Guitar Hero and Rock Band at NAMM

2204770929 34Cb1Fd349 BOzzyguitar-2Kissguitar-2This week I made my annual pilgrimage to the NAMM show with my good friends Carl and Jason. For the uninitiated, NAMM stands for the International Music Products Association. Leave it to musicians to create an acronym that doesn’t match the formal name of the organization. How Spinal Tap can you get?

But at least it makes me smile every time I see the giant banner at the entrance to the Anaheim Convention Center loudly proclaiming, “NAMM – The International Music Products Association”. The NAMM Show website actually explains the history behind this failed acronym on their website.

As a lifelong musician, I love touring the floor at NAMM to drool over the latest musical instruments, recording gear and music-related software. It is like a candy store, toy store and Disneyland all rolled into one.

But what struck me this year was the number of Guitar Hero and Rock Band rigs that were setup in various vendors’ booths. We counted at least half a dozen, maybe closer to ten. They were staging competitions, selling guitar controllers (including the two pictured here built into real guitar bodies) and generally using the rigs to draw crowds to their booths. And it worked. Hal Leonard Publishing, which publishes sheet music for popular music even has a series of Guitar Hero books that provide full transcriptions of the music in the various Guitar Hero and Rock Band games.

All this in one year — there was not a single guitar hero rig at the 2007 NAMM. I am a huge fan of these games and they are absolutely fun to play, and they even give the non-musician a way to experience a taste of the thrill of playing live music in a band. And all of these are great things, though I still can’t decide whether Harmonix has loosed something on the world that will be net good or net bad for the the musical equipment industry and musicianship in general.

The optimist in me likes to believe these games are a boon, but ultimately, being the world’s greatest Guitar Hero player does absolutely nothing for your ability to play a real guitar, as was illustrated with characteristic genius in a recent episode of South Park. Whatever the case, Brad’s college buddies at Harmonix have had an unbelievable impact on popular culture, music and gaming over the past couple years, and it appears the snowballing will continue. Respect.

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