Rock Band 3 – Do We Really Want Pro Mode?

When ‘Guitar Hero’ came out, I was interested, but the game didn’t hook me. Sure it’s fun, but it just felt like ‘Parapa the Rapper’ with a different controller and without all the whimsy. Not until ‘Rock Band’ hit did music games finally win me over. Now it seems like the stress is moving away from games and more toward music. To me, that sounds like a move away from fun.

The ‘Rock Band’ franchise is finally doing the thing that “real musicians” have been calling for. With the release of ‘Rock Band 3,’ you’ll be able to use instruments that are as real as it gets. Guitars will have strings and the appropriate amount of frets. Drums will be expandable to the point that you may as well buy an electronic drum set. They’re even adding a keyboard.

I’m pretty decent with a real guitar, and I played the keyboard in a band for around ten years. Though I prefer to sling words now instead of notes, I’m what some might call a “real musician.” That is, I play instruments semi-proficiently. But I operate against the popular opinion, which seems to be that enhancing realism will enhance music games.

In all my time playing music, one thing I’ve learned is that practicing songs is absolutely no fun. It’s like grinding in ‘Final Fantasy VII’. Yes, it’ll help you in the long run, but I’d rather be hanging out at the Golden Saucer. Practicing a song is, in essence, the act of playing a song badly over and over again until you become less bad at it. It’s rewarding in the long run, but the actual grind is frustrating.

That’s what this new ‘Rock Band’ pro mode will be. It won’t be as fun as pressing four or five buttons and strumming along at a rapid pace. You won’t get the feeling of exhilaration after you five-star a song on your first try. It’s going to be hard. Especially if you’ve never played guitar before. It’s going to be a boring, repetitive process that may or may not result in you being able to play one song well.

One thought that keeps cropping up in E3 write-ups for ‘Rock Band 3’ is that people will use the game to learn instruments. Even if some folks might give it a go, it’s not really going to teach the guitar. It will only teach the songs built into it. You won’t learn the basics – like notation, scales, or proper strumming. It’s a rhythm game after all, not a learning game. You may learn a few songs, but you won’t actually know how to play the instrument.

Playing guitar from ‘Rock Band’ is like speaking a foreign language phonetically. You may know what to do and when to do it, but you’re lost trying to understand why.


  1. JoeRo

    I’m somewhat ambivalent towards the new pro-mode in rockband 3. While I’m not as hyped as some for the inclusion of a “real” guitar and more authentic drumming experience, and yes the ability to tickle the ivories as well, I don’t think greater realism necessarily means greater tedium. If anything, it just seems like the learning curve to play rockband at the hardest difficulty setting will be much steeper than in previous releases.

    My major concerns are mainly related to costs. Buying yet another guitar peripheral will definitely set you back a bit, and the same holds true for pro version of the rockband drum kit (unless of course you just upgrade your existing plastic toy with rubber cymbals).

    I’m also concerned about the massive back catalog of RB1&2 songs, not to mention the DLC available from the RB store. Will all of that content be playable at the pro settings? My guess is no, it won’t be. This means Harmonix will either have to design some conversion process to fake catalog songs in pro mode (which would be lame), or laboriously encode all of that data for every single currently existing track. Maybe they’ll find a more elegant solution that streamlines the whole process, but maybe not. We’ll have to wait and see I guess.

  2. coologuy1957

    I agree with you that the Pro modes will probably be hard and frustrating.

    On the other hand, I took guitar lessons a long time ago and never got good at playing it. Why? Because, as you said, practicing sucks!! And my hands just could not get the hang of it. Playing Guitar Hero and now Rock Band, my hands have got the hang of this game and I am hoping that I can get the hang of real guitar and drums too. Hell, throw in some keyboard too! Why not?

    If there is a surefire way to get me to get good at something, surely adding a scoring system is it! (I think a lot of people are like this…)

    That being said, I will most likely be playing Pro mode by myself and dog only knows when I can even afford one of those “Pro instruments”….

  3. besch64

    I agree completely with nearly everything you said.

    Not only do I think pro mode is bogus, I do not like the inclusion of keyboard either. It signifies one of two things are going to be true:

    A) There are going to be some songs with small, lame keyboard sections that nobody will want to play.

    B) To avoid A, they will specifically pick out songs that are fun on keyboard, and may or may not be fun on the rest of the instruments.

    I will never ever touch pro mode, but at least I can ignore it and have it not affect me. But keyboard will actually be a detriment to the rest of the game.

    I have purchased every single Guitar Hero/Rock band game ever aside from Beatles, Green Day, Band Hero, and Smash Hits, but I do have to admit that I skew more towards the Guitar Hero franchise as my preferred series. That’s because GH is all about the GAME aspect of the GAME, which is why I play the GAME in the first place. Rock Band wants to be a music simulator. As somebody who plays guitar, I’m just into the games for the fun. Toss the pro mode garbage, and please toss the keyboard garbage.

  4. coologuy1957

    the part you fail to see is that both GAMES are games and can be played as such… Rock Band 3 is just offering you more for your money as you actually get two games in one – the fast arcade-style game and the music-sim game that actually will show you a thing or two about playing real instruments. Sounds win/win to me…..

    • Dick Ward

      I see where you’re coming from, but time and money went into developing the pro mode. That’s time and money that could have gone into the casual aspect of the game, or just licensing more content.

      It’s the same thing I’m sure we’ll all be complaining about when great games add lame Kinect and Move elements. :p

      • coologuy1957

        I hear that… lots of man hours will be wasted on “insert waggle here” and “flail body this way” mechanics….

        Rock Band is ahead of the competition in DLC anyway and always has been… The released the Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) pack today and have a massive music sale going on on Xbox Live. Guitar Hero gets very little by comparison. I have no doubt this tradition will only get better with time. And I don’t feel the Pro parts are a waste. I’m looking forward to the challenge, even if it is only occasionally… I think Activision looks at Guitar Hero as a check, while Harmonix lives and breathes music and they instill their games with that… It shows no sign of slowing any time soon! (look to the upcoming Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock game as evidence –

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