I am a recording engineer, I have always made my living rotating knobs, pushing faders and moving microphones. Long ago, in my radio days, I was the Production Manager of a major market station. These guys had money, times were good and I had a supportive Chief Engineer ( the solder kind of engineer ) who let me have real and meaningful input into the design of our production facilities. Thanks Jack!

We were moving from an ancient facility built in the 50's across the pond to a brand new purpose built building. Three radio stations, three control rooms, a dedicated copy department of five, edit suites, a massive news room and best of all two huge multi-track production rooms. For a radio guy these rooms were magical. I had space, brand new and delicious gear, great mics, and spectacular talent to work with! Like I said, a dream studio.

On the wall above one of the custom made, oak trimmed racks of outboard gear I hung a piece of poster art. Properly mounted and framed - it looked nice. It showed a black and white photo of glossy black grand piano, mics set and ready at the centre of a very large recording studio. A big, beautiful room to record in. I can only imagine how wonderful that piano must have sounded in that gorgeous space.

The caption at the bottom of the photo read: "They say it takes 15 years to learn to play the piano well, I heard that twenty years ago."

I still can't play the piano and that saddens me.

This past weekend I was visiting my nephews and a recent birthday had brought a complete 'Guitar Hero' rig into the family room. Guitar, drums, bass guitar, even a mic! The kids were fully into it, played with the toy almost non-stop throughout my visit. Natually I had to see the thing in action, and dutifully sat and watched the kids and their friends work through dozens of one time hits and standards. They loved it.

While I watched though, I couldn't help but feel a little sad by the experience. You see with Guitar Hero, and I say this for the ancient, old, and completly out of touch among us - a player hears the music, and attempts to 'play' along with the music by pressing color-coded keys on the instrument as a guide track scrolls across the bottom of the screen. So, if the music has a drum track that plays snare, tom, tom, the player should be hitting green, blue, blue on the drum kit. Same with bass, same with guitar. Upon completion of the song, your score is shown on screen - this is judged by the players percentage of accurate 'hits' on the appropraite keys with what was shown on the screen skroll as the song played. You can also be booed off the stage if you lack the skill to press the right coloured buttons in the right order at the right time.

The kids, as I suggested, loved it. Not me though. For me, the problem with Guitar Hero isn't that it's not fun, the kids couldn't put it down!  It's that there's no connection between playing the game and playing a real instrument. Sure, to get good at GH probably takes some time, some dexterity, some eye to hand skills, but even after you've become a master, a true rock God, you wouldn't be able to play a single note on a real guitar. Real guitars are hard to play. They're complicated and there's a ton of stuff to learn. You have to learn to read music, you have to tune it, you have to practice, learn technique and timing. Tons of stuff, and even with all those tools well in place, you still may not be much of a guitarist 'cause there's that thing inside, that gift that some have, that need to play, and the ability to translate that need into something organic and whole.

Some would say lighten up, that Guitar Hero is just a game, no harm done. I'd say though that in the long run Guitar Hero doesn't do our kids any favours, 'cause what happens when those kids do decide they want to play the bass or the drums or a piano? There's way more notes than the four colours of GH, there's way more strings, skins, there's keys everywhere. It'll be hard. Really hard. Playing GH, even if you play the game well, get perfect scores every time, will never teach you a damn thing about what making music is all about! Learning to play a real instrument isn't a game, there is no high score, no percentage of accuracy, the only similarity to GH is that even after years of practice and diligence you can still be booed off the stage.

In my favorite musical of all time, The Music Man, Professor Howard Hill scams the kids and their parents with solid silver things, and Marianne the Librarian was right, there is no such thing as  'the Think Method'. I guess my question has to be: Is Professor Harold Hill now working for the GH people? 'cause music isn't a game, it's frustrating, and demanding and difficult and as I read all those years ago, it'll take fifteen years to learn to play the piano well - I heard that twenty-five years ago.