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Pro Guitar

Without a doubt pro guitar is the biggest innovation in Rock Band 3, and reaches out as a response to all the people who like to tell rhythm game players to just "go play a real instrument". While not a perfect simulation of guitar playing, Harmonix has still managed to come pretty close to it considering the hardware and software limitations.


With pro guitar, you are intended to be playing the real guitar or bass parts as the original artist performed them. I've been playing guitar since long before Guitar Hero or Rock Band's existence, so I was definitely eager to see how well Harmonix could execute on this concept. First of all, if you are coming into the game with no guitar experience, you can expect a high level of challenge starting out. However, if you stick it out you'll be in for a very rewarding experience as you continue to progress. Even with my previous experience, it has been a true joy to sightread songs I've never played before and watch as I slowly get better as parts repeat throughout the song. There are some limitations currently that prevent the charts from transferring over perfectly to real guitar, such as the inability to play bends or harmonics, or dealing with songs where a guitar with more than 6 strings are used. However, once you become familiar with the songs, it is definitely not out of the question to be able to fill in these gaps when moving over to a real guitar. The game does seem to allow some degree of leniency on chords, so if your index finger doesn't quite manage to push down one fret on a barre chord you may not be penalized for it. Also included in the game are a series of instrument trainers to help teach you the basics of playing guitar as well as various scales, chords and techniques. These will be discussed in more detail later in the review. Pro guitar and bass charts have been included for every song on disc, and can be purchased as an additional 1 dollar upgrade on select DLC songs.


There are currently 2 controllers planned for use with the pro guitar and bass modes. Both of these are based on 6 string guitars, and there are currently no plans for a dedicated pro bass controller.

Madcatz Fender Mustang Wireless Controller
This is the first controller designed for pro mode, and is available for a retail price of $149.99. It features 6 nylon strings at the base of the guitar for strumming, along with 102 buttons along the neck to simulate 17 frets across the 6 strings. While this is still a plastic controller, it actually provides a decent feel in terms of carrying over to a real guitar. The distance that the fret buttons push in to register is pretty close to the distance your fingers would press a string down against the neck, and the strings are all around the thickness of a low E string on guitar. Perhaps my biggest gripe with the feel of this controller is that the fretboard is relatively flat, which makes certain chords really uncomfortable to play. After a few minutes of response issues immediately after connecting the neck to the body, I haven't had any issues with fret or string response after countless hours of playing. The strings are rather sensitive, but the game does appear to have some leniency for this so that slightly bumping an adjacent string does not cause you to break combo. The Mustang controller can also be used in the old 5 button mode of guitar playing, with the first 5 frets acting as green through orange, the 13th-17th frets acting as solo buttons and any string being able to be used for strumming. One last handy feature is that the Mustang may be used as a fully functioning MIDI guitar through the MIDI out port on the guitar. Perhaps the largest downside with the Mustang is that many charts have sections transcribed down an octave on the neck to deal with only having 17 frets. These charts will revert back to normal when using the Squier Stratocaster.

Rock Band 3 Squier Stratocaster
With the help of built in touch sensors in the neck, the Rock Band 3 Squier Stratocaster allows you to play pro guitar on a full blown, 22 fret electric guitar. It is slated to be released on March 1st, 2011 for a retail price of $280. Due to this being an actual electric guitar, you can actually hook up to an amp to listen to yourself play while playing along in game.


Pro guitar charts are displayed with the use of 6 lanes, with each lane representing one string. Each gem that comes down the highway has a number to tell you what fret your finger needs to be on, functioning much like a sideways guitar tab.

Chords can be displayed in 2 ways. The first is through the chord wave system, which will show where your where the lowest fret of the chord is on the next with a number, and then a wave is displayed to show you the general shape your hand should make across the other strings. The other display option will show the fret number for every string of the chord. Regardless of which display method you choose, the chord names are also displayed to the left of the highway.

Hammer on and pull off notes are designated by a glowing white bracket around the note.

Slides are represented by a wavy line between 2 notes, although it is not required to actually slide between these notes to hit them.

Both trill and strumming lanes can appear, just like in the normal guitar game play modes.

There is support for tapping notes without strumming when the actual part is played that way (i.e. the beginning of "Crazy Train"'s solo), however I haven't been able to tell how this is visibly displayed in game.

Next: Drums


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