Introduction: How to Play Guitar Hero/Rock Band

The music games of Rock Band and Guitar Hero are games within themselves. Music video games are a whole new genre of video game. Introducing thousands of people every hour to new bands, songs, and genres of music, this game is the mainstream of video games today, up there with Halo, Sims, and Mario. But, still, not EVERYBODY is a gamer (like me :D). For those who want to actually figure out how to play Guitar Hero or Rock Band, this guide will provide you with the information and techniques needed to make yourself look like a Rock Band or Guitar Hero veteran :D.

Guitar Hero and/or Rock Band (There are 14 versions of Guitar Hero available. There are two version of Rock Band available. Each available on Wii, PS3, PS2, and XBOX 360. Pick one. This guide will cover the Full Band mode as well)
An operational hand
OK Hand-eye coordination
Gaming System: Wii, PS3, PS2, Xbox 360, Cellular Phone, DS/Lite.

Step 1: The Instruments.

There are four playable instruments in Guitar Hero and Rock Band. The Lead Guitar, the Bass Guitar, the Drums, and the Vocalist. The guitar peripheral is compatible with both the Lead and Bass guitar parts of a song. However, while each Rock Band game can have full band mode, only Guitar Hero World Tour and Guitar Hero Metallica can have full band more, the previous guitar hero installments cannot. Each instrument controls their respective track in a song, and cannot be altered or changed. The difficulty can, but the track cannot. Each game of Rock Band and Guitar Hero comes with either a Guitar and game copy, a Guitar, Drum Set, Microphone, and game copy, or a Drum Set and game copy. (Please note that the drum sets come with their own drum sticks).

Each instrument track has four difficulties for Rock Band (Easy, Medium, Hard, and Expert), six difficulties for Guitar Hero (Beginner, Easy, Medium, Hard, Expert, Expert+). The Beginner and Expert+ difficulties are only available on Guitar Hero World Tour and Guitar Hero Metallica, respectively. Details on the difficulty of each instrument will be included in the Guitar and Drums section of this instructable.

Step 2: How to Play

How Rock Band/Guitar Hero work:

Different colored "notes" will come down a highway, looking much like the neck of a guitar, with the fret dividers (the faint lines) to the beat of the song you are playing. The notes will be in time with notes of the actual song. As the notes come down the highway, they will reach the "strike zone" of the screen, where the circular colored pads are. Players are required to hold down the corresponding button on the peripheral they are playing (Electric Lead Guitar, Bass Guitar, or Drums) in time with when the note reaches the strike zone, and strike the note (Strumming the strum bar on the guitar peripherals, striking the colored pad on the drum peripheral). This plays a single note, and there may be several notes played at one time, such as a chord on the guitar. You continue doing this until the song has been completed, or you "fail out" of a song. Failing out means you miss too many notes, or make too many mistakes during the song. A mistake will sound much like a "plunk" or a "tink" sound. The song interface for guitar hero and rock band are almost identical, the only difference being is that Guitar Hero has Circular notes, and a circular strike zone. Rock Band has rectangular notes and a rectangular strike zone. As you hit more notes in a row without making a mistake, you gain a score multiplier, up to x4.

As you play through the song, you will gain Star Power (Guitar Hero) or Overdrive (Rock Band). You can use this to increase your multiplier by twice of what it is now. So, if you have no multiplier, it will be x2, if your mutliplier is x2, it will be x4, and so on and so forth until x8, which is the highest. It also makes a song harder to fail out of when you deploy the overdrive or star power. You can also use this to save another band player if you are doing band mode, or save yourself when you are playing single player or multiplayer mode.

When a song is completed, the screen will then display the percentage of how many notes you hit. Guitar Hero will display how well you did in different sections, and will show you how much money you earned for that song. Rock Band will show you your "title", such as Life Saver, Most Gutsy, Savior, etc, and display your percentage of notes hit.

Step 3: The Guitar Peripheral

The Guitar peripheral is the main instrument that these series were first based upon (Hence the name, "Guitar Hero"). The guitar (Both Lead and Bass guitar) is played by holding down the corresponding "Fret Button" on the neck of the guitar (see image below) in time with the notes on screen, and strumming with the strum bar. For instance, if I have a red note to play, I would hold down the red fret button, and when the note got to the strike zone, I would hit the strum bar, thus playing the note. Sometimes notes will be "sustained", meaning you hold down the fret button while the note is sustained in a line, then release when it is finished. While there is a sustain note, you may use the "whammy bar", located on the body of the guitar. You rapidly shake this up and down to give the note a "warped" sound, deepening and raising the pitch as you move the bar down and up. This will give you more points and star power, depending on how fast you move the whammy bar.

There are also "hammer on/pull off" notes. A hammer on/pull off note sequence is when you play the first stationary note by strumming, and hit the rest of the notes without strumming, by only tapping the correct fret buttons. Hammer on/pull off (HO/PO) notes are characterized by a white glow in the middle of the note gem. However, if you miss a note in a HO/PO sequence, you will miss the rest of the notes in that sequence unless you strum again on the next glowing note, or if the sequence is over.

Bass Guitar and Lead Guitar are played exactly the same, with the only difference being there are fewer chords (more than one note hit at the same time) on the Bass Guitar track than there are on the Lead Guitar track. Beginner (Guitar Hero World Tour and Guitar Hero Metallica only), Easy, Medium, Hard, and Expert are characterized by how many colored notes there are in the track. Beginner on Guitar Hero will only have a rainbow-colored bar across the note highway, meaning you can hold down any fret button and strum. In Easy, there are only Green, Red, and Yellow notes on the guitar. On Medium, the Blue note is included, and more HO/PO's. On Hard, the Orange note is included, and more HO/PO's. Most players have more difficulty getting used to the fifth fret button, when only four fingers are used. There are techniques to getting past this later in this instructable. Expert includes only more HO/PO's, but it gets extraordinarily hard because of that.

Step 4: The Drum Peripheral

The Drum Peripheral and track is, in my honest opinion, the hardest instrument to play out of all of Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Requiring very precise hand-eye coordination, fast reflexes, and smooth movements, this is an instrument where you're gonna be stuck on Easy for quite a while, unless you are an experienced drummer. The way you play is not like that of the guitar peripheral. You will see the regular notes coming down the highway, but instead there will only be four (for Rock Band) or five (for Guitar Hero World Tour and Metallica) slots, but there are actually five and six total notes to be played, respectively. The way you play the drum peripheral is by literally hitting the corresponding drum pad with your hands or with drum sticks (drum sticks are included with each Rock Band and Guitar Hero drum controller).

With the GH Controller and most RB controllers, the drum sets themselves are velocity sensitive, meaning the harder you hit them, the more points you get. However, you probably shouldn't wail on the drums, use light taps, and only hard smashes when told (For GHWT, there are special notes for hitting the drums harder and getting more points). I've gone through several drumsticks by hitting them too hard on the drums.

Beginner, Easy, Medium, Hard, Expert, and Expert+ (GH Metallica only) don't add any notes (with the exception of Beginner), but merely increase the quantity of notes. Expert+ adds a second Bass Drum pedal, due to the massive amounts of Bass drum notes that is only capable to be hit with a second bass pedal, and alternating between the two. Aside from that, all notes are used from Easy to Expert. I would suggest playing on easy until you can do it with your eyes closed (not literally, but you can aim for that too if you want). Then when Medium comes, it'll be a cakewalk for you.

Step 5: The Microphone, and Additional Instruments.

While I don't really consider this an instrument, I'll write a page about it anways. The vocals instrument is, by far, the easiest instrument to play in RB and GH. The only thing you do is sing the correct lyrics and match the pitch it gives you. Expert is extraordinarily strict on this, so Easy and Medium are much funner to play. Other than that, there's not very much you do with vocals. However, this is where it gets fun. If you know the lyrics to some of the songs, and you happen to have a mic stand lying around (If not, look around on here, there's a REALLY good PVC mike stand. I won't link it here 'cause I might violate some odd rule or other about that. But look it up. I use it all the time, it hasn't crapped out on me at all :D.), grab that and start playing Drums, Bass, or Guitar and start playing "Frontman" while singing, it makes the game much more fun :). It's a little weird to play at first, but it's way fun once you get the hang of it. It takes practice, but it's way fun to play! Only play songs you know by heart, though, so you can be singing, while focusing on your instrument (Bass/Vocals is the easiest. Drums/Vocals is the hardest). What I would do, play the song once before without vocals just to warm up, and then play it with vocals, so you know the instrument track you're playing better.

Step 6: Techniques to Playing Well

1. Sweaty hands. This is for guitar only. Not for drums at all. Play a couple easier songs before you get into the harder songs so your hands work up a sweat. Especially for Hard and Expert, where you have that fifth orange note to hit, it helps to kind of have sweat on your hands as a lubricant to make them slide easier on the neck.

2. Focus on the track, not on your score! I've seen several people fail out of songs because they were wondering how good they were doing. My philosophy: If you aren't getting boo'd off the stage, you're doing just fine. You can see how well you did once you finish the song, but unless you know the track by heart and can play the song without looking, then don't try and see if you have those 5 stars yet.

3. For drums: Wear loose clothing. Just a T-Shirt, shorts or light pants, and no shoes or socks. This helps tremendously when playing drums because, trust me on this, playing drums at all is a workout within itself. Seriously, I have muscles because of drumming! Don't wear shoes or socks because your feet can either break the drum pedal if you hit it too hard while wearing shoes, or your feet will slip if wearing socks.

4. Again, for drums, don't wail on the pads. This isn't an actual drum kit, so don't treat it like it is. Especially on the GH drumset, where you have two elevated cymbals, those can break easily if you wail on them too much. Just light taps will do, and harder if you're working up more points, or if you have several notes in a row, but please, be kind to your drumset.

5. Vocals: SING YOUR HEART OUT! Trust me, for guys, the ladies will dig you for it if you're singing your heart out to them. And, it's even more impressive if you're playing "Frontman" with it as well, preferably guitar, but whatever you want (I do Bass and Guitar, so whatever you wanna do. Drums are hard, trust me).

6. Don't focus on other peoples tracks. Especially in versus or band mode, it gets distracting when you're watching the drum track and thinking "OOoohh..." and you're failing your track. It gets annoying to the other players, and you look really stupid. Trust me.

7. KNOW YOUR INSTRUMENT. Just spend time playing around with the instruments, even if you aren't playing anything. Get to know your instrument, become the instrument. You need to be able to know where what is so you don't have to look, and possibly fail out of a song. For Bass/Lead guitar especially, figure out where the fret buttons are so you know where to put your hands. There's an elevated line on the Yellow Fret Button, so you know where to put your hands by feeling that. In the stationary hand position, your ring finger should be on the yellow fret button (From Easy-Hard. With Hard and Expert, your middle finger can be on there as well, so you can hit the orange button with your pinky.

8. This isn't necessarily for playing well, but to look darn funny while playing. If you're doing full band mode, ROCK OUT! You are a rock star, so act like it! It looks hilarious in a party, and other people will wanna join in! Plus, chicks are gonna dig you. And the guys will be drooling if you're a girl rockin' out on the drums or bass guitar. Headbang, do a Hendrix thing, do the drums like Lars Ulrich, and you'll be guitar heros in no time! (Please don't hurt yourself or anybody while doing this. I am not liable nor responsible for anything you do to people while rockin' out)

Now that you know how to play, go out there and ROCK THE WORLD!!!