Saturday, October 25, 2008

Guitar Hero, DDR, and Music Education

I've just been featured in a Toronto Star article on the relationship of musical video games (such as Guitar Hero and DDR) to music education. Raju Madhar's Games Mould Future Musicians is sure to raise the ire of many a traditional musician. Here's what I said in the interview:
Dr. Christopher Foley has assigned video games as homework as part of his job as head of the voice department and piano teacher at the Conservatory School at the Royal Conservatory of Music. "The thing about those games is that while they don't directly teach musical skills, they teach a lot of indirect skills," he says. "The main one that I think is useful is that you have to internalize the rhythm, and something like DDR (Konami's Dance Dance Revolution) teaches the physicality of rhythm. By having to learn the dance moves, it's not something you learn intellectually, it's something you learn physically, and that's something you can bring to any instrument.

As for Guitar Hero, "what it does teach you is the eye-hand co-ordination and being able to integrate seeing and hearing, which is really important to music. ...There is a little bit of (music) theory in these games, too, in that you have to figure out their specific musical notation, whether it's the arrows in DDR or the coloured blips on Guitar Hero."

Another indirect effect of these games – and other video games including role-playing games – is that they help kids develop dedication and work ethic as they learn how to play and improve, said Foley.

"That way of thinking works very nicely with the whole idea of work ethic; that musicians need to develop, that it's not something you do once a week, it's something that you become totally obsessed by, that you have to work on it every single day."

Your thoughts?


  1. Anonymous9:21 AM

    I think that these games are a great, fun way to teach the basics of rhythm, and many other aspects as well. After having learnt violin for 14 years, I picked up Guitar Hero very quickly (though haven't tried DDR, and of course, my skills on GH haven't translated to any skill on the actual Guitar), but hadn't thought of how it could be used as an educational tool.

  2. Anonymous10:29 PM

    Hey - I'm curious about carpel tunnel syndrome. I'm wondering if video games would increase this ailment?? I actually noticed some pain in my left forearm - and I think it's from text messaging!!! (I'm left-handed, and used to text only with my left thumb. Now I'm divvying it up between the two thumbs.)

    Just wondering if we're raising a future generation of carpel tunnel kids above and beyond the internet generation.....