I'm one of the few editors at GI who doesn't play a lot of music games. Despite having some experience playing the guitar in real life, I have never been enthralled by the Guitar Hero/Rock Band franchises, and when I do play them, my skill level usually peaks somewhere between medium and hard difficulty levels. Despite all of the innovations that have been made in music games over the years, I've never felt motivated to jump on the bandwagon - until I tried out the Pro Keys in Rock Band 3.

My opportunity to try out Rock Band 3's keyboard (yes, I know it's technically a keytar, but I will not be using that term again because of how stupid it is) came during a party at Jeff Cork's house. The party's main objective was to play dumb Kinect games while drinking refreshing beverages, but after everyone became a little tipsy (from all the fun we were having playing Kinect, naturally), we booted up the latest iteration of Rock Band. After playing my way through a couple of songs on the bass, I was pressured into trying the new keyboard.

I started out on the easy difficulty level of the new Pro mode, mainly due to a crippling fear that I might screw up so horribly that I would single-handedly fail the entire band out of the song. It took a few songs to get a hang of the mechanics, after which I tried out the medium difficulty level. 

As the title of this blog post suggests, I enjoyed playing the new peripheral in Pro mode, even though I'm not sure how it translates into playing a keyboard in real life. Having had no real experience playing the piano, I didn't know anything about hand placement, and as such I tried to cover as many of the peripheral's 25 keys as I could at the same time. Even when I was hitting all the on-screen notes, I didn't know what keys I was playing, but rather going by which bars were lighting up at the bottom of the highway. Still, it was fascinating to know that I was playing (at least some of) the actual notes from the songs, in a way that pressing colored buttons on the old guitars simply doesn't capture (I haven't tried out the new "real" guitar for Rock Band 3, but it is equally enticing).

I was initially skeptical of the hefty price tag for Rock Band 3's new peripheral, but ultimately walked away impressed by the hardware as well. Even though it only features two octaves, the keys have the weight of a quality electronic keyboard, and it's MIDI compatible. The keys are also reportedly velocity-sensitive, although I don't know if Rock Band 3 utilizes the feature or not.

While I enjoyed trying out Rock Band 3's keyboard, I hope Harmonix adds more educational features to the series in the future, including more in-depth tutorial lessons. I know Harmonix has stated that they're against making the series too technical, but I bet gamers with musical backgrounds might enjoy more advanced options, such as the ability to view notes as horizontally scrolling sheet music, instead of the regular highway. Such an addition might be a lot harder to comprehend at first, but I think it would be an invaluable tool for gamers with an interest in learning how to play music beyond the context of a video game.

I'm interested in hearing what gamers with piano experience think of the new Pro Keys mode. Has it been easy to pick and play? Do your skills translates to the game, or are they two separate things? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and enjoy these impressive expert run-throughs I found on YouTube. Suffice it to say, I will never be this good.