PlayStation Q&A with Shane Gann!

Our Lead Music Library Developer, Shane Gann, took the time to answer exciting questions about himself, the music library, and porting RS+ to PlayStation!

Q: Please tell us about yourself:


My name is Shane Gann. I've been a guitar player for a long time. I've been a gamer for even longer. My career has allowed me to become a professional version of both, for over 12 years.

As early as I can remember, I was playing the NES that my parents had received as a wedding gift before I was born. I had an immediate passion for these immersive and entertaining experiences, the daunting and rewarding challenges which required healthy doses of dexterity and persistence.

Speaking of dexterity and persistence: I started playing guitar in middle school, inspired by my dad's unique fingerstyle playing on his acoustic guitar. He was self-taught, and I wanted to take the same approach, opting to learn through books, videos, and CD-ROMs in lieu of private instruction. By high school, I was transcribing songs by ear and dabbling with composition in a computer program, allowing me to learn music intrinsically and from the inside out.

 When I finally got a PlayStation2, my entire world became an intersection of music and gaming. I'd come home from high school to transcribe and/or write music, taking breaks to listen to CDs while playing Kingdom Hearts 1 & 2, GTA Vice City, the Spyro trilogy, NHL 2K, Escape from Monkey Island, Cool Boarders, etc.

Naturally, I wound up in college studying music industry & recording arts, taking a video game production class, joining a progressive-punk band called Hail The Sun, and interning with the audio team for a mobile game developer.

Fast forward to my first year post-college, and I was interviewing for a DLC Notetracker position on the original Rocksmith. At the same time, my band was being recruited for our first national tour. So, with a 'make of your life what you so choose' attitude, I avoided the difficult decision of opting for one path over the other, instead telling Ubisoft that once I completed my training, I would have to leave for ~5 weeks on the road. Thankfully, the team was comprised of mainly working musicians! To cut to the chase: Ubisoft SF has been allowing me to tour ~3-4 times a year the entire time I've been employed. I have since left the Notetracker role behind and am now leading the Music Library Development team, releasing new songs, arrangements & curated song lists multiple times per month.

Q: What's it like playing and developing games while on tour with your band, Hail the Sun?


In our earlier years of touring, we ourselves shouldered many of the responsibilities: driving, loading in & out/on & off stage, changing strings/troubleshooting gear, selling our merch, and everything else required to build a viable career as a band. Working for Rocksmith was always a challenge which left me exhaustedly plugging away at my laptop backstage, in the van, and at random houses we'd be staying at for the night. Power outlets, reliable Wi-Fi, and peace & quiet were all constantly hard to come by. I challenge any of you to transcribe an Allman Brothers solo while another band is playing 25 ft. away!

Nowadays, we are thankful and lucky to have reached the point where our hired crew handles nearly all of our duties, leaving me with a lot more time to work on Rocksmith+, and to play games from time to time. Several of us in the band & crew are avid gamers, frequently gathered post-show in front of a TV competing in racing & fighting games or relaxing with a casual round of digital golf. And of course, my life as a gamedev is much less challenging thanks to outlets in our bunks, improved hotel Wi-Fi, and generally a lot more peace & quiet.

In fact, this extra free time allowed for something really special to take place last year, when Hail The Sun was invited to release five brand-new songs in Rocksmith+ on the same day as our album release for "Divine Inner Tension." We were playtesting in green rooms and during drives, which allowed us to work directly with the transcription teams to ensure note-for-note accuracy in the arrangements. We are beyond thrilled that our music is a part of Rocksmith+'s ever-growing song library!

Q: How does the team pick songs for the library?


We're fortunate to have multi-faceted opportunities to continue growing the library, whether through additional licenses or partnerships, crafting in-house dev-made recordings of popular or classical songs, featuring music from other Ubisoft titles in-app, or any other avenue we have at our disposal. Our business & licensing teams are always pursuing more of what we know our players are interested in playing, and we on the Music Library team have the immense pleasure of being the first hands in SF to process the metadata, audio, and album art for these songs before we pass them along to the Music team for arrangement authoring.

We are always, always, always considering the player experience, selecting songs which we feel have inherent value to players regarding the songs' musical material being conducive and valuable from both an entertainment and an educational perspective. With all 3 supported instruments in mind (Guitar, Bass, and Piano), we strive to add to & diversify our song library based on popularity/notoriety, genre/style of playing, era, region/language, and community feedback, among other criteria. We can gladly boast that our library has only grown stronger and stronger since launch, and we intend to continue offering quality experiences that will help us reach our most central goal: to allow players of all experience levels to become more capable, comfortable, and confident musicians. This is because we at Rocksmith+ know that playing a musical instrument inspires people to cultivate their creativity & passions in innumerable & invaluable ways.

Q: How do you notetrack a song for Rocksmith+?


Very carefully! 😄

We start by creating a tempo map which aligns our transcription track with the beats of the audio file. This same Music Analyst team also performs a chord chart analysis concurrently with the tempo mapping, which allows for the release of a Verified Chord Chart - this arrangement type is sometimes called a 'Hum 'n' Strum' arrangement since it allows users to play along with the chord changes of a song without any of the specific details of the riffs & frills within the instrumentation.

Once this musical infrastructure is sound, our Transcriptionist teams then author note-for-note transcriptions for relevant instruments, using techniques which are very similar to those which I employed when transcribing songs by ear back in high school: looping/slowing sections, using audio processing tools to isolate particular instruments, watching videos to study the musicians' way of playing the material. We also employ a review system which ensures no transcription is released without proper playtesting & validation from other team members. And on top of that, we have dedicated QC testers who check the arrangements yet again following the Transcriptionists' work.

In addition, we have dedicated Lyric Analysts who craft our lyric transcriptions, and Asset Specialists who handle things like pitch shifts for songs which are minutely out of tune, and fade-outs for songs with excessively long endings.

Between our 4 Rocksmith studios in San Francisco, Bucharest, Pune, and Osaka, we have global, round-the-clock development taking place in crafting these musical experiences for our worldwide community of players.

Q: What makes Rocksmith+ such a special platform (fave songs, features, educational aspects)?


If you'll excuse my brief waxing poetic, Rocksmith+ is truly the tool I wish I had at my disposal when I was first learning guitar. It's the future of interactive music learning, building far beyond the successes of games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band to become a full-fledged music education platform for Guitar, Bass, and Piano with practice tools for slowing down and/or looping sections, an ever-growing suite of challenges and lessons, and skill-tracking baked directly into a users' profile (which is account-bound and accessible from any supported device, from mobile to PlayStation to Steam to PC). And this is all on top of the core experience of playing along with your favorite songs exactly as they were recorded in the studio. I personally love getting inside the heads of different musicians and understanding their musical decisions, which in turn have helped me further develop my own compositional voice & approach. I can remember drilling songs like Lamb of God's "Laid to Rest" and Muse's "Hysteria" years ago in Rocksmith 2014 and am thrilled that players today can learn those songs (and thousands more) in Rocksmith+ today. Just this year, we've released hundreds of songs from dozens of incredible artists such as Paramore, Dream Theater, Incubus, The White Stripes, Foreigner, Oasis, Disturbed, Deftones, The Doobie Brothers, Bon Jovi, Royal Blood, Megadeth, and so many more.

Q: What makes you so excited about Rocksmith+ expanding to PlayStation and Steam?


I know it's my job to talk about these things, but seriously - the self-taught guitarist in me is obsessed with Rocksmith+ because it has everything! For practiced experts and brand-new players alike, the Rocksmith method learns and adapts to your skill level, providing you with just the right amount of challenge to keep you learning and having fun. And now, with PlayStation and Steam availability, we're continuing to break down the barriers to entry and allowing everyone to learn an instrument through our fun & proven method, on the same platforms they're already using.

Music is NOT an exclusionary opportunity, and it's never too late to pick up a guitar, bass, or keyboard and join in the proverbial "jam sesh." Rocksmith+ offers all the tools needed to cultivate one's own musical skillset, creative outlet/voice, and even an entire career (or two).

Q: What upcoming music drops are you the most excited about?


I truly cannot wait for this week's music drop! June 6th marks the largest single-day release we've had since launch, offering players over 160 new songs from exceptionally talented acts like DragonForce, Marty Friedman, ††† (Crosses), Halestorm, Green Day, Goo Goo Dolls, GROUPLOVE, Gary Clark Jr., Jaymes Young, Mac Miller, Sam Barber, IV of Spades, and Tones and I, just to name a few.

And since this week also marks the release of Rocksmith+ in Japan, we're also including an enormous amount of amazing music from Japanese artists such as aimyon, chanmina, KOBUKURO, Gesu No Kiwami Otome, tofubeats, yonawo, and more.

Logging into RS+ on the 6th is going to feel like being a kid in a candy store, and my musical sweet tooth is grinning with anticipation!

Q: Will there be any audio delay when using PlayStation when compared to using PC/Mobile?


None whatsoever! Our audio teams have worked extremely hard through the years to minimize lag while simultaneously finding the means of supporting additional methods of connection (such as third party audio interfaces) for platforms such as PC, all of which has increased the robustness of our audio processing capabilities and increased the enjoyment that players are able to experience by feeling fully immersed in the soundscapes of their favorite notetracks.

Q: Are any specific cables or settings needed to play RS+ on PlayStation?


We highly recommend the use of our Rocksmith RealTone cable, which plugs one end into a user's Guitar or Bass, and the other end directly into the USB-A port of your PlayStation (or PC). This cable converts your instrument's output into a digital signal which Rocksmith+ uses to detect pitch & timing accuracy in relation to the Noteway. If players do happen to experience any particular strangeness, we do offer a full suite of settings which can be tweaked to suit users' needs or preferences, but we pride ourselves in offering the ability for anyone to pick-up-and-play with minimal technical know-how.

Q: Is it the same subscription on PlayStation and PC/Mobile?


It sure is! A single active subscription on any platform allows the user to access Rocksmith+ on any other supported platform, from PlayStation to mobile to Steam/Ubisoft Connect. This cross-platform support also tracks the users' progress pertaining to skills, chords, songs, lessons, unlocks, and more.

Q: Is there any difference between song library and features? What game features do you use the most?


There is certainly a distinction to be made here:

  • The Song Library is defined as Rocksmith+'s collection of songs for which players can learn through our immersive Noteway experience, via our supported arrangement types (Chord Chart, Lead, Bass, Rhythm, Piano, etc.) - this also includes UGC (User Generated Content) arrangements for those savvy users who are interested in crafting arrangements for songs which haven't yet been transcribed by our dev team.

  • "Features" on the other hand are, in the simplest terms, everything else offered by Rocksmith+. This includes in-house Lessons/Videos/Practice Track content, practice tools such as Riff Repeater/MIDI playback/Note-By-Note, display settings such as Tablature mode, our recently added Onboarding challenges, and more upcoming features that I'm not entirely sure I can speak to at this time (😅)

My personal favorite features in Rocksmith+ are the practice tools, as they expand upon the success of great tools in Rocksmith 2014. The ability to loop a section, slow it down, and add MIDI playback so you can hear exactly what notes are supposed to sound like all adds up to a perfect, personalized way of learning even the most difficult passages of music. And if I had to pick just one practice feature which, in my opinion, trumps them all, it would have to be Note By Note. This feature pauses the Noteway at the next oncoming note and waits for a successful user input of that note before progressing the Noteway to the next note in sequence. This is hands-down the simplest way I've found to learn complex solos, tricky chord changes, unconventional rhythms, detailed inflections such as slides or bends, and more.

My challenge to you, readers who have made it this far:

  1. Pick a song or section you are afraid to try playing because it seems beyond your comfort zone on your instrument

  2. Loop a section, slow it down to ~60%, and add engage Note-By-Note

  3. Once you've familiarized yourself with the passage at this speed, try to increase your speed by 10%

  4. Try playing the notes at the exact time they reach the playhead, keeping the audio from pausing and maintaining as seamless a performance as possible

  5. Continue increasing the speed until you reach your personal limit

Assuming you have a challenge mindset, I'm willing to wager you'll find yourself more than capable of playing what was once thought out of reach!

Happy practicing!

New users can try Rocksmith+ free for seven days when they sign up for a 12-month subscription by either downloading the mobile app for iOS and Android or PC. Check out the full song library for more songs from your favorite artists. Rocksmith+ is available on PC exclusively through the Ubisoft Store. For more on Rocksmith+, check out the official site.

Social Share


Learning Guide

Get My Guide