While Guitar Hero and Rock Band are the leaders in the music video game market, they don't necessarily teach you how to play an instrument.
You may get really good at slamming down those colored buttons, and rhythmically you may learn a little something—but translating it to the guitar is game entirely.
Nick Mason, a member of Pink Floyd, talked about his annoyance of games like Guitar Hero or Rock Band:
"It irritates me having watched my kids do it-- if they invested as much time practicing the guitar as finding out how to push the buttons they 'd be damn great by now."
But are there games that actually allow one to learn guitar FOR REAL? There have been some great innovations in video games during the last couple of years that have taken the traditional approach of learning an instrument and gamified it.
Starting off on this experience to learn the guitar typically begins with buying your very first guitar, followed by electrical guitar lessons, online guitar lessons, and then, one day, after a few months, when a specific level has actually been attained, interest decreases as rapidly as it came.
Excuses, frequently incorrect, are made: "I don't have an ear for music." or "my fingers are too fat," "it's too tough for me,"... Like finding out a foreign language, it's not the morphology that matters most, it's the inspiration, the work, and the frequency.
Maybe you've heard about Ubisoft's attempt to make a real-life guitar hero game. You don't need to learn to read sheet music or even how to read tablature to get started.
You can use any guitar and plug it right into the console to play by yourself, with a friend, or even take lessons! You also have a jam feature so you can play with a computer AI band backing you up.
The game uses the guitar's 6 strings, which are displayed on the screen and roll by in real-time.
Just like Guitar Hero and Rockband, the game integrates awesome rock music and gives you the simple (or full complicated) versions of great tunes from Aerosmith, AC/DC, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix and many more.
The goal of Rocksmith is to offer an immersive real guitar experience that Guitar Hero and Rock Band can't compete with.
But we can't forget that Rocksmith is developed like any other game, that is to say, to have the user engage with it only for getting the extra points, instead of actually loving the instrument. When you find yourself only trying to level up on a few of my favorite songs, it might be time to put down the game and get some real guitar lessons.
That being said it can be a great tool for beginners who need incentive to learn the guitar.
Rocksmith is a great tool for actually learning the guitar (see our article about how to learn guitar with Rocksmith for more info).
For a beginner who is not familiar with the guitar at all, it's very difficult to pick it up and start playing all the notes you need to for a Pink Floyd song.
So, to avoid discouraging players for whom levels vary or approximate, Rocksmith adapts itself to its apprentice gamers.
For those who do not know much about playing, Rocksmith will show just the main rhythm, and if the very first notes are executed perfectly, the game will quickly increase the problem by including bar chords and other more intricate chords like seventh chords or perhaps arpeggios, up until you can perfect the particular piece.
In the games learning mode it shows you the secrets to performing the first standard solos, tuning the guitar, and playing the blues, rock, and even jazz or folk.
Made by the indie game company Ovelin (from Finland), Guitar Bot offers the ability to learn to play the guitar without a web connection.
The game has a friendly approach with a bouncing ball that guides you, jumping from string to string in order to signal where to change string or what fret to hit.
It also gives you real-time feedback, about if you have hit the rhythm too early or too late. The game also adapts itself to the skill level of the player. If you are a beginner, for instance, many notes will be left out and you are only playing the basic melodic notes.
Check out an interview with the creator and see some gameplay below!
Yousician is a gamified app that allows you to learn guitar in a fun way.
This app mimics a more traditional approach to learning guitar. That is, you don't just learn songs, you also learn scales, chords, and theory. But the way that the information is presented is very similar to Guitar Hero or Rock Band in that sense.
Like with the aforementioned games, the game uses scrolling colored bubbles to indicate which note to play and on which string.
It utilizes a microphone and note recognition software which enables you to play a real instrument while the screen shows the notes, the errors, and the proper fingering: which string to push, where to put your index or middle fingers, and so on.
It's got an extensive library to play along with tons of different songs. It is also an app, which is portable, and you can play it in a park or in your bed.
Like Rock Band, this app is not just for guitar, it works with bass guitar, ukelele, piano and even singing.
The app is a subscription-based video game. It costs $9.99 monthly.
There are a lot of video games to get you started playing guitar. Although these apps will motivate you and help you learn in a really fun and fresh way, to really master the guitar you will need to step away from these games and learn by more traditional methods.
If you're interested in learning drums through videogames check out our write up here:
Here are some other articles if you want to get started learning the guitar the traditional way.
Ben Heckler is a multi-instrumentalist and musician from Portland, Oregon. Currently Ben lives in Barcelona where he teaches drum lessons, writes and records original music for his band Sea Fuzz as well as playing drums for one of the biggest Beatles tribute bands in Europe, The Flaming Shakers.
Ben is constantly creating and composing various types of music, video, and artwork for a multitude of projects that come his way. He hopes to use his platforms to share, help and inspire others to create in their own ways.