There I was, shredding away as one-third of the triple guitar attack that was Lynyrd Skynyrd, as the accelerando kicked in and sent me into a solo frenzy. Then, abruptly, the song was over. Not that we had finished, but our bass player had drifted into the red, and before we could complete "Freebird," we were booed off the stage. I sighed and realized that I was only a reset button away from making good on the monster of all encores. I also knew that I probably wouldn't get the nine more minutes of southern rock intensity out of my bandmates to make this a reality.
Jimmy Page doesn't care for Guitar Hero. Guitar God Page said he can't imagine that people are really learning anything significant about playing instruments by playing video games. I don't know how to answer that criticism exactly. I often find myself wondering if the decade I spent studying piano, low brass, and associated music theory makes any impact on my "play." I know what a triplet is, and I know syncopation when I hear it, and all of this still begs the question: Am I learning anything about playing instruments by playing video games?
A friend of mine, after spending an hour or so peeking into the Guitar Hero universe, wondered why I didn't move on up to the "Hard" level. I explained that I had found my comfort zone with "Medium," and I enjoyed the level of confidence I feel when I know that I can make it all the way through most any song at that stage. He asked me what the difference was between the two, and I told him, "The orange button. You have to move your fingers."
"Wouldn't that be more like playing guitar?"
He had me dead to rights. It would be a lot more like playing guitar. But I guess that's not why I'm doing it. I'm playing a video game. I'm not playing an instrument. Playing an instrument requires practice. With a fairly shallow learning curve, I have mastered Medium. Now I can play along with Brian May and Joe Perry and Mike Ness. I know that I am not recreating the music. I am doing electronic pantomime.
And that's okay. My wife has periodically wondered aloud how much it has cost us to get my son to play "Under The Sea." How many lessons did that take? I haven't asked her if we need to break it down by note, but I understand the quandary. Now I wonder if my parents would have paid for all those years of lessons if they knew that I would be using them to strap a toy guitar on my chest and flick away while on the TV Ozzy Osbourne roars away. On Medium.