[I'm learning to play the guitar by going through Rocksmith for 30 days and seeing how far it gets me. Here's backtracking to the beginning.]
I had my shot at fame. But fame shot me down. It was 1995, my junior year of high school, and my best friend had talked me into the talent show. He had two sets—jacket and pants—of extra-large Sneaux snowboard suits. They were a khaki color with a black and maroon band around the upper sleeve. He loaned me a set. It was the closest thing we had to looking like rappers. Never mind that rappers weren’t wearing Sneaux clothing, in the ‘90s or any other time that I can remember. But it’s all we had in my small Oregon town.
We got on stage. The cassette with the rap instrumental started playing, but it started playing in the wrong spot. And rap instrumentals are often so repetitive that it’s hard to tell where it is in the song, if it doesn’t start from the very beginning. I was Warren G. My buddy was Nate Dogg. And we were looking at each other confused, unsure of what went wrong with our “Let’s Play House” g-funk tape.
I jumped down from the stage, walked over to the poor girl running the cassette deck, and popped it out of the player. “Can we start again? Can we start again?” my buddy asked. “No, sorry, there’s no time for a restart,” they said.
I took the tape. I stormed out of the gymnasium. I threw the tape against the wall. It shattered. My buddy and I commiserated in the high school courtyard. Fifteen minutes later, Mr. Franzen, the high school principal walked out into the courtyard. “Hey,” he said. “You boys want to go back on stage? We’ve got time now, if you’re ready.”
And that was that. Obviously we couldn’t go back on stage. We weren’t going to rap a capella. My 15 minutes of fame had been shortened to 15 seconds of fame—which I’d further shortened to none amount of fame.
So, trust me when I say that I have no delusions of grandeur about learning to play guitar. I have no notion of becoming a rockstar. Not even a local guitar hero. That high school talent show left a scar deep and wide in my brain. Of course it was my fault that my buddy and I didn’t get to perform that night. That doesn’t lessen the scar any. It made it worse.
In Rocksmith, on day four, I’ve discovered the Learn a Song section. I’d seen it on the first day, but wisely avoided it, since I couldn’t play a lick to begin with. But now, I’ve learned just enough to become dangerous. Just like the Lessons, the Learn a Song section starts of nice and easy. It’s typically only asking you to complete some simple shifting. Shifting is when you’re taking one or two strings, and playing a few notes up and down the neck on those few strings.
It’s simple. It’s a great way to feel like you’re forming the foundation of something good. And, just like the Shifting 101 section, Learn a Song isn’t asking you for much at first. I haven’t run into any slides or bends. Once in awhile it’ll ask for a chord, but I haven’t learned how to pull those out of my pocket yet, so I skip those as the lanes stream my way.
First song it gave me was “Love That’s Gone” by La Sera. I’d never heard of either. Now, I love “Love That’s Gone.” It’s some sleepytime, Lana Del Ray-paced guitar rock. It asks so little of me, so far, though I’ve only learned maybe 30 percent of the rhythm guitar part.
I should mention that. I’m learning rhythm guitar, as opposed to the guitar solo lead kinda stuff. I figured rhythm guitar would be easier to learn that the Joe Satriani or Jimi Hendrix-level fingering. I’m sure lead guitar would have the same thoughtfully paced learning curve attached to it, but I figured I’ll get there eventually. I’m going to be more of a strummer at first.
But I ran through four or five different songs. All of them are kindhearted. Not musically, but the Rocksmith portion, the learning portion, is all very patient. So I plucked out a few notes, very well-spaced apart, for bands like Arctic Monkeys and White Zombie. I’d never heard of Gold Motel or Minus The Bear, but I’ve played a track from each now, too. Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me” had to be the most fun, despite the fact that I wouldn’t be caught dead bumping that from my car stereo.
That’s certainly one thing Rocksmith is doing to me: It’s assaulting my pop sensibilities. I’m listening to music in ways I’ve never really listened to music before—by listening intently to a song’s guitar riffs. I wasn’t expecting to take a music appreciation course at the same time, but that’s what’s happening.
[Stay tuned for more 30 Days of Rocksmith: previous.]