Friday, May 08, 2009

Rock Band

For a long time I wondered if I would like things like Rock Band and Guitar Hero. I am certainly the target market: obsessive about music, an avid player of air guitar and air drums and such, someone who used to play guitar but was always bad at it, and who always wished to learn to play other instruments, any instrument. But I'm also someone who never got into computer games in general; the few exceptions prove the rule. And since getting the full set with all the instruments always seemed so expensive, I just decided to wait to find a great price before taking the risk of getting it not knowing if I'd like it. (Since I didn't know anyone else who had it and could let me try it.)

The chance recently came when Best Buy had a $10 sale on some PS3 (and other console) games, including Rock Band. That's just the game: you also need a guitar or drum controller. I got the game while on vacation in Connecticut, but I found a well-reviewed guitar that works for both Rock Band and Guitar Hero on Amazon for only $13. It arrived the same day we got back.

I've been really surprised by how fun I've found it. I also found I was pretty good at playing the Rock Band guitar, and took to it fairly quickly. It's also proving a very nice way to burn stress, since it's challenging, absorbing, and yet not tense or anxious; plus it's at least a little bit physical (at least for me since I play it standing up and bopping). And right now I need to burn stress, due to some things at work that I wouldn't want to repeat here, but believe me, I'm as stressed as I have ever been plus a little, and I don't think I could do much more. (I'm past the stage where my heart feels fluttery for no reason, and into the stage where I find myself grinding my teeth, and sometimes find my hands shaking for an hour after I leave work.)

I was also surprised to find Siobhan enjoying it a lot -- she's not nearly as into music as I am, and showed no propensity towards air-guitar playing. So we ordered a second guitar and a set of drums, which arrived last night. And I got to try the drums for the first time.

And it's so fun! And so much harder than the guitar; in particular, I'm having a devil of a time getting used to the foot pedal. Even on easy mode you're using all five inputs and playing "chords", where on the guitar you're only using three and almost never playing chords until medium mode.

I've also found that playing drums I need to "feel" the song more than playing guitar. With the guitar, if it's a song I don't know, I can get by just by watching the notes enough to get a feel for the song well enough to carry me through it. But with the drums, if it's an unfamiliar song, I can't even get started until I know the rhythm (and sometimes I can't find out the rhythm until I get started), and even when I know it, I can't get the timing right just by watching the screen, I have to feel it in the song. I think part of that is that when playing guitar you have the drums helping you feel it, but the drums don't have anyone else helping; it's often said that drums are the foundation of the song.

The drums are also more physical than the guitar which possibly means they're better for bleeding off stress. Not to belabor the obvious, but I am beating on something with sticks. How that helps relieve stress is a no-brainer.

I still haven't tried Guitar Hero and I'm feeling disinclined to do so; I've barely trained myself to one game, I don't want to lose what training I've given myself by working on something very similar but not exactly the same. Anyway, the version of Guitar Hero we got is, I think, not able to support drums. (Support for other instruments was added later for the original Guitar Hero, but was part of the first version of Rock Band.)

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