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The Guitar Hero fallacy

The Guitar Hero fallacy


Games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band are leading kids astray, according to more and more popular artists. Where once younger generations would discover music on the radio or TV and in a fever of musical passion head out to find a guitar to play for themselves, now they discover the music playing a videogame. Then they feel no further desire to explore these new found discoveries because the game gives them makes them feel like a rock star without the need to do all the hard work. Or at least that seems to be what many current rockers think.

“It’s depressing to have a label come and tell you that [Guitar Hero] is how kids are learning about music and experiencing music,” Jack White of the White Stripes said at a recent press event. “If you have to be in a videogame to get in front of them, that’s a little sad.” At the same event Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page appeared to pour scorn on the idea that anyone could truly recreate or learn anything from playing rhythm-action games. “You think of the drum part that John Bonham did on Led Zeppelin’s first track on the first album, Good Times Bad Times. How many drummers in the world can play that part, let alone on Christmas morning?”
Not long before this Prince revealed on The Tavis Smiley Show that he turned down the chance to appear in Guitar Hero, explaining that he didn’t want kids learning his music in a game. “I just think it’s more important that kids learn how to actually play the guitar,” he said. “It’s a tough instrument – it’s not easy. It took me a long time, and it was frustrating at first. And you just have to stick with it, and it’s cool for people who don’t have time to learn the chords or ain’t interested in it, but to play music is one of the greatest things.”

The thing is, I don’t buy it one bit. It would take someone of very limited imagination, ambition or drive to go from being interested in learning how to play guitar to not caring because they played Guitar Hero. I would go on to argue that these games have probably inspired more people to pick up a real guitar because they’ve helped to demystify the instrument. While actual rock stars may be coming out of the woodwork to denounce these games, more and more guitar teachers are coming out to praise them.
“I have an overwhelming feeling that my business is safe for years to come when I see kids playing Guitar Hero,” New York City Guitar School owner Dan Emery told CNET in 2007. “These kids are really enjoying playing Guitar Hero, and they’re really being turned on to old classic rock.” The Johnstown Tribune-Democrat had a similar story to tell more recently. “A lot of kids have been getting into [guitar lessons] because of games, especially Guitar Hero,” guitar teacher Bo Moore told the paper. “Kids who might never have become interested in learning to play the guitar are now coming to us… The game is a completely different concept from playing a real guitar, but it does help with dexterity in their fingers.”

So who do you believe? The guitarists who are so busy making records and touring that they haven’t seen a kid pick up a guitar in years because they’re nowhere near any, or the teachers on the ground hearing how their new students were inspired by Guitar Hero? In my mind there really isn’t a contest.

PS. If this fallacy that Guitar Hero and Rock Band is driving kids away from playing real instruments is the only reason Led Zeppelin haven’t appeared on either yet then, for the love of God, would someone put Page, Plant and Jones straight. We’re all missing out not having Immigrant Song on these games.

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  • I agree with Dan Emery. There are a lot of beginning drummers who have become excited by drumming by playing RockBand. I know because they tell us this when they come to BANG the drum school. I think that these games are great for music….kids and adults are getting turned on to the notion of playing an instrument….why would that be a bad thing?