[IAEP] Real music learning in The Beatles: Rock Band

Edward Cherlin echerlin at gmail.com
Tue Sep 15 01:33:30 EDT 2009

Alan Kay has complained loudly about Guitar Hero and other music games
that pretend to let you play guitar, where the "guitar" controller has
only five buttons for notes, instead of six strings crossing more than
20 frets. It doesn't transfer into real music performance.

The claim is now being made that this is not the case for some parts
of newer games. The following interview excerpt discusses singing
harmony. I have found that the drum part of Rock Band is a little bit
like actual drumming, although there aren't enough tom-toms, and no
cowbell or temple blocks or any of that other stuff. The plastic drum
pads don't have the bounce of a snare drum head, so it's hard to do a
drum roll. The "guitar" and "bass" controllers remain toys. It would
be technically possible to use real MIDI instruments in a game, but


A new feature that will be on The Beatles: Rock Band is the ability to
do 3 part harmonies in the song. Can you elaborate on this a little

Alex: For the singing game play in our previous games, we’ve always
focused on a single singer singing a single part, but harmonies are
such a critical aspect of The Beatles music that this was an area we
felt we had to innovate in this game. So one of the new significant
game play features of The Beatles game is harmony singing – players
will be able to plug in up to three microphones, and the visual
interface – in addition to displaying the main melody line – will also
display the harmony lines as well. So if there are two or three of
you, any of you can pick up the extra microphone and play the harmony

Most people are not musicians or trained singers and they can’t sing
harmony. They really don’t know how to do it, so when they start
singing a particular Beatles tune for the first time and two or three
people are trying to do the extra harmony parts, it’s just horrendous.
They’re out of tune and they’re just missing the parts completely, and
it’s a mess. But it’s a video game and they keep trying and trying,
and after about 45 minutes of working on a particular song, these
people who couldn’t sing harmony to save their lives, are suddenly
nailing the harmony parts of these Beatles songs.

It’s really gratifying watching that come together, and it’s really
gratifying to imagine that 6 to 9 months from now there’s going to be
millions of people out in the world who couldn’t sing harmony, who are
all of a sudden coming together around this music.

Edward Mokurai (默雷/धर्ममेघशब्दगर्ज/دھرممیگھشبدگر ج) Cherlin
Silent Thunder is my name, and Children are my nation.
The Cosmos is my dwelling place, the Truth my destination.

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