Pro Guitar Mode Makes Rock Band 3 Harder, Socially Redeeming

Pro Guitar Mode Makes Rock Band 3 Harder, Socially Redeeming
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At last, your shame will end. At last, you will be able to tell your guitar-playing friends that you too can play guitar, well sorta, thanks to Rock Band 3’s pro guitar mode. Plus, you will have learnt guitar better.

There is a simplicity to Rock Band 3’s Pro Guitar mode that words can convey more cheaply but less effectively and efficiently than can a copy of Harmonix’s next game played with a $US150 special guitar-shaped controller in your hands.

Yes, in your hands, with Rock Band 3’s Pro Guitar trainer mode running, this device, with all of its buttons, a separate one where each portion of guitar string should go on each fret…

… will seem like the perfectly non-confusing instrument with which to execute the commands that the training software spawns such as these…

A few weeks ago, with a device like the former in hand and an image like the latter in front of me, I overcame my fears and felt more than I ever had in the past like I had a shot at playing a real guitar.

When it launches in October, alongside that Mad Catz Pro Guitar you see above, Rock Band 3 will allow its braver and wealthier players to connect Pro Guitar (which doubles as a functional MIDI guitar) to game for a more advanced guitar-playing experience than you usually have when playing a music video game. Pro Guitar is more than just matching a rainbow of five buttons to a cascade of notes on your TV, as you flick a lever that pretends to be every string on the guitar. Pro Guitar mode expects you to… oh no… know notes and… terrifying… hold down and strum the correct strings and… shudder… move your hand to different places of that guitar neck while you play a song. Wait. Isn’t this what those real guitar players sort of do when they’re not sneering at people who play Rock Band and Guitar Hero?

Rock Band 3 has a forgiving and helpful Guitar Pro training mode. This is what we must celebrate. In this mode, you are taught the lessons of playing the closest thing the Harmonix franchise has ever offered to real guitar. As with the “pro/” keyboard mode, these lessons are played in real time, with the notes you need to play cascading down the screen. And as with the pro keyboard mode, you can slow the lesson, essentially allowing you to downgrade to an underwater tempo if your fingers can’t keep up. Once you complete a challenge, you can move on to the next one.

A Pro Guitar trainees gets a note highway that shows the strings of a real guitar. A note icon coming down that highway signals the string you need to strum with one hand and that you should hold down with your forefinger on the other. The number indicates on which part of the guitar’s neck – which fret – you need to be pressing the string with that aforementioned forefinger.

Not too bad:

What’s great about the Pro Guitar and what might make even real guitar players envious is that the Rock Band 3 pro guitars can show to the player on their TV what they’re actually pressing. If you are holding down the wrong “string” on the neck of the guitar (remember, up there, it’s all skinny buttons pretending to be parts of the string) or strumming the wrong string with your other hand (where the strings are actually strings), you can see that in the game. You won’t just get audio feedback. You can see you touched the wrong thing. Good thing, because then you get asked to learn chords:

And learning chords can, well, look tough in screenshots (yes, this is the same shot as higher up, but you need to see it again to have a chance of understanding it):

The shot above introduces the new “wave” icon in Rock Band. They makes sense when you play them. The number shows, as described before, where your forefinger goes. The height of the rest of the wave indicates how many frets away the other notes are – you figure out which finger goes where through practice.

A few weeks past when I played this at the offices for Harmonix parent company MTV, I already have trouble fathoming how I pulled any of this off. I’m not so sure I did, not with the confidence and dexterity of a professional guitar player. But I was learning. The lessons have the ideal amount of feedback to make the reasons for errors – and the ways to correct them – obvious.

If in some way Rock Band was a stairway to learning how to play real guitar, the Pro Guitar training mode included in Rock Band 3 will probably get us not-playing-real-instrument heathens another flight up. For $US150 you get a guitar that, added to the game you buy, can show you what you’re doing wrong. The game’s trainer, in theory, will show you how to do it right.

And then you can let loose solo:

Or risk it all with friends:


  • I didn’t read the hole post so sorry if it was mentioned but is Rock Band 3 coming out in Australia? Rock Band 2 never made it here so I hope this one does.

    • It’s should be, it was announced as worldwide launch and most retailers have it for pre-ordering…

      Both Beatles, LEGO & Green Day made it here on the same time as everyone else, so there is no reason now why this one won’t…

      Still doesn’t excuse or explain the reason why RB2 wasn’t released.

    • The second I found out that RB2 wasnt being shipped to Aus, I logged into ebay and bought myself a UK version (They use PAL too ;)) which ended up costing me significantly less than a brand new game retails for in Aus.

      Globalisation is such a good thing 🙂

      • Unless you want the instruments!
        Then its just plain ridiculous.
        I too got RB2 from UK as soon as it was possible.
        but it took until Beatles for me to get a drum kit as i was not going to pay the exorbitant fees for shipping.

        My main concern for RB3 is the availability of the instruments.

        I want to get the “real” guitar not the million button one.
        as well as the cymbal pack for the drums.
        Im just hoping those bits get released here as well (or harmonix opens its online shop in Aus, pretty please).

        I am very excited for RB3, RB2 still gets a good thrashing every couple weeks honestly the amount ive played it makes up for the amount ive paid for it all

    • Some of the songs on disc will include pro-guitar charts, so you can play the song almost for real (I think the game guitar has a few less frets than a real one).

      I don’t think there has been word on how many, or what specific songs have pro charts.

      Future DLC could also include pro charts, but will likely cost a little bit more than current DLC.

  • By the looks of things we aren’t getting any Rock Band 3 Bundles, just the stand alone game. I’ve checked with EB and GAME and neither of them have the bundles in their system…. hopefully it just hasn’t been added yet but it would suck big time if we couldn’t play keyboard or pro-mode here in Aus.

  • It’d be great if they ever get to the point where you can plug a real guitar in and use that.

    On the issue of “what those real guitar players sort of do when they’re not sneering at people who play Rock Band and Guitar Hero” – I’ve really never understood that ridiculous, elitist attitude. It’s a GAME, it’s not supposed to replace the “real” thing. You don’t find real life sports people self-righteously teeing off on those who play FIFA or Madden instead of playing the real sport, or racing car drivers having a go at people who play Gran Turismo or Forza (or, God help you, Burnout). Quite the contrary – they seem to enjoy playing the gaming representation of the “real” activity. It just seems to be the musicians who don’t quite get it…

    • My theory on why they dont like it is it’s more the image of a posing 14 year old with ZERO guitar skills jumping round like a rock star, whereas it actually takes skill and practice on a real guitar to earn the right to do that legitimately.

  • Guys apparently the instruments are “Exclusive to EB Games” and the Fender Squire (The one with the real strings) is not listed on their site.

    So expect to be paying full price for the instruments =(

    The prices are as follows

    Fender Mustang Pro $288
    Pro Drum set (with three cymbals) $288
    The Midi adapter $68
    And the one we all want, The Keyboard $138
    (which is actually a pretty good price)

  • Picked this up yesterday and I have to say it’s pretty disapointing. Obviously I have just been playing with the old instruments but it feels like they have put minimal effort into improving anything in the standard game. The new instruments just look way to complicated and way over priced considering the state of the Aussie Dollar. Keyboard should be ok but the fun factor has pretty much totally disapeared from rock band.

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