Note: There are two versions of Rocksmith. There is the original Rocksmith and Rocksmith 2014. I play the newer Rocksmith 2014, but will just be referring to it as Rocksmith in this post because Ubisoft has said it’s a replacement not a sequel. Oh and while I’m making a note. I bought Rocksmith on my own, and I get no compensation for this review. Amazon links are affiliate links.
Well, I actually took the challenge a couple months ago and finished in July. I’m just slow on blog posts lately, haha. For those who aren’t familiar with Rocksmith, it’s a Guitar Hero-like game, but instead of pushing buttons on a plastic guitar you actually play a guitar. By playing this game an hour a day, Ubisoft claims you can learn guitar in 60 days.
I bought Rocksmith a few years ago for my husband so he could get back into playing again. And at the beginning of the year I decided to give it a try. I loaded the game and jumped right into “learn a song.” And was awful, even though the game was on the lowest setting I struggled to find the notes. This is usually as far as I get when trying to play from tablature. I have no idea where to go from there.
Learning the Basics
This is where Rocksmith made the biggest difference for me. They have lesson videos with simple practice tracks. YouTube videos don’t work well for my learning style, without being able to do something nothing sticks. But the practice tracks gave me instant feedback. It helped me focus on the basics.
Another thing that helped me learn the basics was the “Guitarcade,” a set of games designed to help with the fundamentals of guitar. Instead of trying to play a song, I was able to play “String Skip Saloon” and just start working on the muscle memory of where strings are located. I was able to play “Dux ReDux” and learn the positions of frets. There are games for scales, slides, bends, chords, and other techniques as well.
After I had spent hours just playing the games and working on muscle memory and dexterity, I was able to get into songs and start making progress. I think practicing everyday during those first days is crucial. I’m not sure if 60 days is crucial (towards the end I actually couldn’t make it a daily thing), but I’d say the first 30 days for sure. As I went through the 60 days I was able to start playing recognizable parts of songs.
One thing I wasn’t expecting was for my RSI to get better as I played (and I can tell the difference when I haven’t played in a while). I’m not sure if it’s because it’s a different sort of movement, or if it’s because I’m building hand strength, but there is a definite decrease in RSI symptoms. Playing also helps me manage my ADHD, it gives me a creative outlet for my energy.
Does it work?
I’m starting to get this whole guitar thing after all!
This is what you really want to know isn’t it? Is if this works? I’d have to say “yes.” Although I do think it’s teaching you more to play songs than to play the guitar. But I don’t know if taking formal lessons would be any different. I also struggle with remembering what I play without the screen in front of me. There is a feature for this built into Rocksmith (master mode) but I’m not there yet. I’m hoping when I get to that point it’ll start making it possible for me to just play on my own.
Even with that caveat, I still say Rocksmith works. When I first started I’d play a song on the first playthrough and get single digit mastery. When I play new songs now (Rocksmith releases DLC weekly), I’m averaging 20-30% mastery. That kind of difference shows how much I’ve come in just a few months. The biggest benefit is that the instant feedback makes it easy to learn. It makes it more fun. It keeps me motivated. Knowing if I was doing something correctly in real time made all the difference for me. I’ll still probably take formal lessons, but Rocksmith will be my go-to practice tool.