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Rock Band 10th Anniversary Blogs - José Navedo

I, like many others writing these blog posts, spent a very, very large amount of my life playing Rock Band over the years. It will forever be an IP and a game series I support. It has made me into a better musician, which really is the best gift possible.

In high school, I played bass drum in marching band and had the hand motions down for playing drums, but had yet to develop any of the foot-independence to have it sound alright at a drum set. Along came Rock Band, placing itself nicely into my life, and through it, I forced myself to practice techniques like:

  • Off-beat kicks in “Reptilia” by The Strokes and “Highway Star” by Deep Purple
  • Disco beats and crossovers in Tribe's “Outside” or R.E.M.’s “Orange Crush”
  • Weird measure lengths from “Can't Let Go” by Death of the Cool (still my choice for best RB1 song for gameplay, because every instrument is a BLAST!)

Fast forward a few more years, and I was asked to play drum set for the winter musical (Edges, by Pasek and Paul), and after just listening to the soundtrack for winter break, I came back and could play the entire show from memory, because I had mentally converted it to Rock Band drum charting.

While I'm a multi-instrumentalist, I focused heavily on singing and a cappella performance in college. My ability to listen to a song and identify separate parts to then arrange was helped SUBSTANTIALLY by playing a ton of Rock Band (not to mention my arrangement of Valerie by The Zutons from LEGO: Rock Band). I spent a lot of time singing in the game, with lots of sustains helping me practice the breathing techniques I was learning in choir.

When I became a senior in 2012, I was elected to be Music Director of Simple Harmonic Motion, the all men's a cappella group at WPI. Over that summer, I was plunking out arrangements into my computer using the Rock Band 3 keyboard and a MIDI adapter. Through continued study of RB3's keys charts combined with my Jazz Studies courses, I learned more about chords and theory and became a halfway-decent keys player. I could play any of the parts I'd arranged at tempo to help the members of the group I was leading learn parts to sing.

In 2014, I got into digitally created music, and I wanted to learn finger drumming. Loaded RB3 back up, connected my MPD232, made a custom mapping to have the lighting work, and lo and behold - I could make myself learn how to play another instrument through Rock Band.

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I think I have an idea of how to play it now! :)

Rock Band has, over the past decade, utterly changed how I approach practicing and learning new musical instruments, concepts, etc., and it has had a profoundly deep impact on my life. The opportunity to work on the authoring and quality of DLC in the Rock Band 4 era has been a joy, and the idea that people have had the ability to learn more about songs and musicality through this game that I am now working on is inspiring.

It's certainly a good reason for my daily commute.

- José