Friday, December 20, 2013

Random Rocksmith Stuff for the Weekend


First, I want to address a comment I made in an earlier post regarding guitar players and scales, to wit: that most guitar players I know don't learn or practice scales.

That was not a dig! And, it wasn't intended to apply to ALL guitar players. Just most of us.

First of all, keep in mind that this is primarily a Rocksmith blog - not really a regular guitar-player's blog. Mainly because I don't consider myself a guitarist, I would be wholly unqualified to write a blog about guitar playing. I'm just a hack who enjoys playing. Frankly, I doubt that many people who read this blog are guitar performance majors at Juliard. (If you are, please let me know!)

I don't know many (OK - I don't personally know ANY) formally trained guitarists. The vast majority of people I know who play guitar are people who just went out and bought a guitar to mess around on. Some have gotten really, really good. Most have never taken a single guitar lesson. They might be familiar with the concept of scales or musical keys, but only if they were in band or took piano lessons as kids. I do know a handful of really, really excellent guitar players, but even they play mostly by ear - they don't actually know or practice scales.

So, when I say that guitar players tend to ignore scales, I'm not picking on guitar players. In fact, I'd tend to say that most drummers out there probably don't know and never work on their rudiments, either. They're essential to getting really, really good - but you can play a song without knowing them. Just like you can go out today, buy a pretty decent guitar for not a lot of money, download some tabs or chord charts from the Internet, and play something recognizable as a song without ever knowing what a "scale" is. That probably accounts for the popularity of the guitar as a musical instrument - it's playable without any formal training.

Of course serious guitar players learn their scales. And, I know there are some damn serious guitar players who also play Rocksmith. I'd guess, though, that the majority of Rocksmith players and readers of this blog tend to be the "I bought this guitar and would like to learn to play some songs, but I'm not really interested in formal lessons" kind of guitar players.

Maybe I underestimated you guys/gals. Maybe you all know your scales and practice them regularly. Do you? Really. I want to know. Because maybe this is where I've fallen short all these years. Maybe this is what has kept me from progressing. I suspect that most of us who own guitars and aspire to play them don't actually learn or practice scales like we should. We practice songs, not scales. That's all I was saying.

On that note, maybe the real value of Session Mode for some of us isn't learning to improvise but simply learning scales in a much less boring way. As kg points out (and I agree), the Scale Runner Guitarcade games tend to force you to rush. You crash and burn before you've really worked on the scale. In Session Mode, you can take your time. Plus, by Zooming Out, you can see the entire scale pattern all at once. I find that very helpful.

On to Other Matters and Missions

I thought I was done with Tone Designer missions. Imagine my disappointment when I got another guitar pick next to the Tone Designer link on my Main menu. Unlike previous TD missions, this one has a twist which has made it impossible for me - so far - to complete the mission.

I'm supposed to "Use a Reverb Pedal." OK - by now I am painfully familiar with how to put a pedal - ANY pedal, pre-amp or loop - on Rocksmith. Done. And done. I saved the tone and assigned the tone to my Tone Stick. On the first 1,000 Tone Designer missions, that was enough. Now they want me to actually USE the pedal? Fine. Use it where? To do what?

I tried going to Session Mode and using the Tone Stick to activate my reverb pedal tone. Then I played a little bit. Nothing. I tried switching to my custom tone during a song in LAS mode. Still no joy. Plus, my tone didn't sound right on that song. Kind of pissing me off, to be honest. Especially given my already low opinion of Tone Designer missions.

Gave up on that mission and moved on to the next one: playing X-Kid by Green Day. Actually, the mission was to reach 75% accuracy while playing X-Kid, which I eventually did. Took a little work, but I think I could actually half-way muddle through it off-line now. Not that Green Day is known for its intricate guitar parts. In fact, the solo from X-Kid will probably end up on my Easy Rocksmith Solos page. Fine with me. I still love Green Day. If it's easy to play, so much the better.

How You Doin'?

I decided to check out the 60-day Challenge via the Internet website using my laptop last night (instead of trying to access it through the UPlay in-game link). It's up and appears to be running. The site gives you a snapshot of all the geeky stuff I like to keep track of - how many missions completed, how many in-game achievements, etc. Progress on the 60-day Challenge is shown on a sort of speedometer-looking chart near the bottom. So far it looks like I'm about 7 days into it (if you don't count the 500+ days I've actually been playing RS since it came out in 2011). However, I seem to be having trouble staying connected to XBox Live recently (thanks for that "update," Microsoft) and I'm pretty sure I didn't get credit for at least a few hours of playing.

I wish there were a more objective way to measure my overall progress as a guitar player. The 60-day Challenge is cool and all, but there's no "final exam" or anything to really put a number on how much improvement is made over the 60 days. Since I started playing Rocksmith over 2 years ago, I've learned a bunch of songs and even "mastered" several - but I'd be very hard pressed to play a single one of them from memory right now. (Except maybe X-Kid. And possibly God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.) Still, I have definitely done things with my guitar that I never dreamed I'd be able to do. Part of that is Rocksmith. A LOT of it is just the amount of time I've spent playing - which is totally because of Rocksmith. If I had to sit around trying to hold a tab book open to the right page while listening to a CD and attempting to learn songs the old-fashioned way, I probably wouldn't have spent more than 12 hours playing my guitar in the past 2 years. In fact, I would probably have sold all of my guitars by now. I'm just not THAT into playing guitar, I guess. But, Rocksmith makes it fun - even for those of us who are kind of lazy and have no innate talent.

So, I journey on.


  1. Nice post. Again, I just wanted to offer another counterexample for anyone who might have gotten the impression that two years of Rocksmith won't help you learn songs that you can play from memory. I've been playing for just over a year, and I can play at least a dozen songs from memory, and at least twice that if I have a day or two to refresh my memory (and for the record, these are mostly songs that I haven't tried to memorize; it just kind of happens). And while it may be frustrating and not as much fun, I think that the new master mode will make memorizing songs come even more naturally. Gallagher, I bet there are some songs that you do (or, at the very least, at one point did) have memorized at one time or another, if you really think about it. I mean, e.g., "Angela?" 80% or so of that song is the same pattern of three notes over and over, and the other 20% or so is a short, fun, easy, catchy bridge that repeats itself. Just from what I remember you posting of Angela in the past, I bet you could play it if you thought about it, or had played it somewhat recently.

    In terms of regularly playing Scale Runner, I remember that you once said that a rocksmith session was usually unproductive unless you warmed up beforehand. There was a while when I warmed up with Scale Runner before most sessions. In fact, there was a while when I'd play one round of Scale Runner and one session of Dawn of the Chordead before I'd start practicing songs. I always figured you were doing something similar. I don't play them quite as much anymore, but I still try to play some guitarcade games every once in a while--they're there for a reason, and they really do help one play better.

    1. Dave, you're right - I do sort of remember songs after playing them a number of times. I might muddle through Angela if I had to, but the little solo would be a mess. Like card game rules, songs seem to leave my brain pretty fast if I don't play them constantly. Surf Hell, which I probably played 1000 times when I first started out on RS, would be tough - it would take me at least a few minutes just to find the riff on the neck again now. How anybody memorizes 2-3 whole sets - WITH SOLOS! - amazes me. I can sit down and play just about anything on drums - even if I've never heard the song before. Guitar is a different story. I've missed something somewhere along the line. . . I strongly suspect the missing something might be scales. The problem is definitely NOT Rocksmith. It's me. (I'll edit the post to try to make that clear. If it weren't for Rocksmith, I would definitely not be where I am today on guitar.)

      I was trying to work on Scale Runner at least some time during a session (small "s") for a while, but like many plans born of good intentions I just got lazy. Last summer I just couldn't seem to make time for it, and I've lost some ground as a result. Of course now I've also lost some speed and agility in my left hand which I'll have to build back up - an excellent reason to get back to playing some Scale Runner or other Guitarcade games. Thanks for calling me on that. I had actually (like songs. . . ) forgotten about that plan. Having a whole new RS has sort of helped revive my motivation.

      Thanks for the comments! Keep 'em coming.