I bought Guitar Hero 2 immediately when it came out, and since then I’ve been addicted to the Rock Band and Guitar Hero games. I’ve also been in a real rock band for about six years, and often my friends ask me whether either Guitar Hero or Rock Band instrument simulations actually help me play my real instruments.
Here’s a look at how (if at all) Rock Band and Guitar Hero peripherals aid real life music instrument practice and ability.
1. Guitar and bass – As a guitarist, one of my first reactions to the Guitar Hero controller when I’d bought the game back years ago was, “man, this is really nothing like playing the guitar.” And really, it’s not. Guitars need to be fretted, your hands need to move all over the fingerboard, and your strum varies to provide different dynamics, so the simulation aspect is fairly poor. However, the fast movement required by the picking (usually right) hand and the dexterity required in the fretting hand can certainly improve one’s guitar speed by improving the core skills needed for fast playing. Any possible gains that a guitar player received from Guitar Hero or Rock Band practice would be negligible unless combined with a scale-and-speed practice plan, but practice on a guitar controller for either game could conceivably help a guitar player build his skills.
2. Vocals – The singing modes on Guitar Hero and Rock Band ostensibly teach singers to sing on key, but they certainly don’t help with inflection or any of the many other aspects of singing, so I consider the vocal mode to be the most dubiously helpful form of instrument practice offered by Rock Band or Guitar Hero games. Singing on-key is great, but I’ve seen great singers strike out at the Expert mode on these games because even the slightest vocal experimentation is treated as negative; basically, the games teach you to sing like a robot, so ultimately they may be harmful to a vocalist’s technique.
3. Drums – The drum peripherals, first introduced by Rock Band, accurately simulate the feel of a drum set, and by going up the various levels of the game slowly, one can definitely gain a sense of how the drums should be played. Technique is not really taught, and many songs switch the location of several drums for gameplay’s sake or leave out certain lines, but it’s still the most accurate simulation of an instrument, since the drums are percussion and that’s the limit of a game controller’s input. With the help of a good drum teacher, the Rock Band and Guitar Hero drum kits could certainly aid in a practice plan and give young drummers incentive to improve at their instrument.
Have you noticed improvement on your instrument thanks to practice with a Rock Band or Guitar Hero game controller? Post your thoughts in the comments section below.