Guitar Hero 101

April Fool's! We're not turning our backs on investing -- though we did fool some of you.

Rock out with Activision's Guitar Hero III, jester-style.

This is a guide for relative beginners, so if you're looking for the secret to getting five stars playing DragonForce on Expert, you're in the wrong place. Mere mortals who just want to have fun can read on.

Easy? Over-hard? Scrambled?
Unless you've never touched a musical instrument in your life, the Easy level in Guitar Hero III is eminently skippable. Only use it if pushing buttons in rhythm is an entirely alien concept, and then move on to Medium. That's where the music starts to sync up with the notes you're hitting -- Easy is so full of inexplicable gaps that the song playing in the background hardly helps you play the game at all.

Can you dance? Sing? Play a real guitar? Tap out accurate Morse code? All of these experiences give you a good foundation on which to build your mad GH3 skillz. Medium might feel too easy, and some might jump right into the fire and flames, so to speak, on the Expert level of difficulty. Hack your way through "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" that way, and anything on Medium will feel trivial.

There's no shame in practice
Say you keep tripping up on the basic riff in "Kool Thing," and for the life of you, you can't figure out the problem. Slow it down in practice mode, zoom in on the problem sequence, and see how those four silly notes fall a bit before the beat. Doh! There's the key! The same goes for any tricky groove or blindingly fast solo. Run it slowly, break it down, and master the song piece by piece.

Every song teaches you a trick or two that will help you in future endeavors. "Pride and Joy" and "La Grange" will get you used to funky rhythms, where the notes don't always fall on a 4/4 beat. "Knights of Cydonia" demands steady (and fast!) strumming, and "Cliffs of Dover" will show you the magic of hammer-ons and pull-offs.

Keep playing the game
Guitar Hero and actual guitar playing involve related, but ultimately very different, skills. I don't know if Slash can master "Welcome to the Jungle" on a plastic guitar with five buttons that don't always play the notes you'd expect, so put away that real axe for a while. There's no substitute for the in-game experience.

Headbang on, Fool.

The Motley Fool is taking a break from investing. Read more here.

Activision is aMotley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation, if those silly stock-picking newsletters matter anymore.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here and has raised a lighter on more than one occasion. He has completed GH3 on Hard, and scored five stars on every Medium song. You can, too, after you check out Anders' holdings and our Foolish disclosure rules.

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