Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Rocksmith: Don’t Fear the… 1100 Songs!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 3, 2017

When I was a teenager and first started learning guitar (back in the ancient Days of Shred), we didn’t normally have access to the Internet. The geekiest of us had modems and access to Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) that *might* carry certain USENet discussions. I bought songbooks the old-fashioned way, in paper form, with 30 to 100 often poorly-transcribed songs. (And by poorly transcribed, I mean that your average text-based TAB you find on the Internet is more accurate.)

It didn’t matter that the songbooks were poor… I never got very good anyway. I still have a lot of those books gathering dust on my bookshelf. I can’t bring myself to toss them, but … yeesh… am I really ever going to learn to play Black Star by Yngwie Malmsteen? It’s been 30 years, for crying out loud…

When Rocksmith 2014 (now Rocksmith Remastered) came out, I committed to playing at least a few minutes every single day. I figured it was my last chance to actually become competent with the instrument. Much to my delight, it worked. Not that I’m ever going to be a rock star or anything. I just wanted to be able to play something fun and recognizable, and I prefer rock. It’s been a lot of fun, and I finally broke waaaay past that plateau I’d been on for nearly three decades. Funny how regular practice can do that. Rocksmith made it a lot easier. Unfortunately, crunch mode on the day job (and a focus on writing in my very limited “free time”) broke that really good habit of mine.  Fortunately, that crunch has ended, and I’m set on reestablishing some good habits for a normal life.

I haven’t quite gotten back to playing Rocksmith on a daily basis yet. I’m back up to once every two or three days, which is an improvement, but I want to get back to making it a daily habit. For most of us, Rocksmith has been a digital equivalent of those old songbooks. Since I’m getting back into it now, I took a little bit of an inventory. Between Rocksmith 1 (if you own it for your platform and bought the import / license tool to move the old songs over) and Rocksmith Remastered, there are something like 117 base and bonus songs, and nearly 1000 DLC songs. This means more than 1100 songs, averaging three different tracks (rhythm, lead, and bass… plus some alternates, minus some parts that don’t exist for every song) for each. That is a LOT of music to pick from, and to learn.

Now that I’m easing back into it, I’m reviewing my grand total of 544 owned songs that I’ve accumulated over five years. Even given that much of the DLC was purchased at a 40% discount on a pack for something like a buck-and-a-half per song, I could have easily bought a couple of decent guitars with the amount I spent on this game. I did buy a bass, which I rarely play. Sadly, they still don’t have some of my favorite groups represented, like Van Halen, ZZ Top, Dire Straits, Journey, Led Zeppelin, DragonForce, Metallica, Black Sabbath / Ozzy Osbourne, or Yngwie Malmsteen. Some of these (especially Led Zeppelin) will probably never, ever be available. Maybe the license-holder isn’t at all interested, or not interested for a reasonable price, or are tied into a music game exclusive with another game, or… whatever. That’s just how it goes.

But… still… over 500 songs (and 1500 arrangements!) is a lot. These run the spectrum between extremely easy (My Girl, Blitzkrieg Bop, All the Small Things, Next Girl) to a bunch of songs that I doubt I’ll master in my lifetime (  Cult of Personality, Cliffs of Dover, Play With Me, Hangar 18, Death Mental, Satch Boogie, Surfing With the Alien, Metropolis, and For the Love of God ). I could, of course, if I devoted myself. I mean, little Audrey Shida went from worse than me to being able to wail on a couple of those songs in a live band in the course of five years, just through playing Rocksmith and a few helpful tips. But I’m increasingly aware that between the day job, indie game development, and writing, my time for other hobbies and pursuits is woefully limited.

Which means… time to focus. Having nearly 550 songs to choose from is awesome, but I’ve found that my best results come from focusing on a particular song or two and really mastering them. Often I’ll find myself hitting a plateau in one song, leaving it alone for a few weeks while I master something else, and when I come back to it I’ll be able to shoot past my previous best on my first try. This stuff works! So… I guess I’m gonna publicly challenge myself here. For me, I feel like I’ve got a song down when I exceed 98% mastery. That allows for a few mistakes and I’ve not committed it to memory yet, but I feel like I can play it.

I actually wrote part of this post over a week ago, and I’ve finished up this week. I was going to go for a week-sauce challenge with the song “Hip to Be Square” by Huey Lewis and the News, which was just released a couple of weeks ago. Yes, I’m a child of the 80s. However, while it’s not one of the easiest songs in the library, it is on the easy end of the spectrum (at least for me). So between starting this post and ending it, I have already hit almost 99% mastery on it in about a dozen plays. OOPS. I’m pleased to have another song move from my “learn” list to my “review” list, but in retrospect, it wasn’t something to really challenge myself with.

As it’s now October, I want to challenge myself and learn to play something appropriate for the season. By the end of the month, I will be able to play Don’t Fear the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult, alternate lead (this one has some of the really fun riffs in it… although I would like to learn the lead solo from the main lead arrangement as well).  Here’s the main lead arrangements (good videos of the alternate lead are hard to find… ):

This is a song I tinkered with a little several years ago, but it was a little beyond me. I haven’t touched it since. So… this month, I remedy that. I think it’s within my capabilities now.  Wish me luck!


Filed Under: Guitar Games - Comments: 4 Comments to Read

  • Jesse Chounard said,

    I got back into playing guitar recently, and sadly I can’t seem to get Rocksmith working on my new machine. The cable just won’t work for some reason. 🙁

  • Kyle Haight said,

    Needs more cowbell.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    ALWAYS needs more cowbell. We need Cowbellsmith or something for that!

    Jesse – Sorry you can’t get it working on the new machine. 🙁 Do you think it’s the cable. Have you tried someone else’s cable? (I’ve had 2 go bad on me… one failed utterly, one just got staticky. And then I had one disappear…)

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Heh – I have arguably hit my goal today (10/19) at 95% proficiency, but I still have plenty of room to improve over the next twelve days. 🙂