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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Rocksmith - a Teacher's Perspective

First "video killed the radio star."  Then ATM machines helped lay off bank tellers. Then electronic cashiers forced human cashiers to find new jobs. Then email helped close post offices. Then Rocksmith came along...

As a professional guitar teacher, the new game Rocksmith is naturally intimidating. It was created by the best designers and teachers in the world to be an interactive, streamlined experience that is hard to compete with. But fighting technology is a losing and ill advised battle. Rather, here are a few tips for guitar teachers like myself to help keep our jobs - and our cool - when competing with computers...

1) Don't panic. When you call a customer service number, would you rather speak to a machine or a human? Most people, including me, would much rather speak with a person. Similarly, many students will prefer learning from a person. While this may be the case for most students, it is especially true for non-gamers, beginners and the non technical. For example, exercise videos have been around for a long time, but they lack the accountability and experience of a personal trainer, nutritionist or even a jogging partner. Another example would be electronic checkouts at grocery stores. Some people love them for their convenience, but others prefer cashiers because they help scan and bag groceries more quickly and conveniently. Also, other cashiers are hired to oversee electronic checkouts and help customers when questions arise.

2) Teach using Rocksmith. Just as questions and occasional problems arise when using electronic checkouts at grocery stores, so will questions arise for students learning songs from Rocksmith. Buying Rocksmith may be a great idea for guitar teachers because it will help them teach the songs in the game. Helping a student learn how to play guitar is the ultimate goal, and if using Rocksmith helps, so be it!

3)  Personalize your Lessons. One criticism of tools such as Rocksmith is that they offer a "cookie cutter" approach that might not work for everybody. For many people, Rocksmith will help them learn a limited number of songs. For other people, the impersonal "one size fits all" approach may not work as well. Also, things such as improvisation, theory, tone, dynamics, scales, stage presence, posture, "jamming", songwriting and singing while playing are just a few things that Rocksmith may not be able to teach efficiently. In addition to possibly using tools like Rocksmith in your lessons, learn how to "teach around" those games as well.

4) Always be improving your own teaching abilities. We can only teach what we have already learned, so we as teachers should never stop learning valuable skills and lessons to pass on to students. This may mean spending extra preparation or practice time in order refine your guitar teaching abilities. Improving on our own abilities will help ensure that we have a lot to offer current and future guitar students, no matter what games or teaching devices might be available. 

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