Hit me with your rhythm stick

· by Steve · Read in about 3 min · (639 Words)

Guitar Hero and Rock Band have been derided by some, with extensive cries of ’learn a real instrument!’; however it’s my experience that by making simulated instrument playing more accessible to the masses, these games are responsible for many taking up an instrument for the first time, or reconnecting with a previously abandoned musical hobby.

It’s the latter for me - I was heavily involved in music throughout my school days, until an overly pushy music teacher sucked all the joy out of it (what, you have a free evening / weekend that you’re not playing music in? Heresy!), to the extent that I did the typical ’teenage overreaction’ and quit every school orchestra, band, choir (yeah, I know, deeply uncool), music exam (I quit part way through grade 7), and extra-curricular musical activity (and there were many) all at once. It drove her nuts, which was highly satisfying, and was a wonderful release for me to go do other things, like learning how to code. For years I didn’t look back.

Rhythm-action games re-awakened something in me that I’d forgotten was there - a love of participation in music. I think I had a long-established psychological block that associated playing music with something that was all hard work and no fun, because that’s what my experience had turned into. Sure, the games highly simplify the process, but that’s the point; by hiding the ‘work’ part away for a while, for me they reconnected a mental circuit between ‘playing music’ and ‘fun’ again which had long been broken. It’s been highly theraupeutic, and considerably cheaper than a shrink 😉

So, I’ve picked up playing the guitar, and I’m getting along fairly well I think, but most importantly I’m enjoying it. I’ve also discovered via Rock Band that I find drums very satisfying, and I seem to have a fair amount of natural ability there - maybe not compared to some people online, but I’m competent enough to enjoy playing some of the moderately complex tracks the most (Keith Moon, you really were unique).

So, I’ve decided to buy a real drum-kit later in the year and see if I can learn to play for real. I’m going to wait a few more months, because I still have some problems with my back which disrupted my ability to play even simulated drums for a while, but as I’ve recovered I’ve been able to play more and more comfortably again. I’m not going to risk practice-related injuries before we go on holiday in August/September, so I’ll probably look to start in the autumn. I’ve pretty much decided what practice kit to get: the Roland TD-4k, which seems like a good starting point. I don’t really have room for a full acoustic kit, and an electronic one will be a little easier on everyone else 😉 Plus, the Roland’s sound really good these days, and I’ll be able to plug it into Rock Band if I want as an added bonus via a converter. Edit: slight issue with the TD4 though, you can’t individually map the MIDI codes for the open and closed hi-hat pedal (you can map open, and closed is assumed to be open-4 which won’t map to blue/yellow) - for that you have to go to the TD9 (more expensive) or the Yahama DTXpress IV (same price or cheaper but the pads & sounds are not as nice). Hmm.

I think it’ll be fun to learn anyway. I’ll probably never get as good as the guy below (acoustic cover of one of my favourite drum tracks in Rock Band), but as something to do away from the PC it’s a little more productive than just watching TV or playing games, and a nice bit of variety combined with the guitar. And it probably counts as a work out 😀