My birthday present arrived yesterday - slightly earlier than the birthday, but who's
Anyway, the few owners of this beastie on the forum haven't posted anything
on the subject, so I thought I'd have a go.
As you'd expect, it's all plastic. It feels pretty robust though, certainly to the same
standard as, say, your average stomp box. The control panel is recessed for safety. The
only exposed controls are the joystick and the volume dial, which live around where your
normal guitar controls would go.
On the lower side of the body live all the
sockets. This isn't actually the ideal location for them, because it tends to be where
the instrument sits against you. This is particularly an issue for the 3.5mm jacks, since
these aren't generally very robust. Mind you, there's a fair number of sockets (3.5mm
line-in and headphone/line-out, jack out, MIDI out and USB) so it might have been tough to
get them all to fit anywhere else.
It sits against your body fairly
comfortably, mainly because it's so light. I would have liked a larger (more Strat-like)
bevelled edge where your right forearm rests, but never mind. The headless neck is a bit
odd for someone used to having more neck there - in first position your thumb can slip off
the top of the neck. The neck profile feels OK though.
It doesn't come with
a case or a bag. Conveniently though it fits perfectly in the bag for my old tenor
mandolin, so that was nice!
Which leads onto the
fretboard. In the pictures it looks like it's metal frets and fretwire running down for
strings. Actually it's just slightly squishy plastic, profiled into ridges for frets and
"strings", over a hard plastic base.
Surprisingly it feels very natural. The
slight give in the "strings" is enough to make this guitarist feel entirely at home on the
neck. I've tried a Ztar and the whole button thing really didn't work for me at all - at
no point could I get over the essential button-ness of the feel. The YouRock on the other
hand feels like playing a guitar on which all the strings happen to rest on the frets.
The picking strings for the right hand are thick steel (presumably for long-term
survivability) with the same thickness on each string. They don't feel like steel guitar
strings at all - the closest thing feel-wise would be nylon classical strings, although
they're a bit thicker even than those. Reinforcing the classical theme, the strings are
spaced very wide apart, wider even than a lot of classicals. They're also exactly
parallel, unlike strings on a real guitar. The end result is that the right-hand feel,
although useable, really isn't as good as it could have been with a bit more thought put
Which of course is the important
Start with the bad news. The big problem here is that they *really*
haven't got string detection working properly. Sometimes it works, but sometimes it just
doesn't register that you've picked a string. Checking the web, it's possible to adjust
string sensitivity and I expect (I haven't tried yet) that this will help a bit. However
the failure to register doesn't seem to be related to how hard you pick, so I'm not sure
what's going on here. Maybe a firmware upgrade (now or in future) will help, perhaps.
A further problem with strings is that they don't play nicely with classical
technique, where you use a combination of pad and nail to pick. This tends to result in a
flam effect as the instrument triggers twice. The same effect can also arise with a
plectrum if your pick is slightly angled so that the string rubs on the side slightly.
The net result is that I simply couldn't use it for fingerpicking or playing with
a plectrum. It just doesn't work properly, at least with the sensitivity settings and
firmware it's shipped with.
For two-hand tapping, it's
nothing short of a revelation. I never really got to grips with tapping on a real guitar,
mainly because of the amount of extra noise from undamped strings. No such problems on
this, of course, and it works like a dream. If you bought this because you can get around
faster on a fretboard than a keyboard, prepare to go two-handed.
Unfortunately they haven't (yet) allowed us to tap more than one note on the same
"string", as you can with a Ztar. I'm hoping this comes along in future, because it's
simply the logical way to go with an instrument like this.
One other thing
which doesn't quite work as expected is sliding. The instrument has a "slide" button
which in theory removes the initial attack when you slide, hammeron or pulloff, so you
have the normal legato sound. Unfortunately this only works for pulloffs and slides down
- hammerons and slides up produce attack on every new fret you cross. I suspect this is a
bug that will get fixed sometime, but it's annoying.
Generally the tones available from it are a bit iffy. They're all too
"general-MIDI"-ish to be really ideal for using as-is. Combining a guitar sound and a
synth sound can make for a more convincing tone, if you plan on using this for keyboard
parts. But sadly there isn't a good guitar sound to be had from it, with the exception of
a fairly convincing 12-string. Maybe they were expecting anyone using it more seriously
to be hooking it up to a laptop though, at which point of course you can do what you like
The strangest part of this is that it comes with built-in jam
tracks to play along with (actually short loops of 16 bars or so), and these are actually
really good. I've definitely heard worse sounds from e-drum kits, and the tracks are
well-constructed. Clearly a musician was at work creating this, so it's a shame the same
musician couldn't have said "hold on, why do all the guitars sound like crap?"
The "open tunings" also didn't get much thought. This thing has 64 different tunings.
Did no-one think that tuning down an octave for bass might be useful? Checking on the
web, there's a "secret" combination of key-holds to tune up or down by up to two octaves,
which of course will do the job, but this isn't listed in the instructions.
In fact, looking on the web, there's an awful lot that isn't in the instructions. I
think they would have been better giving out an absolutely minimal manual (like two pages)
and pointed users to the web for anything else - at least then everyone would know that
they needed to look there.
It's a flawed work
of genius, basically. I love it for the two-hand tapping that it opens up. I just wish
all the bugs could have been ironed out first. Perhaps that's what you get for being an
early user though...