Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Guitar Hero and Rock Band: Helping or hurting aspiring axe-men?

This report made my ears prick up when it appeared on (via in August:

Ex-Rolling Stones guitarist Bill Wyman and Pink Floyd star Nick Mason have attacked computer games like Rock Band for deterring youngsters from picking up real instruments...

Wyman: "
It makes less and less people dedicated to really get down and learn an instrument. I think is a pity so I'm not really keen on that kind of stuff."

Mason: "
It irritates me having watched my kids do it - if they spent as much time practising the guitar as learning how to press the buttons they'd be damn good by now."

The last point by Mason really stood out for me. I have a sibling who is taking guitar lessons. He only started about 18 months ago, so like my journey into the world of faster computers ( there is still quite a journey to go before he starts copying a Mike McCreedy solo note for note ( from 3.30).

But now Guitar hero has taken his fancy. Should this worry me?
Will the game become top priority? Will his technique on the controller infect the technique he uses on the real thing?

will this only act to enhance his love of the real thing? Will the quick finger movements asked of him during the solo in "One" improve his dexterity on his Les Paul?

Only time will tell. However I'm pleased to say that insofar there have been no negative signs. He seems to be wanting to pick up the real thing a little bit more now. This gives substance to the counterargument in the aforementioned article provided by
Alex Rigopulas from Harmonix Systems, the company behind Rock Band:

"Most people try to learn an instrument at some point in their lives, and almost all of them quit after a few months or a year or two. This, I think, is because the earliest years of learning an instrument are the least gratifying.

"When people play Rock Band, however, they very quickly get a glimpse of the rewards that lie on the other side of the wall.

"We're constantly hearing from fans who were inspired by Rock Band to start studying a real instrument."

Perhaps my worries are born out of Wyman, Mason and I having learned the guitar in a pre-Guitar Hero/Rock Band era (with Wyman and Mason having gone onto slightly greater things than me.. though time is on my side).

Don't get me wrong- when I have played Guitar Hero or Rock Band it was fun (hard though). But five minutes in, I'd be yearning to go to my room and whip my real guitar out of its case.

I actually did that once whilst my brother played Guitar Hero. He played Metallica's "Sanitarium" on the controller whilst I played it on my acoustic- good wholesome fun. Kinda tricky when we hit the solo as my acoustic does not have a cut-off.

Poor high notes, so lonely up there.

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