Rock Band 3 is Everything Guitarists Have Hoped For

June 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

Although I’ve never met them, it appears someone out there wanted a more realistic guitar rhythm game. Harmonix has revealed that as well as bringing a whole boatload more songs, Rock Band 3 will also feature a new ‘Pro’ mode which users will play with a real Fender Squire guitar.

I’ve never owned a guitar rhythm game. Part of this may be due to my house, which I doubt will ever have the capacity for more gaming peripherals, let alone a plastic drum kit. However another more significant part is that I play guitar.

Now I’m not going to get all snobby about Rock Band and its imitators. I appreciate that they tap into the music scene in a way almost no other games have managed, and are genuinely a huge amount of fun to play. They’ve just never really appealed to me is all.

Rock Band 3 has already changed all of this.

Whilst it would be nice to not have to by another guitar when I already have one sitting next to me, I totally understand why this has to be the case. Without MIDI, it would be nigh-on impossible for a game to take the analogue signals a guitar produces and turn them into game inputs. This in the grand scheme of things though, is a fairly minor niggle.

The fact of the matter is that tabliture, let alone good accurate tabliture, is incredibly hard to come by on the internet. Companies that produce sheet music have been shutting down sites for a while, and those few that are left contain a large amount of tabs that leave a lot to be desired.

The alternatives then are to either tab stuff yourself, or buy officially licensed sheet music. Getting what you hear down onto paper is an invaluable tool for every guitarist to learn, but it’s a very hard thing to do, especially for more complicated songs with one, two, or even three guitar parts, as well as bass in there just to confuse you. Sheet music then could be your best option, were it not often as inaccurate as amateur tabs, as well as the fact it’s only ever available for an entire album.

If you’re telling me that I can buy Rock Band 3, crank the difficulty up to full, and actually learn real songs, then I’m going to be very excited here. It’s not just the fact that the game could replace written tabs for me, its that it has the potential to do things that printed tabliture has never been able to do, namely giving the duration of notes (a very very important feature when some guitar solos will whip around notes at incredible speeds).

Rock Band 3 could also potentially make me a much better guitarist to boot. Put in practise routines to do on a daily basis, and I’ll gladly play through them a couple of times to improve on my speed. Not only that, but the ability to rate your performance in these otherwise boring routines could revolutionise the practise schedules of millions of bedroom guitarists.

Let’s not get carried away here. There are inevitably going to be things you can do on the Rock Band guitar that won’t sound right on a real guitar, but will get you points in game. In these cases, you may not know you’re doing something wrong, but you’ll subconsciously take on this bad habit which may be very hard to break out of further down the line. Not everything about playing guitar comes out the amp at the other end; there are things like hand posture, and strumming fluency that I don’t believe any software can teach you, and may make it impossible for you to get beyond a certain skill level.

So Rock Band 3 isn’t going to replace guitar teachers any time soon. If however you can buy the game with the guitar, practise for a couple of months, and then go and get lessons without having to buy a new instrument, that’s going to be a huge incentive for people to get learning.

Absolutely everything about the success of Rock Band 3 as a teaching tool rests on the accuracy of the guitar. If anything about it is off, if the frets aren’t wide enough, if the strings don’t react in the right way, if the strings are too easy to push down, then everything you learn whilst playing the game is going to be useless when you come to buying a ‘real’ guitar.

Harmonix is a development studio made up of musicians, and if anyone can pull this off its them. As soon as I get my hands on one of these guitars I’ll let you guys know if a new generation of musicians is just around the corner, so until then if anyone from Harmonix is reading, send one of those bad boys this way!

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