Rocksmith, The Guitar Video Game
Guitar learning aid or just a game?
I suspect there are a lot of you like me out there. In fact, I know there are. You want to learn how to play the guitar. Maybe you're like me and have been trying for years to learn to play the guitar. You've had guitar lessons, tried playing to guitar tabs, searched for online guitar training aids, and in the end just frustrated yourself.
You're not trying to be another Eddie Van Halen, BB King or Jimi Hendrix, you just want to be able to sit around and make something that sounds reasonable come out of that electric or acoustic guitar.
Well there's a new video game on the market which promises to help you along that path, it's called Rocksmith and is from Ubisoft.
With the Rocksmith game, and what makes it so different and appealing to me, you use a real guitar. In fact, you can use your own guitar. As long as it has the standard cord plug, it should work with this game. They also have an option of a complete set-up which comes with a guitar, but I suspect most of us who are in the market for this sort of guitar learning aid already have one or four laying around.
Rocksmith is available for the PC, PS3 and the XBox360 and once hooked up, on the TV or computer screen is a display of finger positions and a scrolling sheet of notes you play. The game guides you through real songs, and through the magic of modern computing, is able to recognize what you are doing, and more importantly, what you are doing wrong. It's suggested that you run the audio through either a stereo or surround sound system, which makes me somewhat giddy. (I have 1000 watts of JVC power and my neighbors should be able to document any progression I have with this game) Most users have reported that is how they have had their best results, along with not using an HDMI cable. Apparently there is an inherent audio lag with this sort of set-up but if you follow the advice of the Rocksmith gamemaker and others, the consensus is that the results are very, very good.
Now I'm not a video game expert, and certainly not a guitar expert, however I am an expert in training people. I've trained many a person in the proper usage of firearms, people who depend upon their training everyday to ensure they go home at the end of their shift. And what I have noticed from researching this game is that Rocksmith takes much the same approach in training guitar as I would when training Police Officers in firearms.
It's referred to as muscle memory, or more properly, repetitive action training. The idea is that you begin with the most basic of actions and perfect those actions while slowly adding more advanced skills. The saying is Perfect Practice makes Perfect. It's not enough to just stand on a firing line sending lead more or less downrange, you have to first master the basics of firearms handling and develop the physical strengths and balance needed. Then you progress. As an Instructor, I increase the difficulty level to the student based on their progression, you always want to challenge the student but you never want to overwhelm a beginner. You want to reward them as they progress but still have little reminders that they have a lot left to learn. You always want to keep training fresh and interesting, one way of doing this is having little challenges or games to break the monotony. Like maybe one day I replace the paper targets with mannequins or we shoot apples for awhile, just something that will keep students interested.
Rocksmith appears to follow this training doctrine by starting the player with basic instruction while the program recognizes advancement and adds more advanced techniques to keep the player challenged. The program is able to recognize when the player is having difficulty and focus the player on those areas until those basics are mastered. The player is rewarded with new levels, yet it is always obvious that there is still a long way to go. There are side challenges on the game for the player to try which let them use the skills they have developed in different ways.
The difference between a Firearms Instructor and a really good Firearms Instructor is that the really good Firearms Instructor will recognize mistakes and problem areas for a student and will know how to help correct those issues. From reading reviews of the Rocksmith game and studying their website, this is where the game excels. That to me is the most important, and impressive, feature of the Rocksmith game.
So I for one see this new game from Ubisoft as a lot more than just a game, I see it as a way to develop some skills in a proven manner of training. I think that when utilized along with occasional instruction from a good guitar Teacher and with a great resource like GuitarTricks.com, a dedicated person could really develop some decent guitar skills. You still have to do your part, there are no shortcuts for difficult skills, but Rocksmith should prove to be a valuable training resource. And at about $80, it's not that expensive.
I have ordered a copy for myself and will have follow-up articles about what I find. I suggest that if you are also a beginning guitarist, even an old, frustrated thumbsy plucker like myself, you check out this new Rocksmith guitar game.