Having just read about the demise of the Guitar Hero franchise this week I thought it would be apt to review a new iOS app called Rock Prodigy. This free application works on iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad, and is a guitar teaching app/game that works much like Guitar Hero, but you use a real guitar instead. You can purchase songs by many different artists for a few dollars a track, or basic guitar exercises for around a dollar (prices depending on your location). Songs and exercises are rated by difficulty too, so it will make it easier for people to pick songs at their skill level.
Rock Prodigy is much like Guitar Hero, except you use a real guitar, and play real notes to trigger the guitar parts of the song, and score points. A timeline is shown in a tablature type format, with the notes you need to play scrolling across the screen. Play the correct note or chord as it crosses the “Play line” and the guitar part in the song will play for you.
The way Rock Prodigy works is by using a iOS guitar interface (Amplitube iRig, Peavey AmpKit Link, or similar), or the iPhone microphone. Unfortunately I do not have a guitar interface for my iPhone so I played my guitar into my little Marshall MS-2 mini amplifier, and sat the amplifier by my iPhone microphone.
On loading up a song to play you have the option of selecting from four different difficulties, beginner, intermediate, hard, and prodigy. What each difficulty mode does is load up the track starting with just a few basic notes to play in beginner, through to all of the notes to play in prodigy mode. You can also select from a “Perform” or “Practice” mode. “Practice” mode allows you to work your way through the track at your own pace, with no point scoring. You can re-wind or fast-forward the song, and you can use an “auto-pause” to focus on specific parts of a song. “Perform” gets you to play through the whole track, and scores points based on your accuracy and consistency. You can unlock achievements by doing things such as getting multi-note streaks, or by playing a song perfectly.
The interface is nicely laid out throughout the application. The menu options are easy to understand, and everything is laid out in a clear and concise manner. The “game” screens are big and simple to follow. It only takes a short time to adjust to the timing of the notes and playline before you are off and on your way. As someone who learned guitar a long time before the advent of Guitar Hero the beginner and intermediate modes are a little odd at first, as you are only playing selected notes from the song, rather than simplified chord and riff structures like I did with my guitar teachers. Whilst it was a little odd for me it would probably be the perfect way for someone who has played games like Guitar Hero and thought that they might like to learn the guitar. Once you hit the prodigy mode the notes are all there for you to play. The notes can be a little hard to read during playback in some of the more shreddy solos in songs such as “Hanger 18” by Megadeth. You will definitely need to start in practice mode where you can pause and read the notes that need to be played.
There are options to display chord names and notes when playing a song. They can be a little hard to follow during playback, but pausing while in practice mode will allow you to see them more clearly.
Overall I think Rock Prodigy is a pretty cool tool for learners and more experienced guitar players alike. Making learning guitar like playing a game is a pretty cool concept, and I’m sure many people would enjoy learning in such a way. It is highly advisable to use a guitar interface, as trying to use the iPhone mic is a little hit and miss. It can work though, and if you are not able to get a hold of one you will still find Rock Prodigy a valuable resource.