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Appletell reviews the You Rock Guitar

Sections: Macintosh/Apple Hardware, Peripherals, Reviews

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Provides: USB/MIDI instrument
Developer: You Rock Guitar
Minimum Requirements: USB port
Price: $199
Availability: Now

The You Rock Guitar is not an electric guitar, it’s an electronic guitar. Yes, it may look like a fancy Rock Band game controller, but it’s so much more. It’s not only a game controller, it’s a MIDI controller and a functioning instrument…and it may just be the perfect tool for the musically inclined gamer or electronic musician.

You Rock Guitar

The You Rock Guitar is a very sophisticated instrument/controller. It’s built very much like a guitar. It has a neck and simulated strings. It has a whammy bar and a volume knob, and that’s about were the similarities stop. Instead of actual strings, there’s a neck with an array of buttons on top. This has a similar feeling to strings and frets, but it’s clearly not the same. There are metal wires in place of the strumming area of a guitar. These are what you strum, and while their vibration does not determine anything except when a note begins, they are fairly natural. Well, as long as you don’t listen to them.

You Rock Guitar control panel

On the top of the guitar body you’ll find a control panel similar to something you might find on some acoustic electric guitars. This panel is where you can change settings. There are tons of options and settings to play with. For instance, if you’re using the You Rock Guitar as a regular instrument, this is where you can change what type of instrument it sounds like. Basically, these are midi instruments. You can also mix in synths or switch directly to synth sounds. There are tuning options, which are awesome. You can switch tunings quickly and never have to worry about being in tune. You can also place a slide, play a backing track, etc.

Playing this guitar is different than a normal guitar for many reasons. You can connect it to an amp like a normal electric guitar with a standard guitar cable, but I’d advise you against doing so. The built-in sounds are pretty much just like MIDI files that you may have heard on a computer or a really crappy website from the 90s. If you only played with this instrument as such, you’d probably write it off as an overpriced toy, and rightfully so. But there’s more here, you just have to know where to look. You’ll get a whole lot more use out of this tool if you connect it to your Mac via USB and launch Garageband.

You Rock Guitar connections

Garageband will recognize the You Rock Guitar as a MIDI controller. Essentially, the computer thinks you’re hitting keys on a musical keyboard. Just add a new virtual instrument track and pick what sound you’d like to play as. Garageband has many choices, and while all will work, I’d suggest you stick to some specific categories while you’re getting used to things. You’ll get the best results from virtual instruments in the Bass, Synth Leads and Pianos and Keyboards categories. I’m not saying these are your only options, just a good place to start.

If you’re familiar with playing guitar, and I’ll assume you are, the You Rock Guitar will require some adjustments on your part to sound decent. This is because, hard as it might try to make it so, the You Rock Guitar is not a guitar. You cannot mute strings with your left hand by touching them lightly. You can’t pull-off to an open string after fretting a note (it goes silent instead). You can’t play harmonics, and tapping notes with your fingers is limited to a special “Tap” mode. As such, the You Rock Guitar is really more of a keytar. I realize that name already refers to something, but it’s the best description I can think of. There are just a lot of quirks with how the guitar recognizes notes. Thankfully, the firmware is upgradeable, so if they figure out a better way to do anything, you’ll be able to patch it easily over USB.

That said, the YouRockGuitar is an amazing tool for guitarists who’d like to play other instruments but don’t have the time, patience, money or desire to actually learn them. This will never be a replacement, but it’s a great way to control virtual instruments for guitarists, provided you remember that a piano is not played like a guitar. You don’t strum notes on a piano. There are timing differences and nuances that you’ll just never match in this fashion. It’s a tool, not a replacement.

Overall, I think the You Rock Guitar can be an amazing tool for the right person. It’s both fun and frustrating. I want the strings on this instrument to have the same properties as strings on a real guitar. When I fret a note and pull my finger off, I don’t want the string to mute. And I’d like for very light pressure on the fretboard to equal muting a string when it’s still strummed.

These are minor details, though. The point is that you can virtually play just about any instrument like it was a guitar with the You Rock Guitar over USB or MIDI. You don’t have to learn a completely different instrument, and that’s pretty awesome.

But as I’ve said, the You Rock Guitar is not for everyone. If you’re expecting this to sound or play exactly like a guitar, you will be disappointed. If you’re expecting it to be a fun musical tool, you will be happy.

Appletell Rating:
You Rock Guitar review

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  • Burt Mueller

    I received mine yesterday and am quite disappointed. It doesn't "track" well enough to be even SLIGHTLY useful. it's a great idea, and I wish it just plain WORKED better than this. Another review pointed out that the player really has to pick pretty hard to trigger a note, at which point the velocity message causes an extreme articulation in some MIDI programs. (Garageband plays a "slide" into the pitch when the velocity level is over a certain threshold) I can't really use it as a portable MIDI controller with the laptop when I'm out and about. It just produces more wrong or missing notes than the right ones. I'll be sending mine back, I think, although I want to try adjusting the tension of the strings. Some have suggested that that makes a difference in sensitivity. I'm just not going to wait for software fixes. My $200 would be better put towards the new Roland GR-55 for a MIDI guitar synth.

  • Tristan Kei

    Try A+ MIDI guitar for the iPhone. http://midiguitar.wkode.com. It tracks better than the YouRock Guitar since everything is done on the touchscreen. Yeah, the strings on the YouRock Guitar take some getting used to. If you don't pluck hard enough it won't make a sound.

  • Burt Mueller

    Look at THIS!

    http://www.misadigital.com/index.php?target=kitara
    KITARA by Misa Digital

    http://digital.premierguitar.com/premierguitar/201103_1#pg130
    and click on the link to watch the video.

    By the way – I haven't sent my yourockguitar back. I might sell mine to a fellow music teacher.
    Even though it may not work the way I wanted to – it's still pretty cool.

  • Chris Klepoch

    I have to agree with the main review, it is an exceptional musical tool… I just got mine yesterday, and after about an hour of dealing with the expected learning curve, it actually works better than I had hoped. As far as bang for your buck, you can't go wrong. Granted, it is not the most perfect machine out there, but it functions more than well under its own limitations. I plan on even using it onstage in my band as some of the tones are quite useful, especially when I run some of the stock synth settings through my Marshall with a slight bit of gain (great for getting that 70's "deep purple-ish" distorted organ sound)… It will never replace my guitars, but is indeed a welcome addition to the hoarde..