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Improve your Rock Band drumming technique
January 11, 2008 11:41 AM   Subscribe

Improve your Rock Band drumming technique. Rock Band as in the videogame, that is.
posted by nthdegx (124 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Am I a dick because I'd rather get a few real instruments together and play real music?
posted by you just lost the game at 11:44 AM on January 11, 2008


No. There are other reasons.

baDUMbum (RockBand rimshot)
posted by The Deej at 11:49 AM on January 11, 2008 [8 favorites]


When you put it that way.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 11:51 AM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


you just lost the game writes "Am I a dick because I'd rather get a few real instruments together and play real music?"

No, you're a dick because you started this stupid, tired, pointless conversation yet again, in a throwaway FIRTS POST!!!11 comment that doesn't even bother to reference the material liked to in the FPP, which it's pretty clear you haven't even looked at.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:54 AM on January 11, 2008 [21 favorites]


Want to improve your drumming technique.... Watch the master.

Now, load up Halo and kill critters your musical career is over.
posted by Duncan at 11:54 AM on January 11, 2008


Whoops I forgot my link to Peart.
posted by Duncan at 11:55 AM on January 11, 2008


Being somewhat proficient on drums, I got to be the house drummer over Christmas with my brother's kids when they got the game. My nephew can play guitar on expert but can barely make it through easy drumming. Because it actually is quite a bit like real drumming.

Am I a dick because I'd rather get a few real instruments together and play real music?

Not at all, but that's missing the point of Rock Band. It's like karaoke on steroids. People who sing karaoke don't really want to be real singers. They just want to have fun. Two of my brother's kids have little interest in learning real instruments but they dig the game and that's fine; maybe it will spark an interest. It was extremely hilarious to drum while my ten-year-old nephew sang "Celebrity Skin." I mean, that was awesome.
posted by Camofrog at 11:55 AM on January 11, 2008


Am I a dick because I'd rather get a few real instruments together and play real music?
posted by you just lost the game at 2:44 PM on January 11


not a dick for feeling that way, but you are one for bringing it up. sort of. mostly it's just a REALLY REALLY OLD AND WELL REFUTED POINT.

Also, these are good drumming techniques, but a bunch of them don't work in Rock Band. I say this as a drummer and a Rock Band lover.

Heel Up technique doesn't work that well on Rock Band because the pedal's rest position is absurdly high and the spring has too much resistence. More damagingly, however, is that the pedal doesn't register hits if you only raise it back up by less than an inch or so between hits. So quick double taps are exceedingly difficult to do, especially in heel up, without using your quads to get uncomfortable and (what on a drum set would be) unnecessarily high lift.

The other important thing they don't mention, which the game hints at, is that the pads function in some way so that hard hits don't register quickly. What I mean to say is that if you bang out a roll of double-tapped 16th notes really hard on the pads, it won't register more than every 2, 3 or even 4 notes played depending on how hard you're hitting and how fast the notes are expected to come in. I don't know if it's because the pad hasn't returned to rest position fast enough or what because I don't know how the pads work. I do, however, know that the only way to successfully register a string of quick beats on the same drum is to play it very quietly. Rock Band recommends this because "it'll increase your accuracy" instead of the truth which is that "it'll reduce the pads INaccuracy."
posted by shmegegge at 12:00 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I really don't mean to rain on anyone's parade. I like video games, and obviously most of them depict actions (killing aliens, running through jungles, being Pac-Man) that I will never actually do in real life. But there's something about this whole trend of having faux experiences in lieu of things that you can, in theory, do in real life that I find a bit dispiriting.
posted by you just lost the game at 12:00 PM on January 11, 2008


I saw a guy playing Madden the other day and was all like "Am I a dick because I'd rather get a few real footballs together and play real football?" and then I saw a guy playing Duck Hunt and was all like "Am I a dick because I'd rather get a few real guns together and shoot real ducks?" and then I saw a guy playing Excite Truck and said "Am I a dick because I'd rather get a few real vehicles together and race real trucks?" and then somebody told me "Yes you are a dick now shut the fuck up, I'm playing video games."
posted by ND¢ at 12:03 PM on January 11, 2008 [15 favorites]


I'm not ashamed to admit that I sold a very real Strat Squier in order to buy Rock Band. I've played that game way more than I ever played that guitar.

It's insane amounts of fun to bust out "Tom Sawyer" and force one of my friends to sing. We end up failing the song because we are laughing too hard to play.
posted by Diskeater at 12:04 PM on January 11, 2008


But there's something about this whole trend of having faux experiences in lieu of things that you can, in theory, do in real life that I find a bit dispiriting.

you can, in theory, run through a jungle, join the army to fight in a desert or just kill people all you want. people don't actually want to do those things in real life, sometimes, but enjoy faking it. more importantly, it's hard and has some gruelling requirements to do in real life. similarly, it's a lot harder to buy a 300-several thousand dollar instrument, find 2-5 or more like minded musical fellows who can play well enough and then go play in front of an audience that's even remotely responsive or satisfying to play to. Rock Band offers that experience, even though it's fake. As I said, I play drums already, and a bunch of my friends play other instruments. Some of them are even in bands that still play local shows. We all still dig Rock Band. You're perception of it is what's wrong, not the game.
posted by shmegegge at 12:05 PM on January 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


Thanks for the post nthdegx. I'm in the middle of trying to get over my next technique hurdle. There are good tips for my two main problem points, pedal timing and eighth notes.
posted by Hugonaut at 12:05 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


you just lost the game writes "I really don't mean to rain on anyone's parade."

Bullshit.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:07 PM on January 11, 2008


My real problem is how the heck do I sing with my low and very limited in range voice. I always seem to be straining way above my range to try and hit the notes, but in theory I should be able to notch down an octave or two and still hit the notes, right?

The drumming I picked up fairly quickly but I havent ventured above medium.

I've been a near perfect medium guitar and bass for a while but I am really struggling to incorporate the fifth button that hard brings.

One of my friends who we play with has a drum kit, two guitars and a mic or two back home, but he still comes out and has a crazy fun time with us.

Rock Band is just about the *best* video game to drink to... evar. If we venture outside video games to games in general, it's only competition might be cranium or apples to apples for all around drunken group fun. It's a rare treat when a game sucks in every single one of my friends, including the non-gamers.
posted by utsutsu at 12:16 PM on January 11, 2008


Thanks for posting this link, nthdegx - I'm not a very good Rock Band drummer, and I look forward to improving.

I enjoy the way Rock Band has reversed the traditonal band paradigm - the drummer now has to be the most talented person playing.

I've never been in a band, and I don't play an instrument, but I LOVE drummer jokes.
posted by chudmonkey at 12:24 PM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Am I a dick? I'm an external sexual organ of certain biologically male organisms. Also, I smell like nut musk.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:27 PM on January 11, 2008 [8 favorites]


Utsutsu, the best advice I ever got for incorporating the fifth button for bass/guitar was to rest your hand one button down so that your pinky is normally above the fifth button. It's easier to move up the index finger to the first button rather than move the pinky down to the fifth. As for the singing, I've got the same problem. If I move down an octave I can't switch quick enough to get the low notes that would then be too low for me. Unfortunately, you can't fake having a better vocal range.
posted by Hugonaut at 12:28 PM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


(Hugonaut, I was totally about to forward this to you. Now I don't have to. Awesome.)
posted by piratebowling at 12:29 PM on January 11, 2008


Stop picking on you just lost the game you jerks. Who among us hasn't seen someone playing Quake or Unreal Tournament and thought to himself, "Am I a dick because I'd rather get a few real guns together and shoot a few real high schooler students?"
posted by Justinian at 12:31 PM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


But there's something about this whole trend of having faux experiences in lieu of things that you can, in theory, do in real life that I find a bit dispiriting.

You mean like the recent trend of new fangled video games like racing games or sports games or fishing games or dancing games or flight simulators or all the other types of games that have been around for thirty or so years? You mean those?
posted by eyeballkid at 12:32 PM on January 11, 2008


with misspellings and all, even.
posted by Justinian at 12:32 PM on January 11, 2008


Am I a dick because I'd rather get a few real instruments together and play real music?

Yeah, we've pretty much had that conversation.

My advice? If you're compelled to question whether you're being a dick in the preface of your own one-liner, it's probably a good sign that you don't really need to trot that one-liner out. Especially in the first comment of a thread, while ignoring the link.
posted by cortex at 12:33 PM on January 11, 2008


I'm not ashamed to admit that I sold a very real Strat Squier in order to buy Rock Band.

But it would be shameful if you had sold an actual guitar.

Disclaimer: I own a Squier Strat.
posted by malocchio at 12:33 PM on January 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


Utsutsu, Hugonauts advice is really sound. Another thing I've found helps, especially when you start getting a lot better at Hard difficulty and have to start thinking about Expert, is to stop leaving your fingers in one place. It helps for long strings that only involve 4 adjacent buttons to keep your hand there, but when you have to start shuffling chords all over the place you may find that it's easier for you to use your first and third fingers for all the chords and just slide your hand up and down the neck as required. Once you start doing this you'll notice that a lot of notes that follow immediately after a chord just require you to keep your hand there and wiggle your fingers a bit rather than try to realign yourself to a position with a finger on each button and press the appropriate finger. I hope that makes sense.
posted by shmegegge at 12:33 PM on January 11, 2008


Instead of the long post I had here, let's just say that Guitar Hero and Rock Band are not only fun games, but they increase peoples' appreciation of music, and I'm sure have encouraged more people to at least investigate actually learning to play instruments in real life. I'd think any musician would appreciate that.

As far as the article goes, interestingly, I think I've stumbled across much of that in my own process of learning to play the drums. Not everything, of course, and the metronome is probably a good idea. I think you have to pick up many of these things to be able to play songs on hard and expert.

@shmegegge: That's not true for all drum sets. There is still variation in the sets that are out there, and earlier sets are more prone to this than later ones. My initial set had absolutely no problems of this sort - the only problem was that the yellow pad was about 95% responsive in general, leading to regularly breaking streaks. My replacement one is dead sensitive on all four pads, but the red one exhibits the issues you bring up. So it'll be replaced too. It's annoying, but they're being very good about replacing instruments because I think they're aware that they're learning to make good peripherals. (Not a problem with Guitar Hero because Red Octane made the guitars and they already had experience from making third-party ones for various Konami Bemani games.)

I am going to be getting some rubber practice tips for my sticks, since that will improve rebound and quiet the noise - and hopefully help reduce the impact on the pads and decrease the likelihood of them cracking.
posted by evilangela at 12:35 PM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm not ashamed to admit that I sold a very real Strat Squier in order to buy Rock Band. I've played that game way more than I ever played that guitar.

In your defense, it was a Squier.
posted by Mikey-San at 12:39 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


fuck, beaten
posted by Mikey-San at 12:39 PM on January 11, 2008


no shit? I had no idea you could get the pads replaced. bad ass.
posted by shmegegge at 12:40 PM on January 11, 2008


But there's something about this whole trend of having faux experiences in lieu of things that you can, in theory, do in real life that I find a bit dispiriting.

Whats wrong with that? I dont even like bowling, but I like video bowling. Hell, I can barely master a three-chord song but in GH I'm a master. I love the idea of digitizing things that are fun to some people and making them fun to all. The people with talent and drive wont be satisfied with simulations, they'll go for the real thing. For everyone else there's videogames.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:40 PM on January 11, 2008


In your defense, it was a Squier.

Plus, I also got $125 for it....and it was originally given to me by my ex girlfriend.

I had no second thoughts selling it for the game.
posted by Diskeater at 12:44 PM on January 11, 2008


evilangela - I am going to be getting some rubber practice tips for my sticks

I read an article (which I can't find currently) that said that the RB drums work by transferring vibration rather than just straight impact. So using any kind of stick that is anti-vibration will make things much harder. It recommended against any kind of non-wood stick, including non-wood tips. The rubber tips aren't expensive I'm sure, so it may be worth a shot anyways.
posted by utsutsu at 12:46 PM on January 11, 2008


you just lost the game writes " I really don't mean to rain on anyone's parade. I like video games, and obviously most of them depict actions (killing aliens, running through jungles, being Pac-Man) that I will never actually do in real life. But there's something about this whole trend of having faux experiences in lieu of things that you can, in theory, do in real life that I find a bit dispiriting."

Isn't that the whole point of any videogame? It's all fantasy. Some (Rock Band) are more realistic than others (Tempest). Also, in a videogame I can be a general and destroy my enemy's army without feeling too bad about all the death and destruction, which I couldn't do in real life.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:48 PM on January 11, 2008


Also, Hugonauts and shmegegge. Thanks for the tips. I have tried the RYBO position with shifting up when necessary and I find it very confusing. I think I need to get rid of that X button = Y finger association that took so long to build up.
posted by utsutsu at 12:49 PM on January 11, 2008


you just lost the game writes "But there's something about this whole trend of having faux experiences in lieu of things that you can, in theory, do in real life that I find a bit dispiriting."

"Trend"? The game of LIFE came out in 1860 (almost a century and a half ago). I don't think you can really call it a "trend".

Personally, I like snowboarding, but I love playing SSX. I find it a bit dispiriting that you find it a bit dispiriting.
posted by Bugbread at 12:49 PM on January 11, 2008


God, y'all are a pretty defensive bunch!
posted by nasreddin at 12:54 PM on January 11, 2008


Sheesh.

I could have phrased my first comment in a more constructive manner - for which I apologize - and probably should have just started off with my second, but...did I run over your copy of the game or something? Play on, don't let me stop you. Is my perception of the game flawed? Could be (I haven't played it, but I have played Guitar Hero and didn't enjoy it*). I find the whole concept behind Rock Band and Guitar Hero...intrinsically unfun, but if it's your cup of tea, that's cool. There are a lot of people who don't enjoy my favourite games.
posted by you just lost the game at 12:56 PM on January 11, 2008


nasreddin writes "God, y'all are a pretty defensive bunch!"

Yeah? Well, your favorite pastime is worthless, and you should feel bad about it!
posted by krinklyfig at 12:56 PM on January 11, 2008 [5 favorites]


you just lost the game writes "I find the whole concept behind Rock Band and Guitar Hero...intrinsically unfun, but if it's your cup of tea, that's cool. There are a lot of people who don't enjoy my favourite games."

I guess the reaction has to do with your need to come into a thread like this and let everyone know that you don't care for it. Do you really think that's useful or at all interesting to people who do care for it?
posted by krinklyfig at 12:57 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


* because I found it repetitive
posted by you just lost the game at 12:58 PM on January 11, 2008


On vocals it definitely pays to practice specifically with the versions they have on-board and make some mental note of where in the visual space our range switches over (I still get stuck higher than I should be from time to time). Nevermind the fact that, not unlike the other instruments, they definitely 'simplify' some vocals from the versions of pop songs you have in your head.

Also, in case it's not covered in the article (don't know why it would be), only the note matters on vocals, not any other quality (including comprehensible language). This fact does lead, in my vocal dork opinion, to some very strange "winning" vocals (imagine the reediest, nasaliest high-school-musicaliest tonal quality, now give it a 100 bar streak of perfect).

So if you get stuck, changing the mouth shape to something more comfortable to sing through ("Naaa" or "aaah" where you can relax your jaw instead of "Laaa" o "Ooooh" for instance) can help you keep the pitch and keep up a good streak. Your friends may still impose the two-shot penalty for making up words, but I feel it's worth it.
posted by abulafa at 12:59 PM on January 11, 2008


Do you really think that's useful or at all interesting to people who do care for it?

Upon further review, no. But I found certain reactions a bit disproportionate.
posted by you just lost the game at 1:00 PM on January 11, 2008


utsutsu writes "I read an article (which I can't find currently) that said that the RB drums work by transferring vibration rather than just straight impact."

Well, that's enough so that I won't have fun playing it. Training myself for years was worth the ability to play drums. Retraining those hand movements for a videogame while potentially screwing up my playing instincts ... well, not so much worth it.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:00 PM on January 11, 2008


Also, in case it's not covered in the article (don't know why it would be), only the note matters on vocals, not any other quality (including comprehensible language). This fact does lead, in my vocal dork opinion, to some very strange "winning" vocals (imagine the reediest, nasaliest high-school-musicaliest tonal quality, now give it a 100 bar streak of perfect).

Heh. I borrowed some of the Karaoke Revolution games from some friends, last year, and found it a pretty weird experience, but my brother and I got a lot of entertaining* mileage out exploiting this. Making the damn words up, or just singing intentionally incomprehensible noises, jumping register up or down an octave for no good reason...

*Booze helps.

Upon further review, no. But I found certain reactions a bit disproportionate.

The thing is, we've had this conversation, and had it, and had it. Someone says pretty much exactly what you said every time, and there's essentially never any reason for them to say it: I don't think there's been a post where anyone here has argued that this is the new, the better, the replacement, the 2.0, and going out and playing a real guitar is passe and for dinosaurs. Or anything like that.

So it's a frustrating jab, apparently unmotivated by anything but a desire to jump in edgewise. Doing it for the nth time (even if you weren't n-1 or n-2, etc) at the very beginning of a thread? Frustrating. Likely to produce a considerable response.

If you've never seen one of these threads, if you have never made this kind of comment before, I can understand why it'd seem disproportionate. Et voila, the explanation!
posted by cortex at 1:10 PM on January 11, 2008 [6 favorites]


Retraining those hand movements for a videogame while potentially screwing up my playing instincts ... well, not so much worth it.

I've wondered about that myself with playing the guitar - could Guitar Jam somehow make me worse? But for that matter, could anything (short of the divine) make me a worse guitar player?

Reassuringly, playing The Sims never had an adverse effect on my ability to leave an actual pizza box on the table until it rotted, nor did it negatively affect my capability of using the washroom facilities (though I did once notice a distinct blurring of the naughty bits).
posted by malocchio at 1:15 PM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


nasreddin writes "God, y'all are a pretty defensive bunch!"

You might not know the background: EVERY time the game "rock band" is mentioned in a forum, this same argument is trotted out. It's like someone bumping into your chair at the office: not that annoying at the start, but when every single person who walks by your chair bumps it, it starts becoming insanely annoying. So, yeah, our reaction is probably a bit disproportionate: after all, "you just lost the game" only bumped our chair once, but he was the thousandth person to do so.
posted by Bugbread at 1:15 PM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


you just lost the game - you might enjoy my comment in recent a baseball thread. It's sort of the same principal as the reaction you're getting here.
posted by PercussivePaul at 1:17 PM on January 11, 2008


God, y'all are a pretty defensive bunch!

I think that a lot of people rush to shoot down the "you should be playing real music" argument because this discussion has been had thousands of times on the internet and in real life lately. A fun game has come out that a lot of people are enjoying. A group of people will be playing it in real life, or talking about playing it on the internet, and some (no offense you just lost the game) beret-wearing, goateed douche will come by and say "Why are you wasting your time doing this? You should all be playing real instruments." And people who are playing a video game for fun are sick of it. So I don't think that people were infuriated so much by you just lost the game, but by the hundreds of other (again, no offense) pretentious arty fucks that have been attempting to piss in people's cornflakes for no reason whatsoever since this game came out.

On preview what cortex and bugbread said in a nicer way.
posted by ND¢ at 1:18 PM on January 11, 2008


Play on, don't let me stop you. Is my perception of the game flawed? Could be (I haven't played it, but I have played Guitar Hero and didn't enjoy it*). I find the whole concept behind Rock Band and Guitar Hero...intrinsically unfun

That's fine, but your first comment didnt read thay way, at least to me. You made a reference against simulators in general, which as others have pointed out is neither original or current. The idea that simulation takes away from reality is an old criticism of videogames that has been around since I was a kid playing an Atari 2600. The idea is that videogames take away from "healthy and normal" real life activities. Simulations make this worse because its supposedly so close to the real thing that you might as well be doing the real thing. Well, this argument is bull and has always been bull. Videogames are their own type of pastime and really dont turn the next Steve Vai into the next Fata1lity or whomever.

These criticisms are technophobic and appeal to a non-existant idealized past. They're tiresome, unoriginal, and wrong. Don't be surprised if people strike out next time you yelp these out in some forum. We're sick of it and sick of the token (word removed) who likes to make us feel bad for liking something that is exciting, new, fun, and interesting. Technophiles in general get this more often than most because of their hobbies and interests, so people on the internet are probably going to take the most offense.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:32 PM on January 11, 2008


I play guitar hero once in a while.

I used to play it with my cousin Johnny. We were both musicians - I only played the guitar a little but I play in several bands. Johnny played pretty much everything, but we were the same age and loved classic rock and it was fun to fuse two things we loved - music and videogames - into a sort of mishmash of screaming and jumping around and hammering on little toy guitars. Johnny developed bone cancer at age 20 - ultimately, it wore him down emotionally and physically to the point where he never really left the house. I remember everyone thinking he was "sad" or "frustrated" - but I'd still go over and play guitar hero with him and it was as if nothing changed. We'd still slam the controllers around and vocalize along with the solos - he really, really loved it. I think at that point he didn't really have the energy to play his instruments - guitar hero was a good alternative. He passed away a week before his 21st birthday. I kind of quit playing video games at that point but recently I was in a bar in Chicago that had a back room that was completely tricked out for guitar hero championship action. There were only a couple of people in the bar, and the bartender finally talked me into picking up a wireless controller and rocking out. It was really intense - we had a great time. I'm really grateful for the memories of all the good times I had with that little plastic guitar. I desperately miss Johnny - he completely kicked my ass at that game every single time we got together.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:32 PM on January 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


Understood. I can promise you that I have never been on a Rock Band thread, chat, form or message board before, so I didn't realize this whole thing has been debated to death. My bad. I apologize for poopin' in the thread, and promise to avoid any such discussions in the future.

I could try to explain why I find games like these kind of depressing (not bad, not worthless, not a waste of time...depressing on a personal level, and it goes beyond the whole "you could be playing real music" thing), without getting into personal attacks or belittling anyone's enjoyment of the game, but it's probably been said before and I don't want to derail things any further.
posted by you just lost the game at 1:34 PM on January 11, 2008


Its also worth noting that early rock pioneers go all sort static about their music, instruments, technique, and culture, because everyone knew that 'REAL' musicians learned classical instruments and aspired to one day be in an orchestra, not some hippy band.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:34 PM on January 11, 2008


I really like this game. I'll probably play it tonight, actually. But it's just a game. Yeah, I'd rather jam with my musician friends, but that's taken 20 years of practice and several thousands of dollars of gear between us. Not to mention the inconvenience of finding a practice space, setting up & tearing down the gear (ugh, drums!), apologizing to the friendly police officer while the drummer hides the stash... It's just not an experience that's accessible to Joe Q. Public.

My biggest philosophical problem with Rock Band (and Guitar Hero) is not that it's "fake" -- it's that it's not creative. It's anti-creative. It's pretty much the opposite of creative. DO NOT IMPROVISE. DO EXACTLY WHAT THE GAME TELLS YOU TO DO. ANY PITCH, RYTHYM, OR TIMING DEVIATION WILL BE PUNISHED. (I'm thinking even vocal vibrato counts against you, cuz you can see the pitch vary above and below the target.) It really flies in the face of my own musical preference, where I find the greatest joy by writing and performing original work or by free-form jamming.

But while it's not a creative activity, by design, it is a very fun game, and I can play it with my non-musician friends.

evilangela: Guitar Hero and Rock Band are not only fun games, but they increase peoples' appreciation of music, and I'm sure have encouraged more people to at least investigate actually learning to play instruments in real life. I'd think any musician would appreciate that.

Well said, and that's probably the most positive thing about the game -- the fact that it may extend its influence beyond a mere game and inspire somebody to pick up an actual guitar or whatnot and, eventually, *create* music as a form of artistic expression. Our RB drummer has a drum kit that's been collecting dust -- maybe this'll inspire him to beat the skins for real. I'd love to jam out with him.

Enjoying the Rock Band discussion, btw. I gotta come up with some technique questions for the hive...
posted by LordSludge at 1:35 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's cool, you just lost the game. And I don't mind the discussion of the counterpoint view, for what it's worth, when that's what the conversation is about.

DO NOT IMPROVISE. DO EXACTLY WHAT THE GAME TELLS YOU TO DO. ANY PITCH, RYTHYM, OR TIMING DEVIATION WILL BE PUNISHED.

Yeah, it's a reminder of what these games came from: abstract rhythm games. Amplitude and Frequency, or even the laserdisc Bluth games if you want to go way back.

At some point, someone will push it over to a more literally musical game. Assign notes to buttons and let me play! That'll be good stuff.

In Final Fantasy VII, in the creepy mansion in the main character's old hometown, there's a piano that you can play with the PS2 controller. Eight notes on the face buttons and the dpad, four different chords on the shoulder buttons.

I probably spent a half hour playing with that when I found it, me and friends singing whatever pop songs I could figure out how to mash into such a constrained space. It was a good time.
posted by cortex at 1:41 PM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


I post on MeFi because making the same comments in real life would get me punched in the nose, quick like.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:43 PM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


you just lost the game writes "Understood. I can promise you that I have never been on a Rock Band thread, chat, form or message board before, so I didn't realize this whole thing has been debated to death. My bad. I apologize for poopin' in the thread, and promise to avoid any such discussions in the future."

I apologize too. This is MeFi, after all, not Kotaku or IGN or something. There's no reason for me to have assumed that you were familiar with this ongoing pattern of discussion.

damn dirty ape writes "Its also worth noting that early rock pioneers go all sort static about their music, instruments, technique, and culture, because everyone knew that 'REAL' musicians learned classical instruments and aspired to one day be in an orchestra, not some hippy band."

Telling people who make music with synths/samplers/sequencers/computers/etc. that they should learn to play a "real instrument" is another way to get a big ole fight started fast.

LordSludge writes "My biggest philosophical problem with Rock Band (and Guitar Hero) is not that it's 'fake' -- it's that it's not creative. It's anti-creative. It's pretty much the opposite of creative. DO NOT IMPROVISE. DO EXACTLY WHAT THE GAME TELLS YOU TO DO. ANY PITCH, RYTHYM, OR TIMING DEVIATION WILL BE PUNISHED."

That's why I liked the very first Beatmanias. They only penalized you for hitting the wrong button sometime near when you were supposed to hit it. If you hit, for example, the far left button when there were no far-left-button-presses coming up, it didn't penalize you. So I loved playing it by hitting the right notes at the right time, and adding lots of flourishes and switching things up in the gaps. Once the game got more frantic, there was always a button press coming up for any button, so the ability to improvise went out the window. I understand why it happened, but I never enjoyed the later Beatmania games (except the one that had Gabber as one of the final tracks. That was awesome.)
posted by Bugbread at 1:45 PM on January 11, 2008


you just lost the game: Is my perception of the game flawed? Could be (I haven't played it, but I have played Guitar Hero and didn't enjoy it*). I find the whole concept behind Rock Band and Guitar Hero...intrinsically unfun, but if it's your cup of tea, that's cool.

You might check it out. I've played in bands for most of my life, and I was totally ready for this whole Rock Band thing to be stupid, bogus, a waste of time. And, well, it's a helluva lot of fun!! Can't wait to play again, in fact. But it's a GAME -- as different from real music as "SSX" is from real snowboarding. (Okay, not quite, but you get the point...) Also, I'll submit that the drums and vocals can be decent training wheels for playing drums and singing "for real", so there is some musical value there.

Just don't videotape me playing or I will fucking kill you. Painfully. while singing: SAY IT AIN'T soooOO-whoaawooaah!!....
posted by LordSludge at 1:46 PM on January 11, 2008


I will stick with my tea-drinking sim. I have now mastered putting the milk in before the tea. Am eagerly awaiting a networked version.

NOT ROCKBANDIST
posted by everichon at 1:49 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


You just lost the game:

Please enjoy this cogent analysis of your criticism.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 1:52 PM on January 11, 2008


Thanks so much for this. I'd have missed it otherwise. I bought this game because I read the developers saying you could learn to play the drums and, being completely unmusical but loving music, that seemed like a fun thing to do. Visions of the spirit of Keith Moon possessing my arms danced in my hippo campus.

Then I sat around waiting for it to show up from Amazon. And I realized I've never had anything approaching "limb independence". All my coordination has been wrested from a body that never wanted to give it to me. And I got a little depressed by the whole thing. A few weeks later, I'm starting to see the improvements as I work through Medium, and it's as much fun as I've had with video games in a long time.

Plus it showed up a few days before our Xmas Party and was the reason the last folks trickled out at 4:30am. It's never going to make a band out of us, but we're going to have a hell of a time trying.
posted by yerfatma at 1:53 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, LordSludge, the drum fills and vocal outbursts are creative opportunities. Not so much the guitar/bass parts, though.

Vocals: after playing a couple of songs on easy to check it out, I decided to crank it up to Expert. I five-starred every song on either the first or second try. No gold stars yet, though. How? It turns out that you don't actually have to sing -- you can hum. And by humming, you can more easily maintain your pitch for longer and don't lose out on a fraction of a second of opening phrases.

This technique also makes it fairly easy to solo both vocals and guitar (on Hard) simultaneously in the World Tour. I can only solo four songs at the Expert level, and it's really tough, but was able to get my million fans and then finish the Endless Set List on Hard. ("I Get By" is the real toughie there).

I brought the game out on New Year's Eve along with a gallon of sangria and an open bar. People who had never played games like these before got a kick out of the karaoke aspect, and everyone wants to bang the drum.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 1:54 PM on January 11, 2008


Also: whoever's smart idea it was to make super-long songs (e.g., "Green Grass & High Tides", "Foreplay/ Longtime") be the ones with the tough parts, screw you, sir.
posted by yerfatma at 1:55 PM on January 11, 2008


cortex writes "At some point, someone will push it over to a more literally musical game. Assign notes to buttons and let me play! That'll be good stuff."

The problem is, without scoring or some other sort of metric (unlockables, story, whathaveyou), it's not a game, it's an electronic instrument. If that's the case, there are a few of them already out there, the first of which pops to mind is "Jam Sessions" for the Nintendo DS, which is an acoustic guitar (chord) synthesizer.
posted by Bugbread at 2:02 PM on January 11, 2008


Am I a dick because I'd rather put on a real General Custer outfit, tie a real Native American woman to a pole and run through a real storm of deadly arrows before ravaging her by force?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:03 PM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Building on what bugbread said, has anyone tried Electroplankton for the DS? It looks absolutely fantastic.
posted by danb at 2:09 PM on January 11, 2008


These people took you just lost the game's advice and got off their asses to beat a real drum. Most of them would certainly benefit from these drumming tips, though; they mostly suck (they'd get PWNED at 'Rock Star').
posted by Pecinpah at 2:14 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Elecktroplankton is pretty neat-o, more of a group of abstract sequencers than a rhythm game. There is no goal except to entertain yourself. The best part is that it's actually quite difficult to make anything that doesn't sound good.
posted by Durhey at 2:20 PM on January 11, 2008


I hope that, as with Guitar Hero, we get knock-offs soon: I'm looking forward to Viol Consort and Woodwind Quintet and Piano Trio (yeah, try the Mendelssohn #1 on Expert).

"I bought Symphony Orchestra but I can never get enough friend together to do the Mahler."
posted by Wolfdog at 2:31 PM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


there are a few of them already out there, the first of which pops to mind is "Jam Sessions" for the Nintendo DS, which is an acoustic guitar (chord) synthesizer.

Yeah, I dig it. And I'm really keenly aware of the difficulty of moving from Game to Instrument and how hard it is to sell abstract play. But my hope is that there'll be a gradual enough of a move over the next few years toward freeform musicality in a game setting that people will end up Playing before they know what hit them. :)

Oddly enough, after playing with both I found Electroplankton a lot more musically compelling than Jam Sessions. I guess partly because I already have a couple guitars, and because JS sounds like ass. Electroplankton is something weird and different altogether.
posted by cortex at 2:31 PM on January 11, 2008


Dang ten pounds of inedita, I tried humming but maybe missed some aspect - I had way worse consistency than just quiet nasalizing. Or maybe that's what you mean. Or maybe I hum too low.

Nonetheless, if I didn't write software for a living and have some inkling of how damn hard it is to do, I'd insert a comment here about "if only a game could score the vocals in natural language and the musical qualities! That wold totally... something!"

I don't play real drums or play real guitar/bass, but as for how the vocals compare to reality... I would submit that Rock Band is an easier scorer by far than the last version of Karaoke Revolution Ultramegawhaevermix I played. Oh, did I say reality? I meant Karaoke...
posted by abulafa at 2:35 PM on January 11, 2008


I watched my kids and my nephews play Rock Band a few weekends ago. It was great entertainment and they were obviously having a blast. We're talking 20-somethings. Good time. Great game.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:35 PM on January 11, 2008


Elecktroplankton is pretty neat-o, more of a group of abstract sequencers than a rhythm game. There is no goal except to entertain yourself.

That's pretty much exactly what I wanted to hear. I have my 1/8" adapter at the ready.
posted by danb at 2:43 PM on January 11, 2008


Nonetheless, if I didn't write software for a living and have some inkling of how damn hard it is to do, I'd insert a comment here about "if only a game could score the vocals in natural language and the musical qualities! That wold totally... something!"

Heh. Yeah. Actually, if they wanted to do some rough word-recognition, they could probably get away with it—at least profile the formants and stops of the singer vs. a phonetic guidetrack tied to the given lyrics. It wouldn't have to be perfect to keep you honest: if it dings you for singing "rosebush" instead of "hedgerow" but lets "fletchblow" by, oh well.

Where the happy middle point falls between quality vocal analysis and keeping to a reasonable partition of available processing power, I dunno.

What would be hot hot hot would be full-blown speech recognition—not just testing to see if you're plausibly singing some expected lyrics, but an active attempt to detect and transcribe what you are singing. God, that'd be beautiful.
posted by cortex at 2:46 PM on January 11, 2008


I would love to have a DS, electroplankton, and a Kaoss pad so I could play around like in this video.
posted by Bugbread at 2:46 PM on January 11, 2008


Lord Sludge and cortex actually pretty much nailed what I wanted to say (the whole anti-creative thing). Of course, there's more to it than that, because lord knows none of the video games I play are, in any way, shape or form, creative. I'm not sure why GH got under my skin that way.*

> Yeah, it's a reminder of what these games came from: abstract rhythm games.

Maybe that's it. GH, to me, was like playing a game called Press The Coloured Buttons In Time With The Metronome, only it had been gussied up with rock music and irregular patterns; ultimately the game has nothing to do with guitars, or even music (well, rhythm, yes). I guess the the strictly non-creative nature of the game resulted in some sort of unpleasant disconnect in my head because I kept butting up against what holding a guitar usually feels like (I do play; I stink, but I truly enjoy it). YMMV, and I hope it does.

* if you want to see pure, unadulturated despair, give me a Rubik's Cube
posted by you just lost the game at 2:49 PM on January 11, 2008


My real life musical abilities are poor that they are very nearly illegal in several states. As a result, I have little interest in playing games like Rock Band or Guitar Hero. However my percussive skills (both real life and game world) skills are excellent, ('percussive' in the sense that with a big enough blast, there will be a noise), and as such, I'm quite good at games like Black.
posted by quin at 2:53 PM on January 11, 2008


Actually, if they wanted to do some rough word-recognition, they could probably get away with it—at least profile the formants and stops of the singer vs. a phonetic guidetrack tied to the given lyrics. It wouldn't have to be perfect to keep you honest: if it dings you for singing "rosebush" instead of "hedgerow" but lets "fletchblow" by, oh well.

You could feed it Robert Plant's actual vocal tracks and it would say FAIL!!
posted by Wolfdog at 2:56 PM on January 11, 2008


Maybe that's it. GH, to me, was like playing a game called Press The Coloured Buttons In Time With The Metronome, only it had been gussied up with rock music and irregular patterns; ultimately the game has nothing to do with guitars, or even music (well, rhythm, yes).

Yeah. And to some extent, my enthusiasm for video games waxes and wanes with the degree to which I find myself doing that sort of reductive analysis on them from month to month: "what, exactly, am I doing with my time here?" Depends a lot on the game and how cynical I'm being, of course. Mostly, I'm a lot more focused on making sure I'm having fun whenever I play a game than I was ten years ago. That whole saw about the hardcore kids of yesterday growing up to be the devoted but casual gamers of today.

The fancy-dress-on-a-button-pressing-game take on GH reminds me of the old cart art from the Atari games; all this flash on top of something so simple.

But for all that, the game remains very fun to me, and as a social game it's even more so. I'd like to try Rock Band some time, but jamming all that into an already-brimming (with real instruments, mostly!) 1bdr when we don't even have many close videogamer friends in town doesn't make much sense.

* if you want to see pure, unadulturated despair, give me a Rubik's Cube

Sweet.

*gives yjltg a Rubik's Cube, rolls tape*
posted by cortex at 3:05 PM on January 11, 2008


What would be hot hot hot would be full-blown speech recognition—not just testing to see if you're plausibly singing some expected lyrics, but an active attempt to detect and transcribe what you are singing. God, that'd be beautiful.
...and would give me some excuse to try and sing along with "It's the End of the World (As we Know It)" rather than, as usual, succumbing to "naah na na naa naah na naaa, naah na na naaah Leo-nard Bern-stein!"
posted by abulafa at 3:08 PM on January 11, 2008


Duncan: You might enjoy this 5 star Tom Sawyer performance. (Note that if this was For Real, there are still enough flubs to piss off the bass player!) and Virgil Donati makes Peart look like a little boy...

There are a whole mess of 5 Star "Expert" level drum performances on YT

And this Guitar Hero 3 rendition of Through the Fire and Flames on guitar is pretty crazy, but done on drums is just i n s a n e.
posted by LordSludge at 3:11 PM on January 11, 2008


But there's something about this whole trend of having faux experiences in lieu of things that you can, in theory, do in real life that I find a bit dispiriting.

Yeah -- the Queen of England must be bonkers for enjoying Wii bowling!
"When [Queen Elizabeth] saw William playing a game after lunch at Sandringham she thought the Nintendo looked tremendous fun and begged to join in.

'She played a simple ten-pin bowling game and by all accounts was a natural. It was hilarious.' William was in fits of laughter. He was enormously impressed at having such a cool gran."
posted by ericb at 3:27 PM on January 11, 2008


Might be worth mentioning that there are a slew of pay-for-download additional songs for RB, all listed on the Wikipedia entry. (I had no idea Rush's "Limelight" was available until I went fishing for YT vids for the above post!)
posted by LordSludge at 3:27 PM on January 11, 2008


cortex: [I]f they wanted to do some rough word-recognition, they could probably get away with it—at least profile the formants and stops of the singer vs. a phonetic guidetrack tied to the given lyrics. It wouldn't have to be perfect to keep you honest: if it dings you for singing "rosebush" instead of "hedgerow" but lets "fletchblow" by, oh well.

It does do some form of voice recognition:
Fonix ASR is in the recently released Rock Band (Harmonix/MTV Games/EAP for PS3, Xbox 360), winner of the most awards (three) in the 2007 Game Critics Awards contest.
PDF of box pic... or something.

A little more from an old preview article:
Singing is described as more in-depth, with a phoneme detector picking up "individual vowels and consonants you say. Build up enough highly judged phrases and you'll be able to sing free-form. If you do well enough in free-form, then you'll trigger the vocalist's version of star power." ref
I have no idea how picky/accurate it is.

Although I gotta say it's fun substituting in your own Radiohead lyrics:
Fred's a creep.
Fred's a loser.
What the hell is Fred doing here?
Fred don't belong here.
posted by LordSludge at 3:42 PM on January 11, 2008


Hey, that's great! Take that, Karaoke Smellvolution!
posted by cortex at 3:49 PM on January 11, 2008


Unlike on guitar or vocals, when I play drums I usually burn any energy that I've earned right away. The little drum fill sections tend to mess me up.
posted by ssmith at 3:52 PM on January 11, 2008


ericb writes "'When [Queen Elizabeth] saw William playing a game after lunch at Sandringham she thought the Nintendo looked tremendous fun and begged to join in.

""She played a simple ten-pin bowling game and by all accounts was a natural. It was hilarious." William was in fits of laughter. He was enormously impressed at having such a cool gran.'"


I could see that. She was never too high and mighty to pass up such an opportunity. I wish someone had taped it.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:12 PM on January 11, 2008


cortex writes "At some point, someone will push it over to a more literally musical game. Assign notes to buttons and let me play! That'll be good stuff."

Actually, I've got an idea how this could be done and still be a game:

Unlockables.

That is, allow you to freestyle once you've established that you can properly play. First, you have to play the song the normal way, like in all modern rhythm games. But if you clear the song with at least 80% or whathaveyou, whenever you do that song, the solo is unlocked, and you can play whatever you want during the solo section. Give you the ability to play the chorus freestyle if you complete the song with 90%. Get 95% or more and you can play whatever you want throughout the song. The game (I'm not imagining a Rock Band multiplayer thing, but a single-player music game) would provide you with the bass, drums, and synths, so it's not really the same as Jam Session or the like.

Another possibility is to do a similar thing, but constrain certain notes. For example, if a measure goes:

"C D F B C B B A"

If you clear the song with 50%, you now get the ability to freestyle the second half of each measure. It becomes "C D F B Free". With 75%, you get to improvise as long as the first notes of the measure are "C D". At 90%, you can improvise as long as the start of the measure is a "C". At 95%, you get to play whatever you want all song long.
posted by Bugbread at 4:14 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


yeah, take that guitar hero!
posted by shabadew at 4:16 PM on January 11, 2008


Nthing, "no, that's not why you're a dick."

That is all.
posted by Flunkie at 4:17 PM on January 11, 2008


LordSludge, I have no doubt they have the software in there.... I'm just guessing it playtested badly or some other late-breaking development made them turn it down to somewhere between Off and Hootie & the Blowfish.

(The freestyling in vocal mode, I'll admit, usually shows up at really odd times and never lasts long enough for me to get the hang of it, so I am probably just reinforcing my own incompetence.)
posted by abulafa at 4:21 PM on January 11, 2008


abulafa, yeah, I don't doubt it's dumbed down -- but hey at least it's *supposed* to check phonetics and such... I'd love to get more info on just how far they went with it, how the implementation differs on Xbox360 vs. PS3, etc.

bugbread, cool idea, but how does the game score that guitar freestyle? For drums, I'm pretty sure it's simply based on how fast and how many you can hit. Presently, there is that ending whole band freestyle thing, but I think it's the same thing -- lotsa notes real fast gets you big points. (Note: You can rack up huge points for this section on guitar by hammering-on the "solo frets" up high on the neck your strumming hand *while* hammering-on the regular frets with your other hand.)

What I'd REALLY love to see is a Guitar Hero Pro, where you use a MIDI pickup (or cheap USB variant) on a real guitar. It'd have to have lessons and a pretty shallow learning curve, but you'd actually be learning to play a real guitar. Might be too frustrating for the mass market, but I know I'd play the hell outta that!
posted by LordSludge at 4:41 PM on January 11, 2008


Aww, I missed the flame war because I was too busy playing Rock Band with friends. Damn, if I was sitting alone in my room practicing Polly-Wolly Doodle over and over again before giving up in frustration, I would have been on teh internets much sooner!

(ps - Learning to Fly on HardDrums can die in a fire. Why can't I get that off beat kick? Whhhyyyyy?)
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:46 PM on January 11, 2008


After watching the five star drums Tom Sawyer video that Lord Sludge posted:
  1. I am buying this game. Very soon. In fact, I'm surprised that I'm taking the time to post this.
  2. Question: I see the guy tapping the foot pedal, but I don't see how it tells him to do so.
Looks like #2 isn't actually a question, so I will add: "Uh... huh?"
posted by Flunkie at 4:59 PM on January 11, 2008


Flunkie, there is an orange bar that goes across the fret board that indicates when you should use the kick petal. A quick Google image search brought up this as a good example....the middle fret board is the drums and that orange bar is what I'm talking about.
posted by Diskeater at 5:14 PM on January 11, 2008


Actually, this is an even better picture.
posted by Diskeater at 5:15 PM on January 11, 2008


Flunkie, the orange bars that are the full width of the note board are the bass drum notes - that's what you have to hit.

And make sure to get some friends to play with. A full four players is when Rock Band really shines as a game. You can actually start to feel like you're playing in a band. Especially when you're trying to play bass guitar and your newbie drummer can't find a rhythm and you find that it screws you up and causes you to keep breaking your combo. Yes, that has happened to me multiple times.
posted by evilangela at 5:18 PM on January 11, 2008


(ps - Learning to Fly on HardDrums can die in a fire. Why can't I get that off beat kick? Whhhyyyyy?)

I finally got that, but the doubled kick with the regular snare and cymbal on paranoid? Bleargh!

I can do one or the other, but I sure as hell can't get both at once. Hands! Stop doing what I'm telling my foot to do!
posted by flaterik at 6:11 PM on January 11, 2008


> Damn, if I was sitting alone in my room practicing Polly-Wolly Doodle over and over again before giving up in frustration, I would have been on teh internets much sooner!

Homer (consoling Bart): There, there, boy. If something is hard, then it's not worth doing. Now you just put that guitar next to your karate uniform, your ham radio, and your unicycle, and we'll go watch TV.
Bart: What's on?
Homer (in a fatherly tone): It doesn't matter.
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 6:59 PM on January 11, 2008


I just got GH2, and I'm amazed at how badly I'm doing at it. I started at medium but dropped to easy since I was failing songs. I think I'm improving, but we'll see how that goes. I think I might switch to my right hand on the frets and left on the strum bar.

I still want Rock Band for the drums and vocals, though.
posted by Talanvor at 7:17 PM on January 11, 2008


Ya know, i think I just realized what I hate about playing cover songs. It's like playing Rock Band, only without the gems falling in front of you. Instead, you have to either read a boring ole score (or figure it out yourself) put your fingers here and there -- ideally, perfectly mimicking the song recorded by other musicians without interpretation, so creativity is your enemy here -- but you're not fighting for a high score, you're fighting for crowd approval. It's like a Real Life version of Rock Band.**

Conversely, Rock Band has replicated this experience using simpler "instruments" that are more accessible to Joe Public. I enjoy Rock Band, but I guess that's what I dislike about it: it hasn't replicated the experience of being in a band -- it's replicated the experience of being in a cover band.*** Which... it seems kinda weird that so many people, including myself, are playing this game to simulate the experience of being in a cover band. Especially myself, as I could go out and form a cover band tomorrow if I wanted.

Hmm. Gotta think on that. (I hope I didn't just ruin the game for myself.)

** And, ya know, a really great musician, a virtuoso, should be able to kick major ass at Rock Band, given a little practice. Hell, the game almost seems trivial compared to sight-reading. As awesome as that 5-star Tom Sawyer play-drumming was, it'd be a sloppy, shameful performance in Real Life.

*** I know, puff puff pass...
posted by LordSludge at 7:36 PM on January 11, 2008


it's replicated the experience of being in a cover band

There was an amusing bit in one of the guitar hero games where it showed a magazine cover with your band and a quote that was something along the lines of "I never thought we'd get this far as a cover band".
posted by flaterik at 8:12 PM on January 11, 2008


You know, every so often my friends are over and I'm playing Frets on Fire. I now wait for the wittier of my friends to ask me what I'm doing playing a guitar simulation simulation when I could go out and play Guitar Hero.
posted by flatluigi at 8:17 PM on January 11, 2008


Pecinpah, that video is awesome!

"91, I'm playin' the drums!"
posted by Quidam at 9:14 PM on January 11, 2008


Simpsons bit

Exactly! I mean, I could work alone for awhile to get good enough to play Enter Sandman on drums with a bunch of friends who have also dedicated time to that endeavor, or I could have folks over and play Rock Band right now and have a good time. So what is it that Rock Band players are chasing? Could it not be "technical mastery" as much as "a fun time?" I suspect so. Not that technical mastery is without strange and sexy benefits, mind.

See, I'm married, so being able to wail away on the guitar, croon my heart out, or smash some mad beats on the drums would not help me get chicks. I totally and sincerely envy those who do have mad musical talent (and can use said talent to fetch said ladies), but I do not have the time nor do my friends have the time to put together enough talent to play covers of popular rock songs. But, I have Rock Band and a really good fake ID. So I can get a bunch of people with little musical background (myself included, lest someone make Cello Hero) together on the promise of loud noises and cheap beer and we can have fun. Some of those people may be musically inclined, but yanno what's strange? None of them crap on the good time because they're having fun too.

Also, for those of us that do play Rock Band and do have a good time, I note the site and the product offered here. I also note that I can make a set of similar pads for far less than 23$ + Shipping. You can too! If you're interested in learning how (or bribing me with beer to have me make a set of drum pads for you) drop me a MeFi Mail.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:16 PM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


I know nothing about Rock Band other than its become a phenomena. At first I thought it was teaching people to really play instruments and I was about to go out and spend whatever amount they were asking for it, but then I found out that it didn't really teach anything. My question: Is there anyone out there that enjoyed Rock Band so much that they were inspired to learn a real instrument. If this is happening even in the smallest way I am all for the Rock Band phenomena. Hell even if it isn't, I'm all for people getting together and sharing a musical experience no matter how technologically aided. I'm convinced that if every person on earth learned to play one instrument there would be peace.
posted by any major dude at 9:25 AM on January 12, 2008


My goal, with the caveats stated above, is to learn the drums. Not to be in a band, per se, but to . . . I don't know, to know that I could if I needed to, to check something else off the ethereal checklist and not, when it comes time to die, learn that I hadn't drummed.

robocop, any idea if those pads work?
posted by yerfatma at 11:16 AM on January 12, 2008


You might enjoy this 5 star Tom Sawyer performance.

I can't get too excited for that. He's drinking soda. My final goals are Ultimate Expert Level, Def Leopard Mode (play expert songs one-handed) and some sort of Drunken Master technique (this seems less likely).
posted by yerfatma at 11:25 AM on January 12, 2008


Hi, I was a programmer on Rock Band (and Guitar Hero I and II), working mostly on the musical gameplay.

My biggest philosophical problem with Rock Band (and Guitar Hero) is not that it's "fake" -- it's that it's not creative. It's anti-creative. It's pretty much the opposite of creative. DO NOT IMPROVISE. DO EXACTLY WHAT THE GAME TELLS YOU TO DO. ANY PITCH, RYTHYM, OR TIMING DEVIATION WILL BE PUNISHED.

Well, as one person mentioned, there are freestyle drum sections, which at least is a step in the right direction. We are constantly trying to find ways to make our games more creative, but it's a real challenge, especially in the context of a game where people get points for things. In the first Guitar Hero, before we really knew what we were doing, we put a fair amount of work into trying to have freestyle guitar sections, and it was a failure. We're going to keep trying to push in user-creativity directions in the future, though.

Our games Frequency and Amplitude had a remix mode where you could take the samples from a song and shuffle them around and save them as new "levels". People came up with some pretty cool-sounding remixes. That sort of thing doesn't work so well in a more rock context though (those games were more focused on electronica).

One interesting data point is that many people don't want any creative component in the game at all. I've seen multiple people complain that they want to just play the original drum part instead of being forced to play their own fills.

(I'm thinking even vocal vibrato counts against you, cuz you can see the pitch vary above and below the target.)

We try to account for vibrato by giving you full credit if your pitch is going back and forth moderately. If your vibrato is really wide you will start losing points.
posted by dfan at 1:25 PM on January 12, 2008 [10 favorites]


*blinks*

Dan! Holy shit! Please accept this awkward expression of fanboyism!

Also, for god's sake, upload something to Music.
posted by cortex at 2:50 PM on January 12, 2008


dfan: Well, as one person mentioned, there are freestyle drum sections, which at least is a step in the right direction.

Sure, but how are they scored? At least half the people I've played with just hit as many drums as quickly as possible. That probably *is* the wasy to a higher score (?), but I try to keep the fills musical, cuz, well, I'm pretending to be a drummer!

We are constantly trying to find ways to make our games more creative, but it's a real challenge, especially in the context of a game where people get points for things.

Yeah, the hard part is that you really need some way for the game to "judge" an ad lib musical performance and assign points accordingly.

In the first Guitar Hero, before we really knew what we were doing, we put a fair amount of work into trying to have freestyle guitar sections, and it was a failure. We're going to keep trying to push in user-creativity directions in the future, though.

Just an idea: Guitar improv sections where each key is mapped to a pre-defined note on a scale that works with the particular music -- I'm guessing a minor pentatonic will *always* work, but you could use other scales as well. And, of course, shift the key to whatever it needs to be. So it'd be kinda like playing a harmonica, where you can't really hit a wrong note. (Or is this what you tried, unsuccessfully, in GH1?)

No idea how you'd score this, however, even if you had the biggest neural network on the planet. Philosophically, what makes one solo "better" than another? I mean, in the real world, I may think Petrucci is great, but others may think he's a wanker with uncreative solos. Conversely, I'm not a big fan of Clapton. Score = ???

One interesting data point is that many people don't want any creative component in the game at all. I've seen multiple people complain that they want to just play the original drum part instead of being forced to play their own fills.

I'm aware that I represent the minority -- (hack) musicians who enjoy playing the game with their non-musician friends. I guess you gotta stick with your market.

We try to account for vibrato by giving you full credit if your pitch is going back and forth moderately. If your vibrato is really wide you will start losing points.

Ah, thanks for clarifying that. And thanks for jumping in and sharing some details here. I was actually up til 5am last night playing Rock Band with my buds. Helluva fun game.

One parting question: Do the character customizations (clothing, instruments, tatoos, etc.) have ANY effect on the gameplay or is it purely cosmetic? It'd be neat if they at least gave point/fan/money multipliers, if not special abilities -- e.g., the double-neck guitar allows you an extra save, the bone vest gives you +10% fans, etc. Seems like this part of the game -- the "RPG" aspect, if you will -- was left hanging.
posted by LordSludge at 12:30 PM on January 13, 2008


cortex: Accepted with gratitude!

LordSludge: Sure, but how are they [drum fills] scored? At least half the people I've played with just hit as many drums as quickly as possible. That probably *is* the way to a higher score (?), but I try to keep the fills musical, cuz, well, I'm pretending to be a drummer!

Yeah, we don't give any points at all for drum fills (all they do is deploy overdrive) for exactly that reason.

In the Big Rock Endings sections you do get points per hit, but we cap it pretty low so you can play "creatively" and still get as many points as anyone as long as you are playing a couple of hits a second or so.

Just an idea: Guitar improv sections where each key is mapped to a pre-defined note on a scale that works with the particular music -- I'm guessing a minor pentatonic will *always* work, but you could use other scales as well. And, of course, shift the key to whatever it needs to be. So it'd be kinda like playing a harmonica, where you can't really hit a wrong note. (Or is this what you tried, unsuccessfully, in GH1?)

It's one of the things we tried unsuccessfully, yeah :)

No idea how you'd score this, however, even if you had the biggest neural network on the planet. Philosophically, what makes one solo "better" than another?

Yeah, if you ask me, there's no good way to score it at all. Once you introduce any sort of scoring, people start trying to game the system. The only semi-solution I've thought of is to cap the score really low, so there are lots of different ways to max out your points.

One parting question: Do the character customizations (clothing, instruments, tatoos, etc.) have ANY effect on the gameplay or is it purely cosmetic? It'd be neat if they at least gave point/fan/money multipliers, if not special abilities -- e.g., the double-neck guitar allows you an extra save, the bone vest gives you +10% fans, etc. Seems like this part of the game -- the "RPG" aspect, if you will -- was left hanging.

It's purely cosmetic. We really didn't want to get into +3 Vorpal Stratocaster of Shredding territory, at least in this game. It's definitely one direction you could take it, though.

Glad you like the game!
posted by dfan at 1:31 PM on January 13, 2008


It's purely cosmetic. We really didn't want to get into +3 Vorpal Stratocaster of Shredding territory, at least in this game. It's definitely one direction you could take it, though.

It'd be challenging to come up with special abilities, but I kinda would like different instruments, each's with its own characteristics. (And everybody knows that the Holy Les Paul of Antioch is superior to the Vorpal Strat in every way.)

Hmmm... thinkin out loud here...

If clothing/instruments/tatoos mean nothing in terms of game play, then money means nothing, as that's the only point in having money. Would be cool if money could not only buy items, which affect gameplay, but it was also needed for various RPG-ish elements: paying airline fare to Europe (before you get the airliner), bailing the bus driver out of jail (random occurance), paying a college student to make your MySpace site (boosts fan attendance), fixing the van (random), etc. You couldn't go too far with it, as it'd risk distracting from the game, but I think done right, it could spice the game up and make the player feel more attached to his game character -- ala Everquest, WoW, etc.

I'm a programmer, too, I'll just get right on coding that game. Since "Rock Band" is taken I call it: "Musician Guys". No relation to Rock Band. Nope. I can use Lotus Notes as the programming language, right?

That's a little programming humor. Sorry, everybody. I'll go to bed now.
posted by LordSludge at 9:36 PM on January 13, 2008


I'm a programmer, too, I'll just get right on coding that game.

Heh. I spent some time a couple years back brainstorming a Band Sim, sort of looking at everything but the actual musical performance component. I worked out a rough model of band dynamics and local/touring economics, but, well: Guitar Hero.
posted by cortex at 9:40 PM on January 13, 2008


The most serious omission of Rock Band is that it leaves unanswered the often asked question: just how much vomit does it take to fill a pool?
posted by The Deej at 11:52 PM on January 13, 2008


That's okay, cortex. I designed Everquest back in the '80s. Had like 4 whole pages written out and everything.
posted by LordSludge at 6:24 AM on January 14, 2008


I actually like that the character customizations don't affect the gameplay for the same reasons that dfan describes about people trying to game the system.

You can have that bass player who is so goth he shits bats, because it doesn't matter if he's not using the +10 punk pants.

When a character's looks are totally divorced from abilities it allows the player to really be expressive and do what they want (City of Heroes comes to mind), instead of having to look a certain way if they want to have the best stuff (WoW, et al.). You could do some kind of character progression where the more time they spend in a band, they get certain bonuses, but leave my tragic facepaint and bitching boots out of it.
posted by utsutsu at 7:38 AM on January 14, 2008


You'll have to pry my "Wicked Pissah" shirt from my cold, dead, sweaty body. And you won't like it.
posted by yerfatma at 10:30 AM on January 14, 2008


I just want to say that I love my "Doctor What" Jacket and Scarf in Rock Band more than I love my parents and pets.
posted by shmegegge at 10:54 AM on January 14, 2008


I worked out a rough model of band dynamics and local/touring economics,

My experience here is somewhat limited, but I've found that this particular Blues Brothers quote accurately described several of the local bands that I was friends with:

Jake: Uh, Bob, about the money for tonight.
Bob: Oh, yeah, $200, and you boys drank $300 worth of beer.

Which is to say, that any game/ simulation like this would need to have alternate currency schemas. First you play just for stage time, then you play for beer, then you play for shots, then you play for money, and then fame, and then worldwide acclaim, etc.

But it should start with beer.
posted by quin at 11:23 AM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


But it should start with beer.

Oh, it does, at every show.

Actually, yeah, the idea of the mixed currencies of reputation, networking, obligation, lodging/gas money (in a touring context), beer, trade, actual cash, etc is part of what I was thinking about. I've been paid for gigs, but I've never been in a band that made money or anything like it, and I think that's probably true for the vast majority of local bands. So a model that didn't capture some of that in a compelling way would be pretty silly.

Part of the thing is that what I'm calling 'Band Sim' should more reasonably be called 'Probably Unsuccessful Band Sim'; I like the idea of really capturing the low-stakes rise-and-fall of a garage band (or a series of bands); where Guitar Hero sold, for backgroudn flavor, a sort of abbreviated fairy tell of the effortless rise from garage band to National Touring Act, my thoughts were more toward the gritty banality of a band that probably won't make it and maybe (depending on how you played) maybe wouldn't deserve to anyway. Less Civilization, more SimCity 1.0. Modest ambitions, compromised, and all the joy in the little details along the way.

I should stop thinking about this. It's only going to cause me trouble.
posted by cortex at 12:32 PM on January 14, 2008


So basically, you're thinking of creating Rock CoBander: Privateer.
posted by shmegegge at 12:40 PM on January 14, 2008


With Mark Hamill voiceacting Weary Booking Agent, yes.

(Actually, insofar as I've seriously thought about it, we're talking more like Legend of the Red Giggin'. FretHack. LambdaMOOSIC. Just enough dressing on the systems modeling to give it an interface; one man can write the shell of a game that might take a company to really dress up for retail.)
posted by cortex at 1:01 PM on January 14, 2008


Do we get groupies?
posted by yerfatma at 5:41 PM on January 14, 2008


Actually, if they wanted to do some rough word-recognition, they could probably get away with it—at least profile the formants and stops of the singer vs. a phonetic guidetrack tied to the given lyrics. It wouldn't have to be perfect to keep you honest: if it dings you for singing "rosebush" instead of "hedgerow" but lets "fletchblow" by, oh well.

Assuming an always-on connection to Xbox Live or the PS3 online offering and an amazing connection, could the scoring be done by comparing users to all other users instead of trying to pre-build a corpus that would cover everything? It would be pretty crap at first, but assuming great popularity (and all zigs for great justice), it would become solid quickly.
posted by yerfatma at 5:47 PM on January 14, 2008


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