Let's Learn to Play Rock Band Guitar on Medium
Playing Rock Band on easy difficulty just isn't as difficult as it used to be. Impossible songs like "Caprici di Diablo" and "The Trooper" are more of a yawn than they are a challenge. And let's not get started on the easier songs. In fact, you've scored a perfect 100% completion rating on more than a few easy songs and even some that aren't so easy.
If this is you when you're playing Rock Band on guitar, then it looks like you're ready to add the blue fret to your repertoire of skills and take the next step on your road to Rock Band fame.
But don't think that just getting used to using another finger is going to be all you have to do to master medium difficulty. There are a few more things that you have to learn, especially if you're thinking of transitioning to hard and even expert difficulty.
But first, let's go over a simple checklist. By now, you know the parts of the guitar and the lingo behind them. You know what a fret is, what a chord is and you're familiar with the mechanics of the game like overdrive and score multipliers. If not, then that's all right, but it'll help immensely if you know the lingo. Take a moment to review before going on.
Finished? All right. First thing's first then. If you're going to improve your Rock Band playing skills, you've got to practice. That holds true in almost every type of skill learning out there. And you're probably going to have to practice more than what you were used to in easy. After all, we're building another set of skills on top of the ones you've already learned. Once you're ready to accept the truth that nothing comes without practice, fire up the game and head on over to medium difficulty.
Of course the first thing you're going to notice while playing is the use of the blue fret. Before now all you've been using were your first three fingers on the green, red and yellow frets. Adding one more won't be as hard as you think, though. Just slap your pinky on the blue fret and let your mind do the rest. Sure, it'll be tricky. But stick with the easy songs at first. Play through the setlist again with your new fret and it should come by the time you get mid-way through.
The harder parts come when trying to build skills in preparation for hard difficulty. Sure, you could keep playing like this and not worry about moving up. But even a little bit of skill building can help a casual player. Nothing like being able to score upwards of 95% on an impossible song, right?
Right! So, the first skill we're going to work on is something called alternate strumming. Or alt strumming for short. Notice that when you flick the strum bar on your guitar it will register the note whether you strum up or down. Alt strumming mimics what a real guitar player does when picking the strings. They move their pick up and down. And learning how to do that is going to make your time in medium that much less of a headache.
There are a few ways you can go about learning this skill. First, you could start on a warm-up song and alt strum every note. It's going to feel weird at first and it may take a few practice sessions to get it right. But before long it should feel pretty natural. But the biggest benefits to alt strumming can be seen when there are long sequences of notes and down strumming wears out your thumb. Enter the second option. Find a song that has long segments of notes and practice until you can nail the entire section without a hitch. Songs like "When You Were Young" by The Killers or "Closer" by Lacuna Coil are perfect to build your alt strumming skill. Those songs are full of consecutively spaced chords and the cords don't differ all that much.
The next step is, of course, alt strumming on fast segments that aren't that similar. Or alt strumming fast segments of single notes. The Rock Band one song "(Don't Fear) the Reaper" by the Blue Oyster Cult has a pretty good guitar riff to challenge. A similar riff can be found by downloading "Message in a Bottle" by The Police. But a better choice, especially for the person that is aiming for hard difficulty, would be to download "Snow ((Hey Oh))" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. That song has all we need to master alt strumming. But the guitar riff is one of the most complicated ones available in Rock Band. Download it at your own risk.
Something else you may have noticed while playing some of the harder songs in medium is that, from time to time, a note will appear on the screen that is about half as small as a regular note. It doesn't sound any different and it passes by just like a regular note. But it's not a regular note, obviously. Those smaller notes are part of a guitar technique known as "hammer-ons" and "pull-offs." Basically, what those notes represent are notes that do not have to be strummed in order to play them. All you have to do is press down the fret in the same timing window that you would strum it. Hammer-ons and pull-offs greatly increase the speed at which a guitarist can play. And the same applies to Rock Band. But be careful when performing these. If you don’t time the hammer-on correctly, the rest of the hammer-ons that follow will not play unless you strum them.
At this stage in the game, these notes won't appear as frequently as in the later difficulties. But it's an excellent idea to get used to them if you want to move to expert. If not, then they can be strummed just like any other note in the game.
However, if you are planning on moving up, a good goal to keep in mind would be at least a 93% score or better on some of the longer and more difficult songs out there. "Green Grass and High Tides" by the Outlaws is a good goal to strive for if you have Rock Band One. Also, if you want to practice faster strumming, look up an artist named Yngwie Malmsteen. His songs are extremely challenging and should prove to be at least of some effort if you're looking for a bit more out of your Rock Band song list. Iron Maiden is another artist to look out for if you have some extra cash to download some songs.
Keep practicing. And if a song frustrates you while playing, or you just can't get a high score on it, leave it for a few days and play some different songs. Songs that you can do very good at. Then go back and try those hard songs again. You'd be surprised how fast you can improve your playing skills when you put forth a regular amount of effort every day. And if you're wanting to head to hard difficulty, go for at least five stars on the impossible songs on medium before attempting the jump.
Good luck and happy shredding.