Now, it's true that this info actually does appear in the RS2014 user "manual," but as I've pointed out before the "manual" is buried deep in the Tools menu (Tools/Options/Manual/Game Controls and then - finally - Session Mode). And, once you get down to that 5th layer of menus, there's still no explanatory text. Good basic info, but not very comprehensive. Also not very accessible. The secret squirrel tips I'm about to reveal also haven't been part of any of my missions so far. But, that's one reason I keep writing this blog - to fill in the gaps.
There's More to Session Mode than Meets the Eye - LiterallyReaders skydvr and kg both play RS on the PC platform, but they turned me onto some tips that also work on the XBox. I checked. (It's a safe bet that RS2014 works pretty much the same way on PlayStation, too.)
One of my chief complaints with Session Mode was that I could only see the scale at one position on the virtual guitar neck. Well, it turns out you can ZOOM OUT and see the ENTIRE guitar neck with the whole scale pattern! Awesome. So, how do you do this?
Not sure how this goes on the PC version, but on the XBox you get a very brief glance at how to zoom when you begin your Session. Everything you need to know is shown right there across the very bottom of the display - for about one second or less.
The D-pad is the Key - Two Handy Tools for Session ModeThe only way that I found to redisplay the info at the bottom of the Session display is to toggle the D-pad on my XBox controller. Doing this brings up a couple of very handy Session Mode tools:
By toggling your D-pad left or right, you can instantly change the Session Tempo without backing all the way out to the Session Mode Menu and restarting your session. Good to know, right? Especially since changing tempo is a Mission requirement. (I got a Level 4 Venue unlock when I completed this Mission.)
Even better than that - by toggling the D-pad DOWN you can zoom out from the guitar neck on the Session Mode display to show the ENTIRE scale pattern. (Toggling UP zooms back in.) This gives you a whole bunch more notes to mess around with during Session Mode play. I tried it and - while I still suck at improvising - I enjoyed trying a lot more with more than 12 notes to play with. Plus, seeing the Big Picture is very helpful.
A Little Improv' Guidance (VERY Little) for Session Mode PlayingOnce I discovered that I could see the scale pattern on the entire neck, my interest in Session Mode increased a LOT. I had a couple of pending Session Mode Missions anyway, so I spent a few minutes in Session Mode changing Tempo (the hard way and then the easy way). Then my next mission started talking about changing the ROOT and I got sucked in.
The Scale defines the pattern shown on the guitar neck in Session Mode. For a particular type of scale - say, Minor Pentatonics for example - the pattern is the same no matter what Root you use. An A Minor Pentatonic scale pattern is exactly the same as the D Minor Pentatonic scale pattern. The only difference is where you start the pattern on the neck - or where the scale is "rooted." My next Session Mode Mission required me to play more minutes of Session Mode AND try three different scale ROOTS. You change the Root on the main Session Mode Menu.
When you're playing in Session Mode, you'll notice that not all of the notes in your pattern are lit up. Some are hollow while some are filled. And they change. This can be a little confusing. It looks like the scale is changing right before your eyes! It's not. What is actually changing? The Root. The scale pattern is just shifting up and down on the neck. It's not changing. It's just shifting around. It's much, much easier to see this if you zoom out and look at the whole guitar neck instead of just 4-5 frets.
Learning (i.e. memorizing) the Scale patterns is starting to look like a VERY important first step to this improvising mess. Except for guitar players (and drummers), I think just about every music student starts out learning scales. (Even drummers learn rudiments, which are similar building blocks.) Only guitar players seem to ignore this very basic step when learning to play. It may be boring, but it's clearly essential to playing lead. Also handy to know when playing rhythm. Or bass.
So, how do you know where - or when - to shift the pattern to a different Root? The Root is sort of tied to the chord progression of a song (more on this in a separate post which will probably be way over my own head). Most songs have at least 3-4 different chords. When you improvise in a song, you move your scale pattern to different roots depending on the chord progression.
Here's the thing. You can switch Roots within a Scale. You can also switch Scales within a song. (To further complicate things, you can change "keys". . . ). But, before you try all that, you'll want to have a VERY solid grip on all the scale patterns you plan to use. So, start memorizing those scales/patterns!
More on Missions - How to See Your Pending MissionsAfter messing around in Session Mode and completing a couple of those Missions (and also unlocking a pair of skins for the Marshall Plexi amp), I decided to suck it up and knock out the Tone Designer Missions once and for all. Thanks to another tip from you guys, I now know where to go to see what Missions are pending.
To see what Missions await, you can just follow the guitar picks. . . OR, you can go to your My Path menu (press the < Back button on the XBox controller). I had initially assumed that the My Path menu was only for switching instruments - lead, rhythm or bass. And, it mostly is. But, when you go to the My Path menu, there's a box in the upper right-hand corner that shows your next three missions.
Since Missions tend to pop up and go away very quickly on the Main Menu, this is a very handy tip. Now you can see your Mission list any time you want (and they won't be replaced on the screen by a list of the latest DLC offerings.)
Turns out I only had two Tone Designer missions left! Finally. Done with that nonsense.
Other things you can do in the My Path Menu are look at any rewards you've earned in RS. You can also Change the imaginary inlays on your imaginary guitar here. Of course, before you can change your inlays, you have to earn some inlays - which I haven't done yet.
Mastery or Mastery - Which is Which?I should have just called it quits when I got the Tone Designer crap out of my hair, but my next Mission was to get 3 songs up to 50% Mastery - which sounded too easy but turned out to be a little challenging and also very confusing.
I already have several songs up to between 80 - 101%. So, am meant to get three MORE songs up to 50% mastery? Or what? That was my guess. So, I pulled up a new song that I figured I could get up to 50% mastery pretty fast. Except I'm not really clear on what "mastery" means any more.
I chose Every Step You Take by the Police - which is sort of simple but a little tricky to get the hang of. At least for me. I ran through the song five times, getting it up to 37.2% overall with a high NS of 54 and a high accuracy of 85%. I Riff Repeater-ed the chorus up to 84%. Then I played through the whole song 4 more times finally reaching 50.6%/18/80. That's over 50%. But, here's the thing. . .
On my 3d and 8th play throughs, in addition to the big overall percentage (50.6%), NS and accuracy scores, I also got a separate "Mastery" percentage. It appeared under the other scores and was labelled "Mastery." If that's the "Mastery" score, what is the other percentage - the 50.6% overall score that appeared at the top of the display? And why doesn't the Mastery score only appear once in a while? No idea. All I know is the last "Mastery" score I got was only 44%. It was after 2:00 AM. Too late to try for another 6%.
Just to end the night on a slightly more positive note, I ran through God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen a couple of times. It's amazing to me how badly I can screw up a song that I memorized over a year ago and re-memorized just a week or two ago! I stumbled all over the solo and made a couple of other mistakes that I just can't explain. Still, I managed to bump my "overall percentage" (whatever that means) up to 105.1% with a 103 NS and 95% accuracy. On my first run through, I got a 98% Mastery. By now, I should be up to 100% or better. . .
UPlay Menu - An Irritating QualityBefore I could hang it up for the night, I checked the UPlay link from the Main Menu just to see if the 60-day Challenge was up and running yet. The entire UPlay site was down. But, I did remember why I don't like clicking on the UPlay link - it takes you all the way out of Rocksmith. When you get done not looking at stuff that isn't on UPlay, you have to restart RS from the very beginning.
60-day Challenge data is available to view on the Internet. But, lately I keep getting booted out of XBox Live, so I don't have all the hour credits I deserve. Not Rocksmith's/Ubi's fault - this one is on MS.