana Krall, and this guitar is great for that. Again, I could see that speed
might be a problem if you are a blues "scatter"....
"New Age": Hey, man its a guitar/synth, so new age stuff is "cream cheese" to this
rig. I spent a several hours playing around with ENYA and VANGELIS derivatives with
A FEW THINGS I WOULD CHANGE:
I would put the ear-phone/head-phone jack on the butt of the unit. Having it poking
out on the underside of the guitar gets in the way sometimes. Same with the other
I/O jacks on the under-side.
I would make the set-ups and designations of the synths, and instrument styles
more intuitive. "Stacking" the applications is a bit confusing. For veterans of
the PC and Microsoft, figuring this type of stuff out is "old-hat", but there are
a lot of APPLE people out there that are used to their computer instruction
manual consisting of one sentence: "Turn on the machine...". So, in deference to
those of us lacking degrees in computer science, take mercy on us, YRG! : - )
A great guitar/synth/comp/game that is worth the money. If you are an amateur
player of any skill level, and even up to a "Semi-Pro" maybe playing quiet
classicals in a small coffe-shop or cafe, or a NYC street-corner nickel-and-dime
player making enough money for a couple of burritos and a cheap flop-house, you are good to go.
If you are a seasoned traveling professional musician, who needs a
guitar that can take some hard traveling, needs super-high-quality synths,
....etc, this 200 buck set-up won't hack it. But SHAME ON YOU if you ever
expected it to, to begin with. You'll have to spend $4000.00 to do it on this
on February 2, 2012
I am a retired person picking up the guitar after many years of neglect. I am very competent at chords, Travis picking, playing specific songs I worked to learn and reading TAB. I've often wanted to practice improv and play along with recordings, but never could find a comfortable way to start. I bought a You Rock Guitar and I think I've found my answer.
For me, the best part of the You Rock is the detailed scales they illustrate on tabs in the enclosed poster(s) and the guides to the prerecorded background rhythms that list the scales and chords that go with each rhythm. These background pieces cover a pretty broad range of tempos and styles and give you a basis to practice improv leads and background riffs for a bunch of different (and familiar sounding) chord patterns.
I have a great acoustic guitar and have always longed for a nylon string classical, an electric and a twelve-string to practice against old songs that I love. Here they all are in one package, plus a midi interface that I can work with on Garage Band with some fluency.
I'm not a great musician, but I want to learn without having to imagine "what would this sound like if I actually had an electric guitar with distortion" or "how much better would this be with a fuller twelve-string sound". Sure this is not perfect....I'll be the 100th person to point out that you cannot bend the strings, play harmonics or play muted or with the varying sounds you get on an acoustic by playing near the bridge or thumping the body. But, you know what? I cannot get flute sounds out of my $3000 six string acoustic, nor can I make it wail, nor can I play it at midnight when the rest of the house is trying to sleep.
This is a very good deal for less than $200, if you are willing to take it for what it is and not wish you had a Strat or a Gibson hollow body custom instead you'll be very, very happy.
on September 4, 2011
I have been playing guitar for over 30 years. I have a variety of instruments including an older Roland Guitar Synth.
I read a few magazine reviews, notably Sound on Sound, and I was intrigued.
Let me first say something about guitar Synth's and Midi Guitar controllers. They will never ever replace a guitar. There are nuances, picking types, hammering, pull off's and On's that a controller cannot emulate to an extent of an acoustic instrument (Or electric). With that being said, it's nice to play with other sounds using the guitar mindset. This controller does it, and does it in a very inexpensive way. It looks insanely cheap, but the electronics for the sound triggering are unique. There are no strings on the fretboard, but an emulation of strings in a touch sensitive / pressure point interface. As a guitarist, I wanted to bend at the fret level. This is not possibile, but the midi tremolo device assists on this end.
Ok. I've owned this unit for about two weeks. I am using the controller not for it's onboard sounds (Which suck tremendously), but for triggering virtual synths through Steinberg Cubase 4.3 64 bit. I am using not the MIDI port, but USB. It works incredibly well at triggering the sounds. Tracking is pretty good but a guitar controller is not forgiving....You must pick a bit harder to trigger the midi Communication. I have downloaded the supplemental console software and I plan to play with the string sensitivity and velocity settings and see if I can adjust to my playing style (Which is far lighter than it's pre-programmed configuation).
I would never ever play this virtual instrument live. It would not hold up. It's strength is the midi controller. It does this the best in my opinion and at or under 200.00 which nothing compares at this price point.
on July 6, 2011
Is smallest usable guitar I've found. Great for travel and last minute stow away. Detachable neck is a big plus. Neck design is better than button type predecessors like Yamaha EZ-EG or EZ-AG series. Inexepensive. Always in tune. Good action. Seems durable enough for the elements although it might not withstand a bad drop. Customer service - so far so good. At least you get a real person (who can speak English)on the phone. Battery life OK.
No onboard speaker. No DC input jack. No up/down step tuning adjustment. Sound and synth selection, while they might be fine for electronica focus, could be better when it comes to acoustic emulation. Not quite enough hand room at the top of the neck, although there is a socket for an optional headstock (not yet available) that might alleviate that.
For songwriting and knock around, I still prefer my button neck Yamaha EZ-AG. But those are out of production. For midi or electric effects, this unit is better. Pity though that no company as yet has taken the risk to make a line of higher quality midi based guitars. Seems like technology is already there to produce something really awesome in the $500 - $1000 range, not so toy like with realistic feel, quality onboard speaker output,etc. Would look forward to that, although this thing is worth the money for what it is.
on March 14, 2012
This is a great guitar. I love it, the concept is amazing.
This is how guitars will finally go digital like keyboards did 20 or 30 years ago. It's about time.
I love never having to tune my guitar again. Never having to worry about a string breaking.
I regularly play in front of crowds and I don't like worrying about tuning... or even worse, having a string break... on my regular guitars.
So I see this as the guitar of the future. Eventually this will be standard for any public performances.
One small problem though: the thing is too small. It looks like a toy.
I'm sure future versions of the YouRock Guitar will be as large as a full size guitar. When that comes out, I'm sure I will finally use this for my public performances on stage.
Until then, I will just have fun with it at home.
Looking forward to newer, better versions!