And My Axe – My Journey Through Rocksmith, Pt. 1: Origins

I’m a huge fan of the Rock Band series. I play expert on every instrument, I own an uncountable number of plastic instruments, and I’ve spent hundreds on my immense song library. Unfortunately, I realized that Rock Band was getting me next to nowhere on actually learning useful skills, so about four years ago, I bought my first electric guitar. It was a cheap beginner’s toy, and I never took any lessons, but the desire to learn some of my favorite songs provided the inspiration to learn. And learn I did. I can now play a good number of songs well enough to impress some ignorant non-musicians, or just jam along to my iTunes library, which is quite different from my Rock Band library.

See, I found that the songs I like to play in real life are quite different from songs I like to play in Rock Band. In Rock Band, it’s all about finding the most challenging tracks. Playing a real guitar is challenge in and of itself, so instead, I just choose songs that I genuinely enjoy. That’s what really led me to picking up Rocksmith – the soundtrack. Ubisoft made some really smart choices when building Rocksmith’s soundtrack, picking songs that musicians can enjoy playing.

These blog entries will chronicle my descent into Rocksmith, as I do what I enjoy most about playing guitar: learning new songs.

Let me catch you up to where I am now. I have played the game for around 10 hours, mostly sticking to the events until now. Each event consists of a set of songs, each one with a minimum score to attain. Once you qualify with each song, you can play the full event with every song in a row. The game opens in a pretty neat fashion. You are thrown right out on stage, where the crowd goes nuts over you tuning your guitar and plucking the first few notes. Gradually, more notes began to fall in a row. Before long, I realized that I had been learning the main riff to The Rolling Stones “I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction)” without even realizing it.

That’s the beautiful thing about Rocksmith. Every time you play a song the first time, you only have a few notes to hit, but within two or three runs, you are playing a simplified version that sounds like the real song.

I have completed about six of the events, and highlights include “Boys Don’t Cry” by The Cure, The Horrors’ “Do You Remember”, and Muse’s “Unnatural Selection.” I knew I would like those, but what really blew me away were the surprises, such as Ubisoft employee Seth Chapla’s “Jules”, “Islands” by The xx, and The Dead Weather’s “I Can’t Hear You.” In particular, I spent a good hour or two on “Islands” alone, and was immensely satisfied to finally master it completely. That ending is a little rough in Leveler mode.

Rocksmith has had some consistently good DLC as well. I have spent a lot of time attempting to learn “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” and while I almost have the main riff down, there’s still work to be done on that solo. “Tighten Up” by The Black Keys is an easy crowd favorite that I fire up pretty consistently, just because it’s so fun.

Here’s a video of me leveling up Muse. It’s a song I already know how to play, so I just try to level it up as much as possible. It should only take a few more sessions before I get it up to Mastered status.

For next time, I will begin work on Boston’s “More than a Feeling”, and I will continue work on the moderately difficult “Plug In Baby.” Thank you for joining me on my journey, and I hope this will inspire future musicians to take up guitar. Rocksmith is absolutely one of the most fun ways to learn I’ve ever seen.

-Ryan Evans


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