An Experienced Guitarist’s
If you’re approaching Squier Stratocaster Guitar
and Controller as a guitarist looking to have some
fun playing Rock Band
with the family, you may
be disappointed. One tester noted that the polymer
fretboard “feels like nails on a chalkboard”
when using finger vibrato—which brings us to
one of the biggest negatives from a guitarist’s perspective.
Because of the way the game operates,
any vibrato or bending registers as a wrong note.
For an experienced guitarist, it can be difficult
to separate what you already know from
what the game says you’re supposed to be doing,
particularly if you’re a player who plays by ear.
On easier levels of difficulty, notes are often
omitted and it’s difficult to fight the urge to fill
them in based on what you hear. On more difficult
settings, what appears on the screen may not
jive with the part that you already know, resulting
in missed notes, poor scores, and frustration
knowing that you can’t follow a game at the same
level you can actually play a song.
A Teacher’s Perspective
As a learning tool, the combination of the
Strat and Rock Band 3
’s Pro Mode is undoubtedly
the best option out there for learning
guitar through a video game. The mechanics
of the game develop dexterity and to acclimate
new players to playing strings. It serves as a
rudimentary introduction to guitar, though
there is an inherent limit to the learning.
Techniques like bending, vibrato, and tapping
aren’t covered, so at a certain point a student
would either stall in technique or graduate
to real lessons.
Our guitar teaching tester saw particular
potential in the guitar if additional games were
released to encourage honing your technique
beyond learning the songs included in Rock
. As it stands, someone who is interested
in picking up guitar for the first time
may be better served taking actual lessons to
develop their technique. “Is it better than getting
a real guitar and teaching yourself? No,”
noted our guitar teacher tester. However, if
someone is more psyched about playing a
game than playing guitar, this is an excellent
transition into learning.
A Beginner Guitarist and
Perhaps the group most interested in the Squier
Stratocaster Guitar and Controller is players—particularly younger ones—who already
play both the video games and some guitar. In a
culture of instant gratification, the game delivers
in ways that books and lessons can’t. It has
built-in motivators to keep players on task with
training modes for technique and for sections of
songs. Each training section runs in an unending
loop as you try to score 100 percent to
move onto the next portion. This appealed to
our tester, who said, “I liked that the game has
training that keeps making you do certain notes
until you get them down.” Needless to say, getting
a 13-year-old to appreciate practice is an
impressive feat—made possible in this case part
by the gratification of a “perfect score” that’s so
ingrained into video gamers.
Learning songs on the guitar was one of our
young tester’s favorite parts of the combination,
but he also recognized that it can be more difficult
at times than learning from TAB books.
While you can incessantly loop sections of songs,
the loops are predetermined and zeroing in on a
particularly difficult part of the section is impossible.
Still, the tester loved the guitar and experience—
and didn’t want to give it back.
A Gamer’s Perspective
The category of people who would stand to benefit
most from the Squier are gamers who have
maxed out their abilities on the games, but don’t
have the interest or motivation to start guitar
lessons on their own. Our strictly gaming testers
found the guitar and game combination intriguing,
difficult, and motivating. If you’re just starting
out, learning how to navigate the fretboard
and strings through the tutorials is a somewhat
lengthy process, but our testers reported that
time flew by when playing it. The tutorials lead
smoothly to the next without ever jumping up
to a difficulty level that caused them to abandon
the cause, and each ends with a song to keep
the gaming aspect intact. “Playing all the way
through the first song was awesome,” noted one
tester. “The tips of my fingers were sore, but I
felt like I really accomplished something.”
and Rock Band
to be able to jump right in will encounter difficulty—
testers who had done well on Expert and
Hard on the regular game found themselves struggling
through the Easy level in Pro Mode with
the Squier. It’s a fitting evolution for the player
that has mastered the game. It fulfills the next
challenge, and opens another seemingly limitless
world of game play (particularly with downloadable
Pro Mode songs—not cheap at $2.99 a pop),
while imparting a real feeling of accomplishment.
Even testers with no existing desire to play guitar
were inclined to think about it as a more desirable
is what it’s all about.
Guitar games have been controversial to guitarists
since they first hit the market. And all along
people have been asking for the link that will
turn gamers into guitarists. The Squier by Fender
Stratocaster Guitar and Controller with Rock
might well be that link. It’s not perfect.
Occasionally the strums aren’t picked up by the
game, and guitarists accustomed to higher quality
instruments might have some reservations about
the construction. And the game alone isn’t going
to make anyone shred like Yngwie. However, it
certainly feels like the beginning of something.
Perhaps some years down the road when learning
guitar this way is commonplace, this instrument
will have marked a critical stepping-off point.
Though it’s easy to consider the notion of
learning guitar motivated by gaming success less
than pure and noble, stop and think of why you
started playing. Was it for the art? Or was it to get
girls? While it would be nice if every pre-teen girl
and boy with a passion for music picked up the
guitar and practiced day in and day out, today’s
reality—riddled with distractions like texting and
Twitter—demands something more motivating,
and the music scene isn’t always enough. There are
fewer Beatles, Jimis, or Eddie Van Halens leading
kids to guitar like the pied piper. If it takes a game
for the next Eddie or Slash to pick up a guitar in
this day and age, so be it. At least now there’s a
tangible, affordable, and appealing link to push
them to the next level.
you or someone you know is serious
about taking guitar gaming to a new
level and starting a real guitar journey.
you’re an experienced guitarist looking
to have some fun—try Rock Band’s
drums or vocals instead!