1.10.2009

bringing families together one note at a time


Every single person I have known to own or play rock band has told me how much fun it will be and easy for me because I already know how to play the drums. This made me excited to visit friends' homes in hopes of wowing them with my (albeit beginner) drum skillz.

Turns out, the drums on rock band are nothing like the drums in real life.

I sat down all confident, ready to rock out some Beastie Boys and needed more instruction than I expected. This is the part where I have to tell you my hand/ eye coordination is pretty much handicapped. I am sure if there was a possible way to evaluate this aspect of how I function, my test results would confirm: severely delayed. Rock band is like playing that 80's game Simon. Where you have to punch the lighted up buttons in the same sequence and it got faster and faster. I hated that game. I threw that game across the room.

Real life drumming, however, is a game of using your ears to learn the beats of each individual part of the drum kit. You first learn the pattern of the base with your ears, then listen and learn the snare, then hi hat, then toms. It's ear- hand coordination. As you try what you hear, you actually listen to see if you are finding the beats.

Rock Band seems impossible to learn how to play with ears. There is so much noise going on with the other people pressing the keys on the guitars, the live singer in your ear, the song playing regardless of what you are trying to make it do (it's not your noises, it's the song noises even if you aren't playing properly so you don't even really hear yourself like you do with an actual instrument), and then the game's audience cheering (but not for me cos I suck at this game). The sound of the drum parts in the song is so muffled I can't find a beat to follow in the thick of the sound surrounding me. So basically, you could be deaf and play Rock Band better than me any day of the week.

But it's been fun, don't get me wrong. Disappointing friends and self is always a bucket of laughs. And don't forget feeling like a fraud. 'No, really, I can play some songs on REAL drums!' So it's a good way to gather friends, spend family time together, and listen to music. I'll vote for one in my own home no problem. Even if it takes me a lot longer to figure it out, at least I can be a loser in the comfort of my own home!

So how did it go with Rock Band Night One at my own house?

Liz on guitar, Mike on drums, Zane on vocals, Evan in his crib sleeping. Mike is still figuring out how use each controller to navigate and the plastic and cardboard are still laying at our feet. It's minutes out of the box. I enjoy seeing how giddy he is with our new toy. I am eager to improve and figure this out. At the end of every song you get a score like in school- a percentage out of 100 (based on how well you can play Simon). I imagine raging parties where I am the champion, scoring 100% on every song in any band member position selected. I will be a pro. I imagine opening my own Rock Band Competition Venue where people can win awards for being unbeatable. Like a Karaoke night, but better. The possibilities are endless.

My feet land me into reality again. No strobe lights. Just Zane getting scolded for trying to press all the buttons on a controller again. Each time his father tries to select a song he finds himself on a different screen and totally lost. We finally get a song selected and I need instructions again. 4 notes into the song the word FAILED flashes the screen and I am kicked out of the game. Mike and Zane continue and I am standing in the middle of the High School stadium during an assembly with my pants down.

I place the guitar down. Step over the boxes. Announce to the family that I am going to go fold laundry now and do something productive.

It's so rad to spend $199 to feel like a total asshole in your own living room.

An hour later I am cozy with my four year old on the couch as Mike puts all the gear away. He reassures me he will figure out how to turn off the 'failed' functionality. Zane declares across the room to his father 'We were really good at rock band!" He turns to me with a sly smile and points to his mommy with whom he is snuggling with under a soft, white, angelic blanket "But you weren't very good at it".
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