June 20, 2010

Details on Pro Guitar Mode

One of the most exciting Rock Band 3 announcements is Pro Guitar Mode.

But how does it work?

This video of a Bang Camaro member playing Rainbow in the Dark on Pro Guitar Expert — while a Harmonix team member describes what’s happening — is the best explanation I’ve seen:

If we look at the frets on the Fender Mustang Pro Guitar

There are 17 rows of 6 buttons — a total of 102 buttons in all.

If you look closely, you’ll notice that the fret buttons are numbered in each row along the top, where you’d expect to see colors on the simpler 5 button guitars. They start at 17 closest to the strum area, decreasing down to 1 at the far end.

So there are a few things on the screen in pro mode, starting with the actual six guitar strings as the “note corridor”.

The bars that come toward you tell you what you’re supposed to be doing with the 102 fret buttons and 6 strings at that time in the song:

  1. The size and location of the bar represents the chords (strings) you’re supposed to cover with your left hand.
  2. The number on the bar represents the lowest fret button your left hand should be on.
  3. The color of the bar (green, red, orange, blue, yellow, purple) represents the strings, red being the lowest string and green being the purple being the highest.
  4. The shape of the bar connotes a chord, and the rough ‘shape’ your hand should be while playing the chord, as noted below.
  5. (as a little notational bonus, if you know how to read music, the actual musical chord you’re supposed to be playing is also printed next to each chord, to the left of the corridor.)

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, the “left hand position wave” shows in realtime on the note corridor.

The left hand position wave is telling you where your left hand is:

The number (shown in the wave) always represents the lowest fretted number your left hand is on, and the shape represents where your other fingers are supposed to go. It’s important that you know what your left hand is doing, without having to look down, at any time. The left hand position wave will outline the shape your left hand represents in its current position — if that shape matches the shape of the bars are in the corridor, they will “fit” through!

As for skill level, pro guitar mode runs the gamut from easy to expert, just like classic five button guitar mode:

  • Pro Easy just doing single notes, the correct notes at the right time.
  • Pro Medium introduces chords.
  • Pro Hard is the full guitar part, but stripped down a bit to be more fun and playable in real time.
  • Pro Expert is every guitar note in the song, for better or worse. Chords, notes, arpeggios, hammer ons, pull offs, slides. The whole enchilada!

Harmonix has invented a whole new set of music notation to teach guitar — but you’ll need a copy of Rock Band 3 and a compatible pro guitar — either the Fender Mustang or the Squier Stratocaster — to learn!

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