Fake guitars are not for me, but continued drumming

3rd June 2009 – 5.31 pm

Just to make sure that everything works I take a short break from drumming in Guitar Hero: World Tour to try out the guitar parts, although I am still yet to give singing a bash to test the microphone. I get the guitar controller connected and working without issue and play through a couple of gigs, both on easy difficulty mode, one for lead guitar and one for bass guitar. I probably won't play too much more on the guitar controller than that, though, because I find it quite unfulfilling.

My earlier suspicion about feeling like I am only playing a game with the guitar controller is confirmed, instead of the sensation of actually playing an instrument when on the drums. But I wondered before why this should be a problem, as I play many games using skills only relevant to that game, and I realise now that it is because of the disconnect between the music and the actions. When playing the drums I am hitting pads that are quite credibly an electronic drum kit in time with actual corresponding notes, where the drums pads are in time with the snare or toms and the cymbals or hi-hat in the song require the cymbal pads to be hit. But playing the guitar is much more abstract when compared to the original instrument.

Whilst there is obviously a strong element of digital coordination required to master the guitar controller the game simply doesn't compare to the accomplishment I feel when I play along with a song on a real guitar, an activity I dabble in from time to time. My concern is not so much that I find it more gratifying to play along with a song on a real guitar but more that I feel a disconnect between the music played along with in Guitar Hero and my actions. It is more difficult for me to become involved in the game on the guitar, perhaps because of my experience with real guitar playing, especially compared to the direct connection that exists and I feel with the drums.

That's not to say I think the guitar controller is silly, just that it isn't for me. I have a lot of respect for machines like Zoso who can play the guitar parts on expert difficulty, because I know it takes a lot of skill. I certainly couldn't do it. And just as I prefer the drums and eschew the guitar so the reverse is likely true for others, which works well in a game that encourages play with simultaneous multiple instruments. I can be Meg to Zoso's Jack White. But a talented Meg, please.

As for my drumming, I think it is coming along quite well. Progress will be slow, as I feel I am effectively learning an instrument, even if at a relatively basic level. The key will be to practice consistently, which is what I am striving to maintain at the moment. I breezed through the easy difficulty gigs and moved on to the medium difficulty level, where I am lingering for the moment. I still haven't worked through all of the gigs on medium difficulty, instead going back to gigs and songs that I enjoy playing in order to build up my confidence and skills to a higher proficiency. After all, competently playing an instrument doesn't hinge on sight-reading and familiarity with a song is helping me focus on technique instead of the game.

Out of interest, I enter the practice mode to attempt a couple of the more engaging songs on the difficult difficulty setting to see what later challenges will hold. Playing in practice mode means that missing beats won't end the song early, which will allow me to play through to the end even if I miss plenty of notes. I find that I have a lot of practice ahead of me as it really is quite difficult. That's fine, I am really enjoying playing along even at the lower difficulty settings, getting thrills out of learning the trickier sections of songs and being able to monitor my progress. It also shows that I am being prudent in continuing to practice on medium level, to improve on my skills before attempting something more advanced.

One feature I notice when going in to practice is that there exists the ability to slow down the song during playback, so that needing to play at speed becomes less of an issue, and the notes required to be played and the intervals between them can be practiced instead. This feature, along with the gradual introduction of more complicated rhythms, patterns and multiple-pad hits looks to make Guitar Hero: World Tour an excellent introductory tool to learning to play drums.

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