A few years ago when Rock Band and Guitar Hero were at the peak of their popularity, I said to my son, “If you spent half as much time playing a real guitar as you spend pushing colored buttons on that plastic Xbox control, you’d play like Stevie Ray Vaughan or Eric Johnson by now.”
His reply was classic teenager: “Yeah…” followed by a lengthy pause, then, “But Rock Band is FUN.”
That was the first time I remember thinking how cool it would be if Rock Band or Guitar Hero let you play notes on a real guitar instead of pushing colored buttons on a cheap plastic guitar-shaped Xbox controller.
And that, in a nutshell, is Rock Prodigy: Guitar — Guitar Hero and/or Rock Band with your favorite guitar. If you’ve ever played any of the myriad versions of Guitar Hero or Rock Band, or any of the iOS clones (i.e. Tap Tap Revenge, Guitar Rock Tour, etc.), this is the same but with a real guitar.
What I liked
Playing the game is just like playing Guitar Hero or Rock Band. And, like the console games upon which Rock Prodigy: Guitar is so obviously based, its songs are licensed original recordings by the original artists. Rock Prodigy: Guitar is available for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.
You play on a simulated on-screen fretboard, as shown in Figure 1 (which is actually one of the game’s help screens):
Figure 1: How to play Rock Prodigy: Guitar.
Here’s a blow-by-blow (using Figure 1 as an example):
When a fret number (9, 12, and 0) crosses the playline (as the 9 is), you have to pluck that string at that fret at that moment. The blue glow after each number indicates the duration for that note. A 0 means “pluck this open string and don’t press any fret.”
Points are scored for playing the right note at the right time with additional points for holding the note for the correct duration. The more notes in a row you play correctly, the higher the point multiplier (8x).
Figure 2: I nailed the open “A” but flubbed the open “D.”
Now here’s what happens during an actual game (using Figure 2 as an example):
So when you flub a note, the guitar part drops out of the mix and the note you missed lights up in red, like the O (for open) B string (second from top). Conversely, when you play the right note at the right time the note is displayed, like the 0 (for open) A string (second from bottom) 2.
The app is free and it includes a few guitar lessons and songs at no additional cost. That said, I predict this app will be anything but free if you like it.
Let’s start with the free part:
- Polyphonic Pitch Detection
- Authentic Master Recordings
- Immediate Performance Feedback
Figure 3: Performance feedback (aka beating your high score).
- 4 Levels of Difficulty for Each Song
Figure 4: Easy is fairly easy (even for me); Prodigy level, on the other hand, is completely insane.
- Tuning Lessons
- Online Profile Management
- Save Scores
- Performance Tracking And History
- Share with Facebook
- Share with Twitter
If you like the free stuff you’ll almost certainly want the Premium Feature Pack (US$9.99), which adds desirable features including:
- Practice Mode
- Fast-Forward Swipe
- Rewind Swipe
- Adjust Backing Track Volume
- Adjust Guitar Track Volume
- Note Names
- Chord Names
- In-App Chromatic Guitar Tuner With Alternative Tunings
Figure 5: Some songs use alternative tunings like this one.
Full disclosure: The developer gave me a free Premium Feature Pack (US$9.99) and a handful of free songs ($1.99 each) for this review.
And, for what it’s worth, I’ve spent $10 or $12 on songs so far and expect to spend more on songs like: “I Want To Be Your Dog” (The Stooges),”Friend of the Devil and Touch of Grey” (Grateful Dead), “Surrender” (Cheap Trick), “Bad Moon Rising” (Creedence Clearwater Revival), and many more. There are dozens and dozens (maybe even a hundred by now) songs available and new ones are added regularly.
Figure 6: A small sampling of songs in the Rock Prodigy store.
What I liked less
Don’t get me wrong — this app is fun and helps develop guitar-playing skills and I liked it a lot. But… (there’s always a “but”), no app is ever perfect and this one’s no exception. I felt at least a couple of features could have been executed more elegantly.
For example, songs are occasionally updated with bug fixes and other changes. That was good. But you are not notified in any way of such updates for the songs you own. If you wish to update songs you own you have to look for “Update” buttons in the Rock Prodigy Store or read about them on the Web site. That wasn’t so good.
Another thing I hate is apps that make you jump through hoops after an app update, as the recent Rock Prodigy: Guitar version 1.4 did for iPad owners. Updating the iPod touch/iPhone version worked as usual but updating the iPad version was a decidedly unpleasant experience, as you can see in Figure 7.
Figure 7: These are the instructions for updating the iPad version of Rock Prodigy to version 1.4. Ugh.
To be fair, I think there was a reason for it. Prior to the update there was an iPhone/iPod touch version (the app formerly known as Rock Prodigy) and an iPad version (the app formerly known as Rock Prodigy HD). The 1.4 update unified the two in a single universal app known as Rock Prodigy: Guitar. While it may have been unavoidable, it was a pain none the less.
Rock Prodigy: Guitar is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad and requires iOS 3.2 or later. You can play it with any guitar — acoustic or electric (with amp) using the device’s microphone and speaker, or you can use an iPhone-compatible headset. It works pretty well that way but if you have an electric guitar, it works even better with a standard instrument adapter such as the iRig from IK Multimedia or the Ampkit Link from Peavey. For what it’s worth, I tested both of these adapters with the iPhone and iPad and they both worked flawlessly.
The bottom line
It’s instructive, fun, and you can try it for free… Take a look at the selection of available songs at their website, and if they sound good to you, I think you’ll enjoy Rock Prodigy: Guitar.