Rocksmith review for beginning guitar players.


There have been lots of reviews that analyze the pros and cons of Rocksmith as a game. You can find those collected on Metacritic.com. But how effective is Rocksmith as a learning tool? What can Rocksmith teach a beginning guitar player? That’s what I’m going to answer in this article.

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Before I break down what you, the beginner, will learn from Rocksmith, let me give you some general pros and cons that aren’t specific to Rocksmith’s educational effectiveness.

Rocksmith’s general pros and cons.

Pros:

  • The supplied cable is well-made and easy to connect to both your guitar and to the console.
  • The interface is clean and clear. Navigating through the menus is easy and intuitive.
  • The note tracking is remarkably good, especially for individual notes.
  • The sound quality of the emulated amplifiers and effects is excellent.
  • There are lots of tutorials explaining exactly what you should do and how to do it. These tutorials appear in-game as you encounter new gameplay elements.
  • The mini-games are fun.
  • Most importantly, there are lots of great, licensed songs to play along with.

Cons:

  • The graphics are dull. They do little to add to the excitement of playing on stage in a band.
  • Rocksmith doesn’t always hear the chords you play properly. There will be times when you play the chord correctly and the game does not register it.
  • There is a short delay between your physical attack on the string and the resulting guitar sound coming from the speakers. This lag can be minimized by using analog connections to your TV and speakers rather than HDMI. That can be a huge inconvenience for some and it doesn’t resolve the lag completely.
  • The tutorials occur too often after you’ve learned the concepts they teach. For example, the tutorial for the┬áBending Technique Challenge will appear before the challenge every time you try it, even if you retry the challenge back to back. That gets old quick.
  • You are forced to check your tuning constantly. I understand that proper tuning is key to tracking the notes you’re playing, but I wish Rocksmith would monitor the tuning during the songs and only prompt you to re-tune when it detects notes that have gone out of tune.

Beginners: what you’ll learn from Rocksmith.

Rocksmith tries to appeal to several audiences at once. It wants to be relevant to intermediate players but still be accessible to beginners. Although it is fun and educational for beginners who know the basics, unfortunately it leaves behind players who have never picked up a guitar before.

Basic essentials like how to tune your guitar, how to hold the guitar, how to hold the pick, how to pluck a string, alternate picking and how to fret notes are glossed over in a series of brief tutorials. There are nuances to all of these concepts that need to be fleshed out for the beginner to feel comfortable.

Also, technical details are left out. It is never made clear that your guitar’s volume knob needs to be turned all the way up for the game to “hear” what you’re playing.

Overall, I feel like absolute beginners will feel overwhelmed with this game. If you are an absolute beginner, I recommend learning some basics before jumping in to Rocksmith. But if you are comfortable with the essential concepts listed above, you’ll have fun and learn a lot.

You’ll learn:

  • How to tune your guitar. You tune up so much in this game you’ll be a tuning expert!
  • How to play positionally, that is, keeping your hand stationary and using each of your fingers to to find the notes. The game encourages you use one finger per fret and tells you when to move your hand to a new position
  • Lots of techniques, including slides, bends, hammer-ons, pull-offs, trills, tremolo picking, etc. Rocksmith has lots of special technique challenges that focus on each technique to help you hone your skills. There are also mini- arcade style-games that make the learning even more fun.
  • Lots of songs! Rocksmith is all about performing complete songs during shows in increasingly more posh venues in front of a virtual crowd. You’ll spend time between shows learning the songs needed in the upcoming show, as well as any techniques that are specific to those songs. There are more than 50 songs to learn, not including any downloadable songs that will be available after launch.
  • How to practice. Rocksmith gets you to practice songs before performing them. It sounds obvious, but a big part of learning guitar is learning set aside time to practice. Rocksmith’s story mode encourages you to practice each song in the upcoming show beforehand rather than trial by fire during the show itself.
  • Good timing. You’ll learn that hitting the right note isn’t the only requirement for playing well. You also have to hit the right note at the right time and hold it for the correct duration.
  • Chords. As you get better, the game will automatically increase the difficulty and have you play chords instead of single notes in many places. You’ll learn the name of the chords and how to play them.

You won’t learn:

  • The nuances of the basics. There’s specific subtleties to every technique that just aren’t covered. For example, Rocksmith never tells you to keep your fretting fingers low for single notes and high for chords.
  • How to read music. Heck, you won’t even learn how to read TAB, the ubiquitous and easy-to-read form of guitar notation. You just learn how to identify colored blocks with strings and frets. That means that you’ll have to learn TAB or standard notation in order to learn songs outside of Rocksmith.
  • Note names. Rocksmith never introduces you to any note names whatsoever. Knowing note names on your guitar is essential to becoming a complete musician, but Rocksmith avoids note naming altogether. Clearly Rocksmith remembers that this is a game after all and note memorization is about as fun as learning to play the glockenspiel.
  • How to get your gear to sound like it does inside of Rocksmith. There are a lot of cool tones in Rocksmith but there aren’t any tips for recreating that sound with real gear.

Rocksmith does an excellent job of helping you move from the beginner phase into the deepest stages of intermediate-level guitar playing. You’ll be comfortable with all of the essential techniques and you’ll learn lots of songs. Most importantly, you’ll have fun during the learning process. But absolute novices beware. If you don’t know the basics, you’ll get frustrated quickly. For the rest of you, Rocksmith is a fun and highly educational game that will teach you how to play the guitar at a level much higher than you are now.

For more information about me and the guitar lessons that I give in and around Baltimore, visit www.ewguitar.com.

About ewguitar
I am a private guitar instructor in Glen Burnie, MD.

8 Responses to Rocksmith review for beginning guitar players.

  1. keith says:

    The only thing i am learning from the game is that i want to shoot the people who made it i cant get game to consistantly recognize note or chords can see what is happening in riff repeater when it freezes because of missed note you have to strum the note several times before it unlocks Had guitar checked by two techs nothing wrong with guitar . I cant get know answers and stuck with a game thats unplayable i am using a 2011 standard stratcaster. The only help i get from ubisoft is check itonation and about fingers pressure nothing helps

    • ewguitar says:

      Hmm…that’s odd. If you’re tuned up properly and there aren’t any problems with your pickups I’m not really sure what the problem could be. Try different pickups by flipping your pickup selector switch. Sometimes using the bridge pickup creates overtones that fool the note recognition engine in the game. Also, the supplied cable is a two-parter, make sure those parts are fitting snuggly together.

    • Mitchell says:

      I just bought this game and I have played it with two different guitars. The first is my Indiana Acoustic and the other is a cheap First Act eclectric that’s old and I think the strings are to light. I haven’t had an issue with my acoustic but The cheaper First Act has had this issue. I noticed that It only happened if I put to much or not enough pressure on the stings. The cheaper guitar has a much larger action than the acoustic. I haven’t done it yet but I intend to put a heavier gauge sting on the electric and see if that helps. I would go into the tone creator where you can play around and keep the tone clean and then push the string down till it just touches the fret board and then apply more and less pressure and see if the sound audibly changes. If so this may be the source of your problems and you can adjust or maybe even try a different guitar or strings.

      Side not I’m not saying you have a cheap crappy guitar I was just stating that the electric I’m having trouble with is but I don’t think the quality of the instrument has anything to do with the problem though I do need to adjust the neck and try the different strings before I can say for sure.

      • ewguitar says:

        Nice comments. Higher action means that fretted notes are go more sharp when pressed down. Proper intonation compensates for this, so maybe his guitar needs to have the action lowered and the intonation reset. Great idea!

  2. I just got this game and its my first time actually playing a guitar. I played it today for the 4th time and I am getting to the point now where I don’t want to play anymore… The first day I played fine. The second day I noticed the lowest string isn’t always being recognized by the game. By the third day I had to play it hard to get the game to even acknowledge that it was struck. It has gotten to the point now that other strings are doing it. I’m at the point now that it can either be fixed or I’m going to pop the strings and end up throwing the guitar through the t.v. What I don’t understand is the sound plays but the game says it hasn’t unless I really pluck the string hard. Can anyone help me? I have tried plugging into a different USB port, changing pickups and adjusting the guitar volume, but nothing has helped.

    • ewguitar says:

      Definitely don’t throw your guitar at the TV! I’ve seen forums where other people have had this problem. I believe it is an issue with your guitar’s intonation. In case you don’t know what intonation means, it refers to how in tune your fretted notes are. See, you can tune up your strings perfectly, but if your guitar isn’t adjusted properly fretted notes will be out of tune. Rocksmith won’t recognize that you’ve played the correct fret because the note is out of tune.

      Again, this is a guess. If you have a guitar chromatic tuner, check the string at the third fret. It should read G, with the needle in the middle, at or near zero. If it isn’t, that’s your problem. Take it to your local music store to have the intonation adjusted. I hope this helps!

  3. keith says:

    Thanks for the help i used a chromatic tuner and could see that the 1 through 7 frets were not playing correctly they would go from sharp to flat it happened to be a issue with the nut strings were not vibrating correctly .Who would think that would be a issue on a new guitar .

  4. Cedric says:

    Depending on the guitar maker and the QC for final setup, this is pretty common.

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