I haven’t posted anything in a bit because there just really hasn’t been anything of note to discuss. I’m still fiddling with the same three chords, and while I probably should consider learning a few others, I’m just not satisfied yet I’m executing the three I know reliably, so have wanted to stick to that.  Transitioning is still slow.  I’ve been focusing primarily in practice in switching between A, D, and E without looking at my fretting hand, so while I can’t properly play a song yet, due to lack of ability to switch between chords quickly enough, I would say I am able to switch between these three chords accurately without looking around 85% of the time, which is still not bad.

I decided to use Black Friday as an excuse to buy Rocksmith.  I was originally going to buy the older version (because it’s cheaper), but the difference on Friday between Rocksmith and Rocksmith 2014 was only $15, so I splurged and got the newer one, which I understand is better at telling you WHAT you’re doing wrong, which is important to a beginner like me.

By some miracle of shipping, it’s already arrived from Amazon, so I have been fiddling with it for the past 2 hours.

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(ooo! aaah! a BOX…because we all know blog posts are better when there are pictures.)

So, I got the PC version, because I’m not one of you fancy folk, and really can’t justify buying a new game system just for the express purpose of playing Rocksmith on it.  I already own a computer. It would be very hard to blog without one, right?

I did some reading up and went with the advice to install, register for, and set up Steam first.  Having done this I had no issues with the Rocksmith installation on my PC (which is a windows 8.1 laptop with an i7 processor – for you techies out there. Installation took about 20 minutes via external usb disc drive.).

There were, however, some problems once I got it installed.  Let me go over the rundown of those really quickly for anyone who might be considering:

1. The sound wasn’t registering.  When you first plug in the cable, the volume is set to something like 17%. Rocksmith can not pick up on that low volume, so you have to find the cable under your sound settings and jack that volume up to around 50-60%. Apply and go.  I’ve read that you might need to do this every time you plug in the cable, but can’t confirm that yet.

2. The in game tuner sucks.  This was the source of several problems. In the set up, the in game tuner cues up and makes you tune your guitar. I’d just tuned mine using the pitchlab app, so I knew I was in tune, more or less, (possibly knocked out a bit due to the hell I went through with issue #1). It seemed to do just fine with everything but A and low E. I re-tuned accordingly, not questioning it, and then couldn’t seem to hit a single note. It kept telling me to move over a fret.  The same problem came up in song, so I pulled up the pitchlab app again to check, and sure enough, A and low E (the only strings the game has yet had me playing) were both out of tune.  I retuned them and the game recognized them as being in the right fret mostly. I’m still having issues with A, but it’s 50% of the time, so I’m willing to believe the other 50% is just me playing badly.  So – my advice is, when the in game tuner makes you tune, tune according to it’s specs (you can’t move on otherwise), and then turn around and re-tune by whichever method or with whichever tuner you prefer.  I do have an actual tuner in the house somewhere, but pitchlab does such a good job that I haven’t felt the need to unearth it.

Out of the gate, really – those are frustrating issues if you don’t know about them, but both very easy to work around once you do.  Some of the things I read suggested this was a guitar intonation issue. Rocksmith’s website says it’s an intonation issue.  While possible given I have a very cheap guitar, it’s NOT the problem. The problem is the in-game tuner. It’s off JUST enough to cause the game to think you’re in the wrong fret.

And, the game comes with these handy little stickers…

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…you know, just in case you didn’t already feel like a complete noob. 🙂

Now, what really matters:

1. Does it let you pick left-handed or right handed? Yes, it does, in the initial setup menu. It also asks you to choose a path (lead, rhythm, or bass), which can be changed at your leisure.  I’ve chosen rhythm to start, as I feel this is probably better as a foundation when learning guitar than lead.  I want to be able to play entire songs, not JUST the cool stuff. The cool stuff can come later, when I’m a bit less clumsy.

2. Skill Level.  You can set this in the setup (beginner, intermediate, etc) – and the game adjusts to you.  In the chords 101 lesson I screwed up so many times (in retrospect part of that was the bad tuning) that it kept slowing it down for me and gradually speeding it back up. It told me when I was working on the full speed track. As you get better at songs, it throws more notes at you, so you’d know when you were improving even if it didn’t tell you, just based on the fact it’s giving you more to do.

3. Lessons. Can be selected at random. If you don’t want to learn how to attach a guitar strap (is there anyone who can’t figure this one out on their own??) you don’t have to do that lesson.  You can cherry pick what lessons to do.  Based on your playing, it will suggest lessons for you. For example, I mucked up one round badly enough that the game suggested I review the chords 101 lesson, as I seemed to be struggling.

Did I mention I was fiddling with this game for 2 hours? That means that it makes you want to play with your guitar.  So that is a huge advantage over just flying solo with books and no particular direction to someone who’s really not sure where they’re going or what they should learn first.  It’s given me specific tasks, songs to play, and it’s setting a rhythm for me to follow – and tells me when I fail. My ears don’t tell me that. All my ears have to say is, “Dude, you sound like shit. Are you wearing mittens?”  STFU, ears. lol.

I think this is going to be a really, really excellent investment for me in the long run to supplement all of my internet and book tools (which can tell me what to do, but not when I’m making mistakes). There do seem to be some quirks that require a bit of fine-tuning early on, but I think once I’ve pinpointed what all of them are, I will be able to tell when my mistakes are the game, and when they’re all me, and if taking music lessons from a pro is not feasible for whatever reason (as it isn’t for me), having a program that’s fun, and that does a bit of hand-holding is really the next best thing.

Until next time! Still plugging along! …with gobs of help from the digital age. 🙂

(PS: In a completely unrelated topic – I have, in fact, stopped wearing nail polish. It’s too much of a hassle for something that looks like crap after 3 days, and even worse because I have to cut my nails twice a week since I started playing guitar. I guess it’s a special occasion sort of thing now.)

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