Monday, July 06, 2009

Rock Band tracks

When work and the dog aren't keeping me busy, I haven't had enough energy to do the sorts of things I usually do, like projects, writing, or even woodcutting (my new chainsaw remains unused on my workbench). Instead, when the TV was available to play it, I've spent the odd hour or three playing Rock Band, mostly drums.

After a bit of careful and patient low-ball bidding on eBay, I got the Rock Band Track Pack 2, and the Rock Band Classic Rock Track Pack, both for a pretty good price and with the download codes by which I could add the tracks to my copy of Rock Band. I also bought track packs online: the complete album Moving Pictures by Rush, and The Singles by No Doubt. So now I have a lot more tracks, including a lot more classic rock songs I know.

That's not always a good thing. Sometimes I find myself playing the actual song instead of the subset of the drumbeats that they chose for the Easy or Medium mode I'm playing, and getting points off for playing the "wrong" notes. This happens a lot with Rush, since drumming a Rush song even in Easy mode is usually quite challenging but also kind of entrancing -- I literally feel like I'm in a meditative state by the time it's done, and sometimes I stop noticing that I'm staring at the screen (even as my focus on it is at its sharpest). I noticed this particularly with the song "The Camera Eye" (a great song for Rock Band drumming, it turns out, though I would never have guessed that compared to the more obviously drum-intense ones like "Tom Sawyer").

The No Doubt song "Excuse Me Mr." is even worse because there's just so many drumbeats, it's a constant fill, but for Easy mode they give you only the upbeats instead of the downbeats. Which feels weird. I always find myself either trying to do both (which I'm not fast enough to do) or the downbeats, and have to force myself to stop and play the screen instead of the song.

Of all the classic rock songs I don't have that I wish I had for Rock Band (and there are many -- I find myself listening to music and thinking out how it might go in Rock Band terms) the one song I would most like to try is "Radar Love" by Golden Earring. Though I bet that's at least as challenging as Rush.

My respect for the fine musicianship and talent of all three members of Rush is only increased by seeing them in Rock Band (even though I know how many millions of miles away Rock Band playing is from actually playing the songs), but I also am sometimes surprised at how other bands come off. I'm not surprised to find that Keith Moon of The Who is fantastic, but I am surprised at how complex he makes everything. I was also surprised to find that the Steve Miller Band has some unexpectedly intricate rhythms going on under seemingly-simple songs.

Of more modern music, most of it either has comparatively simplistic rhythms (maybe fast or intense but ultimately uncomplicated), or it has wildly random-seeming stuff that is hard to play but ultimately seems like it's that way just for the sake of being hard to play, not because it's actually serving some musical purpose. Maybe I'm just not getting it, maybe I'm just too old. (The exceptions, however, are delightful. "Maps" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs has some rhythms that are simultaneously fun, complex without seeming like they're trying to be complex, hard to play, and engaging. And I just love the song.)

I have to get back to playing Rock Band guitar a bit. I like drums more overall, but I want to do both. I can't wait to get a You Rock Guitar in a few months!

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