Friday, April 10, 2015

Learning Guitar Part 4 - Guitar Hero

I really like Guitar Hero, and for a long time I was really good at it (not that I'm all that bad now, just not as good.) Guitar Hero isn't an appreciable skill. I hear stories from time to time from guys who thought they could pick up guitar easy because they were so good at Guitar Hero.

Dead Wrong
Guitar Hero isn't anything like playing guitar. Nothing. I can't really emphasize that enough. The guitar controller has five buttons and a strum bar. Some controllers have more buttons and stuff to them, but nothing that adds much more than another way to strum that one strum bar or hit those five buttons. In comparison, an actual guitar is like a guitar controller that has 264 buttons (sometimes more, sometimes less) and six strum bars.

Guitar is complicated and takes years of practice to become any good. Guitar Hero is simple, easy, and takes a few weeks to achieve near mastery. Guitar is more or less a mystery to someone who's never picked one up. They hold such a common place in society, I think most people don't realize how weird they look. Metal wires, what we call strings, are stretched over a piece of wood and connected to a large wood base. Take a moment to look at it and the instrument takes on a different form. Take a moment to think about it and the reason why it's so hard to play becomes apparent.

No instrument tells you how to play it. Music on a whole is a crazy esoteric thing. This is why many people 'love' music but can't play any instruments, read music, or even sing. Many people assume that music is an innate talent, but any musician will tell you that they work hard every day to keep up their ability and to get better. Perhaps talent helps out, but no successful person rides on talent alone, and no successful person never failed.

This has taken a weird turn, but I'd like to loop back to Guitar Hero. I've been playing Rocksmith a bit more and I think I figured out why I don't like playing it: I'm playing it like Guitar Hero. There will be a time where I can sort of do this. Being really good at an instrument leaves only some stuff to be discovered, and, especially with rock, music tends to repeat itself. However, even on easier difficulties, RockSmith isn't easy. It's hard, because it's playing a real instrument. The game is very good at teaching, but it's not a great game.

I think the right way to play Rock Smith is to play a song, then go into Riff Repeater (where any part of the song can be narrowed down, slowed down, and played over and over again) and learn the song part for part. Come back the next day, practice that song a bit and then choose another song. I've wnated to just play a dozen songs every time I play, and I always felt aggrivated by how much I couldn't play them and I felt like I would never be able to play any of the songs.

Then I started to practice song parts. With this practice, I felt better. I was learning and my hands were easier to move around. I'd come back the next day and I still couldn't play it, but I knew what to do, and I knew what was happening. It's a great tool, but it can't be played like Guitar Hero. From what I read, there are probably other guys out there like me (and I know Rocksmith is targeting as much of the Guitar Hero and Rock Band demo as possible.)

Play the guitar like it's an instrument, not like it's a game.

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