Is tomorrow's Clapton playing Guitar Hero?

Guitar teachers disagree on whether the popular video game franchise will drive future interest in the instrument.

In a recent South Park episode, we see two of the show's main characters, Stan and Kyle, rocking out to the video game Guitar Hero as a roomful of their friends watch, rapt. As they're playing, Stan's father walks in, asks, "You kids want to see something really cool?" and starts to play an electric guitar.

For a moment, the room is dead silent. Then, Stan asks, incredulously, "Dad, what are you doing?"

"I can actually play a lot of these songs on a real guitar," the father responds. "Want me to show you boys how?"

Stan spits back, "That's stupid, Dad."

Well, maybe not, say guitar teachers. In fact, the immense popularity of the hit Guitar Hero franchise--the third iteration of the game, Guitar Hero III, brought in $115 million during its first week on the market--may be the best thing that has happened to the instrument, to rock and roll, and to guitar instructors, in a long time.

"I have an overwhelming feeling that my business is safe for years to come when I see kids playing Guitar Hero," said Dan Emery, owner of New York City Guitar School.

"These kids are really enjoying playing Guitar Hero, and they're really being turned on to old classic rock" via the game, he said.

Emery said he actually sees Guitar Hero as perhaps the best recruitment tool his school could have asked for.

"I fully expect that (kids who play the game) will get into their 20s and they will have disposable income and they will decide to actually play guitar and they're going to call us up," he said.

Exact numbers of Guitar Hero-fueled converts to the real thing (kids or adults) are hard to come by. But something at work here clearly could be the most powerful advertisement for the guitar since the hit Richard Linklater movie School of Rock.

In that film, Jack Black plays a teacher who, through sheer passion for music, turns a class of rock-illiterate elementary school students into a head-bobbing rock band. After the movie came out, San Francisco guitar teacher Jay Skyler said his roster of young students exploded overnight.

"All of a sudden, I had 9-year-old students," Skyler said, "because all of a sudden, everyone wanted a guitar."

But now, with Guitar Hero turning into one of the most successful video game franchises of all time, Skyler said it's not just kids who seem interested in playing the real instrument. While some of his new adult students may not be willing to admit that the game drove them to him, he did suggest a definite cause and effect.

"My adult students, they don't want to cop to it," Skyler said of being Guitar Hero fans, "but they're all, 'Have you played the game?'"

The immense popularity of Guitar Hero does worry some of Skyler's fellow guitar teachers, who fret that the game may deter kids from being interested in picking up the real instrument. But Skyler doesn't share that concern, instead feeling that the long-term outcome will be positive.

"Basically, it's getting more kids into guitar," Skyler said. "So if you're a guitar teacher, or a band, you have to love it. They'll play with the toy for a while, but after awhile, they'll want the real thing."

There are those, of course, who believe Guitar Hero signals a death knell for real guitars.

"It's going to kill music," said San Diego bass instructor David Hilton. "It seems to me that as long as [Guitar Hero fans] can get really, really good playing this console--[and] it's not really easy to play [a real] instrument," that the guitar is dead.

But Hilton's fears may well be in the minority, and the enthusiasm of teachers like Emery and Skyler indicate that there's a real chance the ultimate result of millions of people getting hooked on games like Guitar Hero and now Rock Band will be a new love of rock and roll. Part of the equation, Skyler said, is that Guitar Hero teaches rhythm.

"In the game, you have four buttons [on medium difficulty]," he said. "You have to get them in time, in sequence. So in a sense, even though [you're] not learning the specific strings, you are building rhythm in a musical context, which is valuable."

Not only that, but the wide variety of songs included in the various editions of Guitar Hero may be opening up kids' ears to music they haven't previously been familiar with.

"It's also interesting kids in great bands of the past that they might not have been exposed to," Skyler said. "So I think we'll see a resurgence of rock. Rock and roll is about fantasy. If you can go and you're having a good time [and saying], 'Hey, I'm jamming with Slash,' that's great."

Even more important, suggested Emery, is that the guitar is a unique instrument when it comes to the way people connect with it.

"The thing that drives guitar playing is not the same thing that drives violin playing [or] piano playing," Emery said. "It is the desire to connect with the spirit of rock and roll, and anything that builds the spirit of rock and roll is going to build the spirit of guitar."

And that, of course, is good for those in the business of teaching the instrument.

"When a kid gets filled with the fire of rock and roll, they're going to practice four hours a day," Emery said. "Desire drives the guitar business. So I view [Guitar Hero] as a totally good thing."

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254 comments
Yarcofin
Yarcofin

I just wish the guitar actually had strings and could teach you to play the guitar for real. I've seen free downloadable PC programs that do essentially the same thing as Guitar Hero, only for Piano and actually teach you songs. Unfortunately I don't feel like paying for a keyboard with midi hookup right now.

teknicz
teknicz

lol I entered law school after playing Phoenix Wright, does that count for anything? No, seriously.

teknicz
teknicz

Playing the guitar is pretty fun, but it takes lots of practice. I wonder how much of the Guitar Hero appeal is in the visuals and excitement, and will that translate over to the real thing?

kiddpepsi420
kiddpepsi420

Kenji, did you read the article? he didn't say the game would turn people to guitar gods, but he did say it would help build rhythm. Now, in that same idea, ANY ACTION game, helps Hand-Eye Co-Ordination, not neccicarilly training people to be cold blooded killers

Kenji_Masamune
Kenji_Masamune

GH may be a catalyst to entice people to learn the real versions, but I'd disagree. This is kinda like saying wii sports is training the next tennis champion or the raid leader of the largest guild on x server in wow is the next aspiring business leader. I mean if you believe this then you must believe that GTA is a murder/spree killer trainer.

pr3st0n1nt3nd0
pr3st0n1nt3nd0

I agree with a lot of you guys. GH has been an influnce on me and other people. It encourages people to start playing something.

Imon
Imon

I've blayed guitar (real guitar) for 15 years, i started off taking lessons and learning classical guitar. Now i play everything from classic rock, to classical to metal. I also have guitar hero 3, playing real guitar is NOTHING like playing guitar hero; however it is an amazing finger strengthening exercise, especially songs like Cliffs Of Dover

djstyles92
djstyles92

mada362005 get over yourself. How can you hate guitar hero so much? its fun to play and it has made me get into old rock music and now im getting a real guitar. we dont care what you think of the game. i bet that if u did some research, that alot of younger kids these days are now getting into real music and are eventually going to learn to play guitar

Killer2401
Killer2401

I am a GH player that began to take guitar lessons because of GH. Id like to think that the game has been a positive influence on me.

BoNeS77713
BoNeS77713

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

vampiredust99
vampiredust99

Guitar Hero will be a stepping stone to playing a real guitar for some kids. If that stems the creative drain of nations like the UK and USA, I'm all for it.

reeve92
reeve92

i think its a great conversion of a dance mat game for tha geezerz not to look gay doing lol but it is good to see that a game might help people want to learn real guitar .... i think it would be good in 10 years time asking a band what made you play guitar and they say guitar hero

ThickFreak
ThickFreak

Don't go to any CNet websites on Monday, including GameSpot!! Get back Jeff!!!

alzdaman
alzdaman

Wonder how much activision paid to have this article posted here.

strat505
strat505

I think guitar hero would be more fun if I didn't already know how to play the real guitar

mustained13
mustained13

I love Guitar Hero; I also play bass guitar.

_Horde
_Horde

When I began playing Guitar Hero, My interest for playing real guitar rose up aswell, and thus I am going to start playing guitar this winter.

jogunther
jogunther

Oddly I've been playing less real guitar since Guitar Hero came out. But I already played.

R3V0LUT10N
R3V0LUT10N

Bizarelly for me the fact that I don't own Guitar Hero is making me try and learn my guitar. Somehow I can't bring myslef to shell out for a fake plastic guitar to play when I have a real one just waiting to used. This doesn't suprise me. I think people who presume real guitar is like Guitar Hero are in for a shock though, since real guitar is quite a lot trickier.

RGAF_Iso06
RGAF_Iso06

lol guitar hero is good its the only thing made me go lean on the guitar and today after bout a year im allready in a band doing gigs and i think guitar hero is giving insparation to some gamers go study guitar :D

xxxtheonexxx
xxxtheonexxx

I have GH3 and i have two guitars, and i have to say playing the real guitar is not similar to guitar hero. However, there are several things you can learn and apply to the real thing, plus is a fantastic workout to get your fingers nice and limber. In all cases I think GH3 is great for those who are thinking about playing the guitar; if you like GH3, and you become ridiculously good at it, buy a real guitar. ps. the only thing is that guitar hero doesn't emulate the crazy sounds you can make with a real guitar, a la 'real' Tom Morello

mada362005
mada362005

wow thats per ignorance if you want to learn to play guitar go buy a guitar and learn to play it, not playing GH. GH is overrated, annoying, and only fun for a short period of time. the song are repetitive. GH is nothing like a real guitar. stop being lame ppl

Gigler
Gigler

This game is for entertainment. Teachers should not worry about a game but should be asking themselves what they are doing to attract people to learn to play the guitar. This game exposes people to music period. Some people become inspired by such things like rock band and guitar hero. There will always be people complaining about something they wished they would have invented that is doing well for the masses. So shut and play.

jesusrocks91
jesusrocks91

i remember i first got my hands on GH i was so excited. the first i beat I Love Rock and Roll i felt like a rockstar i eventually mastered all the songs, then GH2 came out and i after beating Free bird on expert i was amazed at such great guitar work. now i play electric guitar and i love it . i bought GH3 just cause i love the GH series. yes Guitar takes alot of effort and alot of devotion to play but if ur anything like Eddie Van Halen then a perfect Friday nite is a date with your guitar.

thwart
thwart

Playing a real guitar is hard. Playing Guitar Hero is fun. Someone should just come up with a new (real) instrument that is as simple as Guitar Hero's toy guitar. TRADEMARK COPYRIGHT MY IDEA I CAME UP WITH IT FIRST thwart

MiltoxBeyond
MiltoxBeyond

just gotta say that that is a really lame insult fatafreak... It takes some effort for some others are gifted, and yet others are cursed by an inability to learn even if their lives depended on it. Just like everything else, people learn at different paces.

MetalContra
MetalContra

I remember a time when it wasnt all about the points

fatafreak
fatafreak

liam72: actually it takes some effort to learn guitar and it AINT that hard to learn english either so why dont you learn it and come back when your ready to not say "aint"

Shademar
Shademar

I played the first 2 GH games quite extensively, myself, but before I even heard of guitar hero, I had contemplated learning to play a bass. After I really mastered them, clearing both on expert, I bought a bass and taught myself. But I didn't learn the songs off the game, I learned the songs I wanted to learn. I play a guitar now, too, and I play few songs that have been featured on the games themselves, pursuing more the guitarists whose style I enjoy instead of the game's songs. Overall, I think GH was the last push into deciding on learning to play an instrument, and so far, it's been a very enjoyable experience for me.

rasterror
rasterror

There's a major difference from pressing five buttons on a "fake fret" and actually learning how to pluck real strings, let alone play chords. You might have a slight advantage, notice that I said might but only in finger speed. That's like thinking you can learn how to drive by playing Forza or Need For Speed. This is a joke.

moh2in
moh2in

Before guitar hero came out, I was obsessed with playing the guitar.. but now that guitar hero's out I am OBSESSED with playing a real guitar and learning those songs..

Poison_Me_Rum
Poison_Me_Rum

I have a friend at work who doesn't get Guitar Hero. Why spend time playing a video game that pretends to be a real guitar when I could spend that time learning to play the real thing? There's a point there, but learning to play the guitar takes much longer than playing a video game. I would, eventually love to learn to play the guitar, but time and patience are factors stacked against it. I'm quite happy sitting in my chair rocking to a song on Guitar Hero, as many of the tracks spread across all four GH games are basically rock essentials. Some of the classics, songs many kids would have screwed their nose up at are being explored, listened to with new ears thanks to games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, which is an amazing thing. However, you can't compare playing a real guitar to playing a video game that emulates it. It's like saying Dance Dance Revolution is teaching you how to dance, when all you do is step. Rhythm games do exactly that though, teach you rhythm, and timing, and when music is involved, you need it. So playing these games isn't exactly a waste of time, and they certainly are amazingly good fun! People who shrug off games like Guitar Hero because they can play the real thing are silly. Join in and have some fun. :)

m4gicm4rty
m4gicm4rty

guitar hero (2) got me into playing guitar. sure i moved onto bass, but the original interest was sparked by good old guitar hero.

raahsnavj
raahsnavj

No. He's practicing on a real guitar and writing his own music. Not immitating someone elses with a toy.

liam72
liam72

(I said especially guitar because it's a really easy instrument to learn, full of beginner songs)

liam72
liam72

Hey, just like that, btw... Guitar aint THAT hard to learn! Of course you won't play solos at the beginning, but there are full of easy and excellent songs for beginners! I mean, you don't need to practice 30 hours a day to be able to play music you like! I practice something like 30 min a day since 1 year and I can play a lot of songs i love. I'm not telling you to go on and buy a fender strato, a 1000W amp and... and a pick... Well yeah, you can buy a pick. Anyway, what i mean is: If you only wanna play a video game, well that's cool, play it. But if you wanna play an instrument (especially guitar), just try it. It's not that hard. You don't even need lessons. Hendrix never had any lessons; he just listened to blues and try to do the same thing. He's the fricking best guitarist ever (Rolling Stone magazine...).

cwhistler
cwhistler

This is exactly what has happened in my house. My 8 year old took up the guitar after playing Guitar Hero II. He's completely passionate about both the game and the real thing. We have a deal with his teacher where he enforces the basics and will then teach him songs from the game. We even had to buy him a slide so he could play Freebird!! Which comes to the next point - he is now completely off the Disney channel music and into my kind of music. I'm a drummer myself and I can definately see the benefits of the game in teaching rhythm. I can't wait to unwrap Rock Band for Christmas and get him started on the drum campaign. I have a set in the basement but haven't had luck getting him interested yet. I have a hunch that after he works up some chops on Rock Band that he will become a 1 man band in the house!!

DanteDiPasquale
DanteDiPasquale

Someone mentioned that it increases fret board finger strength. This kinda confuses me because the LAST thing I want in my fretboard hand is strength. Accuracy and finesse far out weight strength. Not to mention I almost wish my top hand was weaker because I have to compensate otherwise my notes go sharp. Music is about perfection -- no if ands or buts -- pressure on a string in a fret needs to be perfect and that requires very little pressing power if any. On a newer guitar maybe because the strings will be tough... Plus GH doesn't give you those hard needed calluses ~laughs~

crunchb3rry
crunchb3rry

If they wanted to get serious, the developers could evolve the game and emulate an actual guitar neck with frets and buttons. Color code identical notes. Then kids could learn the songs in the game and instantly pick them up on a guitar with the understanding that the 12th fret just "loops" the notes as if it was an open string note. Hmm...right there is the first roadblock: guitar hero games can't work with open notes since there's only one strum bar.

themc_7
themc_7

yeah, I never played guitar hero 1 thinking it was dumb, but I've been quite captivated by number 2 and 3. And no it's nothing like playing a real guitar

nazguldragon15
nazguldragon15

I've been playing the guitar for 11 years, as well as the bass along with it. When I first heard about GH, I wasn't convinced that it'd be a good game, because it just isn't a real guitar, but an imitation. When I got my hands on it, I found that it was actually really fun. It does spread music though, to our generation. It expands people's knowledge, and gets people interested in playing real instruments. It definitely doesn't teach someone to play a guitar, but it gives them the incentive and spirit to go and try it out. All in all, I believe it has been doing a good thing for the public.

DataDroid
DataDroid

It's been over a year now that I've been playing bass (I started about a month before GH2 came out for PS2), and a large part of why I started is because of Guitar Hero. While I had wanted to learn bass for a while (since my favorite band member of my favorite band was the bassist), GH was the impetus I needed to finally get the ball rolling. Take that, Jack Thompson. Video games can be a force for *good*.

Xelioth1
Xelioth1

well, AI, keep in mind that Rock Band is brand new and hasn't gotten the following of GH. sure, it's a better game, but if you're someone who doesn't really play video games and you see both on the shelf you're more likely to pick up the one that you know everyone loves rather than the new kid on the block. give rock band a few months to gain some hype and I'm sure it'll be out-doing GH, but for now it's still in its infancy.

The_AI
The_AI

This article hits it on the nose. I love GH (though I don't own any of the games) and have alot of fun with it. I now really want to be a guitarist; all I need is a real guitar. The only thing about this article is that Rock Band is even more likely to get people into the real thing than Guitar Hero, and it doesn't even mention Rock Band.

Anti_Chaos
Anti_Chaos

The truth of this article is not whether or not it develops skills, but how it turns people on to playing guitar. Positives: 1. Brings back the classics(!) 2. Turns people onto playing guitar 3. Less importantly, develops hand-eye coordination and speed. Negatives: 1. The people who do pick up guitar by playing this game will simply want to play the songs in the game 2. New players will be discouraged to playing guitar due to difficulty. You judge for yourself.

mish55
mish55

This is to Brett Heart's comment Not all guitar hero players are going to only want to play a real guitar for the amazingly fast songs like dragon force. The first guitar hero was what got the game into popularity, and that game rarely had any power metal or any really tough song besides bark at the moon by ozzy. I hear a lot of my friends who just started playing guitar hero, play the songs of SRV, ZZ top, and deep purple. I have been playing real guitar and i must saying guitar hero has gotten me to try and learn all of the blues songs i have never heard before

SamuriChamploo
SamuriChamploo

I agree with this article. Guitar Hero is a fun game. I already play guitar, and that game will give my fingers a work out. I'm glad that this game is opening up real music and not that emo crap. I can't stand those bands, but this game is showing that hey, you don't have to put on make up and look stupid to rock. Like those bands today. I'm glad these people that wouldn't normally hear classic rock and rock are hearing it. It'll show them how thing used to be and should be.

icarus212001
icarus212001

to Bret_Hart: While you may be right in some aspects, I disagree a little bit. The thing is that Guiatr Hero helps open your ears to broad areas of rock. Thanks to guitar hero, i stopped listening to this garbage alternative bs rock music on the tv and radio, and have been listening to amazing music that truly embodies the spirit of rock. Music from bands that i never thought i wouldve liked like Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin, Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath and countless others have made me realize how great the guitar is at expressing emotion through sound. Thats the motivation that has driven me to learning how to play the guitar and its all thanks to guitar hero

gogoman33
gogoman33

I second CaptainHerlock's statement

Bret_Hart
Bret_Hart

Yeah, but here's the problem. Most of the kids who play Guitar Hero are influenced only by the songs that are hard or fast in the game. Meaning that if they do pick up a guitar, they'll only be interested in being able to play riffs like DragonForce rather than embracing their instrument. It's great that the game is encouraging people to pick up guitars, but it's not like it's for the right reasons. People who play the guitar and make a living off of playing the guitar did it because they love their instrument. It wasn't an attempt at trying to play something from Guitar Hero or to emulate fast players. The mindset that Guitar Hero gives you is that the faster you can play, the better. So while the game is sending out the message to play the guitar, it's not sending out the message of how to really embrace the instrument.