I’ve now finished the Rock Band vocals solo tour on Hard. To my family’s consternation / bemusement, I sung most of the songs in the second half in falsetto: it seems to pick up my pitch more reliably that way? (Dan Bruno says that I’m not the only one who does that.)

It didn’t actually seem like the songs were getting much harder as they went along; I think vocal difficulty in that game has more to do with how the song fits your voice than anything inherent to the songs themselves. And, of course, with how familiar you are with the song: I’m sure I would have done much worse on vocals if I hadn’t played through all the songs several times on other instruments.

For those of you keeping score at home, this means that I finished guitar solo tour on Hard (and have done all but one song on Expert), drums on Medium (did two-thirds of them on Hard), and vocals on Hard (didn’t try any on Expert). My initial reaction was that the difficulty settings were off on vocals compared to the other instruments: I don’t consider myself a good singer (I’ve never been in a choir or anything), but I didn’t have any real trouble going through it on Hard. Thinking about it more, though, that’s not entirely fair: I’m not completely tone-deaf, I will happily start singing at random opportunities, and it’s not like I play the guitar while taking a shower!

One related thing I noticed: singers seem noticeably less competitive than other instruments, in that I looked through the high scores on vocals and my rankings were much higher than my guitar rankings, even though I’m a much better guitar player in the game. There’s one song where I’m the 3000’th best singer, which honestly boggles the mind; and there were several songs where there weren’t even 100,000 people on the leaderboards. So if you want to be on a Rock Band leaderboard, vocals is the place to go.

That was about three weeks ago, and I was planning to take a bit of a break before diving into the sequel. (I’m playing too many other games right now, including another open-ended one.) But then a kind generous soul donated a copy of Rock Band 2 to the cause, and we had some people over for Thanksgiving, and well, you know how these things go. Miranda and I revived The Brosstones yesterday; I also started my own band (Kiss Me Kate; my first choice was Bianca, but that was taken) and I played my first challenge. (And gold starred the second song I played on solo guitar; ha.)

I was a bit taken aback at first by the lack of Solo Tour in RB2: I’ve quite enjoyed playing through all the songs on the different instruments, after all. But now that I’ve thought about it a bit more, I’m happy enough with that: it’s such an open-ended game (more than 80 songs to start off with, but of course there are hundreds more available for purchase) that playing through it linearly like that perhaps doesn’t make so much sense. I did enjoy the way the difficulty progressed as I went through the songs in the original (and as I changed from the tougher songs on Medium drums to the easier songs on Hard drums), but RB2 has set challenges available if you want to test your skills, and there’s something to be said for actually playing the songs that you feel like playing instead of mindlessly following a list. (And it’s not like the difficulty information is hidden or anything.) And, most of all, I trust Harmonix: if this is what they think is going to provide the most enjoyable experience, I’m willing to go along.

So I guess I know what I’ll be doing for the next year. And it’s actually really nice to have started playing RB2 soon after it came out: I started playing the original much later, which meant that I had my hands full just getting to know the songs on the disk. Whereas I should get to know the RB2 songs on disk long before RB3 (or the Beatles game!) comes out, so I’m really looking forward to jumping into downloadable content while waiting.

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