Is Real Guitar Harder Than Playing Guitar on Guitar Hero?

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The musical rhythm game genre- guitar hero, has grown in popularity due to titles like Rock Band 4 and Guitar Hero Live. The question on if playing a real guitar harder than playing one on Guitar Hero or Rock Band has been asked before. On the surface, it seems like the answer would be yes – after all, those games are designed to be easy to play. But is that really the case? Let’s take a closer look.

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Overall Comparison

Learning how to play a real guitar after playing Guitar Hero may surprise you by how similar it feels to the game. The similarity is in the chords. Guitar hero has two-button power chords that are exactly like power chords on a real guitar. The three-button chords are also similar to full chords on a real guitar, especially in the transitions between them. The difference comes in when you play six strings on real guitar rather than five buttons on guitar hero, but the basics are the same. 

Additionally, the notes are laid out on the buttons and how you make movements up and down the neck on a real guitar. Notes with a high pitch are always on the blue and orange frets, while notes with a low pitch are red or green. Therefore, as long as you pay attention to the song, you will move your hand before a gem comes up.

Is Real Guitar Harder Than Playing Guitar on Guitar Hero?
Photo by Ryan Holloway:

Is Real Guitar Harder Than Playing Guitar on Guitar Hero?
Is Real Guitar Harder Than Playing Guitar on Guitar Hero?
Photo by Mikhail Nilov:

Is Real Guitar Easier than a Guitar Hero?

This can be determined by looking at the following aspects;

Ease of acquisition – Guitar Hero, is easy to acquire than a real guitar

Buying a guitar hero bundle to play on a game system is cheaper than buying a real guitar. Actual guitars are expensive and require other accessories like amplifiers, effects pedals, strings, straps, cables, and cases. For example, after spending $500 on a beginner’s kit of a real guitar, you will want something else because buying guitars is addictive.

On the contrary, the plastic guitar controllers of guitar hero games retail for about $50, and you can purchase them bundled with a game for $80 total. Originally individual games retailed for $60 when it was first released, but the old Guitar Hero or Rock Band games are now cheaper.

Difficulty- the Guitar Hero is not that easy.

Guitar Hero teaches you some bad habits. For instance, the games encourage players to bend notes to build points. Additionally, Guitar Hero is also terrible about negative reinforcement. If you mess up one note in Guitar Hero, it will likely mess you up for at least a few more. In the end, your multiplier disappears, the virtual crowd boos, and it stops being fun. On the contrary, with guitar nobody ever plays a whole song perfectly live.

Moreover, some Guitar Hero songs are much more difficult than playing the same songs on a real guitar. You need to play a mix of rhythms in conjunction with other instruments in the background like a saxophone, keyboard, trumpet, and piano. With all these backup instruments, you have to play twice as many notes as you would on a real guitar. A game like Dragon force’s “Through the Fire and Flames” on guitar hero is an example of a difficult one among these games because you’re technically playing two guitars plus a keyboard jammed into one track.

Ease to Access- Guitar Hero can be played by anyone

It takes time to learn to play a real guitar and most beginners get frustrated and quit early on. Guitar Hero is popular because it allows anyone to participate in the creation of music regardless of their skill level. Even those who don’t play video games can play Guitar Hero since it’s easier for beginners and encourages them to keep the pace.

End Rewards: Learning a Real Guitar is more Rewarding

When you pick up a guitar, you can learn something new, either a new song or a new technique that makes songs you know sound better. There is always continuous learning, and it is extremely rewarding when you get better. Additionally, playing real guitar makes your eye-to-hand coordination better.

On the other hand, Guitar Hero will not teach you anything valuable. You follow along. There’s no reward beyond the enjoyment you get from playing the game. Some sections of a Guitar Hero track have the same pattern of buttons, so if you know the track, you can play it without looking because you can play in time.

Ease with Fretting

A real guitar is much harder to look at the complexity of fretting, skipping between strings, and dealing with muted chords. On the other hand, Guitar Hero makes things into an abstraction- with the magical five-fret, one-string guitar. With Guitar hero, you can ignore pedals and whammy bars and the effort you need to strum, and it just sounds right. For instance, a Guitar hero doesn’t have true chords, bends, dynamics, harmonics, finger-driven vibrato, and no position changes. In terms of technique, you will do less on a plastic guitar controller than on a real instrument. Although there is some superficial similarity to playing music on a guitar and some rhythmic similarity, the guitar is way harder.

Level of Expertise

Getting up to the expert level in guitar hero gets extremely difficult because you’re mostly playing complex musical arrangements on five buttons. These are fewer buttons which means buttons will be reused more often. This makes it very hard to memorize and play well, unlike the six strings of an acoustic guitar.


Although guitar hero may be cheaper in the short run, it is not as rewarding in the long term. Real guitars are more difficult to learn at first, but they offer a greater sense of accomplishment when you finally master them. If you’re looking for a new hobby that will allow you to create your own music, use our free guitar tabs. We also have a variety of resources available on our website that can help you get started.

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