This post is for week 1 of the Rocksmith 60-Day Challenge. To start at the beginning, click here to be taken to the introductory article.
In June of 2007 in Kansas City, Missouri, a world record was broken for the most people playing the same song simultaneously. 1,683 guitarists flocked to the Midwest mecca to jam out to Smoke On The Water. I was there.
You’ll notice that I am actually playing along in the video. I borrowed the red Stratocaster from my friend, Garrett Holtz. He taught me the chords necessary and, after practicing for a month in his basement, we successfully rocked-out a World Record. It was at that moment in time that I decided that I would have to run out to the local music store and spend about $150 on my first (and only) guitar: a Squire Stratocaster. Of course it sat and got dusty in the corner of my room until I moved. Upon moving I wrapped it up very nicely in foam, taped it and left it, untouched, for about four years.
Surprisingly, once I plugged it in to my PS3 and booted Rocksmith, I found that it wasn’t too out of tune! A true blessing and curse of Rocksmith is that it includes a tuner program. The blessing is that the program is included. The curse is that you have to go through the tuning process far too much, but more on that later.
I spent the first few sessions playing with the tutorials on offer within Rocksmith. I skipped the “Holding you guitar” videos and went straight for the tutorials on playing. The tutorials are arranged in order of skill from top to bottom. There is no “unlocking” anything, everything is ready for you right out of the gate. First time holding a guitar? Want to go find out how bad you are by playing Walk This Way for your first piece? Go for it. This freedom is the second of Rocksmith’s double-edged swords. On the one hand, you are able to jump right into a jam session after peeling off the plastic and putting the disc in the drive. On the other hand, an unlocking progression system would really be beneficial to newbie guitarists. Sure, Rocksmith has a bare-bones recommendation system where it highlights lessons, songs, and mini games that may be the right fit for you, but I would much rather have a “guitar lesson” program in the game where you pick the amount of time that you have available and then it takes you through some valuable lessons and relative songs.
After a week of playing some lessons, many songs, and exactly one mini game (I’m not too keen on them yet, perhaps that will change), I am fairly comfortable navigating my guitar’s neck between the first through ninth frets. As long as it isn’t a chord, that is. I’ve played with simple strumming, sustains, palm muting, alternate picking and a few other techniques. None of them feel totally comfortable to me yet, but I’m getting better.
It’s an interesting thing when you are nailing a song and then Rocksmith decides to humble you by increasing the difficulty. It’s also a bit of a downer when I know that I am at 100 percent accuracy and then they throw in a complex technique that is just at the next level but still out of my reach. Still, it’s probably for the best because that little bit of time outside of my comfort zone (and current ability) really makes me strive to get better at the simple things that I know so that I can progress to the next level.
Am I anywhere near jumping up on stage and rocking out Freebird? No. But the tips of my index, middle, and ring finger on my left hand have been tingling for the past few days which means that I am getting somewhere with this instrument! Transitions that I originally found frustrating and difficult are now much easier and I even find that I am playing sections of the song while staring at the screen and not my fingerboard and that’s progress.