Feather’s Music: Musical Gaming

Good after evening and welcome to… Dance Dance Revolution.

So let’s begin from the top, and no this is not a game review. I’m really obsessed with DDR games (dance dance revolution games), but I’m not exactly good at the ones you do with your feet. In fact, I’m not entirely sure that I’ve ever actually played the floor mat DDR. The closest I’ve come to that is a game for Android called Beats which is essentially a finger version. Not much easier but less physically demanding.

Now, if you’re not familiar with this type of game, it’s basically a music game where you tap corresponding arrow buttons in time with the music. The arrows appear on screen and you tap in time with the beat it falls on. Simple, yes? To start with.

Let’s explain this in music terms:

The easy levels start off with beats in 4/4 time. So for the most part, all the beats will fall on 1, 2, 3, and 4. I’ll do a lesson on this later. Bare with me for now.

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As you raise the difficulty levels the amount of beats that you have to hit increases but also becomes harder in that instead of being on 1, 2, 3, and 4 they are now on what is called “the off-beat” which are the beats in between the main beats and now I’ve lost half my audience.

But you understand why it’s so much harder.

Then you raise the level. Which adds more beats between beats.

Not only is this even harder but sometimes there are entire songs where the beat pattern is just the off-beats. Or maybe even the time signature is something else entirely, but also the notes are only on the off-beat. Or all of the above. And at a really fast tempo.

With lines of hemi-demi-semi-quavers.

There goes another half of my audience.

This is pretty good practise for sight reading…like, not really, because it’s not actually reading music, but it’s good practice for reading quickly and hitting notes accurately, which is pretty much what sight reading is about. But my thumbs are really tired.

Think Guitar Hero. It’s that vein of gaming and level of concentration.

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In any case, I find it to be a lot like sight reading, not that I’ve noticed any improvement in the sport, since playing. I recently bought Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X which is a Japanese DDR game (are there any other cultures that do this, really?), and so far I’m really impressed with the level of musicianship that’s surreptitiously woven into the structure of the songs and beats. I’d say it’s a little harder to play on Playstation, simply because the controller makes it so that I can only use my right thumb to hit notes, unless I can use the left side as well, but those buttons are stiffer, and my left thumb is not dexterous by any means.

I bought the game because I’d seen a lot of videos and heard a lot of songs and as I have a gentle obsession with J-Pop and J-Rock, it’s easy to see how I found myself down that rabbit hole. And having bought a PS4 about a year ago and seeing that this game was coming out for this very same platform, naturally I had to have it.

This still isn’t a game review.

I’ve enjoyed a few of the songs so far. I’ve played all of them, in fact, and I am now moving onto harder difficulties, and crying because my hand eye coordination isn’t good enough, to keep up with moving shapes that are changing at speeds so high my brain hasn’t the time to fully recognise them, and tell my thumb not only which button it’s meant to press but also remind it exactly where that button is without looking. Like touch typing but EXTREME.

So there’s that.

In all honesty, this post was entirely because I was playing until 1am this morning and had to give up as I’d reached a level so incomprehensibly fast that I was just button mashing by the end of it. It’s a wonder it bothered to let me even complete the song, I was doing so bad. Some of the songs, being in what they call the “quirky” genre, had time signature shifts in the middle of the song and with the shift, a slight tempo change also. So, after a while I felt like I was back in my piano lessons, trying to read in time with a metronome, and just panicking and hitting any key instead because my piano teacher kept telling me not to stop. Such a slave driver that man, but that’s a story for another day.

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All in all, despite my lack of actual music practice (all the songs I learned on the ukulele have flown from my memory entirely) I am still enriching my brain musically in some way.

But this will turn into a ramble, as all I can think about is going back to play it while I cry about my lack of DDR prowess.

Signed

Fenwick

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