Game-based guitar learning

A collaboration project with Sibelius Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki, Bergen University College, University of Helsinki and University of Turku


The general goal of this collaboration project is to study, implement, develop, and disseminate game-based guitar pedagogy in Finnish and Norwegian higher music education. The specific goal of this project is to establish conditions for experimenting with Rocksmith game as a pedagogical tool to advance novice guitar and bass players’ training in Nordic Bachelor level teacher training programs.


Video games have become one of the most popular musical media during the last decades, not just for entertainment, but also for learning. The appeal of entertainment video games way surpasses that of the instructional video games. Instructional video games are designed with certain educational goals in sight, subjecting the gameplay to curricular demands. In turn, entertainment video games motivate the players through the gameplay itself, producing learning through involvement in the gaming praxis.

While there has been a raising interest in instructional music games in educational research, the power of entertainment games to advance musical learning has not yet raised much attention. Entertainment music video games also play a very marginal role, if any, in music teacher and other teacher training programs—this notwithstanding, that there has been a growing recognition of the importance of digital media in teacher training worldwide. Hence, there is a need to develop research projects that map the pedagogical implications of entertainment music games as pertains to teacher education.

At present, the most popular entertainment video music games are skill-based. Such games target at building musical-technical abilities as part of the core gaming experience. Many aspiring guitar players have made their first entry into playing with Guitar Hero, which uses a instrument-like controller to guide the gameplay. Closer to the actual instrument playing experience is Rocksmith, a game that is controlled with real guitars and basses. It seems that at the time of writing this, Rocksmith offers the most inviting and natural entry-level musical skill games available. Indeed, the marketing strategy of this game is largely based on the notion that it presents, not only easy, but also highly motivating way to rehearse guitar and bass outside formal music education setting. The developers of the game also highlight that Rocksmith is designed according to Montessori principles, emphasizing concrete operations as basis of learning skills and knowledge.

Nordic programs of teacher training have been internationally recognized for their wide curricular scope and their open attitude towards various contexts of informal learning. Driven by the need to recognize realms in which the students operate on everyday basis, these programs see popular culture and digital technology as important platforms for developing skills and knowledge. However, as indicated above, music games are virtually absent from Nordic teacher training. With this observation in mind, the suggested project focuses on experimental application of Rocksmith in a specific part of teacher training curriculum: beginner guitar and bass courses.


In all target training programs of this project, guitar and bass are seen as instruments that all teachers should study as part of their basic studies. The introductory lessons in guitar and bass form a basis for many advanced studies, including studies in the popular music ensemble classes. While many students are already well versed in these instruments when they apply to the training programs, some of them are introduced to the four, five or six-string only during their freshman year. There have been also reports in teacher training programs about the difficulties that such novice guitar and bass players encounter when trying to build their chops during the coursework. Taken the wide variety of courses teacher students face in the Bachelor degree, it is not surprising that especially those students that have no previous experience in guitar or bass find it difficult to arrange time and motivation for self-practicing the instruments. However, individual training is a key to learning these instruments outside the classes.

Research team

3-5 students from each participating university are recruited on the basis of their own interest to join in the project. The task given to the students is to practice guitar and/or bass in their own place, pace and time by playing Rocksmith game. The students are asked to report on their playing regularly in an online platform and on project meetings. The students are also interviewed several times during the project. The project will culminate in a conjoint seminar where students from the participating universities will share experiences and reflect on the applications of their experiences for future work practice.

Guitar teachers from teacher training programs are recruited to provide a pedagogical perspective on learning the instrument. Game designers and e-Learning professionals will also be consulted. The researchers will observe the learning processes closely, organize the interviews and seminars and co-write and disseminate the conference presentations and articles in which the results will be disseminated.


Contact person at the University of the Arts Helsinki:
Lauri Väkevä, lauri.vakeva (at)