Friday, January 16, 2009

How Rock Band Changed My Life

It happens once or twice every decade. Something comes along and changes the course of your life forever. For some people it's finding a significant other, buying that dream house or the birth of a child. For others, it might be a new job or a winning lottery ticket.

For me, it's Rock Band.

Aside from taking up the majority of my waking hours from Christmas Day through New Year's, this simple little video game has forever changed the way I listen to music.

And that's not just empty hyperbole. Every time I turn on the radio, I become aware of all the little things going on in the background of each song that plays. I'm listening to music on the micro-level now. I can pick out the bass line and appreciate a creatively timed drum fill. Perhaps this is obvious to more musically inclined people, but I enjoy a wide variety of musical genres and I never used to hear it.

I like to tell people that I am classically trained in guitar from the Northwestern University School of Music. It's technically true--I took a Beginning Non-Major Classical Guitar class during my undergrad days. I paid extra for it, received half a credit and can still play the chords (or pluck the notes!) to Auld Lang Syne. Once a year, that comes in really handy. Unfortunately, that's also about how frequently I actually pull out my guitar.

I had dreams of being the next Jack Johnson, but the Hawaiian surf seems further away than ever in the midst of a record-breakingly cold winter, plus I'm pretty sure Jack Johnson knows more than four guitar chords.

He can definitely play the F chord, which has prevented me from even attempting more songs than I can count. Look at that picture. How can you move your hands into that position quickly enough to strum that chord, let alone hold the strings down to get a quality sound? It's madness!

Enter Rock Band.

Can you move your hands up and down a guitar fret board? Yes. Can you distinguish between green, yellow, red, blue and orange? Yes. Well, congratulations, you're Pete Townsend!

I know this isn't making me a better guitarist. Heck, it's not even helping me learn to read music. But I sure feel good when I'm shredding through the guitar solo in Ramblin' Man. And my drum fills on Spirit in the Sky are starting to sound mighty professional.

Best of all, Rock Band has given me a much greater appreciation for the musicianship that goes into the creation of a song. I have even more respect for the talent of musicians, and I feel like I'm finally listening to music the same way that they do--picking apart every layer of the composition and hearing how the layers recombine to create the same song that I've loved all these years. There's nothing fake about that.

Oh yeah, and I'm a pretty good singer, too.

1 comment:

ericaislands said...

That is great kiddo. Glad to see that you've grown to appreciate the music that I LOVE. Add a little Ramblin Man to the Sinatra mix.