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Smackdown: 'Rock Band' vs Real Bands

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Video games like "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band" are sparking new life in the music world. But how does playing in a virtual band compare to the real thing? A real bassist, Jonathan Herrera of Bass Player magazine, and a not-so-real bassist, competitive "Rock Band" player and LAGtv host Steve Norman, square off in a Soundcheck Smackdown.


Jonathan Herrera and Steve Norman

Comments [24]

Mal, MNN from LA

not sure if the games produce new musicians, but they do expose the kids to classic rock that they wouldn't have listened to (and not always the best examples of music though)

Apr. 03 2009 09:31 AM
Joey AKA Ninja

This argument has been going on for too long and I think its time to settle it. Rock Band and Real Bands are non comparable. Sure you will have your similarities like band names, songs, etc. However you are looking at two totally different things. Rock Band was made for the simple entertainment of gamers playing instruments and having a great time. The intentions of Rock Band is not to become some famous rock star. Being a fellow gamer, I see that it is very easy to pick up the game and have fun. I play Rock Band without the thought of me wanting to be in a real band. I am playing the game for simply that, a game. Arguing about which is better will never end due to personal opinion. This is like a catholic arguing with a Christian. Yes real band members deserve their fame and should enjoy playing music. That is an obvious fact. I agree that I play rock band for the fun of having a band simulation and playing my part. It is a great feeling getting better and better and playing with your friends. Sure it is not the real thing but you are still getting enjoyment from what you are doing. That is the only point. I too play Acoustic Guitar and find great enjoyment out of it. I love both playing real and fake instruments. All of the people who argue the line between the two are pretty blind to what Activision and other companies wanted. Rock Band is a very easy way to have fun, kick back, play video games, learn some new music and all that good jazz. Real Bands will make the music and we will play it. We both make music in a different way. Enjoy both sides. If you are a real instrument player, good for you. If you play Rock Band, it should be fun and you should enjoy remaking the music. This will always be an opinionated argument. Steve Norman, hats off to you good sir. English dude that called, go back to your CEO office and shut the hell up please.

Mar. 31 2009 05:37 PM
Drew 'Viggo' Bergmark from

Steve Norman had a good point that Rock Band lets people that aren't talented in music to play this game and make them believe they are living a dream. Actually, you don't need any talent to play these games at all with a 'no fail' mode. This enables players that are just starting to try their hardest to get through the song and thinking they succeeded. Thinking positively on something you have done has been proven to improve your performance. Maybe this is a way to get those people that doubted their skills to try again and maybe they might succeed.

If you want to check out LagTV, it will be live on at 11pm EST tonight and Thursday. For more details, check out

Mar. 31 2009 04:53 PM
Drew 'Viggo' Bergmark from

Another comment that I wanted to make is how Rock Band and Guitar Hero supposedly force players to play songs the whole way through they want to. Jazz players would call something like this called improv. As a former jazz student, improv is very important to every aspect of music. Through new rock with Guitar solos or drum solos, improv has been passed on to a new generation. Through playing the game in Band Mode, the drummer will have several drum solos where they improv. IF YOU ARE GOING TO BASH A GAME FOR NOT HAVING THIS, do your research. One more comment after this one.

Mar. 31 2009 04:53 PM
Drew 'Viggo' Bergmark from

As being what I would call myself a 'failed musician', Rock Band and Guitar Hero let me do what I could have done. From an instrumentalist's point of view, Rock Band may just be a simulation of what they do in real life and may respect the aspects of the game that are actual meant to glorify those songs and those musicians that have claimed fame. To denounce such statements is to same music is not respectable at all in any terms. Clearly, this was not a fair argument since the supposed 'moderator' was leaned towards a particular side. If you are to moderate a discussion like this, YOU NEED TO BE NOT SIDED ON ONE SIDE OVER ANOTHER! Therefore the arguments, in my opinion, made by the real musician and moderator are pointless.

More comments coming.

Mar. 31 2009 04:52 PM
Moxie from methuen ma

i like that most of you have not played the game yet you all seem to have a opinion on how bad it is. you are the same ppl who got upset when your parents called the music you liked garbage with out giving it a chance. pick the game up play with your kids it will be a good bonding experience. also his other point was that you can play the game for fun and get a financial benefit out of it s o before dismissing his argument completely give the game a chance

Mar. 31 2009 04:05 PM
Mike "stevierayninja" Groves from Austin

Rock Band is not out to facilitate musical skill and creativity. It is there to provide entertainment to players. They're not mutually exclusive. You can be both a musician and a gamer. I know I am. Steve Norman, thank you for continuing to do the Lord's work.

Mar. 31 2009 04:04 PM
Rob AKA Hollywood from New Jersey

Rock Band and Guitar Hero are responsible for getting a whole new generation into playing instruments. I have come across so many people that have stated their son wants to learn to play guitar or drums because they had so much fun playing the games. Let alone the fact that I know plenty of people who play REAL instruments and can not play the games.

Maybe you should do your research before attacking someone who knows and works in the video game business. Also who cares if someone plays Rock Band or Guitar Hero competitively.

Mar. 31 2009 03:54 PM
Jack P from Asbury Park, NJ

Learning to play an instrument actually betters your life and gives you a skill you can use throughout your life, to both entertain yourself and others.
Playing "Rockband" and "Guitar Hero" is just a huge waste of time that you could actually spend learning to play a real instrument.

Mar. 31 2009 02:43 PM
Rebecca from Brooklyn

I'm a drummer in a real band. My old roommate had rock band and I played it with her a few times. But I felt those hours were wasted when I could have been practicing a REAL instrument.

Mar. 31 2009 02:42 PM
Chris from Manhattan

Can you actually compare playing the video game Madden NFL with playing the actual sport football?

Where did Soundcheck find this guy?

Mar. 31 2009 02:39 PM
michael from Brooklyn

As the bass player said, there is a whole different motivation, playing music as opposed to playing a game. The game is just an extension of the american syndrome of the need for instant gratification. To really understand being a musician read a biography of John Coltrane, and stop trying to latch back onto mama's breast.

Mar. 31 2009 02:38 PM
Telegram Sam from Staten Island

This is an idiotic discussion. Music is about artistry; video games are about memorization and hand-eye coordination. It's like comparing playing football vs. playing Madden. I love this show, but please end the Smackdown feature if you've run out of ideas.

Mar. 31 2009 02:36 PM
Jay from brooklyn

I'm a self taught bassist, guitarist, and drummer . When I first played rock band, I was surprised at how similar the bass and drums in particular were to actually playing with a real band - particular when it comes to the finger 'plucking' you can do with the plastic bass.

The one advantage of rockband over the real thing was that the sound mix was much better than one gets when playing on most actual New York stages!

Mar. 31 2009 02:35 PM
rob from ny

Ive played Rock band and am a very bad string guitarist, I feel guitar hero etc to be pure entertainment and devoid of creativity.
Learning an instrument is an artistic link expressed through work and passion

Mar. 31 2009 02:33 PM
Don from NY

I enjoy Rock Band as much as anyone, but a replacement for real music it is not. What makes a musician great is the creative process which is non existent in the games.

The thing I love about rock band is that I can expose my kids to music they would scoff at if they were not playing it in the game...

Mar. 31 2009 02:33 PM
Sam from Vermont

I can't believe that we are actually discussing over this as though these are equally legitimate sides to an argument. We are essentially comparing Van Gogh's work to a paint-by-numbers equivalent.

Mar. 31 2009 02:33 PM
Brett from Long Island City

One can learn 5 simple guitar cords and then be able to play hundreds if not thousands of easy rock covers. Plus, chicks will probably always like the real guitar players more.

Mar. 31 2009 02:33 PM
Jon P. from Hewitt, NJ

Even if you never tour outside of your own basement or never make a dime from your music, there’s a certain wonderful feeling you get when playing live music with other people. Especially when you “all click” and you know you can take a song were ever you want. Its addictive like crack. It’s the reason you play a real instrument. Can you really get that from a video game?

Mar. 31 2009 02:33 PM
Jeff from ithaca

no possibility for improvisation. enough said.

Mar. 31 2009 02:32 PM
birder from brooklyn

steve my man you are just lazy. what you are doing has nothing to do with what it feels like to write your own songs and play them in front of people.

Mar. 31 2009 02:31 PM
Carey from Jersey

????Playing RockBand professionally? That's some soulless shit. Learn to play a real instrument, or stick to your remote control, but don't let this game wipe out the real bands out there because you wanted to make some money.

I know I would never go to a "Rock Band" concert.

Mar. 31 2009 02:29 PM
josh from brooklyn

this guy is a has no passion and is as far away from an artist as you can get.
He's forgetting about creation.
all he's doing is aping.

Mar. 31 2009 02:27 PM
Adam from New Jersey

I've never played the games, but my kids are on it all the time. My older son plays guitar (10) and my younger son is starting drums (6). The songs that they are interested in are the ones that are on the games. We were driving along and listening to the classic rock station when some song I didn't know came on. This is odd because after years of listening I can id the songs after three notes. I said I didn't know it and my older one said: that is Ted Nugent - I know it from Guitar Hero. More and more radio is being dictated by those silly things.

Mar. 31 2009 02:23 PM

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