Is Rocksmith Good for Learning Guitar?

Let us ask you two questions. Do you like the guitar? Do you like video games?

If the answer to both of those was yes, then Rocksmith is the thing for you! If you’ve ever heard of or ever played Guitar Hero, you’ve almost certainly come across Rocksmith too. 

Many people that have played either of these games will undoubtedly ask themselves if these games are any good when it comes to the “real thing”.

This is a good question. It’s almost like playing the driving simulator and wondering if it will help you learn to drive. 

The short answer is, technically it will help with some areas, but it can’t teach you the fundamentals or the real thing. 

However, these types of games always have huge positives and of course, some criticisms – so we’ve decided that we would outline these in this guide. 

We’re going to explore what Rocksmith is, how it works and if it is any good for people hoping to learn the guitar. 

So, put on your favorite album – let’s get into it! 

What Is Rocksmith Exactly?

Rocksmith is a video game that enables its players to live out their dreams of being a rock star. It was released on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 platforms in 2011 and then later on PC. 

In 2014, a remastered version was released for the more modern Xbox One and PlayStation 4. 

The game allows you to connect a jack adapter from your guitar to the console and the aim of the game is to play along with the onscreen instructions. 

It differs from games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band because the guitar you use is a real one with strings, played with a pick, whereas the others use their own “controller guitars”, which do not have strings and the game play is about strumming to the lines and pressing the correct colored buttons, denoting frets. 

Throughout the game, the play will get increasingly more difficult and more hand actions and an increased speed will be required. However, unlike Guitar Hero and Rock Band, it is impossible to fail or lose the song. 

Each success provides players with Rocksmith points, which are in essence, experience points and this allows players to unlock new songs and new items. 

By the end of each song, you will know how well you have done. A percentage score will appear on the score to tell you how many notes you have hit successfully.

The idea of this is to get players to simply plug in their guitar and thrash out their favorite tunes. 

The more a player plays the game, the more likely they are to improve and generally become a better guitar player. But there’s much more to learning to play the guitar than this!

What Do You Need To Play Rocksmith?

If any of you have played or have seen someone play Guitar Hero – you will know that you’ll need their controller guitar and the game to play. You may also want to purchase their extras like a microphone, drum set or bass guitar. 

Rocksmith is a little different to this. Although you can sing along as karaoke style lyrics appear at the bottom of the screen, there is no need for a microphone plug in, but you can if you want to. All you will need is:

  • A console (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 or PC)
  • A copy of Rocksmith that is suitable for your console 
  • A compatible Rocksmith guitar OR 
  • Your own guitar which can be used with a Rocksmith real tone cable. 

Can I Use Any Guitar?

In short, yes you can! You can choose to use either an acoustic or electric guitar, but it is recommended that you choose to use an electric guitar because the response is much better – musically and in game play. 

If you don’t have a guitar though, you can opt for the Rocksmith bundle package when you purchase the game. The guitar they include is an Epiphone Les Paul Junior, which is a pretty decent standard of guitar, especially for beginners. 

Can I Connect A Microphone?

Yes you can. Luckily, Rocksmith provides the lyrics to each song at the bottom of the screen, which go past in the correct time for the song. You will need to connect a USB microphone to the console to sing along. 

If you’re wondering about whether the quality of the microphone matters, well, that’s kind of a yes and no.

If you’re plugging in the microphone simply for a bit of fun, then you can get away with using a cheap USB microphone, but the audio response isn’t that great, and you might experience distortion. 

However, if you’re practicing for a band or simply to improve your singing, then we recommend that you spend that little extra and get a very high quality microphone. There are plenty of advantages for this too, because you can use this standard of microphone for:

  • Recording your own podcasts 
  • Recording your singing or instrument playing 
  • Record YouTube Videos 
  • Have much higher quality Zoom and Skype calls 

With all of those additional advantages, you could in theory, make money from the purchase! So, think carefully about the quality of the microphone before you buy everything else. 

Where Can I Get All Of These Things?

Rocksmith needs a lot of things, we get it! So, we’ll break this down one by one to make this a little easier for you. 

TV Or Monitor 

Of course, in order to play Rocksmith, you’re going to need to actually see what you’re doing! This means you’ll need a screen. Depending on the console choice, you’ll need to either have a television or a monitor. 

You can source both of these online through places like Amazon, or you could choose to visit a technology or electrical goods store.

Of course, your choice will be dependent on what console you’re going to decide to play the game on, how large you wish to see the game and of course, affordability. 

Games Console 

You can’t play the game without something to play the game on! As we mentioned, there are three possible choices for you to play Rocksmith. You can opt for either:

  • Xbox 360
  • Xbox One
  • PlayStation 3 
  • PlayStation 4
  • PC 

The console you select will rest largely on your own personal preference. In reality, PC gaming normally has better graphics (assuming you have a powerful PC and a good monitor) but can also be more complicated to set up, and you usually have spacial restrictions. 

When it comes to choosing between Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, there’s very little difference in the 2 graphically or in power. Between these two, it will simply be up to you. 

Between the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 however is different. The Xbox One has long been known for having the capabilities for better graphics. The later games released on this platform (before the current gen consoles) showed the restrictions of these consoles. 

Whereas Xbox One was praised for its graphics on games like Red Dead Redemption 2, the PlayStation 4 was struggling to keep up. 

The problem is where do you buy these things? Well, purchasing a PC is a massive ordeal. You will need to know what you want the PC for, how powerful you’ll need it to be, how much you’re willing to spend etc.

You’ll need to speak with someone who knows a lot about PC gaming to make the best decision. 

To buy one when you’re ready though, you can source one in your local computer store or find one on Amazon or other online stores.

The same applies for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Although they’re not the current gen of consoles, they’re still largely available. 

The bigger concern is if you don’t have an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. These consoles are pretty much obsolete now, but they can still be used for a bit of fun.

If you’re hoping to just play a bit of Rocksmith for some practice and don’t want to spend too much, then this might be the option for you. 

You can still find an Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 if you look around. Consider searching Amazon, swap meets or eBay. 

A Copy Of Rocksmith 

Stores like GameStop or searching online will be the easiest way to get your hands on a copy of Rocksmith. However, you have to remember to purchase the right one which is compatible with your chosen console. 

It’s worth noting that if you notice the price of one Rocksmith seems to cost more than another, this could be due to either the console choice or the version of the game.

The 2014 remastered release contained more updates and other songs, and due to this and its more modernness, it will likely cost more. 

This will be most pertinent if you’re looking on sites like eBay or Amazon. 

A Microphone 

As we mentioned earlier, picking a microphone will depend on what you’re hoping to do with it. However, aside from searching online for a microphone or looking in your music store, there is a great way to get your hands on a deal. 

Many YouTube channels will partner with companies or have their services sponsored. This normally has the presenter of the channel giving their viewers a unique discount code.

It would be wise to search around on YouTube for music channels or people that review music tools and equipment. 

The discount may only be 10%, but a discount is a discount! 

A Guitar 

Now, for the main course! If you already have a guitar, then you can avoid this step, obviously. However, if you don’t yet have a guitar, you’ll need to make a decision. 

Do you buy your own or do you choose to purchase the Rocksmith bundle which includes the Les Paul? Well, this will be up to you, but here’s what we recommend. 

If you’re an absolute beginner to guitar playing – you should buy the Rocksmith bundle.

The included guitar is perfect for a newbie in the world of guitar and the more you play and the better you get at it, the more you will know about guitars, and you can then make your own informed decision. 

However, if you select to have your own, try not to spend more than the Rocksmith bundle costs. Look for that first! 

Any guitar store will be able to advise you on your best options. Explain to the staff that you’re hoping to practice using Rocksmith, and they will likely give you some tips. 

How Good Is Rocksmith For Learning To Play The Guitar Anyway?

If you remember Rocksmith’s commercials, or you’ve read their box, or even looked online – they make some bold claims about beginner guitar playing. 

They state that they can make you master the art of guitar in 60 days. Frankly, this is simply a fantasy. We’re not saying it’s impossible, but it’s highly unlikely. 

If we go back to our example about driving a car, if you had to choose between a driver who has 10 years experience or someone that has 60 days experience – who would you pick? Even though both are now licensed to drive, the fact of the matter is – experience improves the person’s skills for the tasks. 

However, having said this – we’re not knocking Rocksmith at all. Far from it, actually. Rocksmith has so many positives for players and indeed, for onlookers! 

Here’s what we think are the greatest positives for Rocksmith when it comes to learners of the guitar. 

Great For Newbies

Anyone who has ever had a tutor for an instrument will tell you that the first few lessons are very stressful and difficult.

Tutors usually try to get you to understand both practical and theory at the same time. They’ll often take you through things like scales, rhythm and practice exercises. 

That’s all fine and good, but for someone that actually wants to play the guitar rather than just talk about how to play the guitar correctly, this is not enough to scratch your itch from the guitar bug.

You will likely be stuck in this endless loop for months on end and still have played no real music. 

This is where Rocksmith comes in with its genius approach to music tutoring. It’s almost the polar opposite.

It throws you right in at the deep end and works out with its smart algorithm, how well you are playing in terms of note success, and adjusts the difficulty of the game accordingly. 

The more and more you play the game, the difficulty will slowly adjust, depending on how well you are doing. The likelihood is, after several attempts at a song, you’ll get to grips with it, and you’ll start to perform better. 

The game will increase the difficulty by throwing in more and more notes. Now you’re rocking! 

Moving away from the classic and traditional way to teach the guitar where you’re reading music and trying to reflect the paper to the instrument, you’re using a much more fun method known as tablature. 

This is the same thing that Guitar Hero will use where the strings and numbers are displayed on the guitar neck, allowing you to see where you should be putting your fingers and what you should be playing. 

So, while it isn’t your usual way to learn how to play the guitar – it is certainly effective for what it does. As a learning or enhancement tool it’s fantastic. 

You Can Learn Techniques

Rocksmith includes a load of mini-games that are similar to something you might see with arcade games. These games are designed to help you understand how things like sweep picking, alt picking, skipping, slides and bends work. 

These are fundamental skills and techniques that can make a good guitar player and turn them into a great guitar player. If you were to learn how to do these things in the traditional tutor to student method, you would spend countless hours trying to work everything out.

It could take months and likely years to master this. Unfortunately, that makes it boring, and we don’t like boring! This is where Rocksmith comes in to make things more entertaining. 

Okay, we’re not saying that this is the most fun element to the game, because it isn’t. But it is certainly much better than improving your guitar skills on your own without the game! 

Whichever way you look at it, Rocksmith’s potential for developing techniques and fundamentals of the guitar are almost unmatched. 

You Can Learn New Songs 

Most often, when you’re learning guitar with a tutor, you will learn the songs that they have been teaching for years, and sometimes, they’re not even full songs.

Their goal is to teach you everything about playing the guitar from theory to practice. 

The problem with that of course, is that you’re not playing guitar the way you thought you would. Many budding guitar players think they will be playing their favorite guitar songs in no time in front of their friends and family. 

This is where Rocksmith holds up. With over a thousand songs at your disposal, gone are the days when you are playing some dusty and old basic song that gets you to learn the usual guitar things – you can get right on and play whatever it is you’re hoping to play.

Of course, depending on how dedicated you are and how much you’re playing – you can get much better and over time, master your choice of song. 

The more you chop and change your choice of songs, you’re probably going to not only understand and learn new songs, but also understand the fundamentals of certain techniques of playing the guitar when it comes to each song. 

The thing is, the overall point of Rocksmith is to make the normal guitar teaching method move from the potentially mind-numbing system to a brand new and exciting method of teaching – which is meant to be fun!

If you can add fun to learning, you’re much more likely to advance yourself and stick to it. 

The way that these methods are further improved is by the ability to hone in on certain sections and slow things down.

Not only do you not have a pesky tutor on your case about what you’re doing wrong, the game allows you to improve the areas that you’re struggling with by slowing everything down and letting you master those specific areas. 

Rocksmith Builds Your Endurance And Finger Skills

There are some things that traditional guitar tutoring cannot help you improve, whereas Rocksmith can. Specifically, the endurance of your body, mind and dexterity. 

Almost all guitar players will tell learners that the early days of playing guitar can be tough on your fingers, hands, arms and the mind!

Over time playing the game, you will undoubtedly build your finger dexterity and things will get easier and easier. This is highly advantageous because it makes practicing much more simple and a smoother process. 

Not only this, but because you’re learning to play real songs, you’re learning to play real-world scenarios.

Doing this with an actual guitar rather than, for example, a Guitar Hero guitar, means that you’re developing the skills of playing the guitar that would normally be reserved for the traditional methods of guitar teaching. 

Inspiration To Play The Guitar 

In our opinion, this is the area that makes Rocksmith one of the greatest learning tools for playing guitar. Due to its ability to make things much more fun and exciting, budding guitar players will be geared up and ready to play almost every day. 

When we’re trying to get better at something, we’re told that the only way to do this is by practicing and practicing again. This is certainly true, but even with our favorite tasks and hobbies, consistent repetition can make things boring. 

This is where Rocksmith flies in and inspires us to keep going. It gives us the platform to keep going, even on the most difficult days, and it means that we are practicing the guitar because we love to play! 

With the usual way of learning guitar, people can often get bored with the methods and decide to give up playing altogether.

This is deeply disappointing to the learner and to anybody else involved, and nobody should give up their hobby because they now find it boring. 

Therefore, we think that Rocksmith’s ability to keep the practice sessions fresh and new is one of the best facets to the game. 

Are There Areas That Rocksmith Isn’t So Good At?

As with everything, there is always going to be room for improvement and there are of course going to be setbacks and downfalls with the game when it comes to learning to play guitar. Here’s what we think can be the negatives to Rocksmith.

Will Never Be Able To Teach You Everything

Although we’ve discussed Rocksmith’s benefits over using the traditional guitar tutor, there are times when you have to have a tutor to teach you other things. 

For people serious about learning everything about the guitar, only a tutor can provide you with the knowledge and skills that are required to be an amazing and well-rounded guitar player.

This includes music theory, which, although it can be boring – is important to know, in order to get better and maybe even write your own songs. 

Rocksmith Can Be A Distraction

The fact that Rocksmith is a video game is both its best features and its worst features. What we mean here is that although Rocksmith can help you learn things through fun and games, it can also hinder your learning process.

You might end up developing bad habits or only playing one or two songs and not moving on. It can also distract you if you are receiving lessons elsewhere, and instead of honing in on the fundamentals that your tutor wants you to learn, you’re playing Rocksmith! 

This means you might not develop your knowledge and skills of things like tone, rhythm, songwriting and feel. 

So, Is Rocksmith Worth Getting?

It most certainly is! Rocksmith has its positives and its negatives, but it cannot be argued that Rocksmith can assist guitar learners get to grips with certain things. 

And at its most basic, it’s a fun game! Great for a group of players to share a conversation, play some guitar and sing a song! 

In reality, if you’re learning to play the guitar, we recommend carefully balancing Rocksmith, a guitar tutor and your theory study. That will develop you into a great guitar player. 

The Bottom Line

Rocksmith can be good for learning guitar, but it’s not perfect. You need to use it as one method to help you whilst utilizing a whole host more. Good luck, and rock on!

Howard Matthews