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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.