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.

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Eduardo Alejandro del Corral L
Eduardo Alejandro del Corral L
October 31, 2017 9:09 pm

I use an Android App called iReal Pro; it lists a series of chord charts and uses predefined arrangements. If you can program something similar to that (basically the content of a CRD file) using some variations (Rock, Rock, Heavy, Jazz, Blues, Swing, etc) you can already do a lot. You can easily start by including a few, and adding more as an Add on. Similar to what is there, but with free form training.

Additionally, you can sell training material on top of this (say demand the student use parts of a lick, and lands on the 1st or 5th every 1st measure, or second… whatever). If the user is guided enough, this could open the flood gates for a huge library of instructional stuff that also gets sold separately.

I am sure we all want Rocksmith to keep growing, so what ever is added should increase the amount of stuff you could purchase.

If you would add to this, the posibility of recording yourself during session mode (yes you charge for this too), well it’s only obvious that my answer would be around …

Shut up and take my money ! ! ! 😛

September 15, 2017 8:20 pm

A couple of things I’d like to see in session mode that don’t involve copyright. An option to change the band to more of a backing track where you follow it rather then it following you.Give you a chance to listen and get familiar with whats being played before jumping in. The ability to write and record our own exercises. If I want to work on arpeggios, it would be cool if I could set up tabs for that. Also if you could record session mode you could go back and listen to parts you like instead of hoping to remember them.

Hone McBone
Hone McBone
September 15, 2017 5:02 pm

I want the session mode to act like a looper pedal, you play a basic beat, then the drums follow that, play a basic riff for a bass line or guitar line that the session mode repeats & then solo over the top.

September 15, 2017 11:16 am

I like session mode but for what you are describing, I’m in the “wasted time investment” camp. Now let’s talk 5 string bass charts……lol….

September 14, 2017 10:49 am

Session mode definitely needs to be more engaging, as it stands it’s too robotic to keep my attention beyond a few minutes… Jamming along with songs already on disc would definitely be an improvement, especially to inspire creative solos on top of the music you know. Charting the drums or separating the instruments to different tracks, IMO, is trying to do too much for what’s needed here. Simply keeping the song’s timing with drums or a similar bass would be all that’s needed… Who knows when inspiration may hit, though? Would you select phrases before the session where you know you’ll add something yourself? Maybe an “off ramp” note selected at the beginning of the session, one that’s not already in the song, that you’d hit to start and stop the improvisation… I’m willing to bet if you took a poll of people who picked up Rocksmith to actually learn how to play this instrument, soloing is the foundation of their fantasy. Some way to engage this further, even let them add their own creative flair, would take this title from cult classic to legendary status. Sorry, this subject gets me a little fired up. Why are songs at the peak of abundance but the solo as rare as the 1950’s? Session mode addition that’s a gimmie? Internet multiplayer jam sessions, of course it may be limited to mic/guitar/bass but jamming with an actual person, even at random (lobbies or rooms), has endless upside potential compared to AI that only inspires you not to play the wrong note. Internet multiplayer lobbies/rooms would also beg Ubisoft to take this to the next level. Demonstrations, artists discussing their methods and possibly educators of the more difficult techniques.. “Tom Morello QA with jam along session” for 10 minutes would be something I’d shell… Read more »

Thiago Tavares
Thiago Tavares
September 13, 2017 3:58 pm

That would be awesome! I was thinking about something similar… just the option of record our performances on the “learn a song” and play the different arrangements records together (without the track). But that ideia of yours is a lot better.

Keith McBaker
Keith McBaker
September 9, 2017 8:46 am

Biggest problems I have with session mode are 1) The blues isn’t 12 bar blues. 2) The band are TOO dynamic, sometimes you want to just leave a little space and the band go down to nothing.

September 8, 2017 9:32 pm

thanks for the article, another great contribution to rocksmith literature R.R.!

if I would add anything to the game, it would be to select any note for a string for tuning purposes. i play baritone guitar so it would be great to be able to use rocksmith to keep my guitar in B tuning. How great would it be able to create tunings for the guitar, too?

September 8, 2017 1:16 pm

It’s a cool idea, but I’d prefer to be able to simply chose my chord progression instead. This way you can either work on popular songs, or just try your own composition. I agree it would be way less beginner friendly, but the possibilities would be bigger.

Joseph McMirra
Joseph McMirra
September 9, 2017 12:18 pm
Reply to  FFFunk

If you had the right amout of lessons to get you to that point featured in the game I could see it working out well . Besides lessons you could expand guitarcade to feature some music theory games that “trick” you into becoming a better song writter/ jammer/ theory concept , understanding and communication between intruments and musicans.

Michael Opton
Michael Opton
September 8, 2017 12:25 pm

This is a great topic. I’ve been thinking along the same lines for a while now. Best case scenario is to have backup tracks for the originals, not just to practice the original solos, but to come up with your own. 2nd option of just providing the chord changes would be cool, too. I would really appreciate the option of programming the chord changes (with looping possibilities). If we could more complex chords that would be a big step, too. I hope UBIsoft gives more thought to improving Session Mode.