How to Get Better at Rock Band Guitar

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Do you stumble through many songs or find it hard to hit three stars while playing the rock band guitar? Want to learn how to get your timing and strumming right? Look no further; this article has all the expert guidance you need, after all why else would it be titled “how to get better at rock band guitar”.

To become better at playing Rock Band guitar, you need to take advantage of your controller’s design. Learning where the buttons are and mastering how to place and slide your fingers will also prove to be quite helpful. In addition to this, you must familiarize yourself with patterns of your favorite songs by playing practice mode on Medium/Hard.

While these will help you select the notes and get the timing right, there’s more you need to know. This is why we have put together this piece just for you. We’ll show you how to go from a half-decent Rock Band Guitar player to an expert.

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How to Get Better at Rock Band Guitar
Photo by Mikhail Nilov:

Routines To Help You Get Better at Rock Band Guitar

The guitar/bass, like the other Rock Band hardware, is all about timing. You must hit the fret buttons and flick the strum bar to strike a note. The notes being thrown at you via the screen are color-coded according to the frets and are not all the same for the four difficulty levels in Rock Band.

The table below summarizes the different levels.

LevelFret ButtonsPace
EasyGreen, red, yellowSlow
MediumGreen, red, yellow, blueNormal
HardGreen, red, yellow, blue, orange.Fast
ExpertGreen, red, yellow, blue, orange.Faster

Table describing the buttons to play the notes and the pace for each difficulty level. Adapted from

Suppose you have some experience playing rhythm games. In that case, you’d agree that Medium is usually the best option to build skill, style, and speed.

For rock band guitar, you can begin with a Career tour and work your way through it on Medium until you feel confident enough to progress to Hard. Here are some tips to help you become better at playing the Rock Band Guitar.

1. Know Your Guitar

The first thing you need to do is to become your instrument. We mean, get to know your guitar, spend time figuring out what works, the buttons, where to place your hand, and every other thing, even when you’re not playing anything.

Asides from the set of buttons on the neck, there is another set of frets on the body. You use these frets during the solo sections of the songs to shred and wail all you want.

There’s also a whammy bar that boosts Star power during the sustained notes,

Make the most of the design of your guitar controller. You need to know where everything is, so you don’t have to look and perhaps miss a note or fail at a whole song. This takes us to the next point, finger placements.

2. Practice Finger Placements

When playing Rock Band Guitar, placing your fingers right is very important. While some say you can just switch where you place your hand as you play, that may mess up your hand placement and play.

How do you then get the placements right? Simply place your fingers on the red, yellow, blue, and orange fret buttons from your index to your little finger, in that order.

With this arrangement, you keep your index finger on the red, and you can slide it over to hit the green fret button, when necessary, without messing with your hand placement.

If you find it hard to make the red-green switch with your index finger, you can use the tip of your index finger to hit the red and the lower knuckle to hit the green.

Mastering this trick would help you quickly hit either fret without moving the finger or even hit both frets simultaneously.

You can also use your index finger to hit other frets aside from red and green when making triple frets simultaneously or sustaining a note while switching between others. These additional features, hammer-ons/pull-offs, and double and triple frets may not be so common while playing at medium difficulty.

Getting the red-green switch is essential because playing Hard wouldn’t be so difficult once you’ve mastered that. You may need to move more than your index finger for some harder songs, but the red-green switch technique is still effective for most pieces.

Another thing you need to easily slide your fingers over the buttons is sweaty hands. Playing at the pro level means more notes to hit and friction while switching fingers.

So, make sure to build up some sweat by playing some songs at Easy/Medium. This way, you’d be able to slide over the neck of the guitar and hit those notes with less friction.

Once you’ve mastered the finger placements and the red-green switch, hitting those notes just falls into place.

3. Engage in Hand-eye Coordination and Muscle Memory Exercises

Having good hand-eye coordination and building muscle memory are critical aspects you need to work on. They are both imperative and inevitable. This is where practice comes in.

To build these, too, you must practice strumming and hitting the fret buttons on easy songs to teach your brain what it needs to know and do. These and other exercises can help you develop muscle memory and improve hand-eye coordination.

Remember that at this point, you’d want to start as slowly as possible. Choose a pace that will allow you to play something without error, and stick to it. Then progressively, build speed over time.

4. Learn to Alt-strum

Players generally up-strum using their index fingers, but most pro players recommend down-strumming with the thumb as this is easier and will get you through most games. However, the real trick is alternate strumming (alt-strum).

To alt-strum, you move the strum bar up and down rapidly instead of just down-strumming. Getting the hang of alt strumming will help you get through any song’s quick sections and troublesome spots.

With the tips of your thumb and pointer finger, flick the strum bar as you go slightly past it in an up-down motion. While this seems easier said, it requires practice to get the timing right.

Remember not to hold the strum bar. You can also practice using a guitar pick or a quarter. Hold the pick/quarter properly and flick it over the strum bar up and down repeatedly. Then repeat the process without the pick in hand.

Learn how to strum up and down with slow, easy songs and flick the strum bar up and down repeatedly without holding it, even in sections where you’d naturally only down strum. Doing this frequently will help you build muscle memory.

Alternatively, you can form a claw without thumb and index fingers and grip the ends of the strum bar, if comfortable, for more control and speed. This allows you to swiftly bounce the bar between your fingers as you move your hand up and down.

If it requires you to go back to easy/Medium to get the hang of it, then bust yourself back there and play many songs. Also, this depends on your preferences. Do what you can and what is comfortable.

5. Activate Overdrive

Another thing you can do to improve your score is to tilt your guitar whenever possible. This will trigger Overdrive, and your multiplier gets multiplied by 2, i.e. 1x becomes 2x, 2x becomes 4x, and 4x, the highest point possible becomes 8x.

Titling your guitar not only doubles your score. If you’re having difficulty with a section, it can keep you from failing if you strike some of the right notes.

Note that Overdrive is activated only if your Overdrive meter gets half-filled. The bar is located at the bottom of the end lane.

You can collect Overdrive points by hitting a succession of white notes. When it is half full, it will glow dimly yellow, and you can use it till it is empty again. The rate at which it drains is determined by the song’s tempo.

Some More Tips to Help You Play Rock Band Guitar Well

  • One mistake most players make is to check how well they are doing while playing. When playing, try not to look at your score; instead, concentrate on the track you’re playing.
  • Also, do not think so much while playing. Allow your body, hands, and fingers to get into the rhythm; soon, with practice, you’d find yourself playing so naturally.  
  • The whammy bar boosts your Star Power during the long sustains. So use it to gain extra points during the hold notes.
  • You can learn to play acoustic guitar by playing Rock Band Guitar using this method.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can One Learn to Play Real Guitar from Rock Band?

No, while you can develop a feeling of rhythm or pattern and dextrous individuality from playing Rock Band guitar, it doesn’t teach you fundamental guitar playing skills. The guitar controller looks like the real one, no doubt, but that is as much as the resemblance goes.

Q: How Does One Become a Pro at Rock Band Guitar?

Keep pushing yourself, especially by consistently playing a ton of songs on Practice mode at Medium/Hard difficulty level. You’d recognize and get familiar with playing the pattern of notes in your favorite songs and get the timing right.

Avoid playing on Easy because it doesn’t chart the notes of the song as they initially are. The tempo is so slow that you may miss your cue and fail out of the song. 


Yes, you will stumble through many of the songs you attempt. You may not even perform well enough to earn three stars at the beginning. Do the following, and you’re well on your way to getting those five stars

  • Make the most of your instrument’s design.
  • Practice building muscle memory and improving your hand-eye coordination.
  • Learn to alt-strum.
  • Master your finger placements, and switch.

Some extra cents for you. Play at your own pace. Concentrate on enjoying the game, and don’t be hesitant to ask questions if you don’t understand something. So, what’s keeping you waiting? Get in there and Rock Out!!!


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