Rocksmith 2014 – Now that is clever learning software!

A few days ago my a new version of my favourite console application arrived Rocksmith 2014. I had seen the press release video of some of the new things in Rocksmith and they did look interesting. For once my expectations have been exceeded though. Rocksmith 2014 session mode is probably the best piece of software I have ever seen or used. That is a pretty big claim to make but it makes playing the guitar just feel right.
They have improved a lot of other things about the regular tune learning too. Just in case you are not aware this is a guitar “game” that you plug a real electric guitar into you console/PC and the device acts both as an amp but also as a guide. It knows the notes you are playing.
So to learn a tune the notes stream at you indicating the fret and the string (colour coded as well as positional). If you hit the note, great, it will start adding more notes and chords in to level you up. Miss and it will start to make life simpler. This is with real music, the original versions in every style under the sun.
The new version provides challenges in each song and coaches you through, there is less focus on the score, though score attack mode still exists. It is about the playing and about it feeling and sounding right.
The previous version had a way to isolate a section or a riff and repeat it, first slowly then speeding up. The new version has this but with lots more options about the number of repeats, the initial speed the level jumps etc, all easy to adjust. It also lets you just hit a button whilst playing the whole song and jump to riff repeating where you are in that song. Something that was awkward to navigate to before.
All the old DLC from the previous version is ported to the new version, though…. they rather cynically charge you another £7 or so to do so. If you have bought a lot of tunes then I would have expected some loyalty bonus. The additional tunes are now also £1.99 which seems steep, but then they are not just the music but the structure of the song and how to learn it. If you think how much guitar lessons might cost it is minimal really.
The real extra star of the show though is session mode. However it has been built it provides, to me at least, a fantastic backing band for any guitar noodling I feel like doing.

I love playing the blues scale, in the past I have tried playing along with famous tunes on CD’s and tapes, obviously that never gets to the standard of the stars of the blues world that are playing those tunes. I have also had backing tracks with books etc they are fine if you are trying a fixed thing to play. Session mode lets you load a band, lots of styles and types. Blues has 5 or 6 specific types on its own let alone Rock, Metal, Indie etc. In the set up you can pick a key, a scale and things around tempo and the relaxed or rigid nature of your backing band.
Session Mode
Then you start to play. Initially the band are doing nothing, but the first few notes on the scale you have chosen (which is highlighted on the fretboard on screen) starts to set the band in motion. The drummer and bass kick in at the sort of pace and intensity you start. Even just playing the scale slowly gets them going. Before long you find a little riff to play and maybe some chords and before you know it the other instruments keyboards, and guitars are joining in filling you room, in this case, with the blues. If you have set it to a more formal structure the band will start making the changes as in a 12 bar blues and the the onscreen scale suggests the notes that work in those step changes. Of course you can play what you want. Speed up slow down the band goes with you and it doesn’t just feel like a load of loops being triggered. There seems to be a more complex analysis of the notes you play that gets the band doing their thing. You can almost nod to them when you want to step it up or hit a quite solo. It is stunning.
I am not a musician by any sense of the imagination, but I have tried guitar many times. The previous Rocksmith taught me a lot, something that it continues to do in learning songs. However session mode is the delight. It is a very clever, very patient, non judgemental band. Experimenting with riffs and scales in lots of styles is truly enlightening and relaxing. It is not about trying to hit a note, keep up, make a score, copy a sound but instead find a self expression through making music.
It is not without it’s downside but one does have to suffer for one’s art darling
Ow #rocksmith2014
My fingers have now hardened a bit again, you just have to soak blisters in lemon juice and keep playing on them.
There was something else very cool about 2014. It is even better for 2 guitars now. Predlet 2.0 plugged his little electric guitar in and we jammed in session mode. He explored what happened as hit hit notes fast and slow and we even did a bit of riff turn taking. A right noise for everyone else in the house but we had fun. We then moved on an made more racket playing Billy Idol White Wedding which is a bit go a fave tune of ours 🙂
I am not on their payroll, just a very enthusiastic fan. If you like guitar you have to get this !

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