Rocksmith + make me suck less on guitar
I spent my confinement learning to play bass. Most people go for the guitar when it comes to choosing their first instrument, but I’ve always been a rhythm section guy. These are the basslines that my ear gravitates towards when listening to a song. Now, a few years later, I think me and my buttercream Fender P-Bass could hold their own in a slightly above average punk band. But lately, I’ve found myself drifting off to the Other Side, to the alluring and confusing world of the six-string. I’ve had a basic $150 Fender acoustic and a Squier Telecaster (in burgundy mist with humbucking pickups, foreign detail fans) and spent the last few months trying to make sense of them.
I learned to play guitar the same way I learned bass: by watching tutorials on YouTube and following tabs for songs I already know well. Then, through this process, I add more chords, notes, and techniques to my growing arsenal. I’m sure there are better ways to learn an instrument, but I don’t care. Sounds pretty good to me. I know how to do a bunch of cool sounds (including some pesky barre chords) and I can play Pavement’s Shady Lane all the way on both instruments. That’s all I need. I still fumble a lot with my worrying hand, but a crank overdrive pedal can still cover that. That’s the secret guitarists don’t want you to know.
However, this week I felt the need for a little more structured learning. I’m sick of guys on YouTube saying “do this” and creating an impossible shape with their hand that instantly gives me cramps. I have already tried Fender Play, an online video tutorial, but found it a bit sterile and boring. Then I remembered Rocksmith+, which Ubisoft revealed at E3 2021. It’s a new subscription version of its game of the same name, so I decided to throw $15 at them for a one month subscription. It’s not exactly cheap, but I figured if it taught me a few new songs, it was probably worth the price of admission. It’s currently only available on PC, with the promised console versions still being MIA.
I also lost $25 on the official Real Tone cable. Apparently you can just point a mic at your guitar and the game will record it, or use a standard USB audio interface, but I wanted to take advantage of the cable-only tone simulation feature. Similar to software like GarageBand, this adds incredibly authentic sound effects to your guitar, including fuzz, reverb, tremolo, vintage amps, legendary pedal tones, and more. From the main menu, you can choose from an overwhelming selection of preset tones and just shred, which I like to do to warm up before I start classes. Some of the metal flavored ones ring my Telecaster monstrous.
To test Rocksmith+, I decided to choose a song I knew intimately: Geraldine from Glasvegas. But when I first played it, I was doing almost nothing. The song was playing, but I only had to hit a single note every few seconds. I realized that it was the game that relieved me and gave me an idea of my skill level. When he realized that I was hitting every note easily, he started adding more, gradually filling the song until, after about an hour, the difficulty level reached 100% and I had to hit every note. and every chord. It’s a brilliant system, getting you comfortable with the general structure of a track and giving you more complexity until, before you know it, you’re suddenly playing the whole thing.
It’s not a particularly difficult song, but there is one element that surprised me – a quick change with a few slides added. But Rocksmith+ lets you isolate a part of a song and keep playing it over and over, and 25 minutes later, the part I was having trouble with suddenly stuck in my muscle memory. I can do it without even looking at the fretboard now, which is huge for me. I always watch this thing. Now I can play all of Geraldine from Glasvegas, one of my favorite songs, from start to finish. Your mileage may vary, but for me this was proof enough that Rocksmith+ works as an educational tool. Now I want to try more delicate songs.
I don’t know what it would be like to get into the game without even holding a guitar before. I had a few years playing bass and a few months learning the basics of my little acoustic. The evening I spent devoting the G chord to muscle memory probably helped the integration process. But for someone at my skill level – basically crap, but promising – I’m having a great time. The song selection is pretty limited and I really don’t need one more subscription service in my life, but I think I’ll give Rocksmith+ at least a month before deciding if it’s a keeper or not. It’s just nice to play a video game that teaches me real skills in the real world.