Will Guitar Hero really make me a better guitar player?

Garrett Ellwood/MLS via Getty Images Kid rock: Will this tiny rocker's Guitar Hero skills translate to the real instrument? See more guitar pictures.
Garrett Ellwood/MLS via Getty Images

Guitar Hero is like a strong cologne or perfume: You either love it and want to meet the person wearing it, or you gag and run for the nearest exit. When it comes to the world's hottest video game, which has taken over living rooms, bedrooms, bars and every nook and cranny of popular culture, there's no playing Switzerland. You're either a Guitar Hero lover or hater. (Read How Guitar Hero Works to learn more about the game.)

Although the arguments for and against the rhythm action game will vary from person to person, there's one resounding question: How much does Guitar Hero translate to real guitar playing? If you think about it, a definitive answer to that singular conundrum could put an end to all the quarreling. If the game doesn't translate, then Hero players should keep their gaming to themselves. And if it does, maybe the haters should give the game a try.

Unfortunately, the answer is "sort of."

First, let it be said that not everyone is cut out for guitar playing. It requires manual dexterity, coordination, a good sense of rhythm and a mess of patience to become rock worthy. Guitar Hero requires a similar set of capabilities to conquer the game.

Obviously, mastering a Guitar Hero controller is not the same as mastering the real instrument. Hero kings who have never played the guitar won't be able to pick one up and pound out a riff that would make Slash hang his head in shame. Transferring your video game supremacy to the six-string will require time and practice.

But here comes the good news. According to various teachers and musicians, certain aspects of Guitar Hero and its rival video game Rock Band can improve your skills, particularly for the novices [source: Clayton]. What, pray tell, are they? Find out on the next page.