Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Rock Band Rocks!

Today, September 9th, Harmonix Music Systems released the Beatles's music catalog as part of the Rock Band video game. If you're unfamiliar with "Rock Band" and "Guitar Hero," you probably don't have or know any teen or pre-teen kids (actually I first learned about it from our wild and crazy 30-something DINK neighbors).

We have the Wii version of "Guitar Hero." The Wii version is like the "Rock Band" video game, that is, the game allows one to play the guitar, vocal, bass, and drums for many popular songs. Of course you have to have the Guitar Hero "guitars" and drum kits that are adaptable to the wiimotes.

Guitar Hero has been derided by some because it doesn't really foster learning the guitar. Allegedly, Jimmy Page is withholding release of Led Zeppelin's catalog because he is upset that kids aren't learning guitar, but rather a simulated version of it. Also sayeth Page:
Obviously, there have been overtures made to Led Zeppelin, but if you start with the first track on the first album, ‘Good Times Bad Times,’ and you think of the drum part that John Bonham did there, how many drummers in the world can actually play that, let alone dabble on a Christmas morning? link.

He'll come around, mark my words, just give it a few more years, and a few lackluster sales of compilations.

But it's true: the "guitars" in Guitar Hero have no strings, only a right hand strum pick and a left hand set of buttons that allow you to "fret" notes and chords. On the other hand, the drum set- up for Rock Band features a set of four pads and a bass drum.

In my experience, the Rock Band drum simulator actually requires you to have or develop the same motor skills that it takes to play real drums. The drum set even resembles the sort of practice pads that real drummers use in lieu of a real set. So screw Page and Led Zeppelin for the time being.

Another great rock drummer was of course Keith Moon. Whereas John Bonham had controlled precision, Moon was all over the place, almost the essence of chaos. Moon had a top heavy, splashy style, having a much higher center of gravity than Bonham. Moon played double bass drums, forgoing the high hat cymbal for much of his playing style and sound. When I think of Keith Moon playing, I picture him riding his cymbals and tom toms and with both feet stomping his double bass drums.
Here's a video that gives you a good look at how "Rock Band" drums actually work:


  1. The Beatles are the best thing to ever happen to Rock Band and i'm super excited about the playlists!!!! Who will GH's next big band contract be with??? Love the blog

  2. Keith Moon was never equaled. Live at Leeds.

  3. Live at Leeds

    Many years ago I found a vinyl copy of Live at Leeds, complete with all the facsimile goodies and the infamous poster. I still have it all.
    I bought the CD deluxe version a couple years ago, the one with several additional tracks. If you closely compare the recordings of "Young Man Blues," you'll realize that somebody edited out about 30 seconds of Townshend soloing on the original vinyl.

  4. My kids had the Rock Band setup for the Wii: 2 "guitars" and drum pads.

    Of course, No.1 son plays violin, and is turning himself into a pretty good "real" guitar player, and No. 2 son plays piano, trumpet, and goes to a full-time choir school, so ersatz musical instruments hold little charm for either of them. Their friends basically trashed the fake "guitars," and the drum kit broke after about 6 months or so.

    That's a shame, because, as you say, the drum pads were not bad, if somewhat cheesy versions of standard pads every drummer has. But the cheesy part won out in the end: The plastic stand started coming apart, such that I'd step on little shards of grey plastic every time I walked into the den, and eventually the whole collection of Chinese polymers suffered the same entropic fate as all our vain baubles.

    Only a lot sooner.

    Anyway, No. 1 son was not bad at drumming while it lasted, and wants to take up percussion in addition to guitar, so I think Santa Claus will be making a trip soon to some mall-centric music store peopled by the tattooed and nose-ring-wearing, if only to grab percussion gear made of more robust polymers.

    And maybe a little bit of metal, if not too heavy.

  5. Theo,
    Your boys must be pretty rough! If ours ever shows such wear I'll break out the duct tape (actually, I'm the only one who plays the Rock Band drum kit).
    I've owned three drum sets in my life: The first was a "Royal Star" *Sears Roebuck?) brand that I inherited from my brother' the second was a brand new Tama set that I bought with paper route saving- I sold this during college when I temporarily lost interest. The third was a beautiful used '60's Ludwig kit with a blue sparkle finish that I bought from a jazz drummer in Colorado. That set, which I sold before moving to Europe, is the one I still wish I had.

  6. Well I don't have all this fancy Wii stuff, but Momma's got a squeeze box and Daddy likes to play all night.

    So to speak.

  7. I hear where Page is coming from, but I bet he WILL come around! We have one for the daughter, and I have yet to touch it because I play guitar, not very well, but loudly and aggressively! For some strange reason I do not want to pick up the controller.

    Chickenlittle, I had not heard the replaced 30 seconds of Pete's solo. I do have the vinyl and the remastered cd, and do not miss the persistent noise on one of the record's sides.

    I love how Pete seems to be playing along with his echo! I saw "It Might Get Loud" night before last, and Page came across great. His right hand hardly moves, and he shreds.

    Cool stuff.


  8. Ok Trey, I tracked down the missing Townshend solo. It's actually only about 10 seconds, not 30 sec. (hey I was guessing before). The missing (on the original vinyl) part occurs between 3:20 and 3:30 in the recording in my post above. Check it out on the original vinyl, it's just not there.