News

Rock star: Music video games let you sing and play like a pro

Bill Hutchens and Ernest A. Jasmin
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)
"Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock" was released in late October. The bundle comes with a plastic guitar controller that plugs into your home video game console. (MCT)

Lessons? We don't need no stinking lessons. With today's music video games, you don't need to know a single chord to express your musical ideas. You can create music from scratch, call it your own and post your performances to MySpace or YouTube without ever cracking a musical instruction book.

It started with "Guitar Hero," the third iteration of which was recently released. Guitar Hero's single guitar lets you jam until your fingers fall off. The next big thing, due soon, is "Rock Band," a game that adds a microphone, drum set and, if you want, an extra guitar to the mix.

It's gotten to the point where you could form an entire band that plays only video game "instruments." (And if you use our idea we want royalties, by the way.) And here's a breakdown of the gear that's available.

"GUITAR HERO III"

Developer: Red Octane.

Publisher: Activision.

Systems: PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii and Xbox 360.

Price: $79.95-$89.95

Description: Obviously, anything with a "III" in its name isn't exactly new. The "Guitar Hero" series was immediately popular in its first iteration, but it has grown beyond gamedom. In one recent "Guitar Hero" contest, competitors played the game for a Seattle bar contest while backed by a live band.

"Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock" was released in late October. The bundle comes with a plastic guitar controller that plugs into your home video game console. Five colored buttons on the neck correspond to colored icons that flow toward you on your TV screen. Hit the buttons in time with your chosen cover song in order to make music. If you're timing is off, the music is lousy. High skill-level settings throw more colored icons at you.

In "GHIII," you can compete in a virtual guitar battle against the legendary Slash. Or you can take your game online and compete against other players.

ROCK BAND

"ROCK BAND"

Developer: Harmonix..

Publisher: Electronic Arts.

Systems: PS2, PS3, Xbox 360.

Price: $159.95-$169.95 (plus $79.95 for a second guitar).

Description: This baby, which lets you and three friends create a living-room rock band, is getting most of the virtual band hype this year. The "game" is the new kid on the block, and it is poised to knock the "Guitar Hero" series off its pedestal.

"Rock Band" comes with the game disk, one guitar, a set of drums and a microphone. If you want to add a bass guitar to the ensemble (and why wouldn't you?), it'll cost you an extra 80 bucks. Like "GHIII," "Rock Band" will allow for downloadable content so you can keep expanding your song library.

"TRAXXPAD"

Developer: Definitive Studios.

Publisher: Eidos Interactive.

System: PlayStation Portable.

Price: $39.95.

Description: This tool gives hip-hop heads an astonishing amount of bang for their buck, turning their PSP into a handheld sequencer, sampler and drum machine that allows them to lay down funky beats on the bus ride home. Hundreds of stock percussion and synth sounds are stored in several banks, or sample and edit your own on the fly using the PSP mike. The user-friendly interface allows rhythmically challenged button mashers to edit their tracks until they're just right. You'll be a Timbaland in training in no time.

"JAM SESSIONS"

Developer: Plato.

Publisher: UbiSoft.

System: Nintendo Dual Screen.

Price: $29.95.

Description: It's amazing how much fun you can have with one string, especially when it's the virtual guitar string that shows up on the touch-sensitive DS screen when you plug in "Jam Sessions."

Hold down the buttons or the DS control pad to indicate the chord you want to play and then "strum" the screen with a stylus. You'll need some practice to play lead guitar, but rhythm guitar is easy. Plug your DS into an amplifier and you won't be able to tell the difference between Jam Sessions and a real guitar.

BOOGIE

"BOOGIE"

Developer: Electronic Arts.

Publisher: Electronic Arts.

System: Wii.

Price: $59.95 (with microphone).

Description: It's a karaoke game that also encourages you to get your groove on. Sing into the mike and wiggle the Wii Remote to make your character pull off impressive dance moves. Sing in perfect time to boogie-licious songs from the past to score big points. "Do re mi, A, B, C, 1, 2, 3 ..." If that doesn't get you going, nothing will.

"SINGSTAR"

Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment.

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment.

Price: $49.95 (with two microphones).

Description: This game will help you nail your vocals by working on your pitch and timing. Popular songs in a variety of genres will test your skills. Best of all, the game features several add-on packs so you can keep building your musical library.

"I CAN PLAY: GUITAR"

Developer: Mattel/Fisher Price.

Publisher: Mattel/Fisher Price.

Price: $89.99.

Description: What was that nonsense about not needing lessons? That was just silly. The "I Can Play: Guitar" is a great learning tool for kids. With buttons for every string position in the top five frets and actual nylon strings on the body, tiny hands can start learning chords and strumming techniques. Plug a tutorial cartridge into the body of the guitar and connect the guitar to a TV to get cartoon lessons.



Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.

Film

The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.

Music

'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.

Music

Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.

Books

Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pay Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

Music

South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.

Music

Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.

Music

'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Music

Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.

Television

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.

Music

Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.

Music

Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.

Books

'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Film

'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Music

Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.