What do Thomas Dolby, Chick Corea, Ben Folds, Howard Jones, Herbie Hancock, Lady Gaga, Todd Rundgren, and you have in common? They all play (or will, if this rumor turns out to be true) a funky shoulder-strapped plastic black-and-white keyed hybrid keyboard/guitar, commonly called a ‘keytar’.
According to an unconfirmed source chatting up Ars Technica, the band-in-a-box version of Rock Band 3 will ship with the 1980s bastard child of an electric guitar and a synthesizer. Yep, the keytar, that fugly-looking thing in the screenshot above.
About time, says me. I’m a keyboard player, or pianist, or whatever the term is these days. I’ve been playing since I was four. And I’ve always felt a bit weird standing in front of the TV brandishing a fake Fender Strat and tapping out transliterated keyboard solos in the last few iterations of the RockGuitarBandHero games.
I’ve actually seen a keytar played live (thank you Chick Corea Elektric Band, Omaha, Nebraska, 1994) and it’s a lot of fun–more showmanship than musicianship, but hey, it gets the keyboardist out from behind stacks of synths, rack mount modules, patch cables, laptops, and jungle-gym stands.
What else. Ars’s “mole” claims Rock Band 3 will include a “pro” mode, say something a step higher than “expert” that requires you use “proper technique,” whatever that means. Is Harmonix planning to release more realistic instruments? Could they be working on a way to interface real keyboards, electric guitars, and drum pads with the game?
If they did, they’d arguably take a monumental step toward mitigating criticism–however unfounded–that simplifying the relationship between technique and output misleads nascent musicians.