Pros / Rocksmith utilizes simple rhythm games to teach fundamental guitar skills.
Cons / This guitar lesson software lacks important theoretical practices, including scales and time signatures.
Verdict / Rocksmith's fun teaching method is not only more enjoyable than other teaching software, but also more effective than traditional techniques.
Editor's Note: Rocksmith 2014 Edition Remastered is now available. Clicking the Buy button will take you to this version for purchase. We will evaluate, rank and review the newest version when we next update the Guitar Lesson Software reviews. Meanwhile, enjoy our review below about the Rocksmith 2014 Edition.
When "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band" were the hottest games on the market, players could imagine what it's like to be a rock star. However, these games did little to show people what it is really like to play the guitar and bass. Ubisoft noticed this failing and published Rocksmith, the first video game that teaches you how to play an actual guitar.
The franchise continues to evolve with Rocksmith 2014, the best guitar learning software we tested. This game allows you to plug in an electric or acoustic-electric guitar to your computer, PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. With over 85 lessons and more than 55 songs, this guitar lesson software will teach you the fundamentals and techniques that professional guitarists use.
Rocksmith wants to train the next generation of rock stars, and its many lessons focus on the basic and advanced techniques you need to play a variety of songs. The game offers interactive classes that show you the basic techniques and then give you feedback as you practice. Each technique has multiple levels, and if you feel like one lesson is too simple, you can go to the next difficulty level.
As you move through the lessons, a progress tracker shows your level of mastery. For example, in the slides lesson, a song will play and the game will ask you to slide from the third to the fifth fret. Once you've finished the song, a percentage bar will show how well you did. You can then go back to the lesson, skip through the instructional video and play the same song with more player notes. When you've mastered the technique, you become part of the band and have to play every note and chord that the guitarist would play.
Finally, Rocksmith offers a Sessions mode, which teaches you the principles of improvising. This is a crucial skill for any musician, as it allows artists to get to know each other through music and helps a budding rock star write a new song.
Unfortunately, there are some missing lessons, including how to take care of your guitar. Also, it does not provide a full lesson on scales, which is an important lesson found in programs like ActionTab. Instead, you can play a mini game titled Scale Warriors. This game shows the scales and lets players progress by beating up ninjas and thugs that stand on different notes of the scale. However, players are more focused on progressing in the level than learning the individual scales. Still, as guitar software disguised as a video game, there are fantastic tutorials for guitarists of any skill level.
Whether you're learning a new technique or trying to master R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion," Rocksmith has a wide range of always-on practice tools. The fretboard lines the bottom of the screen, and notes and chords are color coded to correspond with your strings.
If a song is too fast and you are having trouble with a certain transition, you can pause the song, loop the section and adjust the speed at will. A progress bar at the top of the screen shows your mastery level of any song, and as you increase the difficulty of the song, you will watch the bar fill up at various sections.
If you need a break from songs and lessons, the arcade section turns your guitar into a controller. You can practice volume control, slides and hammer-ons while playing various mini games. While they are certainly not a driving feature of the experience, these games offer an interesting break from traditional guitar practice software.
If you have played "Rock Band" and "Guitar Hero," you'll be familiar with the song selection menu in Rocksmith. The primary difference with this guitar software is that it emphasizes mastery, so the first time you play a song, you'll only play a few notes at a time. Once you've mastered a song, you can easily turn down the difficulty in the song's options menu.
This software can be adjusted to left- and right-handed players, and all lessons combine video and audio. There is a chord dictionary and glossary, although both are somewhat difficult to find. When you start the software, a computerized tuner will run. The game comes with over 55 songs, but you can purchase more as downloadable content.
This guitar practice software is simple to install and comes in two bundles: the basic and guitar bundle. Both bundles include the game and a guitar-to-USB plug, but the more expensive bundle comes with an electric guitar. You can use an electric or acoustic-electric guitar, and as you play, the game offers real-time feedback. Unlike games such as "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band," Rocksmith does not try to distract you with a music video in the background. Instead, you can focus on the fretboard highway as chords and notes appear.
Help & Support
Video game companies are not known for offering much post-purchase support beyond installation. Ubisoft seems to understand that Rocksmith is not a traditional video game, and you can find a variety of manuals, tutorials and FAQs on the Rocksmith website. If you need personalized help, Ubisoft offers phone and email support.
Rocksmith is the best guitar learning software because it combines the fun and interactivity of a video game with the techniques of guitar lesson software. It lacks theoretical lessons about things like scales. Fortunately, its mastery lessons teach you the fundamental skills you need by tracking your progress and adding complexity to match your skill level.