Guitar Status: November 4, 2012

Nov 04 2012

On Saturday, I went through my practice rotation, which is getting pretty long, and then tried maybe four more Tier 2 songs. I don’t remember all of the songs I tried, but I tentatively think Need You Tonight and Livin’ on a Prayer will enter the practice rotation. That rotation is getting pretty long now, but I tend to think that’s a good thing: the Tier 2 songs in particular have lots of bits that would be good for me to learn and that are definitely within my grasp but that I can’t play fluently yet. So if the length of the regular practice rotation means that I don’t have time to try out new candidate songs to add to it, I’m okay with that: that means that I should practice more until I get good at those parts! They’re all songs I don’t mind playing, and several of them I quite like, so I’m happy to play them over and over again from week to week.

And today I tried Rocksmith; there were good and bad parts, but overall there were more than enough good parts that I’ve changed the title of this post to reflect what I expect to be the focus of this series going forward. Because I really like listening to the guitar, and I also like having the strings respond normally instead of having the muting damping their movement, and it’s great to have a game that lets me do that.

Which isn’t to say I loved everything about Rocksmith from the start. There was one frustrating period when it claimed I missed a bunch of notes; I eventually figured out that what was going on was that my guitar was out of tune, and the game’s automatic tuning hadn’t picked that up. My guitar unfortunately goes out of tune super easily; I’m not sure how much of that is the amount of playing I’ve done with the mute on, and how much is the bad job I did restringing it the first time I replaced strings, but there’s something not right there. (I have two of the Rock Band 3 Squier guitars and no other electric guitars, maybe I should just use one of them solely for Rocksmith.) Once I figured that out, though, things got a lot better; in fact, it seemed at times that Rocksmith does a better job of note/strum detection than Rock Band 3. (I’ve already gotten a 200 note streak; incidentally, the audio lag hasn’t interfered with my enjoyment of the game much at all.)

The gradual ramping up of difficulty is interesting; right now, songs are too easy, but that’s understandable, and I’m willing to give the game a pass on that. (I suspect I’ll like the adaptive difficulty quite a bit eventually, in particular that it will allow me to play all the notes in the body of a song but only some notes in tricky solos.) At first, I was playing song after song instead of going into the technique trainer (easy to do the way they designed it), so it actually threw techniques at me in songs before I knew what the notation meant or how to perform those techniques; eventually, though, I went back to the technique trainers. I’ve gone through about half of them so far, and they seem fine; I’ve only gone through one of the minigames (the one about sliding), and I wasn’t at all impressed by it, but I’m reserving judgment for now: it may be that they’re an effective way to make drilling techniques be more bearable.

Like Rampant Coyote said, it’s nice to be asked to perform a wider range of techniques than Rock Band 3 allows. Though so far I’ve really only had to do with one new technique, namely bending strings, and my experience there has been iffy: not sure how much there has to do with my lack of experience / understanding of what to listen to, how much has to do with the game not clearly explaining what’s going on, and how much has to do with the fact that the Rock Band 3 guitar I’m using has these bumps along the frets that make bending strings much less smooth than I’d like.

The game’s notation seems fine; not better than Rock Band 3 notation, but not clearly worse, and I suspect that, after flipping the string ordering in the options, it will help me a bit at learning tablature, which is potentially useful. Though the one time so far that the game has thrown barre chords at me, I couldn’t sight read them at all just from the notation; but even that was useful, because then I had to rely on the chord names, so I got some practice translating chord names into barred A minor and major chords. I assume it will become second nature soon enough, though.

I’m still very much getting used to the game: it has its opinions about how to do things, and I’m pretty sure those opinions aren’t how I eventually want to spend my time learning guitar, but I also suspect that those opinions are a pretty good guide for what I need right now. And, poking through the menu options, it looks like it has a reasonable range of knobs to turn to let me use it as a song learning tool.

So I’m definitely glad I followed Rampant Coyote’s lead. Like him, I think I’ll stick with both games, but it really is great to have a game that is encouraging me to listen to the sounds I’m making, instead of consciously keeping me in a fantasy bubble.

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