Did you know that there is a video game that can actually teach you how to play the guitar? It’s true! The game is called Rocksmith 2014, and the way it works is rather ingenious. Much like the other two powerhouses in the music gaming world, Guitar Hero and Rock Band, Rocksmith features popular songs, as recorded by the original artists. Like the other two, it also features a “note highway” of brightly colored gems that march merrily toward the viewer’s perspective, indicating the position and timing of the notes that need to be hit next.
Here’s the big difference. Unlike other music games, which feature a plastic guitar-shaped controller with 5 or 6 buttons, Rocksmith requires an actual guitar to play. Using a special cable, one end connects to any electric guitar, using the standard quarter inch plug, and on the other end is a standard USB connector. The cable then plugs into your PC, Xbox 360, or Playstation 3 (the game is available on all three platforms). Menus are navigated with a keyboard, mouse, or game controller. However, once the music starts, the only controller you need is a guitar.
The key to this system is a feature known as Dynamic Difficulty. Even the hardest songs start off simple, with the game only requiring you to play certain key notes that correspond with the melody of the song. As the player begins to hit the few initial notes correctly, the game keeps track of this, and when the player plays the song a second time, they are presented with even more notes from the original composition. As their skill increases, over subsequent play-throughs, eventually they graduate up to playing the full song, with no notes omitted.
Another method of learning is a feature called Riff Repeater, which allows the player to select a certain section of the song to focus on, which they can then play with Dynamic Difficulty (or full difficulty), and are free to rewind and replay as many times as it takes to learn the phrase. The best part is that you can slow the song down to as low as 1% speed, and the game will automatically raise the speed by 10% each time the player completes the phrase without missing a note. This allows the guitar student to practice and perfect phrases at their own pace, eventually improving enough to play the song as it was originally written and recorded.
While books and music theory are crucial to the development of any musician, Rocksmith frees up both novice and advanced guitarist alike, to practice and master the techniques of playing the guitar. Traditionally, many beginning guitarists give up after a short period, as they find that learning from a songbook requires them to play so slowly (in order to learn what’s on the page) that the process becomes abstract and frustrating, as what they’re playing sounds nothing like the song. Riff Repeater retains the pitch of the original song’s audio so to the student’s ears, they still get the satisfaction of playing along with the song, accompanying them in the background, only slower.
As you can see, it’s an exciting time to learn the guitar! Looking for something fun and productive to do over your summer vacation? Check out Rocksmith 2014!