The YRG -1000 looks like a game controller because it is one. But its secret identity is a stealth MIDI guitar controller.
When I first saw the YRG -1000
You Rock Guitar, I thought it was a toy.
But despite looking like a refugee from
the Guitar Hero video game, it’s a surprisingly
accurate and inexpensive MIDI controller.
The neck’s “frets” and “strings”
are raised plastic, although they do feel
quite comfortable and string-like. You
pluck the YRG-1000’s six short strings
to trigger notes, and as there’s no need to
detect string pitch, there’s no significant
latency. You can’t bend the “strings” or
do natural vibrato, but there’s a vibrato
tailpiece that’s a guitar version of a keyboard
pitch-bend wheel, as well as a joystick
that’s like a mod wheel.
Some guitarists will be forever put off
because the YRG-1000 ($199 street) is not
a real guitar, but it’s very cool for triggering
virtual instruments—if it’s tweaked
properly. Here are some tips…
USB vs. 5-pin DIN. The YRG-1000
can output MIDI over USB (ideal for computers,
and also powers the guitar), or a
standard 5-pin DIN connector for triggering
Read the manual. Seriously. Multiple
adjustments allow customizing the
response to your playing style. It may take
a couple of hours of trial-and-error to get
these adjustments right, but setting them
properly can make the difference between
frustrating triggering problems and nearperfect
Six guitar instruments have been loaded into Native Instruments Kontakt 5. As the YRG -1000 is in Mono mode, the six instruments each respond to one channel, which corresponds to one “string” on the controller. For the best response each “string” is limited to playing only one note, like a real guitar string.
Tap mode. This playing method suits
the YRG-1000 very well, as the “frets” and
“strings” are essentially switches. Again,
adjust the response for best results.
Set up your synth properly. How you
set up a synthesizer is crucial, and very few
MIDI guitar players seem to know this.
The YRG-1000 has four Mono mode presets,
where each string transmits over its
own MIDI channel. These can be channels
1-6 or 7-12, or the reverse (channel
1 or channel 7 can be either the first or
There are two mono-mode advantages.
First, you can assign a separate
synthesizer sound to each string—such as
a bass for the lower strings, and a piano
for the upper strings. Second, if you can
restrict each sound to allow only one note
at a time (like a real guitar string, but not
all synths let you do this), the result is a
more guitar-like feel and better tracking.
The limitation of the YRG-1000’s
Mono mode is that the virtual whammy
bar doesn’t send pitch-bend data over all
six channels at once (a planned firmware
update will address this). But as the controller
can save presets, you can create
some Mono mode presets for instruments
such as piano, vibes, pads, and the
like where you tend to play chords without
bending. Then, you can create other
presets that send all data over channel
1 (with pitch bend messages) for solo
instruments such as wind, brass, and the
like where pitch-bending is an important
part of the playing style.
If you’re into MIDI guitar—or want to
be—don’t ignore the You Rock Guitar. It
does indeed rock.
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