Rocksmith is a new “game” from Ubisoft. It lets you plug your electric guitar into a game console or (eventually) your PC in order to learn how to play guitar.

I heard about this months ago and started paying attention to the folks reviewing it from their point of view. Gamer folks weren’t too impressed with it but many guitarists liked the motivation to practice it provided. An alternate to sitting down and practicing which can be good as long as the “lessons” are helpful.

The PC version keeps getting pushed out, originally meant to be out by now (middle of December) but now estimated for the end of May 2012.

I was resigned to waiting until May but then work provided. I received a nice thank you award from a coworker for some exceptional work I did for his group. Since it’s the holiday season, Best Buy was also offering Xbox360 combination packages which included a $75 gift card (can’t use it to knock the Xbox360 price down though πŸ™‚ ).

I waffled for a few days and then pulled the trigger and picked one up. I chatted with the Best Buy guy to make sure I had everything I needed to get the system set up. I didn’t want to have to come back to get some idiot piece that I should have picked up initially.

In getting it home, I opened up the boxes to check stuff out. The Xbox360 is pretty small. There’s a cable to connect it to the TV and the power cord. The controller is wireless and you use it to power up the system. I got it plugged in with no issues and spent a good 20 minutes going through the setup process which included downloading some patches. The system came with 3 free Microsoft Live months but I plan on holding off for a bit until I get used to the system.

Once done, I put the Rocksmith DVD in and got my guitar (I have a Fender Telecaster and a Fender Stratocaster). I plugged it in and got it tuned to the game.

It has you tune the guitar, which is fine. It is annoying that every time you get ready to perform an exercise, you have to check your tuning. Certainly it’s getting you trained to check the tuning between every song πŸ™‚

The string identification is different. Instead of EADGBE, it’s Red, Yellow, Blue, Orange, Green, and Purple. Good from a visual perspective I suppose but it’s certainly different. I do know you can buy colored strings πŸ™‚

When playing, it shows all the strings with a long road like view (I call it a ‘fret road’) of the incoming notes. The view numerically identifies the dotted frets (3, 5, 7, 9, 12, etc) and the game came with a set of stickers you’re supposed to put on your guitar. Yea, not going to happen πŸ™‚

The first song to play is The Rolling Stones’ (Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. The program throws just one or two notes at a time at you while it plays the entire song. So you’re learning timing as well as the notes. You have to make the mental connection between the incoming yellow squares, the ‘fret road’, and playing at the right time. As you get it down, it throws different notes at you. So A string (yellow), 2nd fret, then 4th, then 5th and back. You just need to hit the string when the yellow box gets to the on screen string. If you fumble a bit, it backs down to just the one string until you recover.

There are supposed to be 50 songs on this along with games and technique exercises. There are also events where you play on stage in front of a virtual crowd.

I played Satisfaction just once and missed the “play it again” option and continued on to the next song. It was a bit more bluesy, lots of E (red) playing. I also tried the anchor point exercise. The incoming string layout highlights four strings at a time. So if you’re playing notes in the 3456 fret area, those four strings will be highlighted. If you shift to the 78910 frets, the highlight shifts to there. The exercise is trying to train you to move your hand to this guitar ‘home row’ so you aren’t using your index finger to play every note. With the two songs I’d been playing, I was pretty much playing the 3 or 7 fret anchor points but the exercise also threw in a fret 12 anchor point which threw me off.

After that exercise, Rocksmith wanted me to get on stage and play. I did Satisfaction, then the blues song. I guess I hit enough points because it threw an encore at me, a song I hadn’t tried yet. I muddled through until it got to an orange, green, purple lead bit that I totally flubbed. The crowd was actually booing until I got back to the rhythm part.

There are several exercises you can do. They have technique exercises where you can practice pull-offs and hammer-ons or like the one I mentioned above with the anchor point exercise. There are games too although I haven’t tried it yet.

The tuning seems off a little as even though I hit the right fret, it’ll occasionally tell me I’m on the wrong one. I suspect I’m either pushing the string a little or I’m not exactly at the fret.

It’s interesting so far. I think it’ll help me speed up my playing a little, probably where I’m shortest in practice. I know the notes and have several scales under my belt with a few others I can recall with prompting. On the plus side, I did practice for 90 minutes. πŸ™‚

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