YouRock MIDI Guitar YRG-1000 Gen 2 by Inspired Instruments
A dream come true – a MIDI controller in a guitar body, with strings and frets and without latency. A true life saver at a great price for all guitarists that need MIDI.
by Alex Arsov, Nov.2015
What It Is and What It’s Not
It’s a MIDI controller that comes in the shape of a guitar. The main advantage is that with a little practice you can input MIDI notes using your guitar playing skills, recording phrases or even chord progressions without any latency whilst minimizing “trashy” notes. YouRock MIDI guitar has a MIDI sensitive guitar neck with virtual strings that are not stretched above the neck but actually projected over the neck, two millimeters above the neck. You can chose between two options, to play the notes using only the neck, by tapping notes, or by using the neck in combination with six MIDI sensitive strings that are raised above the guitar body.
I bought my first MIDI guitar many years ago when these things were still more or less science fiction. It was a Casio MIDI guitar and the latency and note errors made my MIDI recordings almost unusable. MIDI guitars have made big progress since then, but recording MIDI data is still an adventure even with the more advanced Roland models. If those models have less than 15 milliseconds latency this is still something you should add to your sound card latency, and some smaller errors are still an issue. Some playing techniques give better results, some worse, not to mention the price that can make the whole thing quite “exclusive”, being well outside the price range of the average guitar player.
YouRock MIDI Guitar controllers have some issues. You can’t bend the strings (but you can go absolutely bonkers with the whammy bar that is connected to MIDI vibrato). The virtual strings on the neck are a bit too sensitive, so you will need a week or two to adapt yourself to this playing technique. Of course the sensitivity can be controlled with a combination of the TAP button and volume knob, but regardless, you will need few days to go through all the menus to set everything to your playing style and then a few days to adapt your playing style to YouRock MIDI Guitar. To tell the truth, you usually need few days to adapt to any new guitar that has different strings settings, or a totally different neck compared to your old one. After all, I use the same strings on all of my guitars but still need few days to adapt from one to another that has strings a few millimeters offset above the neck. For that reason my first experience with YouRock MIDI Guitar was a bit of a disaster, but after fixing all those issues and with a bit of practice I found the YouRock MIDI Guitar controller an unmissable tool. It is true that I’ve learned to play keyboards over all those years, but still, guitar is my main instrument and suddenly I become a keyboard virtuoso with YouRock MIDI Guitar controller, playing all those crazy solo parts with no fuss, or recording various funky rhythms without spending extra time learning and practicing on a keyboard. There are still some parts I still record with keyboard, as guitar playing technique leads to different results (guitar players have a slightly “different brain” to keyboard players), but otherwise almost everything is possible.
The only thing that I miss is a better manual, along with some Getting Started video clips, as I spent three days trying to find out why all my recorded notes were doubled inside my DAW, trying almost everything to fix it before discovering that two knobs on YouRock MIDI Guitar were selected at the same time – Synth and Guitar. I thought those knobs were there mainly for selecting between different types of internal sounds that can be used if you connect it to a real guitar amp. I never use this option, as I use YourRock MIDI Guitar mainly as MIDI controller and was never that interested in the internal sounds. I also didn’t use them on a Roland guitar I once had, as all those sounds are a bit funny, being somewhere between those two worlds of guitar and synth.
It would be helpful if I had found a note in manual explaining that the settings for those two knobs override the main controller settings, defining the main MIDI behaviour during the recording stage. The second thing that bothers me is the MIDI cable being positioned at the bottom of the guitar body, preventing me having it safely resting on my lap. I hope that YouRock MIDI Guitar Gen 3 will have an additional, more safely positioned MIDI connector. Also this connector is not so stable if you use it on the stage moving around, trying to find its place among all the other cables. OK, end of complaints.
All in all, it is absolutely one of the best tools that I ever put my hands on. A true lifesaver for all guitarists that use external synthesizers or for recording MIDI into your DAW. I thought I would use it only here and there, but it turns out that since I got YouRock MIDI Guitar it’s my keyboard that I use only here and there. I still find it a little more comfortable to play rhythmical chords on keyboard, but everything else is far easier with this new toy. Also, if you spend some quality time browsing through dealers list at Yourock site, you can find YouRock MIDI Guitar YRG-1000 Gen 2 in a price range between €220 EUR and €260 EUR in Europe and under $300 USD in the US. It’s a price that you would pay for two virtual synths or some lower priced sample libraries. And usability? For me, an old guitar player, it’s almost priceless.
There are plenty of options for adapting YouRock MIDI Guitar to suit to your needs or your playing technique. From the picking string gain sensitivity or even string tension, to the hammer on sensitivity or hammer pre-delay time, to the fret release time. All these things are there mostly to prevent double notes, as this is the most common issue that happens before you really fine tune the controller. There are also some other settings that can make your recording experience a bit sweeter, like slide mode and solo mode, to the various dirty details like Modulation Pitch Speed, Whammy Bar range and plenty of others which aren’t so essential. But it’s nice to know that the developer went really deep with all these extra options, even so far as to let you set assignable MIDI patches for controlling plenty of aspects on your DAW just through your YouRock MIDI Guitar. It’s nice but a bit impractical to climb through all those menus, pressing some selected frets at the same time to get the desired effects. There are also four additional buttons, two behind the bridge, the so-called + and – buttons, along with volume and joystick knobs. They are all freely programmable, except the volume knob, which is mainly for volume and for some additional settings in combination with some other buttons, so the other three can be assigned to any MIDI or CC controller. Regardless of this, I still miss a few additional, more attainable knobs for controlling virtual instruments inside my DAW.
The Devil Is In The Detail
Actually, this is only the beginning of what you get for those €200 EUR. YouRock MIDI Guitar comes with a number of internal synth and guitar sounds that can be played normally through the guitar audio cable directly into a guitar amp, rocking loud and proud. Not my cup of coffee, but it is possible. Then another option is the so-called YouRock Mode, where you can jam along with some pre-recorded musical backgrounds that are stored in internal memory. There is also an option for adopting the whole controller for left-handed players. Not to mention all the open tunings that are available, or an option to transpose the whole guitar by any number of steps. If you are a gamer, there is also a Game mode allowing you to use this controller with your PS3 or Wii.
YouRock MIDI Guitar is also a travel friendly instrument. With just one move you can detach the guitar neck, packing the whole thing into one small bag … and away you go. Also those YouRock fellows have made a new, more electric-guitar-like neck that can be bought through their site or directly through various distributors that sell their products all around the globe. I have the new Radius neck, but I also tried the old one. It is actually just a matter of taste, the old one being shaped more like an acoustic guitar. Not to mention plenty of other small things that can be bought for your controller.
To paraphrase Charles Bukowski: “This is even better than sex.” OK, not exactly, but it comes really close, at least for all you guitar freaks. I’m definitely not a MIDI newcomer, but this tool has totally changed my way of working, shooting my creativity directly up to the sky. After almost twenty years of being an Electro musician I feel like I’m born again. I can finally fly, not just banging keyboards like a monkey (I’m not so bad at doing this, but not half as good as on a guitar). Now I can finally play all those funky phrases that exceeded my keyboard knowledge, and what’s more, I can finally play all those string lines for big orchestral arrangements on the fly, or even some mad synth solo line that I’ve just dreamed about banging out on my keyboard controller. It still happens that I get some trashy notes on very fast passages, but in most cases these notes are outside of the main phrase range, so I can easily select and erase them with just one move. Actually, with a touch of cleaning and quantization you can become an even better player than you actually are. At least in the MIDI domain.
I wish I had this instrument twenty years ago. But I can’t complain, I have it now.
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