Learning to Play Rock Band

Learning to Play Rock Band

That was a cool party you were at yesterday. All of your work buddies and friends gathering together to share a couple of drinks and have a good time. Then someone mentioned playing Rock Band. That didn't sound so bad. Except when the guitar was passed to you, you sucked and that cute girl or guy you had your eye on wasn't as impressed in your "epic level shredding" as you would've hoped.

Or it may not even be that. Maybe you're tired of hearing that 10-year-old neighbor kid across the street boast at being able to play expert level guitar and score a 98% on Painkiller's first and second solo. And here you are, not even knowing what a "whammy bar" is.

But whatever the reason, it's time to learn to play Rock Band guitar. You've tried slugging it out with those stupid colored buttons. You've downloaded all of the easiest songs, hoping to at least get through them, but a week later you're on your third smashed guitar. However, there is some good news. Learning to play Rock Band is fairly easy with a few tips. And it won't be as bad as you think. You may even have fun!

But first thing's first. This is going to take time. There's no way around it. You're going to have to practice. From here on out, we will be talking about our favorite plastic instrument as if it were real. That's the first step setting a foundation that will carry you all the way to expert level and beyond. The plastic guitar in your hand is now a real instrument. True, it only works when plugged into a video game console, but we're going to treat the two exactly the same.

Speaking of your newest instrument, why don't we go ahead and get to know it a little better? After all, you're going to have to learn the lingo if you want to learn to play. Flip it over so all the colors and dials and switches face you and hold it so the fat end of the guitar is facing down. Got it? Now let's get to know each other.

Learning to Play Rock Band

Starting at the top, the first thing you'll notice are the five color buttons. They are called "frets" and the go from green all the way to orange. These represent frets on a real guitar, save that for purposes of playing Rock Band, they only cover one string instead of six. A bit further down you'll notice a smaller set of the same colored frets. Those are your solo keys. Those don't actually exist on a real guitar in the manner we're going to use them to play the game. So we won't worry about them until at least hard difficulty.

Further down you'll find the "strum bar." This is what plays a note when one or more frets are held down and is what needs to be timed to hit a note on the screen. Again it's similar to a real guitar, but we only have to worry about one string. Then you have your interface buttons that you use to control the game through whatever game system you use. There's also a little switch that will change the sound of your guitar. For the sake of learning, we're going to switch this to the "off" position in the game. We're going to want to hear the notes we're playing and adding crazy tones when overdrive is active is going to cloud our hearing. And finally, that bar jutting out of the side is the "whammy bar." Moving that up and down will distort the sounds of sustained notes as well as fill your overdrive meter on the same kinds of notes. But more on overdrive later. Just one last thing. This assumes you're using an official Rock Band guitar. But other ones should have a similar layout.

Now that we're all friends, it's time to play! Let's begin with easy difficulty. It's helpful to think of the different difficulties as having specific things to teach before the next level. Here on easy, the object of the game is to learn timing. Each note that scrolls down has a small timing window in which it can be played. You don't have to be exact, but try and strum the note exactly when it appears in the strum window on screen. Hold the appropriate color fret and strum. And that's it. If two colors scroll down, meaning you have to hold two buttons, don't be afraid of them. Those are called "chords." But you shouldn't encounter too many, as we're only using the first three frets to play.

However, if you do miss a few notes and you can hear the crowd begin to boo and jeer you, don't worry, Rock Band has you covered. See those white notes that scroll down periodically? Those belong to a game mechanic called "overdrive." Once the overdrive bar is filled half way, you can engage overdrive by either tilting the guitar or hitting the select button. It's easier to tilt the guitar at this point. But regardless of how you engage it, overdrive has one of two effects. First off, it will double your current score multiplier. Second, for each note you hit, you will receive a huge boost to your fan meter. Overdrive can quickly turn the tides on a failing song and will have the crowd going wild in no time. If a segment is too hard, don't be afraid to hoard your overdrive to help you get passed it.

Now that we've confident, let's go over a few songs that will help build specific skills. While it would be beneficial to have all three Rock Band games and a couple of bucks to download some songs, it's by no means required. However, some songs are more suited to the kinds of training we're going over than others. If you have access to them, try them out.

Practice on a Rock Band 1 song named "Maps" by the yeah yeah yeahs. Or, if you have Rock Band 2, try "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor. Eventually, you're going to want to score high percentages (at least 93%) on songs like "Rock Lobster" by the B-52s on Rock Band 3 that have oddly spaced guitar riffs. Also, try downloading "Indestructible" by Disturbed to further cement your skills.

Your end goals should be high scores on "Panic Attack" by Dream Theatre, "Green Grass and High Tides" which is a cover of an Outlaws song, and anything by Jimi Hendrix. If you're feeling really brave, download a few songs by Megadeth.

Once you are able to consecutively achieve high scores on any of these or other "Impossible" songs, consider yourself done. You have officially learned to play Rock Band on the easiest difficulty. It'll be only a matter of time before you're up there around expert level, where the real fun and fulfillment of playing this game will begin.

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