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Will Guitar Hero Really Make Me a Better Guitar Player?

Last Updated: March 23, 2016 / by Joseph Evans



To all those that have mastered their Guitar Hero games or just love playing the it, have you ever wondered if those skills are transferable to a real guitar? Wouldn’t it be great if you can learn to play guitar from a fun simulation game?

Guitar Hero is a stimulating guitar simulation game that allows you to mimic the playing of a real guitar in a fun, interactive way. In order to play you must use a guitar-shaped game controller and play various guitar parts in a variety of songs provided, by pressing the buttons on the guitar on time with the music.

This, however, does not necessarily mean that you can go right on and pick up an acoustic guitar and strum away like a pro. There are several important differences that could define whether or not you can learn to play a real guitar.

Hand-Eye Coordination

One of the main differences between a proper guitar and the guitar from the game are the strings. The acoustic guitar, for example, has 6 strings - the guitar from the game has replaced these strings with 5 buttons, each a different colour. 

This is to help the player match the colour button showing on the screen with the one they have to press on the guitar. Guitar Hero is a great way to practice and improve your hand-eye coordination in a fun and entertaining way. 

Good Reflexes

In order to successfully progress through the game you have to press the appropriate button on the guitar that matches the screen. You also have to do it in time with whatever song is playing. 

Depending on the difficulty of each song you can then progress to higher levels where you have to press more than one button at a time at increasingly difficult speeds.

This will definitely contribute to sharper reflexes both on a normal acoustic guitar (or whichever guitar you choose to play) and on Guitar Hero, which is a double score.

Because the guitar from the game tries to mimic the real guitar, your basic hand positions on the instruments are the same. So you will be training the hand that presses the buttons in a similar way they would be if you were pressing the strings. This will increase your familiarity with handling a real guitar as you use your hand and fingers in a similar way.

Rhythm and Timing

For those who do not know, Guitar Hero is all about timing. You have to be in time with the music or else you will fail. Even if you press the right note, if it’s at the wrong time then it is pointless. This is exactly like with a real guitar, or any musical instrument. If you hit the right note, but at the wrong time, you will get it wrong. And visa versa - if you hit the wrong note at the right time you will still get it wrong!

On the downside to this, Guitar Hero doesn’t teach you to read music notes. Unfortunately, the strings on the guitar are not colour coded for each note and the Guitar Hero controller has one less colour button than the guitar has strings.

Tuning and Ear

Another big difference between the two is that an actual guitar needs to be tuned by turning the pegs on the head of the guitar until each string is in tune. This, unfortunately, cannot be taught by Guitar Hero

Tuning your instrument takes some practice. 

Luckily for you, though, in the game you can simply pick up your guitar and start playing, and each note comes out perfect.

Reading Music Notes and Chords

This is the main difference between Guitar Hero and a proper guitar. 

The game does not teach you how to read music, and it also does not teach any chords and chord progressions. Therefore, from the music theory's perspective, don’t expect to learn anything from the game.

Final Verdict

With all the skills you might gain from playing Guitar Hero, it can only have a positive influence on your musical career.

Even if it doesn’t teach you the specifics of playing guitar, it does provide basic hand-eye coordination and practice. Jamming out to your favourite track is also a great way to hone your reflexes.

So, if you really enjoy playing Guitar Hero, go ahead and play it. But don’t expect anything other than fun and entertainment from it. 

Learning to play the guitar takes real practice and hard work, like any musical instrument, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable to learn.


About the Author: Joseph Evans

My name is Joseph Evans and I am a guitar playing, freelance writing, online teaching music lover based in Seattle, WA. Growing up in a musical family naturally lead to obtaining my Bachelor of Music (BM) in Composition & Music Theory degree, after which I taught and traveled my way across Europe for 7 years before returning back home to settle in beautiful Seattle. On a typical day, you would find me playing my guitar, pottering around in the vegetable garden, going on long hikes, reading and/or writing.


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