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How Rock Band Works

Rock Band Gameplay

You and your band mates have molded your avatars, selected your mode and respective levels, instruments are in hand, and now it's time to rock.

If you have a full four-person band, the Rock Band screen may look cluttered at first. There's a lot of action to ensure that all members know their parts. Locating the vocals guide is the easiest, since the words slide across the top of the screen karaoke style. Moving down, you'll see three parallel scrolling strips that look like guitar necks. These direct the bass, drums and guitar.

For Guitar Hero vets, the bass and guitar parts follow a similar pattern. The notes are color-coded according to the sets of fret buttons at the neck. When the colored tabs reach the band at the bottom of the screen, that's your cue to strike the note.

Because of the kick pedal, drums work a little differently. The drum pads are color-coded to match up with the gems on the screen, but you'll also notice intermittent orange strands that stretch across the guide. Those strands are your kick pedal cues.

Every band is only as strong as its weakest player. So what can you do if someone majorly sucks wind and fails out of the song? Here's where your star players can step up to the plate. Comparable to star power in Guitar Hero, you can attain overdrive by hitting a succession of white notes. When your overdrive meter fills halfway, you can activate it by tilting your guitar or bass and completing a special drum or vocals solo that the game will cue. Kicking into overdrive will save a fallen person and rack up some extra points. However, you can only save the same person twice.

Once your band has its moves down, there are a number of ways to blow out your score. You want to look for chances to boost your score multiplier. Drums, guitar and vocals can get up to a four on the multiplier, and bass can reach six. Why can the bass get more? Many Rock Band reviewers see the bass as the most lackluster of the instruments. To compensate, bassists can enter into a bass groove by hitting a series of notes where they reach that holy grail of score multipliers.

You can also do this through the unison bonus. During random sections of the song, your individual score multipliers will get a jolt if you play in perfect synchronicity. You'll know when this happens because the words "Unison Bonus" will pop up on the screen. There are also solo bonuses, which are your times to shine as an individual performer. A percentage will show up on the screen over your instrument to let you know how accurately you're catching the notes. For guitar and bass players, the second set of fret buttons at the base of the neck don't require strumming, so take advantage of them to snag all those riffs.

Then there's the big rock ending. This is your band's chance to tack on additional points near the end of the music. Before reaching the final notes on some songs, the note gems will disappear and the guides will fill in, resembling a rainbow. Scream, pound and burn up your fingers on the second set of fret buttons for a score explosion. But make sure to hit that final note in the song because failure to do so will erase any earnings from all that jamming.

Up next, we'll take a look at the financials and see how many gold and platinum records the Rock Band and its developer Harmonix have achieved.