Should you spend your free time practicing the guitar or playing video games? You can now do both! At least that is what some are saying about video games tailored towards music lovers and musicians.
There are also games like Rocksmith which eschews the gamey elements found in Guitar Hero and Rock Band and aims to teach you the guitar. Despite the many musical video games there is plenty of debate surrounding the idea that you can really learn guitar through video games.
You have probably heard of Guitar Hero before. It is an intensely popular musical video game. Since its inception and development in 2005 new versions have continued to be released on several consoles such as the Wii, Xbox 360, PS2, WiiU, Xbox One and PS4. It also has a substantial following online and is played throughout the world on PC.
Guitar Hero is a music rhythm game that can be played on various controllers that come in the form of plastic guitars and drums. Unlike Rocksmith, it is tailored towards gamers rather than aspiring musicians. The game is built around rhythm and is not focussed on teaching players guitar techniques and skills.
So what can you learn from Guitar Hero? If you are looking to learn guitar from video games, you may struggle to do so with Guitar Hero. The one thing it can teach you is rhythm. This may be especially valuable if you have had no musical training in the past. Some people have innate rhythm, and others have to learn by practicing. The Guitar Hero video game revolves around playing notes in time with the music.
The wide catalogue of songs that are available across all versions of the game is a good incentive to buy Guitar Hero. The chances are that some of your favourite songs will be on a version of Guitar Hero. While the game doesn’t strive to teach you the exact finger placement and technique, playing regularly will help. Over time you will internalize the rhythm of the catalogued songs. This can help you learn the songs on a real guitar.
Rock Band offers something similar to Guitar Hero with an added element of collaboration. The clue is in the name. Guitar Hero is centered on guitar melodies and riffs, whereas Rock Band offers a wider experience. Both encase their controllers in guitar shaped plastic but neither purports to be able to teach you to actually learn guitar.
Rock Band, like Guitar Hero, will help you with rhythm. It will also simulate the experience of playing with bandmates. Rock Band is a great game to play with your friends. If you have all the kit you can set up a full band in your living room in front of the TV and play all night. The huge catalog of songs offer a wide variety of musical gaming experiences.
You will struggle to learn complex melodies and strumming techniques with a Rock Band controller. But as with Guitar Hero, the game exposes you to a gigantic selection of music. If you play the game for a while you will naturally develop a sense of the guitars place in a band. You will also learn the rhythm and pitch of the guitar parts in some of your favourite songs.
Ultimately, there is a limit to what you can learn with Guitar Hero and Rock Band. The same cannot be said of Rocksmith.
Rocksmith is a video game released by Ubisoft that allows you to plug in your electric or semi-acoustic guitar and hone your skills. The game has been praised for being an incredible guitar learning tool that enables players to build up their guitar skills as they progress within the game. In this sense Rocksmith is a unique experience among video games. Unlike, Guitar Hero or Rock Band, the resounding purpose of the game is to help you become a better guitar player.
Rocksmith is geared toward gamers and prospective guitarists. The game provides the player with a linear journey through the career of a guitarist. As you play and improve your skills you unlock new game modes, songs and challenges. You are shown a virtual fretboard on the screen that indicates where and when you are supposed to be playing.
A core feature of the game involves acquiring Rocksmith guitar points by playing the songs accurately on the guitar. As you play through a catalogue of songs Rocksmith aims to teach you different techniques, chords and fingering styles. The game emphasizes the value of practicing on a real guitar. This is why it has been praised by many for pioneering the ability to learn guitar through video games.
“The idea behind Rocksmith is simple: to improve on Guitar Hero and Rock Band by plugging actual guitars into a gaming console.”
Other Online Guitar Games
Guitar Hero, Rock Band and Rocksmith are the heavyweight hitters in the genre. If you don’t want to commit to purchasing these or if you don’t own a gaming console fear not! There are several cheaper and less involved guitar games that can help you learn guitar on computer.
If you have a computer or a smartphone then you can play some of these games hassle-free and without making a substantial investment. JamPlay offers several easy-to-play games that can help you improve your technical guitar skills. Games involving pitch recognition and fretboard memorization are a valuable resource for the budding guitarist.
Similarly, GuitarTricks has a handy fretboard trainer that will help you remember how to navigate the fretboard on your guitar. The game provides some added motivation through by timing and comparing your answers to fellow users. A bit of competition is a great way of improving your skills.
Many of these online guitar games use simple interfaces and programs. This makes it easy for beginners and more advanced users to hone their skills without picking up a guitar. Fun guitar games online serve as a valuable supplement to actual practice.
Limitations with Learning Guitar Through Video Games
There are certain limitations to learning guitar through video games. Other than Rocksmith many these games don’t involve holding and playing a real guitar. When it comes to putting in hours of practice there is no alternative. A good amount of theory and listening can be down without the instrument but ultimately you need to be playing the guitar on a regular basis to get good.
Of course, most people look at these games as pure entertainment or competition. For most people they will not purchase Guitar Hero or Rock Band and expect to be a consummate guitarist the next day. Many of the games we mentioned are fun distractions. If you play Guitar Hero for hours on end your finger dexterity will improve. Unfortunately, this will not directly translate to increasing your real guitar fingering accuracy.
The limitations on your ability to learn guitar through video games is plain to see. Many of the guitar games we mentioned are designed to provide light relief. The stand-out game is RockSmith because to play you need a real guitar and you can develop real skills overtime. There is a limit to what you can do with a plastic guitar. If you are attempting to learn guitar through video games you should do so with a certain amount of caution.
Learning by Playing
There are several great video games like the many versions of Rock Band and Guitar Hero that can teach you certain guitar skills. Obviously, there are limitations to learning guitar through video games. If you really want to learn proper technique there is no alternative to the real thing.
You can do great things with these kinds of video games. There is a wide community that revolves around competitive video game guitar playing. This is a great way of introducing people to the guitar and new music. But ultimately, video games fall short when it comes to learning the guitar.
Many of these video games will provide a rocking experience but will make picking up a real guitar quite uncomfortable. There are things you can do on Guitar Hero that will seem impossible on your acoustic guitar. You will learn so much more about the guitar by simply spending a bit of time practicing with the real deal.
Have you improved your guitar skills by playing video games?
Share in the comments below!