Understanding music – DJ Hero 2

I am a big fan of the current crop of music games. It could seem that games that merely have you follow a pattern in time with music are somehow lazy gameplay, but what has happened with all the music games is that degrees of expression and choice flow into the patterns that you follow. A prime example is DJ Hero 2. The styles of music may not be to everyones taste, though the set list is full of songs that everyone will have heard rather than esoteric club tracks.
The mixes that you play involve a certain amount of pattern following using the controller to tap notes, move the cross fader or do very flattering scratches that fit in with the tunes. However they have introduced some freestyle elements. These really get you to feel the music you are playing and feel part of it.
One if freestyle scratching, so for a short period how you move the platter rather than just the speed of moving alters the sound. The other and more obvious is the freestyle crossfade. Here the two songs are playing together and you live mix back and forth to create a unique sound. There are some visual cues on the track as to where big gaps and breaks are but it really is effective.
Kicking it old skool
I cannot claim to be a DJ, though I do dabble with audio editing packages, yet this may not make me a DJ but it really does make me feel like one. That also means that it has my attention and hence I am listening to the music track on the game (around 80 mixes) rather than listening to any other music source. It is not passive listening though, I feel I am learning a bit more about the tunes I know well, finding a new vocabulary of musical interaction in how the mixes have been created and also it is a performance. If other people are around and you go wrong it feels bad, so you want to make it sound good.
On the Xbox 360 you also have the chance to use your own avatar as the DJ. This adds yet another sense of depth to the proceedings.
So yes, its a plastic turntable with a few buttons playing some old tunes mixed together on a games console but it ticks a lot of other buttons in understanding motivations, ways to learn, expressiveness and entertainment.
And by the way notice the subtle coca cola product placement in the photo.
Then there’s Rockband 3 …… thats for another post once I get my 102 button guitar

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