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Alistair S

New Toy .. Midi Guitar (and CHEAP)

I recently bought myself a new toy (and it looks like a toy and it's priced like a toy) and I'm having a lot of fun with it!

I always wanted to play with midi using a guitar but have never found a good way of doing it. Dick Langford (DickL, formerly of the Muse) put me on to this.

What I have is called the "You Rock Guitar" (yeah, I know!) and it looks much like a toy. In fact, it can be used to play guitar hero, etc. as well.

It has a number of internal sounds, but my interest is in using it as a midi controller. And it works!

Here it is..

large-sosnews05yourockguitar.jpg

The neck and body are detachable. The neck has built in strings that run through the frets, so it feels kind of right. You can' bend the strings, but everything else is fine.

The body also has strings, each attached to a pickup under the bridge. Depending on the mode you select, the strings can be played and/or you can simply press the strings on the neck to produce sound (what they call "tap" mode, which also helps with hammer-ons.

It's quite configurable, from loosening the strings to using a downloadable program to do things like adjust trigger sensitivity.

It connects using USB or midi ports or audio (the latter for its own sounds).

All in all, it's fun. I found it online for just over £100.

I've only just got it, so haven't done anything wonderful and am still learning what it can do, but here's a sample of me experimenting (feeding VSTis in my DAW) - first with a chinese flute (Xiao), then a sax and lastly a synth (Superwave). This is just messing around with 3 chords and no editing in one take.

It's a guitar player's midi controller .. and it's playable! :)

http://soundclick.com/share.cfm?id=11349401

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Ok. Thanks. Puzzle solved. My daughter was saying her friend got one of these at Xmas and I was having trouble wrapping my brain around what exactly it was. Now I understand totally, cool little toy for sure!

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Yes, it's a new toy, but I think it has the potential to be much more. It's a midi controller and the idea of controlling midi with a guitar is a bit of a holy grail.

It takes a bit of experimentation, largely around teechnique, but also around the range of different instruments you play (some don't cover the whole fretboard).

With practice, people are doing this kind of thing ..

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For the guitarist that always wanted to play keyboard. :)

The big advantage I could see, would be someone who's used to thinking in terms of chords and fingering on the guitar neck, verses thinking more in a linear fashion on keys.

Then it got me to thinking, how come keyboards don't come with "Whammy Bars ?"

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Yes, it's a new toy, but I think it has the potential to be much more. It's a midi controller and the idea of controlling midi with a guitar is a bit of a holy grail.

It takes a bit of experimentation, largely around teechnique, but also around the range of different instruments you play (some don't cover the whole fretboard).

With practice, people are doing this kind of thing ..

This is interesting. I am researching cheap midi keyboards for creating midi piano, synths, organs, drums, etc in Garageband. Watching the video got me to wondering how well the midi guitar could create drum loops. Have you created any drum loops with it yet? I play guitar, so creating the drum loops would be a whole lot easier for me than using a keyboard, I think. At least based on what I saw in the video. And from what I saw in the video the midi guitar might even be easier for me to create keyboard tracks. Just wondering. Not sure why I hadn't thought of this before :-)

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I've not really messed around with drums yet. I'm not sure it would be so well-suited for drums as it is for some other instruments.

I have a 25-key midi keyboard controller (the M-Audio Axiom 25) that works fine for that, with some pads if I want to use them. The difficulty with drums is that you need to know how a drummer plays. If you can start with some loops (or Jamstix-generated stuff) and edit it, that seems to work fine, or use an MPC unit or Maschine or Trigger-Finger or something.

Alternatively, an electronic drum kit .. but I'm no drummer, so don't have one :)

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Ha ha...that looks pretty good.

It appears to track well over fasts passages which is where I believe the old generation controllers came up short.

Might have to pick one up, though I actually like using a piano keyboard.

Forces us geetar players to use hibernating parts of our brain.

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Excellent fun! I like your wee experiments with it so far. We might hear from you in the Instrumentals in the near future. :)

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Wow, that’s a good price. You will have loads of fun with this Alistair. I bought a Roland GR20 a few years back and fixed a midi pick-up to my guitar, then I picked up a Roland ready Strat on eBay which worked better. It will certainly give you a few more production/arrangement options. I think mine has actually made me a little lazy with regards to playing real keyboard but it has tightened up my guitar playing a little.

Then it got me to thinking, how come keyboards don't come with "Whammy Bars ?"

A lot do, it’s normally called a bender or modulation Lever (or wheel) :)

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Wow, that's a good price. You will have loads of fun with this Alistair. I bought a Roland GR20 a few years back and fixed a midi pick-up to my guitar, then I picked up a Roland ready Strat on eBay which worked better. It will certainly give you a few more production/arrangement options. I think mine has actually made me a little lazy with regards to playing real keyboard but it has tightened up my guitar playing a little.

Then it got me to thinking, how come keyboards don't come with "Whammy Bars ?"

A lot do, it's normally called a bender or modulation Lever (or wheel) smile.gif

Yes I realize that, I have a modulation wheel on my set of keyboards, and not wanting to get in a discussion about them, my thought is they just don't give the same physical feedback (resistance) as an actual whammy bar. Perhaps if the manufactures installed stronger springs on those wheels. wink.gif

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If anybody is interested, I wrote a Java app (PC, MAC or Linux) that does a real time analysis of your guitar audio as you play (or any other instrument I suppose) and turns it into MIDI. It then plays the MIDI through one of its built-in synths, or you can seen the MIDI to a synth in Ableton, Pro Tools. etc. At the time I was towing with some AI, with the idea of building software that would collaborate with you and not just ape what you play. So you can program it to transpose your notes, play only notes in a certain scale, play chords, etc. It has an artificial LIFE simuation that lets you experiment with evolving patterns. I'm not totally happy with it - not enough hours in the day and I'd rather play music than build tools on most days. But once an engineer... I have had fun playing live with it. I made it so it would trigger MIDI events based on notes or chords you play that it recognizes - so I could start with accoustic guitar, and trigger tracks I wanted on the verse, chorus, etc. And if I messed up or changed up, it would follow me unlike something totally pre-recorded.

Very interesting to use with Ableton but has limits - mostly that the Fast Fourier Transform I'm using has to have a minimum sample size to work with - meaning there's a trade off in accuracy versus latency when detecting low notes. Still puzzling over that one.

Oh, I also gave it a "page turner" where it will display chords, lyrics, images or whatever on a monitor and change them when it detects that you are playing notes of the chorus, etc. It uses a micro-web server to do that, so you can turn pages for the whole band if you want. Hey, I was bored that month.

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Yes, I've tried various software approaches, Greg. The harmonics are often a problem, though.

The best result I have had was with Melodyne and then creating midi from the Melodyne file (a built-in function), which I could edit - but even that was cumbersome.

This is much easier and much more effective.

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You're right about the harmonics, but since their amplitude and frequencies are predictable that was pretty easy to solve. Broadband percussive frequencies, like the loud noise from your pick or fingers as you hit the strings were a bigger problem creating false notes that needed to be filtered.

I basically had to assume that you didn't want to play the equivalent of slamming your hands down across all the notes on a piano keyboard. I solved that by (when such an event occurs) introducing a slight delay. The delay is shorter than your brain would normally notice, but long enough for me to get a bigger sample and figure out what the true fundamental frequencies are. The best tool though is the AI. If I KNOW that you are playing a B flat blues, then the software can respond accordingly, and also choose more appropriate chord voicings than just always mindlessly adding a third or whatever.

I'm not saying its perfect, just fun to play with, especially live.

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Have you seen this one yet?

As someone who likes to add as close to possible guitar sounds to his music, I have MusicLabs RealStrat and RealGuitar apps that I will occassionally use.

I don't know if I'd go this route.

It appears that MusicLab is using a Guitar Hero controller to create version 3 of RealGuitar.

But if it gets more younger folks interested in actually "playing" music, then I will wholeheartedly defer to that cause.

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Thanks for the post, Alistair. I had wondered about it & it's good to get the straight skinny. You admit it's a toy (a very cool toy, I'd assess) & it is what it is.

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Danny, that looks pretty impressive! I'm not sure if I could get used to it or not, but that guy certainly has!

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