Monday, November 7, 2011

Gonna be a rock star

Ok, maybe not. :)

I got my first guitar for Christmas when I was in my late teens, along with a beginner book and some guitar picks. Weeks later, after building callouses on my fingers, I set the guitar aside.

Every few years after, I'd pick it up, with half-assed determination to learn how to play. I replaced strings a few times.

To date, I still cannot play the damn thing, mostly due to frustration, lack of patience, and no lessons I suppose.

Years ago my wife and I developped an addiction to the Guitar Heros and Rock Bands. Yeh, plastic instruments and all. Spare me the "pick up a real guitar and learn" crap. It's tiring. Thanks to Rock Band, my nephew bought a drum kit and took lessons.

Anyway, when Rock Band 3 came out with its "Pro Mode", my interest in learning guitar was renewed. Maybe this was what I needed? But the real Fender Squier Strat designed for it was a little expensive. However, when I heard about another upcoming game called Rocksmith, that used REAL guitars without anything more than a special USB cable included with the game, I was able to justify the Fender purchase. It would serve two purposes. Rock Band 3's Pro Mode, and to use with Rocksmith.

Rock Band 3's Pro mode was a tad frustrating, but mostly because of the "hybrid" Fender strat requiring tweaking to get to work properly with the game. It still isn't 100% good with the game, but to be honest, it was enough to make me set it aside.

In the meantime, I picked up a small 10w Fender amp to accompany my guitar, for real play. I should have held off on the amp purchase.

Enter Rocksmith.

After reading a couple of early reviews, I was a little hesitant. Latency seemed to be the issue. After reading a few positive reviews, I bit the bullet.

This "game" is awesome. It connects your electric guitar via a special USB cable to your console (PS3 or Xbox 360), and then connects to your home stereo, which acts like your amplifier, and also provides a whole whack of pedal effects to accompany game play. It turns out that my system configuration is the recommended best at minimizing latency. After tweaking the in-game latency setting, I think I've pretty much eliminated it.

I put the word "game" in quotes because it really is more of a teaching tool. Perhaps it doesn't go into as much theory as a guitar less might, but it teaches people like me enough so that one day they may be able to pick up a guitar and rock out a song or two.

I live for that day. :) Perhaps I should add this to my bucket list...

The game is not without some frustrations though, and I suspect it's mostly due to the Fender that I'm using. For one thing, the specially designed frets (for Rock Band 3 Pro Mode) sometimes make the strings catch when string bending. I also think that it doesn't stay in perfect tune, possibly due to the inntonation being a little off. That could be due to the weak neck because it contains eletronics for Rock Band 3 Pro Mode. I followed some instructional videos on YouTube for adjusting inntonation and it's a little better, but still not perfect.

Last week I decided to look into getting a new guitar; one that is designed 100% for real play. I emailed AxeMusic.com, where I bought the Fender and the amp, for any recommendations. They're Canadian, and I like their service. I told them looking for a decent beginner guitar in the $300 price range. After a few email exchanges, I settled on a See Thru Black Cherry ESP EC-100QM. I even checked out a few youTube videos of people playing this guitar. I liked the look at the sound.

I called late Friday and placed the order.

Maybe once I get a little better, I put up a video. Maybe. :)

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