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AVRevForum.com 12-20-2007 06:04 PM

Can the Guitar Hero Video Game Teach Teens to Love Technically Important Music?
 
One of the holiday’s hottest gifts is Activision’s videogame Guitar Hero 3 for Playstation, Xbox 360 and Nintendo’s Wii, as well as PC and Mac versions. The game, for those of you who haven’t seen the demo, allows the player to rock out with a faux guitar-controller to your favorite classic rock jams while amassing points for your performance. While you punch away at five buttons on the pseudo-guitar, you are judged as to how accurately you hit the “notes,” strum the strings and even bend the “whammy bar.” There are various levels of play from “Easy” to “Expert,” which increases the need for accuracy as you climb the ranks of guitar gods.

The $80 game (including the guitar-controller) is a runaway hit, with crossover appeal from Boomers looking to be karaoke-fabulous to today’s teens, who base most of their entertainment on virtual worlds, such as social networking sites like Myspace and ranging to the extremes that include the virtual world of Second Life, where a user can in cyberspace do everything one might want to do in the real world. You can create an “avatar” (a persona that has the characteristics that you define on the computer) to be whomever you like, which teens today say is most exciting. It is not uncommon for artists like JayZ to have concerts that are held in Second Life that users attend using their avatars and enjoy through their computers. As frightening as it may seem to people who love the concept of hearing real musicians play in person, today’s youngest generation isn’t as interested in reality as much as they are in the virtual world and its infinite possibilities.

Guitar Hero begs an interesting question relative to the current long-standing plague of poor record sales in the music business, ever since the rise of the grunge genre of music in the early ‘90s. From the time it became popular to not value the musical performance in grunge (note: even hairspray heavy metal bands could technically play complicated music as their rock and roll predecessors did, going decades back into musical history), music sales have slumped. Pony-tailed, baby boomer record executives who still believe the 25-year-old compact disc is the way to sell music to the next generation of tech-savvy and attention-deprived kids will bark that it was Napster that caused their problems. The truth is that today’s bands for the most part cannot play with the proficiency and musical appeal of the bands that define the 1967-to-1993 classic rock era. The question is: will today’s kids learn to appreciate the technical complexities of the best music from the classic rock era because of the lessons taught on Guitar Hero? Musicians and music enthusiasts hope this is the case. The most hopeful suggest that the excellence it takes to rack up a high score on Guitar Hero might just inspire the next generation of kids to transcend the virtual world of the game, and actually pick up a real instrument and learn how to, as Guitar George (from “Sultans of Swing”) said, “Make it cry or sing.” Sales of musical instruments are peaking at over $8,000,000,000 per year, so there are numbers to back up the interest of people learning to play and becoming proficient at actual performance. However, at the mainstream level, time will tell if the next generation will find the same high-intensity buzz from a physical instrument, like a Fender Stratocaster or a set of Tama drums, as they do from their Playstation 3.

by: Jerry Del Colliano

MtBiker 12-20-2007 09:13 PM

Cynical
 
I am betting against Guitar Hero. It is certainly not going to raise awareness of the contributions made by my heroes e.g. Jimmy Page, Hendrix, SRV, Johnny Winter etc (the list is long). Bands like Indigenous don't get any air time today because Kurt Cobain made it OK in the early 90's to suck at playing guitar—or so I maintained for many years. I graduated from high school in 1995, and that's about the time I decided that rock had been effectively killed. Several good bands peaked around that time, but how many have followed since? I have struggled to find new bands to really get into since then, and am continually disappointed by the bland mediocrity that all the alternative-esque, uninspired garbage on the radio seems to be these days. The truth of the matter is that Nirvana really was an innovative band, but so many of the bands that followed them lack any innovation despite being able to learn power chords. Do we blame Nirvana, or do we blame the interest in rap and hip hop that has simply stolen the focus that worthwhile rock needs to flourish? I don't know.

I have friends that actually like Guitar Hero, but I do not know if they have any sort of musical training, interest, or talent. While I have always tried to ignore the annoying game the few times I've been exposed to it (at least it's not karaoke), to my surprise, I heard a Buckethead riff one time and asked “is that Buckethead? Bucket head is awesome.” I got a “yes, that's Buckethead” in response and no comment on his music. Honestly, I struggle to like Buckethead. Talk about raw talent in an individual who can't figure out what his thing is, and who apparently can't figure out or desperately wants to avoid appealing to anything remotely mainstream. Maybe he thinks if he sold out he would become Joe Satriani 2.0. He could do worse.

This game is probably not creating a musical interest in 30 year olds, and I would imagine that the teenagers who are really into it are the ones that “just kinda like all music” and don't put any thought into much of anything. Game over.

Lowrez 12-21-2007 06:14 AM

Re: Can the Guitar Hero Video Game Teach Teens to Love Technically Important Music?
 
As an avid music fan and video game player, I have to say Guitar Hero fosters an interest in music not musicianship.

It simply isn't possible to listen to a song 14 times and not either begin to like it or get curious about the band's other works. Kool Thing doesn't jump in sales without a reason.

The game Rock Band, is slightly different. While it still has the unrealistic guitar and bass playing, vocals and drumming take a very real skill or at least raw potential. I would have loved the chance to play along with Kiss when I was a kid.

Lotus 12-21-2007 11:12 AM

Re: Can the Guitar Hero Video Game Teach Teens to Love Technically Important Music?
 
Jerry,

I don't know if it will work. The Music Industry has long ignored the truly talented young people out there. You can take a trip to Chicago, New Orleans, or Austin and find technically talented musicians. In fact one weekend in Austin I saw 3 different guitarists who if found in the 70s with their abilities would be made into instant Rock Stars.

The music labels know they exist they just don't care.

One of these kids Doyle Bramhall Jr once had a platinum album with his band the Arc Angels and has toured with Roger Waters from Pink Floyd.

They do really nothing to support that talent. It's already out there. They just don't care.

JerryDelColliano 12-21-2007 11:20 AM

Re: Can the Guitar Hero Video Game Teach Teens to Love Technically Important Music?
 
I hear your point but would counterpoint with....

Why is the classic rock genre still so popular across so many different demographics? What is it about those songs from 1967 to 1993 that make them so compelling?

My argument has been that they are both well written and blues based yet have a level of increasing technical excellence that stopped when grunge became popular.

Lotus 12-21-2007 11:27 AM

Re: Can the Guitar Hero Video Game Teach Teens to Love Technically Important Music?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JerryDelColliano (Post 7828)
I hear your point but would counterpoint with....

Why is the classic rock genre still so popular across so many different demographics? What is it about those songs from 1967 to 1993 that make them so compelling?

My argument has been that they are both well written and blues based yet have a level of increasing technical excellence that stopped when grunge became popular.


Right but if the Labels aren't out there signing the technically talented rockers who would have fit perfectly in the 70s and promoting them....

That is the problem. The musicians are out there. I've found some incredibly talented bands that would kill if promoted properly. For some reason that isn't what the labels are looking for.


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