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Toying With Musical Skill

Friday, May 16, 2008 - 11:47 AM

rock_band_image.jpgWhen the Soundcheck crew went to play the videogame Rock Band, I was struck by how truly sucky I was when, as a lifelong guitarist, I picked the Rock Band guitar controller. I quickly realized, there is no correlation between playing Rock Band (or its guitar-only big brother, Guitar Hero) and playing a real instrument. Move to the microphone, though, and you are really singing; sit behind the drum pads, and you’re really drumming. Will playing this interactive game actually teach you to sing or to drum? Maybe not by itself, but it seems like it might be good practice.

So what to make of Virtual Maestro? Now you can conduct a virtual orchestra, making it slow down or speed up. But you can’t tell the horns to enter a bit more quietly, or to ask the first clarinet to hold that last note just a tiny bit more, until the oboe is in. Like the guitar controller in Rock Band, the baton here is a plastic toy. You can play with it, but I don’t think you can learn from it.

Of course, no one is claiming you SHOULD learn from these music simulators. They are games, after all. The question is, are they good for music? Will they spark interest in really learning to make music? Or do they offer an easy way out to people who might otherwise do the hard work of learning and practicing an instrument?

Tell us: What do you think?

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