By Jared Newman | Sunday, January 10, 2010 at 1:05 pm
You know how musicians like to moan about how music games don’t inspire people to play real instruments? I wonder how they’d feel about Inspired Instruments’ You Rock guitar and Gambridge’s Z-1 Hybrid guitar.
Both axes, on display at CES’s gaming showcase, are MIDI guitars that also work as controllers in Guitar Hero and Rock Band. They’ve got actual, strummable strings for your picking hand and plastic frets that respond to the touch. Along several frets, there are also color-coded bars, marking them as buttons for music gaming.
I’m a guitarist and a gamer, so I couldn’t wait to give You Rock’s capable hired musician a rest and to try both guitars on my own. One thing’s for sure: Playing Guitar Hero on these instruments was considerably more fun than using the actual game’s paddle-and-buttons guitar controller. Being able to jam on strings brings the experience closer to real life (but still pretty far off, of course).
Playing the guitar wasn’t half-bad either. You definitely lose some important abilities, like bending strings and full control over muting, and it takes a little getting used to, but I was able to kick out some blues without too many problems. I actually preferred Gambridge’s guitar as a musical instrument, as it felt more responsive to muting and sliding, and its frets have a little give, making them feel more like real strings. But it’s heavier and its design isn’t as sleek.
It’s probably a good thing that there are two companies pursuing this, because it increases the chances that the product will get to market. The $179 You Rock guitar is available for pre-order online with ship date unknown (you’ll also need a $25 Bluetooth dongle for your game console of choice, available in Q1 for Playstation 3 and Wii and Q2 for Xbox 360), and the company is hoping to land retail deals at CES. Gambridge is shooting for a September launch with the $199 Z-1, whose prototype works with the Playstation 3 only (Gambridge eventually wants to support all consoles) via wired USB.
Would I buy one? Maybe, as the ability to use these guitars as instruments in Garage Band sweetens the deal if you’re an actual musician, but if I was looking to teach a Guitar Hero enthusiast how to play, I’d probably opt for a cheap starter electric guitar instead.
Update: I’ve clarified that the You Rock guitar can mute and slide strings, but it felt a little more natural on the Z-1 in my brief time with both.