Guitar Zero to Hero

After work, yesterday, I played some good ol’ GHII. I managed to get 5 stars on Nirvana’s Heart-Shaped Box with 98% accuracy and over 300,000 points on expert difficulty. Remains to be seen, though, whether I will have the motivation to buckle down in practice mode to score just 4 stars on the bottom of the list, like Megadeth’s Hangar 18. Right now, I get a kick out of just passing it after deciding to play it on a whim. It gives me a strange sort of high. It’s like I’m reading music, again. Yes, seriously. We’re actually pretty close to having 4 stars (sometimes 5) on all the songs in expert.

Roycifer Likes GH Tw/oo

There’s something just … special about Guitar Hero. [Pity card] Having shoulder surgery will really make you appreciate the game. [/Pity card] It’s good to be back.

But it’s so much more than that. Since I’ve had some time to really miss the video game and then ponder why I miss the game so much, I have been able to come to some conclusions. Specifically, I’m talking about from the musician’s standpoint.

I’m that failed musician, you see. I can spit out some random classical musician “paper” stats like having played in Carnegie once, solo-ed with the major city orchestra as a child once, took private lessons with the concertmaster of that major city orchestra. Really, though. I’m one of tens of thousands of “pretty-good” ones that just didn’t feel like she loved it enough to do it for life. Of course, eighty percent of those tens of thousands who are really good at classical instruments are Asian American. …I didn’t stand out much there, now did I?

I did think about getting back into it, once before. I “continued” by playing in the UCLA Phil for a year. Sophomore year I auditioned to become a violin major just randomly in the middle of my economics studies and general ed requirements. I think I kept wondering about it since I had given it up completely by not enrolling in the Phil my second year even though it was a nice, easy 2-unit (albeit 6-hr per wk) A. Guess I needed that one final ousting, and got it–through the rejection by the head violin professor. He had said, “If you were a Freshman, yes.”

Like everyone, I have some memories on which to recall fondly of a time past. Guitar Hero doesn’t really bring them back.  They just enable me to rewrite my classical ensemble experience into that of having been a member of a successful garage band.  But it’s also let me transition my skills into a video game that I became really good at.  How is that not fun?

If you’ve played Guitar Hero before and have spent some time to get the hang of it, you’ve undeniably become at least a little enthusiastic about it. I’ve gotten to normalize a method of explaining the game. Like DDR, you have the colored objects come at you along a timed reading. Unlike DDR, the colors are frets on a toy guitar, not spaces on the stomp pad on the floor. I mean, have my left hand around an “instrument” neck, again? In a video game?? You cannot know or understand what this game means for retired string musicians, everywhere. Okay, or anyone else who has a sense of rhythm.

Do you remember that South Park episode when they parodied the dancing smash hit “You Got Served?” Stan collected his crew, and then–since he “got served”– went to do battle in The OC, which I thought was hilarious. They sure collected an eclectic group–but how awesome is it that the pimply Asian kid they recruited from the arcade was a master at DDR?  Yeah, pretty typical.

 Let me tell you, Guitar Hero is nothing like DDR.  It has such a higher “cool” factor. No one dances by only stepping up, down, left, right.  But Guitar Hero?  It’s reutilizes and even revitalizes a connection, that for string players, was already there before.  Of course, it’s much more simplified down to 5 colored buttons (Roycifer mentions he’s probably worse at guitar after GH) but once the spacing is learnt, it’s inevitable what advantage we have.

And the difficult songs?  The more we’re accustomed to learning how to read this sort of “music,” the more we’re reliant on sightreading skill and then after that, technicality–especially when you enter practice mode in order to get passages down.

And then, I enter ultimate nerdism.  I read those colored buttons coming down the screen and interpret them, or not even.  I’ll think, “These are triplets,” or anticipate a key change as an unexpected button pattern coming up. Like I said before, reading those fast patterns gets me high–it’s as if you don’t even read them. You register them without thinking about them and it all just flows to your fingers.  You rely on the connection.  Don’t even get me started on scales. No matter how fast they are, they’re easiest to read–you just have to tap into that inner rhythm in order to keep time. Know that the thick lines on the score are the main beats. Violinists (and sometimes actual guitarists*) have done much more articulate passages on 4 or 6 strings to a faster tempo.

What more can you ask for, than a full accompaniment and your own notes realized the more accurate you are?  No risk, only reward.

Guitar Hero is heaven.

Love,
*e 

P.S. — Some more resources for your reading pleasure:

When Being a Fake Rock Star Is Better Than the Reality – wsj.com

* Michael Einziger, the 30-year-old guitarist for the hard-rock band Incubus, says he was ‘shocked at how hard it was’ to play the videogame’s version of his song ‘Stellar.’ He admits he was handily beaten by his then-14-year-old sister, Ruby Aldridge, when the two of them squared off earlier this year. “It doesn’t have anything to do with playing guitar,” Mr. Einziger says. “It’s all rhythmic.”

The Low Cost of (Guitar) Heroism – msnbc.com

“Hitting the right button at the right time simply unlocks music that real guitarists created using real guitars. Yet the illusion is given that you are actually making the sounds yourself.” … “One Guitar Hero junkie, Detroit Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya, spent so many hours playing the game that the resulting wrist inflammation kept him out of three postseason games. And surprisingly, some of the most avid fans of this faux musician exercise are actual musicians; the game is a fixture on tour buses. Ed Robertson, lead guitarist of Barenaked Ladies, recently told The New York Timesthat he was so engrossed in a Guitar Hero solo of ‘Free Bird‘ that he barely made it onstage for a real concert.”