Thursday, October 4, 2012

Playing Cheap (First Act) Guitars on Rocksmith

Recently I tried playing Rocksmith with one of the First Act guitars I've acquired over the past year. I got this one for next to nothing. There's one listed on an on-line auction site today with bids starting at $1.99 and no bids yet. So, if you're on an extremely tight budget, this could be for you.

Beware: Shipping charges on guitars from private sellers can be very high. The length of a guitar usually pushes rates into the "oversized" category. Just be aware of this when shopping online.

The First Act guitar on top in the photo is an ME 301. It's a strat-styled guitar with 3 single-coil pick-ups and a funky white pick guard. I actually like the way it looks. And, it's not a bad player. With some better strings, it sounded OK. Remember, Rocksmith automatically sets the tone and effects for each song.

I played the Chord Arrangement of Boys Don't Cry with this guitar. I scored 104,373 and Mastered the song in five plays. So, here's one cheap guitar that works fine on Rocksmith.

(I sold this one, but they're easy to find.)

I also tried the single pick-up ME 431 on the bottom in the photo. Don't remember what I scored with it, but it worked fine on Rocksmith. Also, the ME 431 was extremely lightweight and I think a tad shorter than standard necks. So, the 431 might be a good choice for younger players.

The main thing you'll notice with these cheaper guitars is a lack of sustain. That's a funtion mostly of the pick-ups and the bridges. Inexpensive pick-ups just won't sustain like the $500 ones. Do you NEED $500 pick-ups? Well, some people might. To play Rocksmith, the answer is NO.

One thing you can do to help on tone and sustain is to immediately replace the strings on these guitars with good ones. Just about any brand sold in music stores will do. You don't need the most expensive ones and even the cheapest ones you find in a music store will be better than the ones that come on these guitars. So, change the strings right away! (If you're new to guitar, get used to changing strings. If you practice regularly, you'll need to change strings at least every few months anyway.)

Both of these guitars stayed in tune fine and had reasonable playing action. In fact, both of them had better "feel" to me than my old Epiphone Les Paul Special II. Plus, they weighed about half as much and were much easier to wear across my shoulder for long periods of Rocksmith playing.

Having said that, before you go out and buy a guitar, consider this. First Act guitars still go for about $75 or so new in the discount/big-box stores. You can find decent used guitars at various music stores in that same price range. (I avoid pawn shops - but that's just me; I've always found that pawn shops want to charge new prices for old junk, but your experience may vary.)

In sum, if you already HAVE a First Act or similar guitar, YES - you CAN play it on Rocksmith. If you are thinking of buying a guitar to play Rocksmith, these are a very economical option - but they aren't the only option.


  1. I just finished reading your blog, and it's awesome to see how RS improves peoples' guitar skills.

    I'm a european, so I've only just recently had the opportunity to start playing, and as a total guitar beginner I score anywhere from 2000-20000 RSP on songs on first play through. The motivation this instills in me to keep improving is nothing short of amazing - I've played my guitar more now in the last week than I have in all the years that I've owned it. My own personal record is ~42000 points during an event - unfortunately I can't remember which event or which song off the top of my head, as I was too busy getting riled up and feeling like a rock star. ;)

    I too feel an onset of GAS coming along, much to my wife's dismay. Let's just hope RS is successful enough that Ubisoft and the developers will continue to develop, support and extend it with downloadable songs. If they ever get a Metallica song on there I'll be done for. :D

    Thanks for the blog, and keep rocking! \m/

    1. Welcome and thanks for reading my blog. Feel free to join/follow it - sometimes it feels like I'm writing to the wind.

      Keep on playing - you'll be mastering songs and playing them from memory before you know it! I couldn't believe how much I learned in the first month after I started Rocksmith. Be sure to check out the Ubisoft Rocksmith forum, too. Lots of very helpful players there.

    2. Hey, As long as your playing, you will be getting better. My suggestion is to check out JustinGuitar for the beginner stuff and Truefire when you get a little more advanced. The tutorials in RS are really nice for a video game, but Justin blows them away.

      Keep playin,

    3. Thanks for the tips! I've actually used JustinGuitar a lot, when I first got the guitar several years back. He's an excellent teacher, and what little I did know about guitar playing before, I learned from him. Still, sitting by my lonesome doing chord changes and scale runs to the sound of a metronome just wasn't any fun so I stopped doing it.

      Being a gamer at heart, I do love chasing scores and being rewarded with bells and whistles - and this is where RS certainly delivers. It's by no means a complete and self-contained way to master playing the guitar (so far as I can see, it does not teach any music theory at all), but it's quite possibly one of the best motivational tools out there. :)

  2. given your wide range of guitars, do you notice that any one has any quirks regarding RS note Detection?

    RS has a hard time picking up my E string power chords. if i switch to the bridge pickup, it works better. It is also probably a technique thing (i don't think i strum hard enough on a and D) but it can be very frustrating.


    1. I have noticed that certain guitars do seem to work better with certain pick-up selections on certain songs - but I've never been able to pin this down to a predictable pattern. It seems to make a difference on some songs but not others.

      Any time I have trouble getting notes to "score," the first thing I check is my volume knob (been burned on that too many times!). The next thing I do is exactly what you do - play with my pick-up selector. It does seem like the low E gets detected better when the bridge pick-up is selected.