Guitar Hero drumming update

29th July 2009 – 5.18 pm

I am continuing to practice my drumming in Guitar Hero and, I am happy to report, showing some obvious improvement. I am no longer warming up with some medium difficulty songs, albeit from the more complex end of the set-list, and instead diving straight in to the hard difficulty gigs, with a fair bit of success. Whilst the first couple of gigs are essentially extensions to the skills I picked up completing all the gigs on medium difficulty, moving on to the second 'page' of gigs presents me with some new challenges.

The first song to cause me problems is Do It Again by Steely Dan. Whereas the hi-hat or ride played by the right hand has so far determined the rhythm of the song, in Do It Again the kick pedal plays on a different and more rapid beat than the ride cymbal. My inexperience reveals itself as my ride hand has trouble not mimicking the kick movements, producing unwanted repeated beats. Not only that, but I am having difficulty getting the speed on the kick pedal. I am really struggling, but it gives me the opportunity to make use of a nifty feature of Guitar Hero: World Tour, the practice mode.

I head in to practice mode and choose to play Steely Dan's song, selecting the drums as instrument and hard difficulty mode. Then I have a new slew of options available, where I can choose which sections of the song to play, down to individual verses or breaks, and the speed at which it is played back. Being able to alter the speed of the playback without also altering the tone of the notes is a marvel of modern digital music. Slowing down the track helps me to gain better understanding and control of what my hands and leg should be doing. I can more consciously control each limb's movement, to the point where I can prevent unwanted beats, until I feel confident that I can keep the movements independent. After a few runs through of the practice play I feel far less flustered and more confident when the previously unfamiliar beats scroll down the screen.

I return to the song proper, at full speed, and although I still struggle in places to maintain the beat or limb independence my ability to hit the right notes is markedly improved. Playing the song back more times, as part of the gig in career mode, sees my ability to keep my arms and leg movements independent of each other improve even further, to the point where the song becomes less of an impossibility and more a good tune to play and to use as continued practice.

The practice mode is extremely helpful in being able to slow down the difficult sections to see what you are supposed to be playing and gain more conscious control over your limbs, until it becomes closer to second nature. However, being able to pick particular sections to play back, and repeat, is also handy. For example, both Ramblin' Man by The Allman Brothers Band and Love Removal Machine by The Cult start out with fairly straightforwards beats—once Do It Again becomes manageable, at least—but their extended outros either speed up or include more complicated or variant patterns that can easily catch out the inexperienced player.

Instead of playing through the entire song simply to practice its outro the practice mode in the game can be used. Normally it is a sequence of notes in a particular section and not repeated elsewhere that is causing problems for the player, making playing the whole song an unwieldy prospect for ten seconds of practice, and being able to select only that section in practice mode becomes highly convenient. Once the pattern of the particular section has been determined it can be integrated in to the whole song with ease, all with minimal fuss from the practice mode. The only complaint I have with this feature is that occasionally the sections are not broken down quite enough, where some complicated breaks are at the end of entire verses and cannot be selected individually, but this doesn't detract significantly from the overall benefit provided.

Making use of practice mode combined with plenty of regular practice of the songs proper I can see my drumming improving over time. I have some bad days where my coordination seems to fall apart, but other days see me play through problematic sections almost on cruise mode, leaving me wondering how I manage to breeze through complicated sections so easily. I am sure I have plenty more practice ahead of me before I can attempt the later gigs on hard difficulty with confidence, but I am really enjoying the songs I am currently playing and able to play. I am still pushing myself to improve and, with the help of the excellent practice mode, I believe I will.

  1. 2 Responses to “Guitar Hero drumming update”

  2. The pedal does for me as well at the harder levels, I find a requirement to pedal without hitting anything with a stick causes my brane to seize up the first few times. Also I suspect the sofa isn't an ideal ergonomic location for pedalling, so my leg gets knackered on heavily pedal-y stuff. I ought to get a drum stool...

    By Zoso on Jul 30, 2009

  3. I am wondering if the one benefit the Rock Band drumming kit has over the Guitar Hero version is that the kick pedal is secured in place. The Guitar Hero pedal has pads to keep it mostly in place, but it can still wobble about on the carpet, which seems to make me more concerned about the balance of my foot instead of concentrating on hitting the bass notes.

    I am in the midst of modifying the kit to secure the kick pedal better in place and I'll give that a go. I'm hoping it will help.

    Getting a drumming stool is taking a bit too seriously, don't you think?

    By pjharvey on Aug 1, 2009

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