GUITAR TECHNOLOGY | With less than two weeks 'til Christmas, I keep getting asked (with increasing desperation) what the heck I want for just that (read: X-mas). I never find it easy to give a useful answer, however. Considering that the stuff I'm looking for aren't usually that much fun for gifts: "Hmmm, lemme see... I could use some new speaker cable... Or maybe you could get me a replacement DVD drive for my Xbox 360? Oh, and no effing Lite-On! Thanks." ...Would be my typical response.

But now I just found the perfect gift for any of us tech geeks, gamers, and especially; guitarists, alike. It's a nifty little device called the You Rock Guitar. What looks very much like a smaller sized electric guitar, is actually not a guitar at all. I could be played like a guitar if you wanted, but what's special about it, is that it can be used to emulate pretty much any instrument there is.

Much like the game Rocksmith, a You Rock Guitar is also an ideal tool for beginners moving from Guitar Hero to learning to actually play guitar!

Talking in MIDI

The YRG uses the MIDI interface to interpret your fingering on the fretboard, and you can record this with any DAW software [Digital Audio Workstation], such as Ableton Live or Steinberg's Cubase. Actually even a smartphone or tablet computer with an appropriate software app (eg. Garage Band) installed!

If you don't fancy the headless neck design, you can
always pop this C-shaped Strat type headstock on.
Strictly superficial accessory which adds nothing to the
actual instrument, apparently.
Should you not have any fancy audio software to play around with, then no worries! You can just use the headphone jack on the You Rock Guitar to hook yourself up to any home receiver or portable speaker. The device comes with a wide variety of sound presets built in, ranging from various guitar tones, bass guitars, drums, pianos, synthesizers, organs, and pretty much anything between.

Strum manually or just tap the frets

When you're using it as a regular guitar, you can choose whether you want to strum manually (probably what to recommend for regular guitar chords and arpeggios), or if you just want to tap notes on the neck without having to pick any strings (ideal for synthesizers, pianos and more). You also have a wide array of alternate tunings at your disposal, that you can choose between using the buttons on the controller. It always stays in tune an you'll never have to retune your strings manually if you switch between standard 440Hz, drop-D, and E flat tuning, for instance. Instead your desired tuning is never more than a few pushes on a button away!

Ideal for travellers, newbies and Guitar Hero players

No strings attached. Not as far as the neck goes, anyway.
You still have the option to strum using the strings over
the actual guitar body.

String-less, detachable neck

The YRG only has strings running over the actual body of the guitar. This means that the neck is very much a detachable part, which you can just snap on when you're playing, and easily take off when you're done. This obviously makes it a quite portable instrument, easy to carry with you in any average-sized back pack. The YRG should therefore be the ideal gear to bring with you on trips, or perhaps even to work or school for practice on lunch breaks and whatnot.

From what I can tell, the fretboard has six strips that are merely bulging out of the fretboard, supposed to emulate the strings. If it wasn't for these "placebo strings", it would probably be too easy to get disoriented regarding what notes you were playing. It'd be as if you were making chord shapes in thin air, basically.

While this odd, string-less fretboard might take a bit getting used to by ordinary guitar players, I couldn't imagine a better axe for anyone who's completely new to guitars and just looking for a good entry level device to practice on. No sore fingertips and rattling strings that might otherwise discourage a newcomer at an early stage. And as the You Rock Guitar also is a fully functional video game controller, that can be used with the Guitar Hero as well as the Rock Band series, it's a perfect, seamless leap over from the games to some real, actual playing. Similarly to what Rocksmith is already doing, making gamers play proper instruments.

Intuitive multi-instrument for any guitarist

The You Rock Guitar has colour markings along the
top edge of the neck, for use with video games
like Guitar Hero and Rock Band.
But, just as much as the You Rock Guitar could prove a good entry level guitar for beginners, it seems like a perfect piece of equipment for experienced guitarists looking for an intuitive means of translating their music to other instruments without having to actually learn (and buy) them. Keyboard MIDI controllers have been around for ages, allowing pianists to expand into playing the drums if they wanted. But not until now has there been a counterpart for us guitarists - not a minute too soon, if you ask me!

Price?

The You Rock Guitar retails for about $200, but I just received an e-mail from a Swedish supplier having these babies on sale for merely 399 SEK, which is less than 60 bucks. Pretty sweet deal! - Ordered one straight away. I didn't buy it for myself, however. I'll sell it as a future X-mas gift...for that someone to give me. ;)

Hopefully I'll be able to give the You Rock Guitar some quality hands-on time over the holidays. Until then,
Merry X-mas and keep rawking, kids!
/theJo