Comments on

Carry OK

Original entry posted: Fri Dec 28 18:11:20 2007

Josh @ Fri Dec 28 12:20:01 2007 EST

I can't stand the sound of my own voice and consider not singing to be part of my civic duty.

Thomas @ Fri Dec 28 12:23:54 2007 EST

Not even in the shower?

wheat @ Fri Dec 28 19:14:08 2007 EST

I'm reading Levitin's book right now. I got it for Christmas. I suspect I'll be blogging about it. I'll hit you up with some emails to compare notes after I finish it.

Thomas @ Fri Dec 28 20:13:14 2007 EST

Sounds good. I think I'd like to read Sacks' book just to compare.

That Fuzzy Bastard @ Mon Dec 31 02:43:20 2007 EST

One of the differences in musical style that leads to the cultural attitude you describe---or perhaps the difference in cultural attitude that leads to the musical style---is the idea of "lead vocals", which is what you sing in Rock Band.. Anyone can indeed sing---as long as you don't expect them to be in key, or hold a note, or do a lot of the things expected of "singers" who sing unaccompanied by a chorus.

The game does a good job of rewarding and punishing you for vocal skills, specifically rhythm (rapping is surprisingly sharp and fun in R.B.) and pitch. The former is relatively easy if you know the song, but the latter is quite tough, The game's singing interface is nicely merciful at lower difficulty levels, so the relatively unskilled certainly can sing and get points and feel good about the band experience (which is, indeed, incredibly spectacularly insanely super-fun). But once you kick up the difficulty, it delivers a sharp slap to any faith you might have in the idea that anyone can sing.

In short, it provides a fun way in for n00bs, and a real challenge for people with more skill, which is, like, what a game should do. But it sure didn't make me think "Hey, I actually *can* sing---it was The Man keeping me down all this time". On the contrary, it has me thinking "I am actually a worse singer than I thought, seein' as how I keep failing to sustain a note, or hit a first note at the desired pitch, and plus I often go up when I mean to go down."

It does, however, provide a neat interface for seeing where I'm going wrong, and thus improving my skills, which is maybe even better. The signing and drumming parts of R.B., by being nearly identical (in the case of singing, precisely identical) to the interface by which you actually exercise the skill, are an absolutely brilliant training device for improving your technical proficiency, at least up to a certain point.

Thomas @ Mon Dec 31 06:18:15 2007 EST

True, those are good points all. But do most people actually play Rock Band and Guitar Hero at the higher difficulty levels? The impression that I get from most people is that they start on Easy and work their way up until they hit a discomfort zone--at which point they are likely to say that the game is too hard, not that they're not good enough.

I have heard from several people, including you now, that the drums and singing are (unlike the guitar) actually decent training for the real instrument. Which is great news for singer and drummer jokes.

That Fuzzy Bastard @ Thu Jan 3 09:54:00 2008 EST

Most people? Probably, but only because so many people play it. Certainly, I've busted RB out to great success at parties where everyone wants to stick to Easy difficulty and complain if the song's too hard. But there's also a lot of people, myself included, who regard the difficulty curve as a great opportunity to improve their skills, and set themselves the goal of someday being able to play drums on Hard. This is part of the genius of RB---you can play it as a very casual party game, or as a real music trainer, and its enjoyable and accessible enough to bring in a lot of people willing to do both.

One of the Harmonix guys said in an interview that as most of the Harmonix staff are in bands, they all know how hard it is to find a drummer. They like to think that R.B. is making life easier for future generations of local bands, because any suburb will have a few kids who got really good at the R.B. drums, and are willing to do the same thing on a real kit. If that's not a video game changing the world of music, I don't know what is!

I'm also hugely excited by the talk of the new Metallica single debuting on R.B. Not because I like Metallica (I don't even like the early albums), but because I'm thrilled by the idea of a future where kids absorb their favorite band's new single by getting their friends together and playing all the parts. In general, one of the strengths of R.B. is how it makes a player attentive to a song as a group of parts, which I think is often the major difference in how non-musicians and musicians listen to a song.

And yeah, it's true that this does all make drumming and singing seem much easier (to do and to translate into game form) than guitar and bass. But what the heck---I've always thought it was silly to treat "hard" as a synonym for "good" in music (Joe Satriani is a more skilled guitarist than George Harrison, but so what?). And the world can always use a few more drummer jokes.

What do you call a musician with no girlfriend?
Homeless.




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