Over the years I’ve had what I’d call a dalliance with the guitar. My sophomore year of college, for Christmas I received my first guitar, a Squire Strat. For those unfamiliar with the brand, let me put it this way, if Fender were a grocery store, this would be the Western Family of guitars. Nice guitar, nothing to brag about, but also not some weird Rainbow Foods variety of guitar that you’d see Jack White playing either.
So like all aspiring young guitarists, I bought myself a guitar book, and got really good at the first couple of chapters. Which means, I can play the heck out of the A chord, C chord, G chord, D chord, E chord, as well as A and E minors. If I’m in room with just myself and a guitar, I can play enough to sound competent. I can play enough that I played guitar on 4 self-produced (by the drummer) and lightly released albums that range from awesomely bad, to just plain bad. As Clint said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” That really is the long way around, and in honor of Homer Simpson, I’ll skip to the chorus, my guitar ability has stagnated.
This weekend in an act of desperation, or maybe just boredom, I purchased the game Rocksmith by UBISOFT, a game that decided to take the premise of games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero and marry it with a real guitar. The results is a hybrid between a game and a teaching aid.
Full disclosure here, at this point I’ve only logged a couple of hours on the game, but I think I’ve seen enough to discuss Rocksmith as a teaching aid. My feelings are pretty mixed. The good of it, is it has gotten me to pick up the Guitar for several hours over the weekend. I’ve even learned a couple new chords, that I’m sure I’ll forget in couple weeks (don’t worry open A, I still love you). It has a chord book for each song, and a techniques section that seems pretty useful.
On the other hand I don’t really like the approach they have taken to teach guitar. I feel very much like Daniel Son waxing Mr. Miyagi’s cars. Instead of starting with songs that are easy to learn and giving you the entire piece of a song, the game starts with giving you portions of riffs as you play through entire songs. Presumably as you get better the game gives you more and more pieces of songs. I’m still on level suck, so we’ll see if that holds true or not. Which means, I’ll have to pretty awesome to play a single song. For a person that needs to see tangible results, I can see myself losing interest pretty quickly, unless of course Mr. Miyagi comes and saves me from skeleton dressed hoodlums that is.
I also find navigating the game a little clunky at times as it seems I have to do a bunch of backing out of portions of the game to get to spots I’d like. I worry the game’s interface itself might cause some to focus more on visual cues than the rhythm aspect that is so important to playing guitar, especially in level suck where it can be hard to find the rhythm when you are playing such small snippet of individual parts.
Overall I think it would have been better served trying to be less of a hybrid, and be more of a true teaching aid. The technology is cool, and this style of teaching may work for some, but I’m dubious of the results I will get. The good news is I'll probably turn it back on after I post this piece, so it hasn’t completely lost my interest.