Opinion: the next Rocksmith and Session Mode

We all know that Session Mode as it stands now is a version 1.0 product. An interesting and fascinating addition to a music game, but one that hasn’t had the kind of time to develop into a fully featured suite – in the same way that established titles have had.

Session Mode is one of the least understood features within Rocksmith. Lovers of Session Mode can’t get enough of jamming with a band that won’t judge them, noodling around, or simply practising scales. Some people just use it as a metronome or drum machine, while others have openly requested that Session Mode is spun off into it’s own stand alone title. But plenty of people simply don’t know where to start with it and therefore don’t get to experience the benefits of it.


The band is a quite capable bunch of musicians – capable of so much more – just as you’d expect from a group of “Session Musicians”. 

While I’ll include some videos here to help explain Session Mode for people unfamiliar with it, I can’t help but wonder – what else could they do, in the context of the game?

We often see requests for Rocksmith to use stems. The thinking being that you could then mute the lead guitar track (for eg) from the music you are playing and have a better, more immersive experience. Stems being the term used for individual recordings of each instrument, that can be played or not on an individual basis. It is using these that allowed games like Guitar Hero World Tour to silence an instrument if the person playing it wasn’t keeping up.


Rocksmith uses a master stereo track – essentially what you hear on a CD (remember those) or what you buy from iTunes. There are a few reasons for this, one of them being that stems are hard to come by. Rocksmith has material recorded as long ago as 1948, it is difficult to imagine being able to get content that classic if the software required stems to work.


Some other rhythm games got around these issues by totally re-recording the music they wanted, because the stems simply don’t exist anymore. 


But could the Session Mode band be used to do something similar?


Could the band be programmed to play “bass, rhythm, keys and drums for Smoke On The Water” – for eg, then have the lead guitar note track displayed for the player, just as it is in Learn A Song?


Have an option for scoring it or not, perhaps have the option to have the band play the track faster or slower than the original recording. Maybe the option to have the song played in a totally different key? The band could play the meat of a track and the interface could show you the key, or scales that fit that part of the song (similar to what session mode currently shows you). Thus allowing you to not just learn more about the music, but develop your own solos or riffs that would fit the song.

Perhaps nailing that Richie Blackmore solo is just too much for you, If the Session Mode band could tell you what notes should sound good with the track, then you could really make it your own. The possibilities using the existing skills of the band members, the features of Session Mode and defining a track for them to play could be quite exciting – and educational for the aspiring guitar or bass player.


That’d be a LOT of work for the getting near 1,100 songs in the library, and would lack vocals (they could still be displayed for a karaoke vibe), but would it be enough for the players that want to have a muted guitar or bass track?


I think it may.


Rocksmith already has the guitars tracked, so if the band could “read those charts” and play them, we’d be a significant portion of the way there already. Possibly meaning all we’d really have to do then is have the drums “charted” for the band and any other instruments as needed.


Incidentally – if the drums were charted for this purpose, it may make the barrier to a “Drumsmith” expansion quite a bit lower – but that is another topic entirely.


Obviously licensing would be a challenge, if you think you know how music licensing works – you don’t – but as the license for the songwriting has already been acquired, could the session mode band be used in this way without getting into legal trouble? 

In order for a track to become DLC, the team typically need to clear 2 licenses. A Mechanical License – for the recording itself and a Songwriting one. It is entirely likely that some tracks have a Songwriting License cleared, but not a Mechanical License – potentially opening up the Session Mode band to help those songs become content, by making their own “cover versions”.

Then again, perhaps not, as it may become necessary for the “Session Mode Band” to acquire a license to do a cover.


Anyway, some food for thought. I have no knowledge of a new version of Rocksmith coming. I know the same as anyone else does – UbiSoft are looking for feedback from the community, but currently have “nothing to announce.”


This piece is written purely as speculation, it is just my own brainstorming and asking “what if?” Session Mode is too interesting (and innovative) a product to be left alone. The team call it a version 1.0 implementation – it is fair to assume they have their own ideas for where to take it next – if they are given the opportunity.

If the session mode band could do this – would you use this feature?


Keep in mind it wouldn’t sound “just like the album” since it is a programmed band and there wouldn’t be any vocals – but do you feel it could make your experience more like “jamming with friends” – enough so to be worth trying?


Could we get away with the band playing the basic chord progression and you playing the “proper lead track” (or bass) over it?


Would you expect something like this for all of your owned dlc content, or would the on-disc songs be enough?


Can you think of a technical – or legal – reason I haven’t considered that would prevent this?


Or do you think the time investment needed on the UbiSoft teams behalf to program bands for the library would be completely wasted?


Do you have any other ideas for what could be done with Session Mode, to make it a better feature?


Let us know below.