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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So I bought this device for $200, thinking it'd be a nice solution to replace my aging M-Audio Oxygen keyboard, of which I suck at playing anyway. I also have a Graphtech Ghost/Roland GR-30 setup, but it doesn't track 100% well when going into my Mac for GarageBand stuff with SampleTank.

So the YouRock Guitar, claiming to be the world's greatest MIDI guitar since there is no pitch to MIDI conversion, seemed to be the ideal candidate. Below is my review, copy and pasted from my blog:

The YouRockGuitar device is a $200 guitar-shaped MIDI controller manufactured in China and designed by Inspired Instruments Inc. that does triple duty as a MIDI controller, a practice guitar, and also a game controller for Rock Band and Guitar Hero games. I have played with it a few days now, and have come to some preliminary conclusions.

MIDI

The YRG device connects to MIDI devices via its standard 5-pin plug, or with a USB cable to a computer running a software synth/sampler (cable included) such as Apple's GarageBand, or Cubase, etc.

As a MIDI controller, the YRG is amazingly accurate, with a major caveat: while it "tracks" your fingering very well, especially in "Tap" mode, the amount of picking effort is greater than one would consider acceptable in comparison to a real guitar. To be blunt, you have to beat the crap out of the strings to get it to register the note.

This is a serious problem; one that is so serious for me that I would consider returning/selling the YRG if it not for the fact that Inspired is working on a control panel application to adjust the settings for more/less sensitivity (currently in Alpha). Picking on the strings is a little disconcerting at first, especially with the percussive, dead sound they make when picked. But you get used to it quickly.

Firing up the control panel application shows how early it is in the game, but it also shows the potential for control that this unit will have. Unfortunately the string sensitivity adjustment is not working for me at this time, so I cannot comment on the level of improvement this may provide for regular flat-picking and finger-picking.

The "Tap" mode enables the users to simply tap the fretboard and it will sound the notes at a fixed velocity into either the MIDI capable hardware or the computer application. This works very, very well. Click here for a quick example I recorded in GarageBand yesterday.

It's quickly apparent that the YRG can allow the player to transcend what one can do on a traditional guitar, since it doesn't rely upon string and pickup dynamics to sound the notes. This mode is a lot of fun! Unfortunately for many things, the picking is still a necessity.

As a Practice/Teaching Guitar

The YRG has a lot of different guitar and synth sounds built into the device that can then be connected to either a guitar amp, headphones, or mixer. Acoustic guitars of various types, electric guitars, and synths are represented here.

The YRG is thus marketed as a teaching/travel/practice guitar because of this, because it "can't go out of tune" and doesn't hurt one's fingers.

I will say that due to the versatility that the MIDI functionality provides as well as the halfway decent acoustic guitar tones the YRG is an adequate travel/practice "guitar". However I put "guitar" in quotes for a reason: it is most definitely NOT a real guitar, at least not by most people's definition. It is for this reason I wouldn't think of using it to teach. I have been a student of various teachers and styles for years, and have now been teaching for a few years, and what I've found is that it is important for a student to learn how to tune their guitar, to learn string control, vibrato, bending, string to fret pressure, intonation, and picking hand control.

These are all aspects that are crucial to learning how to play guitar, and none of these factors are possible with the YRG. I feel as though it's a disservice to the student to hand them this unit to start off with, and say "this is a guitar, learn on this", because when they go to grab a real guitar, be it acoustic or electric, they'll be in for a huge shock, and quite possibly be turned off of guitar for good.

This isn't to say the YRG has no use in the teaching realm. I plan to put it to good use for notational purposes with Notion's Progression software, which does both traditional music notation as well as guitar tablature. It's incredibly useful for this, and will be one of the main purposes for me.

Also, I would encourage a student to buy a YRG for the reasons I've outlined above for MIDI. While it's not a good teaching guitar, the student can take what they've learned about playing a real guitar, and use it to compose using different virtual instruments, to see how different instruments can sound. It really opens up a new world for students, and that's a good thing.

As for the internal sounds, I must say that it's a bit of a mixed bag. While the acoustic guitar and synth sounds are fairly serviceable, the electric tones are bad. Laughably 80′s Casio keyboard bad. Also, none of the tones seem to react to velocity changes in a way that a multi-sampled virtual synth would, i.e. tonalities don't seem to change.

So while the intentions of putting these tones in here were good, I think I'll either stick to primarily the acoustic tones for practice, or most likely just using it with a computer triggering SampleTank, who's multi-sampled acoustic and electric guitar tones are far superior.

As a Game Controller

I can't really comment too much on this, because I actually detest Guitar Hero for the most part, and when playing Rock Band I prefer to play drums, since I am not a drummer in "real life" and find it more entertaining when playing a game with a group of people.

However I will say that these types of games are mostly frustrating due to how unnatural the paddle feels in lieu of picking, and the YRG would definitely solve this issue. That being said, I won't be running out to buy the latest Guitar Hero anytime soon. It's just not my thing.

Construction

The construction of the YRG is decent enough for a $200 device. It won't have me shelving my PRS or Ibanez guitars anytime soon though. The neck flexes a bit more than I'd like when chording, and it has an overall plastic-ey feel to it. Not surprising, since it IS plastic of course. The strings feel solidly attached and not flimsy. The membrane fingerboard is nicely made, and should hold up for quite some time. It's about as well made as something made entirely of plastic can be, I would think.

I do think it'd be neat if Inspired came out with a "YRG Pro" which forgoes any game/toy aspect of the unit and concentrates on its MIDI capabilities, while also being made of wood for the neck and body. This would be far more inviting to guitarists because it would feel more substantial as well as feeling and looking more familiar. Rumor has it that Inspired already has something in mind, but we'll see what happens.

In Conclusion

The string sensitivity thing is a major downside of the You Rock Guitar, and I'm trying very hard to be patient with Inspired as they work on the promised application to allow users to have the flexibility to increase this string sensitivity. If they can fix that one issue, this thing is going to be incredibly handy for recording different instrumentation that I otherwise couldn't do, such as piano, strings, synths, etc. For $200, it's definitely a great value.

The internal tones and game aspect of it I could completely live without, but since it doesn't really hurt the functionality of MIDI I couldn't care less if they included it or not. I'm sure someone will enjoy those features. Inspired probably did the right thing by trying to be more things to more people without hurting any one of the functions individually.
And to add to that following that review, I finally got the Control Panel application working, and while the string sensitivity is improved, the amount of effort it takes to sound a higher velocity note is still very high. It also still unexplainably misses notes. I was testing it doing 8th notes at 100bpm, simple. With as close to the same picking pressure as I could possibly muster, some notes would not trigger.

In comparison to my Roland device, which doesn't have these issues (at least not when directly triggering the Roland GR-30 itself).

In conclusion, I do NOT recommend the You Rock Guitar, even for the measly $200. There are (hopefully) better options coming that will suit this "guitar-shaped keyboard controller" need soon, in the form of the Rock Controller from Starr Labs:


Harvey Starr has been making pro level controllers for quite a long time now, and has a significant amount of experience with them.
 

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I was following your experiences over at the YRG Yahoo group. I preordered a YRG but cancelled my order a few days ago based on your review and those of others. Pretty disappointing, I'd say.

The new music I'm starting to work on now is sort of a cosmic groove thing, in which I'm going to be using a lot of electric and acoustic piano sounds. I find that it's just easier to play those on keyboard than to try and convert the voicings to a guitar fingerboard. I'm no Chick Corea, but for some reason playing keyboard comes to me a lot easier now than it used to. In some ways, it's easier than playing guitar.

I would like to check out that Rock Controller or one of the Z-Tars eventually, but it's not a huge priority for me right now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
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I really wish I had the time and patience to learn keys, because it's so easy to find a cheap and decent USB controller.
 

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I really wish I had the time and patience to learn keys, because it's so easy to find a cheap and decent USB controller.
I've been "sort of" playing keys for over 20 years, so it's not like I started yesterday, but I find that one of the most important things is starting with the building blocks, especially getting a feel for the chord voicings. You can do that without practicing 5 hours a day. For me, comping and fairly basic runs are more important than being able to play solo piano pieces, which I'm a *long* way from being able to do.
 

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A little bit less-similar to the 'guitar' vibe but do either of you know how the Yamaha EZ-EG is as a MIDI controller? I've had a couple song ideas that require some ***-tastic (meaning really cheesy, analog sounding) synth parts and while I have access to a keyboard style MIDI controller, I'd feel more at home on something like this.

Great review, BTW. Thanks for the heads up because I was considering the YouRock a few days ago.
 

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I believe the Yamaha EZ-EG is very limited, even compared to the You Rock Guitar. Starr Labs appears to be the only company out there making MIDI guitar controllers that are above the toy/gimmick level.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
A little bit less-similar to the 'guitar' vibe but do either of you know how the Yamaha EZ-EG is as a MIDI controller? I've had a couple song ideas that require some ***-tastic (meaning really cheesy, analog sounding) synth parts and while I have access to a keyboard style MIDI controller, I'd feel more at home on something like this.

Great review, BTW. Thanks for the heads up because I was considering the YouRock a few days ago.
I have not played one, but from what I understand they can work well for MIDI input, provided you use an intermediary app to filter low velocity notes caused by fingering the "fretboard". You see, the EZ, when connected to a MIDI input to be used as a controller, actually sounds low velocity notes when the notes are fingered, but before they're strummed. That's obviously a problem.

But with an app such as MIDIPipe on OS X, you can tell the app to not transmit anything below a velocity of 50 to the DAW you're using, therefore eliminating the problem. Apparently (according to those that have both the EZ and the YRG) the EZ works a lot better from a picking/velocity ratio standpoint.

Having said that, I think I will continue to just use my Graphtech Ghost/Roland system for right now, as it works quite well now that I've got it fine tuned, and then pick up the Starr unit when it's released, as they seem to really understand how to make a proper controller.
 

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Response to review

Dear Sir,
I read your blog on Metalguitarist reviewing the YouRockGuitar and was confused. Most of the points you made were favorable to the YRG and yet, at the end, your blog seems to turn into a commercial for a product that doesn't yet exist. Apparently,your main objection to the YRG is string sensitivity, despite that you note the availability of methods for sensitivity adjustment.

New software updates are available for the YRG and will be web accessible soon. Perhaps you would like to try these and contribute your thoughts? We at Inspired Instruments are responding to customer feedback to improve the products. We would ask to enlist your aid. Please call me and maybe you can Beta test for us.

Bt the way, for your readers, the YouRockGuitar is available and shipping now with onboard sounds, sensitivity adjustments, a headphone amplifier, detachable neck, and more connectivity than an octopus with a glue gun.

Bruce at Inspired Instruments
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Dear Sir,
I read your blog on Metalguitarist reviewing the YouRockGuitar and was confused. Most of the points you made were favorable to the YRG and yet, at the end, your blog seems to turn into a commercial for a product that doesn't yet exist. Apparently,your main objection to the YRG is string sensitivity, despite that you note the availability of methods for sensitivity adjustment.

New software updates are available for the YRG and will be web accessible soon. Perhaps you would like to try these and contribute your thoughts? We at Inspired Instruments are responding to customer feedback to improve the products. We would ask to enlist your aid. Please call me and maybe you can Beta test for us.

Bt the way, for your readers, the YouRockGuitar is available and shipping now with onboard sounds, sensitivity adjustments, a headphone amplifier, detachable neck, and more connectivity than an octopus with a glue gun.

Bruce at Inspired Instruments
As I noted, even after applying changes to the string sensitivity, the yrg still doesn't play very well at all, certainly not as naturally as the Roland system does, despite the tracking latency of the GR stuff.

I got tired of waiting for "software improvements". If I am going to wait for a functional midi controller, I will wait for the Starr device, since they have a lot more experience building these types of devices.

My hope for the Starr Rock Controller is not a commercial; I will hold it up to the same level of standards as I did the yrg.

I cannot try any more software updates for the yrg, because I already sold it. Perhaps that person can appreciate it more. I couldn't.

I respect that Inspired is apparently listening to their customers and trying to improve their product. I just think it should have been more usable at the get-go.
 

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God, I hope Timothy Kelly doesn't start posting here. :lol:

(He's an annoying guy who's been shilling the YRG for months on various boards, getting banned or moderated at several).

It's cool that Bruce from Inspired posted here, but I don't think a software update is going to fix what Jeff didn't like about the YRG.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
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jacksonplayer said:
God, I hope Timothy Kelly doesn't start posting here. :lol:

(He's an annoying guy who's been shilling the YRG for months on various boards, getting banned or moderated at several).

It's cool that Bruce from Inspired posted here, but I don't think a software update is going to fix what Jeff didn't like about the YRG.
The velocity ratio is only one of the problems with it. They may be able to fix that with software, along with the double triggered notes and notes not playing at all (8th notes played in succession, 1 or 2 will not sound despite equal playing effort).

However they won't be able to fix the neck's painful lack of radius unless they redesign it entirely.

Look, no one is more disappointed then me about me not liking the yrg. I really wanted something that could accurately trigger AU instruments into my Mac, as well as something I could travel with.

It just didn't measure up to the hype. The Starr might not either, but based upon their track record I have higher hopes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
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Btw Bruce, I'll be a beta tester for ya, but that means sending me a yrg unit like you did with Tim Kelly, since I already sold mine. I'm only willing to be a paying beta tester once.
 
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