Thanks Rock Band And Guitar Hero, I’m Playing A Real Guitar Now

Thanks Rock Band And Guitar Hero, I’m Playing A Real Guitar Now

Rock Band 4 got me ready to pick up an instrument again. Guitar Hero Live got my fingers moving back and forth. Together they convinced me to take the next step — buying the cheapest guitar possible and a copy of Rocksmith.

I got my first real six string. Bought it via Amazon Prime. Played it till my fingers were puffy and red. It was the fall of 2015, because sometimes you need to sacrifice staying true to your song parody for the sake of being factually accurate.

Technically the horrible little black guitar I picked up from Amazon for $138 (with case and crappy amp) isn’t my first real six string, but it’s the only guitar I’ve ever purchased for myself and not had gifted to me from a relative. The others were “Here, you might like this.” This stringed piece of barely guitar was my choice.

Thanks Rock Band And Guitar Hero, I’m Playing A Real Guitar Now

Davison — when you need a guitar no one else will ever hear you play.

It was a choice greatly influenced by Rock Band 4 and Guitar Hero Live, both of which I reviewed earlier this year. Each has its strong points. Rock Band is still great for groups of friends and recently added that damn “Shut Up and Dance With Me” song. Guitar Hero Live’s new guitar, with its two sets of three buttons side-by-side, really gets the fingers moving, and I’m quite enjoying the Live music channels (I’ve been playing the iOS version on my Apple TV).

But one day, sitting about on the couch plinking away at “Stacy’s Mum” on a plastic guitar I had the thought. The same thought that folks have been having since Guitar Hero’s debut. “Why aren’t I doing this on a real guitar?”

I’ve taken lessons in the past, if paying a man $69 an hour to play “Stairway to Heaven” in the next room while I mastered the G chord lessons. My brother has played guitar most of his life, and even wrote a modular romantic song into which he could plug in any woman’s name that ended with the long E sound. He’s even played at restaurants. RESTAURANTS.

So I took the plunge. Well, plunge might be a strong way to describe investing an entire $138 on an instrument. It was more like cautiously dipping my toe in while tethered via unbreakable rope to some immovable thing.

I grabbed my trusty Davison, a copy of Rocksmith 2014 for the PC and a $42 cable to hook the two together.

Thanks Rock Band And Guitar Hero, I’m Playing A Real Guitar Now

Remember boxed PC games? I don’t.

“Poor Rocksmith 2014,” one might think. “Barely any gaming sites covered it.” Do not weep for Ubisoft’s real-guitar learning game — it’s doing just fine. It might not be a big draw for the traditional gaming audience, but a cursory search for information on the title uncovered a large and passionate following. Look up any cheap guitar listing on Amazon — one of the first questions in the Q&A section is almost always “Will it work with Rocksmith?”

The Davison certainly does. Sometimes it stays in tune through more than two songs. Pretty sweet.

We had noted recording artist Kirk Hamilton review the original Rocksmith, and he wasn’t too fond of it. Rocksmith 2014 learned a lot from its predecessor’s failings. No tracks locked, plenty of ways to play. Want to tackle a riff at full difficulty? Go for it. Lag? Not here. It still doesn’t quite capture the soul of music — no electronic device ever could — but some of us need to master the mechanical before we can start making love to our instruments live on stage while on fire.

Thanks Rock Band And Guitar Hero, I’m Playing A Real Guitar Now

Look at all of those options! You can switch between lead guitar, rhythm guitar or even plug in a bass. Learn a song, jam away with some robot accompaniment, learn some new stuff, play arcade games, team up with a friend or remind yourself how stupid Uplay is. You can do anything in Rocksmith 2014.

What you can’t do is record video while speaking on a microphone and playing — at least I’ve not figured it out yet. I had a lovely video to go along with the post, demonstrating how the game begins a song like Weezer’s “My Name Is Jonas” with a simple set of notes and then layers on the complexity as you master each part, but now I have no way to convey that information. Sorry.

Thanks Rock Band And Guitar Hero, I’m Playing A Real Guitar Now

And how will I indicate that each time you finish a song the game gives you goals to complete calculated to help you achieve a better performance? If only there were a thing like video, only without sound or movement.

Thanks Rock Band And Guitar Hero, I’m Playing A Real Guitar Now

It’s not a quick and easy task, but it’s entertaining. I’ve found myself leaving my office door open lately so my wife can hear me play while she wanders about the house. So far she is completely unimpressed, but I won her over before with much more at stake, so I am confident I will eventually triumph. Besides, Emily — long E sound.

Hey look, a Rocksmith Weezer trailer. Convenient.

I’ve learned a lot from Rocksmith 2014 and my stupid guitar since I started, including:

  • How to properly hold a guitar
  • What that thing I do with my fingers lightly resting on the strings for that one Yes song is called (harmonics)
  • Sometimes you have to tune the guitar differently, and that’s why I’ve always sucked at Weezer
  • How to hold a guitar pick
  • How to ignore instructions on how to hold a guitar pick
  • How to pick a single song out of…ok, I am lying, there are too many DLC songs for this game
  • Emily does not care if I am Free Fallin’ or not.

There’s a lot more to learn, but I’m off to a good start. Calluses are forming, my wrist doesn’t ache anymore, and my fingers don’t feel quite as meaty as they did when I started. Once tax return season rolls around I plan on picking up a guitar that’s nice enough to be seen in public but not so nice that my neighbours would break into my house to steal it.

Maybe one day I’ll play a restaurant, and I’ll owe it all to Rock Band 4 and Guitar Hero Live.

Feel free to post good guitar suggestions in the comments.


  • I started trying out RB3’s pro mode to see if it and the Mustang worked as a teaching tool. Kinda didn’t get back to it after a week or two. Oops >.>

  • I tried rock band but found that the timing between the audio and guitar playing was off ever so slightly so it threw me right out of whack with songs I can actually play myself.

    • Rock Band or Rocksmith?
      I never had an issue with delay in Rocksmith, but as the game advises, it’s best to use dedicated speakers on an audio out channel (rather than HDMI audio through your monitor). On PC that’s easy with standard 3.5mm jacks, but on console, I think you need an audio receiver with optical (SPIDF) for best results (unless PS4/XB1 have 3.5mm/component audio I’m not aware of).

      • I bought it on XBone and ran optical to my receiver, but could never get the lag to zero. Bought it again for the old PS3 (which was already pretty much exclusively used for Rock Band) and ran analogue audio to the receiver, set the receiver to unprocessed audio, and the lag is 100% gone.

  • I bought Rocksmith 2014 for xbox one and it doesn’t synch at all… with any tv… unless you do some complicated split audio method, absolutely ridiculous.

    I ended up torrenting the game and using the adapter on PC, but if I wanted to own it on PC I would have bought it on PC. I wish they’d tell people about the HDMI issues up front, I felt very ripped off by it.

    • It’s the audio-output; my output is through AV for sound since I have an old Logitech setup I get no lag; if my sound output goes through HDMI it lags. Do you have some kind of old crap you can use maybe?

      • I’ve got the TV / Soundbar / Xbox and tried every permutation of HDMI solution or Optical solution, but it lags no matter what. I checked a bunch of reddit forums and the solution was to buy some crummy box for zero latency, bleh.

        I would still argue that 70% of people couldn’t get this working with their existing setup and had to either leave it or buy some additional component to get it working. If the hitrate is that high, they should tell you before purchasing.

        The worst thing is I’d actually play it heaps more if it was on xbox as I’d rather play it in the living room than on my PC.

        • Don’t have any composite in at all? That works for me too (got ps3 on AV-audio and 360 on composite with the tele sound muted)

          but yeah that’s hugely sucky; to me it wasn’t an issue I wasn’t even aware there was one, but that’s since I’m not using hdmi for my audio because i’m a pleb stuck in 2005.

          edit; derp that wouldn’t stop your sound output going through hdmi if that’s your kinda sound setup, lol.

        • Don’t have any composite in at all? That works for me too (got ps3 on AV-audio and 360 on composite with the tele sound muted)

          but yeah that’s hugely sucky; to me it wasn’t an issue I wasn’t even aware there was one, but that’s since I’m not using hdmi for my audio because i’m a pleb stuck in 2005.

        • Just did a bit of googling since I’m thinking of picking this up for PS4.
          Since PS4 only has optical out, which is digital and thus needs some processing on the other end, you need to consider the following:
          * firstly, make sure your speakers are connected via optical to the PS4 directly, do not let any audio pass through HDMI or any other devices.
          * go into PS4 settings and make sure to turns of Dolby Surround Sound/whatever it’s called processing on the optical out; you want plain unadulterated audio to minimize processing on the PS4 side of things
          * if the above still isn’t enough, you might want to get an optical > analog converter so there is no digital processing on the receiveing end

          It might be that your sound bar/receiver just has a piss-poor DAC built in and thus is taking a long time to process the optical conversion. The converter mentioned in my last point should fix this (unless said converter is equally crappy). If you were potentially in the market for new speakers though, this might be a good excuse to get them earlier instead; just make sure it’s a well respected audio brand, rather than some flashy crap that just has silly audio filters and wireless and others features as selling points (i.e. don’t get something like ‘Beats’).

          Edit: forgot your XB1; advice still applies as XB1 also only has optical out. Hopefully it has the option to turn off audio processing console side too.

          • Yeah I tried it all, set the xbox to output audio via optical
            Set soundbar to optical, turned all settings to none or off…. it reduced the lag a lot, but still enough lag to make it frustrating.

            I play guitar and even with minimal lag it would just make me rage, it’s like having a water drip out of time arrrrrgh. On PC it’s almost perfect. There’s the tiniest bit of lag, but most people wouldnt notice it… I could still notice it but it was fine.

          • Hm, the only other thing it could be is adjusting the video lag, but I doubt it’s that. Well that sucks; I’m keen to get it on PS4, hopefully I don’t have the same issue. Shame you don’t have it on PS4 or I’d offer to buy it off you (everywhere online wants like $100, and they come with the cable which I already have).

  • Remember to practice your alternate picking, or you will never get past half way through the tracklist.

    • Also, try to be conscious of your posture and not crane your neck around to look at the frets too much; Since your looking at the TV anyway to see what your playing, Rocksmith kinda mitigates this naturally.

  • I bloody loved GH – spent most of my time at uni playing it when I should have been studying 😛 But yea, it encouraged me to try and learn a real guitar, but the price of entry always put me off.

    So I went for a halfway-solution, a compromise – I tried RB3’s pro mode with the mustang controller, but something about those buttons, the dull *thwump* *thwump* sound plucking the strings produces, and the disconnect between what each hand was doing turned me off it within a few songs. I heard about Rocksmith, but stayed away after reviews basically said “promising idea, but needs more fine-tuning.” When RS2014 came out, and reviews basically said it fixed all the major problems with the original, I bit the bullet and hunted down a copy for PC, and picked up a cheap Les Paul Jr from Harvey Norman. Been playing it almost religiously for two years, now, and recently upgraded to an Epiphone LP, which actually stays in tune (more or less) for weeks on end. Plenty of songs still kick my arse, but that moment of realisation that “I’m playing ‘The Wind Cries Mary’ or ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’ or ‘Breaking the Law’,” being able to take the headphones off and still recognise what you’re playing – such an amazing feeling.

    • RS1 was fine, but the menus were god awful lol. There’s a lot of additional content you can get for RS14 from torrents, though it’s basically unlicensed DLC if you have qualms with that and they have no build up from easier to hard. It’s every note, every time (unless someone went the extra mile)

  • Definitely pick up a 2nd hand guitar if going into Rocksmith, for $150 you can get a decent guitar and amp, replace the strings immediately and you will have a guitar that will see you through the first few years.

    • imo i’d go a bass instead if i already had a guitar; though I think rs14 still has bass emulation for guitars for what it’s worth.

      note to self. read every word. ha.

      • The bass emulation lets you muck around a bit, but it really isn’t a way to learn bass. You can’t play the bass lessons with an emulated bass, and the two instruments actually play quite differently.

        • depends how you play it really. i don’t often finger pick and also play a lot of chords on my bass (outside of rs), so actually playing it isn’t too far removed from playing a guitar.

          as for the bass emulation i wouldn’t know i’ve not had to use it! that’s kind of lame it doesn’t let you play the lessons if you’re using the emulated bass.

    • While a second hand instrument can certainly be better value, make sure you take it into a reputable shop and get them to set it up for you. There is nothing worse than fighting a poor playing guitar while you’re learning (this goes for instruments bought a JB, Big Buys, etc. too).

      Full disclosure, I work at a reputable shop!

  • I play guitar and tried rockband. Its ok to fool around in session mode with but if i wanna learn a song i just look up the guitar tab online.

  • Brilliant guitar learning tool, especially if you are coming from GH/RB rather than having a traditional background in learning music (i.e. you are more accustomed to coloured squares over musical notation).
    I kind of want to get it for my PS4 and get back into it since I never get on my PC these days, but I’d need to get some kind of speakers to run directly from the PS4 since I would only expect delays if you use HDMI audio.

    • Check eBay. If you can’t find a cable on its own, just pick up any of the console versions – the same cable works with all versions.

  • Not quite the same but at the start of the year I got drunk and in a moment of spite I decided to find out how good I could get at keyboard before any of my family noticed I’d bought an 88 key electric piano.

  • Be careful. This game is a gateway drug. I picked it up for funsies earlier this year, and not only have I lost hundreds of hours to it, I also seem to have acquired a new strat and an ’83 bass restoration project.

    Seriously, for someone just starting out on guitar, it’s addictive, fun, and effective. Highly recommend it. I hope Mike gives us a progress update in a few months!

    • Getting into guitar in general can be pretty dangerous. GAS – Guitar Acquisition Syndrome; It’s a very real thing and can ruin lives!
      Now that I have a 6, 6 w/ trem, 7, 8, acoustic, uke, and a banjo, I feel mostly satisfied, but I really want more luthier made guitars…
      Mmmm Skervesen… *Drools*

      • I know the feeling… GAS is a powerful addiction.
        Currently on #24 for guitars…
        1 Skervesen lizard 8, 1 Etherial Custom 6, 1 GNG Custom 7 Shiva, 1 Parker, 3 fenders, 2 V’s, etc.. the list goes on…. oh and a hype 2015 ormsby on order and one of his new production SX first run.

      • I swear I saw you playing Fallout 4 recently? Or using Pip’s?

        I still think about how good that guitar deal was! If I saw it again I’d definitely buy it just for the sake of having a cheapo guitar to muck around with 🙂

  • You can actually buy DR neon Rocksmith strings for your guitar or bass. I bought a set for both my guitar and bass, and they look freakin’ awesome. However, the neon-coloured coating does tend to chip off if you use a pick; not a problem on my bass (because I play finger-style) but my six-stringer looked like the world’s happiest fairy had just jizzed glitter all over my pick ups.–Rocksmith-Game-Colors_p_490.html

    Btw, if you’re after a nice-but-not-TOO-nice guitar, I’d suggest either an Ibanez or Squier (which is owned by Fender).

    • …what @scruffy said – or there are some pretty good Epiphone’s too – which is owned by Gibson. PRS also have some really nice mid-range SE models.

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