Why we play Guitar Hero instead of “the real thing.”

October 12th, 2006 by Tommy Gun
After the amazing response to the Guitar Hero videos I put up, I just wanted to take a moment to respond to some of the comments.

guitar-hero-125.jpgIt seems for every Guitar Hero video posted by anyone, there will inevitably be comments like, “Go buy a real guitar!”, “What’s the point?”, “Get a life!”, and so on. I think people overestimate how much time it takes to learn how to play these games. If you play other music/rhythm games, the concept is similar and the learning curve is a lot lower. Even if you’re playing for the first time, it’s pretty simple.

Here is a list of reasons why people play Guitar Hero instead of the real thing:

  1. Guitar Hero is tons of fun, right away.
  2. There isn’t a huge learning curve, you can jump right in and “feel” like you’re playing guitar, even on Easy!
  3. You get to play real songs, with a full (virtual) band, and not start out with “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” or other boring songs.
  4. Some people just really like video games.
  5. It’s cheaper than a real guitar.
  6. You don’t have to tune it.
  7. You don’t have to buy new strings.
  8. You don’t have to learn to read music (you have to learn to read scrolling notes, sure, but come on, green = green, that’s not hard!).
  9. Guitar Hero is tons of fun, even after you’ve beaten every song.
  10. You can play with a group of friends, even if they’ve never played before.
  11. It has a scoring system, which means you can compete against friends, and people all over the world by comparing scores online.
  12. Guitar Hero is tons of fun, period.

I’m in no way suggesting that Guitar Hero is superior to real guitar, just giving reasons why many of us play it (I’ve never seen a GH player badmouth real guitar). You should really play it for yourself before you make a negative comment about it. Most people get hooked right away (unless they really hate all the songs, but if that’s the case, they probably wouldn’t want to play real guitar either). You’ll be able to see how and why people get good at it — not because they spend grueling hours practicing, but because they spend short periods of time having fun, always getting better naturally.

I’ll even admit that years ago while watching crazy Beatmania videos by dj LISU I wondered the same thing — why doesn’t he spend that time learning piano? Eventually I came to the same conclusions as above. (And it turns out he does play piano.)

Does anyone ever make the comment, “Why are you playing Madden when you could go outside and throw a real football?” A lot of similar reasons apply — in Madden you have a whole team (GH: band), you can be someone else (GH: a rocker), everything is authentic like team and player names (GH: real songs), etc. Hell, a real football is even cheaper than buying Madden! But that’s not the point, see? You probably feel more like a professional football player while playing Madden than you do in your backyard throwing a ball to your friend, just like playing Guitar Hero makes you feel more like a rock star than playing tabs does. It takes a lot more practice with a real guitar to feel like a rock star.

One last thing I should mention. Guitar Hero will not teach you how to play a real guitar, but it will teach you rhythm! It may even get formerly uninterested people to start learning real guitar (people have commented that they’re now learning guitar because of this game). Honestly, I was never interested in playing music, even though my mom’s a piano teacher. One day I started playing DDR, my rhythm improved, and I actually got interested in music. I went on to play many other music games, and am now obsessed with Drummania. In Drummania you are, essentially (on the harder levels), really playing the drums (but it is a little simplified). If I sit down in front of a real drum set, I can actually play stuff, all because of DM. Now I’m trying to teach myself to play the real drums, because I love it so much. So don’t be so quick to write it off. If you’re really so passionate* about guitar that you want others to do it, Guitar Hero may not be such a bad thing.

* Just a side note: calling someone a fag and telling them to buy a real guitar so they can be like you, isn’t exactly the best way to sell something.

24 Responses to “Why we play Guitar Hero instead of “the real thing.””

  1. FadedReality says:

    I’ve never played a real guitar more than printing the tabs for Marilyn Manson’s Sweet Dreams and trying once to play it. Guitar Hero takes all of the fun and rhythm of playing a guitar and leaves out the massive time commitment, the extensive finger dexterity development, and the pesky note memorization. I love it. I can’t wait for the sequel to hit stores next week.

    I’m glad they’ve revised the hammer on system. I completely gave up on trying to learn how to hold one button and hit the next and resorted to strumming as quickly as possible. Since I’ve only owned my copy of Guitar Hero a few months, I’m no doubt going to abandon Expert and move on to the sequel. I also get the feeling Expert demands double strumming and hammer ons, both of which I fail miserably at. I figure I’ll learn to double strum from the get go with GH2. Now if only my girlfriend would practice more and get a grip on playing on at least Normal so I can have someone who can jam with me on 2P.

  2. Tommy Gun says:

    [quote comment=”101″]I’m glad they’ve revised the hammer on system.[/quote]
    It’s actually really *fun* to do now, and of course really helps too. With the difficulty ramped up, it’s a great thing to have.

    [quote post=”72″]I also get the feeling Expert demands double strumming[/quote]
    Definitely. Once you start playing Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart, you’ll want to learn to alt. strum. It’s not too hard. I had trouble when I was trying to grab the strum bar and do it, but once I started just tapping it with my index finger, it was a lot easier.

    [quote post=”72″]Now if only my girlfriend would practice more and get a grip on playing on at least Normal so I can have someone who can jam with me on 2P.[/quote]
    GH2 lets you play 2P with different difficulties, so that really doesn’t matter anymore! I’m so glad because my friends mostly play on easy, sometimes medium, and one friend who owns GH sometimes will play on hard if I make him. That was probably my biggest complaint with GH1.

  3. FadedReality says:

    [quote post=”72″]GH2 lets you play 2P with different difficulties, so that really doesn’t matter anymore! I’m so glad because my friends mostly play on easy, sometimes medium, and one friend who owns GH sometimes will play on hard if I make him. That was probably my biggest complaint with GH1.[/quote]

    There should be somewhere I can set out an offering to Harmonix and Red Octane, because they are godlike.

  4. Uejji says:

    An old article, but I figured I’d make a comment. I’ve been playing guitar for about 8 years now, and when Guitar Hero first came out I was kind of turned off to the idea of what I thought was “dumbing” the joys of playing guitar. When I actually swallowed my pride and played it, however, it was a very different experience.

    Playing Guitar Hero is quite a bit different from playing a real guitar (there are a lot of songs that are easier to play on an actual guitar than in Guitar Hero on the harder difficulties), but still the same in a lot of ways. With a good sound system, sometimes you want to jump around as if you were actually the one on stage.

    Guitar Hero is, without a doubt, extremely fun and anyone who feels too good or too high to actually play is missing out on one of the best video game experiences ever.

  5. Forgottenspirit says:

    I actually play real guitar, but playing Guitar Hero was a really different experience for me. Some of my friends don’t think that Guitar Hero is all that great from a real guitar, but actually, some songs are harder on Guitar Hero than playing them on an actual guitar, which is why it’s fun. You don’t have to play real guitar just to play Guitar Hero either. You could be just a guy who loves video games with no guitar talent and still learn how to play it like an actual guitar. The guitar solos on the game were alot funner to me than playing them on an actual guitar. Especially at a fast speed. Nonetheless, Guitar Hero is a must-buy game for all those who enjoy video games and music.

  6. Guitar Mum says:

    Thanks for the reveiw ;-) I am learning to play guitar (wish my Dad was still alive to teach me) and am a big fan of PS Singstar. When Guitar Hero was first relased I had considered buying it but like many would guitarists thought it be a waste of time and/or harm my playing. However after reading this I am again seriously concidering trying it out just for fun. I suppose I could check the local video hire shop to see whether they have it available (they hire other PS Games). Sounds like a fun night to be had playing guitar hero and perhaps a welcome break from thrashing my acoustic guitar.

  7. I’ve got to find out what all the hype is about! It amazes me how well it sells but then again, over 2 million real guitars were sold last year in the USA. I can’t imagine it really helping anyone learn guitar anymore than playing Ace Jet Fighter would help someone learn to fly a jet! It’s a game, a fun game, and that’s all it is. Enjoy it! Ray

  8. Guitar Freak says:

    I am a real guitar player and i really feel that Guitar Hero 3 doesn’t even come close to the real thing, sad that people are wasting there money on it

  9. desperate boy :P says:

    i play real guitar and bass, and i got hooked on it to, and i want it SO MUCH!!! but my father suggested me not to buy it because that will harm my skills in playing real guitar, and i wanted to check this up since i trust my father when it comes to music and guitars (im 14). can somebody who plays real guitar and GH plz tell me if it decreases the skill to play real guitar (and bass) by playing guitar hero?

  10. Jimmyk says:

    [quote comment=”Forgottenspirit”]some songs are harder on Guitar Hero than playing them on an actual guitar[/quote]

    No they’re not lolz – although some come close.

    I don’t know whether to get another guitar or get a PS3 and guitar hero 4….. hmm….

    I love guitar hero, but I should probably spend the time practising my real guitar…

  11. metalmaker says:

    Dumbest post ever. The thrill you get from playing a whole song is way more achieving than getting 100% on “expert mode”. If you keep playing guitar and you keep practicing then soon you can learn almost any song you want! (not saying like yngwie or mab..those fast shredders). You can NEVER achieve anything from playing guitar hero unless you are a fagget enough to enter contests for it. Sure it can get costly, but it is twice as rewarding, and you can express yourself while playing guitar.

    “OMGZ ITS L0LZ FUN” I hear that all the time…

  12. Mom G says:

    I got a shredder for the boys last year and it now isn’t working. I see no place to put batteries. Can any one help a mom that isn’t great at this stuff. Thanks.

  13. Hi,
    Allthough I understand people who say they like games like guitar hero, I must confess I am not one of them. I prefer the real thing, and I know it is much more difficult to play the guitar but it is also, in my opinion, much more rewarding.

  14. Will says:

    As a guitarist and teacher, I try not to bash guitar hero. I’ve met a ton of guitarists who seem to have a huge ego even though they have no money and work at a guitar store. But they’re ‘in a band’ I guess.

    Learning guitar, guitar hero or anything else takes time, but the results are usually rewarding. I like to teach soloing without having students practice scales and modes, or cheesy songs. I think these useless and boring exercises turn off a lot of guitarists.

  15. What Is Going On Here says:

    I do believe most people posting on this article are missing the point.

    Guitar Hero was not invented to be a replacement for guitar. It’s very easy to know how to play guitar AND be good at guitar hero. Only ignorant pricks such as yourselves wouldn’t realize this.

    It is a fucking game. Get that through your thick heads. Since when do we tell others playing video games to DO THE REEL THING FAGGUT? You wouldn’t tell someone playing CoD to join the army.

    I have no problem with guitar or Guitar Hero, I myself have been playing guitar for 8 years. I fucking love Guitar Hero and don’t understand the complete bias towards it by most guitar players. It’s one thing to not like a game. It’s another to bash the fanbase and call them losers for not being exactly like you.

    And this “feeling of satisfaction”, this “reward” you faggots use as some sort of argument basis is COMPLETE OPINION. Sure, you may feel relieved to learn half of the notes of your favorite HEAVYMETUL song, but it will probably get you just as far as playing Guitar Hero would.


  16. TheNextBigDeal says:

    I play the real guitar and love GH. In my opinion, its alot more fun to play the real guitar than GH, because a) I already know how and b) i can make up my own sounds, its not fixed in. But I wouldn’t be the guitarist I am now if it wasn’t for GH, it really made a huge change in my dexterity and the ability and strength I had in my little finger. It was a huge pain having to press down hard on thin wires with a puny pinky, so I gotta thank GH for that. Also one day i was high and looked down at my real guitar and realized, hey I can play this thing upside down pretty easy with some practice and some calluses on my right hand fingers! But it is really hard to get good dexterity, so GH really really helped with that too, plus now I can show off playing GH with the plastic guitar any way i want! Hell, I even copy tricks like Hendrix’s playing with his teeth (I use my nose tho, using teeth is too slippery and clumsy for me) and playing behind my head. So, rock on guitarists, and rock on guitar heroes!

  17. TheNextBigDeal says:

    Guitar Freak wrote:


    you can’t waste any money on anything you really enjoy ;)

  18. Real guitar is much more rewarding and cooler than Guitar Hero. Anyone can play Guitar Hero. Real guitar is better than guitar hero because you can just let your feelings out. Guitar Hero is not music!

  19. john says:

    Playing a real guitar is much more satisfying than playing Guitar Hero. And reading the novel is better than seeing the movie. In fact, writing your own novel is better than reading someone else’s novel. You can express yourself.
    What fun is a rollercoaster? when you can buy a car and drive up and down hills? isn’t that more satisfying? Better still if you built the car yourself. And the hills.
    I love playing my guitar – that I made (I’m a luthier) – in my house – that I built – from trees I cut down myself – because its all really satisfying.

  20. celeste says:

    i love your hair do at the pokemon theme on donkey konga

  21. Lance says:

    TheNextBigDeal wrote:

    Guitar Freak wrote:

    you can’t waste any money on anything you really enjoy ;)

    What? Does that mean something? Are you German?

  22. I still think that if you want to learn guitar fast you need to do it on a real guitar

  23. dan says:

    i guess you could say im self taught

    i started when i was 12/13 then stopped for years (mostly because i was sucked in by freestyle bmx), im now 22 and i got a 25w fender amp with a reverb for x mas and i’ve been playing again daily for about an hour sometimes way more………i’ve been learning mostly surfy stuff, that ol’ timey rock and roll

    i have about 5-7 songs i can get all the way through right now and about 20-30 others that i’m piecing together

    the program guitar pro has been super HELPFUL in making practice more structured and productive

    it just takes time and desire to learn new things and get better (just like bmx)