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The King & Carter Jazzing Orchestra photographed in Houston, Texas, January 1921.
The Jalisco Philharmonic Orchestra is an example of a musical ensemble.

A musical ensemble is a group of two or more musicians who perform instrumental or vocal music. In each musical style different norms have developed for the sizes and composition of different ensembles, and for the repertoire of songs or musical works that these ensembles perform.

In classical music, trios or quartets either blend the sounds of instrument families (e.g., piano, strings, and winds) or group together instruments from the same instrument family, such as string ensembles or wind ensembles. In jazz ensembles, the instruments typically include wind instruments (one or more saxophones, trumpets, etc.) one or two chordal "comping" instruments (electric guitar, piano, or organ), a bass instrument (electric bass guitar or double bass), and a drummer or percussionist. In rock ensembles, usually called rock bands, there are usually guitars and keyboards (piano, electric piano, Hammond organ and synthesizers) and a rhythm section made up of a bass guitar and drum kit.


Classical chamber music

The Kneisel String Quartet, led by Franz Kneisel, is an example of chamber music. This American ensemble debuted Dvořák's American Quartet, opus 96.

In Western Art music, commonly referred to as classical music, smaller ensembles are called chamber music ensembles. The terms duet, trio, quartet, quintet, sextet, septet, octet, nonet and dectet are used to describe groups of two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine and ten musicians, respectively; A solo is not because it only contains one musician.

Five parts

The string quintet is a common type of group. It is similar to the string quartet, but with two violas, two violoncellos, or more rarely, the addition of a double bass. Terms such as "piano quintet" or "clarinet quintet" frequently refer to a string quartet plus a fifth instrument. Thus, a piano quintet is usually a string quartet plus a piano. Mozart's Clarinet Quintet is similarly a piece written for an ensemble consisting of 2 violins, a viola, a cello and a clarinet, the last being the exceptional addition to a "normal" string quartet.

Another common grouping in classical music is the wind quintet, usually consisting of flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn.

Six or more instruments

Classical chamber ensembles for more than six musicians are occasionally used, such as septets (seven musicians), octets (eight musicians), or nonets (nine musicians). However, in many cases a larger classical group is referred to as an orchestra of some type. A small orchestra with fifteen to thirty members (violins, violas, cellos, double basses, and several woodwind or brass instruments) is called a chamber orchestra In the American education system, sitting groups are known as wind ensembles or concert bands (to differentiate from marching bands. Music is similar to that of a pops orchestra, orchestrated for woodwinds, brass, and percussion. A sinfonietta usually denotes a somewhat smaller orchestra (though still not a chamber orchestra). Larger orchestras are called symphony orchestras or philharmonic orchestras.[1]

A pops orchestra is an orchestra that mainly performs light classical music (often in abbreviated, simplified arrangements) and orchestral arrangements and medleys of popular jazz, music theater, or pop music songs. A string orchestra has only strings, i.e., violins, violas, violoncellos and basses.

A symphony orchestra is an ensemble usually comprising at least thirty musicians; the number of players is typically between seventy and ninety-five and may exceed one hundred. A symphony orchestra is divided into families of instruments. In the string family, there are sections of violins (I and II), violas, violoncellos, and basses. The winds consist of the woodwind family of instruments (flutes and piccolo, oboes and English horn, clarinets [made up of the Eb Clarinet, Clarinet, and Bass Clarinet], and bassoons [often including contrabassoon]) and the brass family (horns, trumpets, trombones, and tuba). The percussion family includes the timpani, bass drum, snare drum, and any other percussion instruments called for in a score (e.g., triangle, glockenspiel, chimes, cymbals, wood blocks).

When orchestras are performing baroque music (from the 1600s and early 1700s), they may also use a harpsichord or pipe organ. When orchestras are performing Romantic-era music (from the 1800s), they may also use harps or unusual instruments such as the wind machine. When orchestras are performing music from the 20th century or the 21st century, occasionally instruments such as electric guitar, theremin, or even an electronic synthesizer may be used.

See also: String trio, String sextet, string.

Jazz ensembles

Count Basie and band, with vocalist Ethel Waters, from the film Stage Door Canteen (1943)

Three parts

In jazz, there are several types of trios. One type of jazz trio is formed with a piano player, a bass player and a drummer. Another type of jazz trio that became popular in the 1950s and 1960s is the organ trio, which is composed of a Hammond organ player, a drummer, and a third instrumentalist (either a saxophone player or an electric jazz guitarist). In organ trios, the Hammond organ player performs the bass line on the organ bass pedals while simultaneously playing chords or lead lines on the keyboard manuals. Other types of trios include the "drummer-less" trio, which consists of a piano player, a double bassist, and a horn (saxophone or trumpet) or guitar player ; and the jazz trio with a horn player (saxophone or trumpet), double bass player, and a drummer. In the latter type of trio, the lack of a chordal instrument means that the horn player and the bassist have to imply the changing harmonies with their improvised lines.

Four parts

Jazz quartets typically add a horn (the generic jazz name for saxophones, trombones, trumpets, or any other wind instrument commonly associated with jazz) to one of the jazz trios described above. Slightly larger jazz ensembles, such as quintets (five instruments) or sextets (six instruments) typically add other soloing instruments to the basic quartet formation, such as different types of saxophones (e.g., alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, etc.) or an additional chordal instrument.

Larger ensembles

The lineup of larger jazz ensembles can vary considerably, depending on the style of jazz being performed. In a 1920s-style dixieland jazz band, a larger ensemble would be formed by adding a banjo player, woodwind instruments, as with the clarinet, or additional horns (saxophones, trumpets, trombones) to one of the smaller groups. In a 1940s-style Swing big band, a larger ensemble is formed by adding "sections" of like instruments, such as a saxophone section and a trumpet section, which perform arranged "horn lines" to accompany the ensemble. In a 1970s-style jazz fusion ensemble, a larger ensemble is often formed by adding additional percussionists or soloing instruments.

Rock and pop bands

The Black Keys are a two-part band consisting of a vocalist/guitarist and a drummer lineup.

Two parts

Two-member rock and pop bands are relatively rare, because of the difficulty in providing all of the musical elements which are part of the rock or pop sound (vocals, chords, bass lines, and percussion or drumming) with trios or quartets. Two-member rock and pop bands typically omit one of these musical elements. In many cases, two-member bands will omit a drummer, since guitars, bass guitars, and keyboards can all be used to provide a rhythmic pulse. Examples of two-member bands are The Everly Brothers, The White Stripes, The Ting Tings, The Black Keys, Pet Shop Boys, Tenacious D, and MGMT.

When electronic sequencers became widely available in the 1980s, this made it easier for two-member bands to add in musical elements that the two band members were not able to perform. Sequencers allowed bands to pre-program some elements of their performance, such as an electronic drum part and a synth-bass line. Two-member pop music bands such as Soft Cell used pre-programmed sequencers. Other pop bands from the 1980s which were ostensibly fronted by two performers, such as Wham! and Tears for Fears, were not actually two-piece ensembles, because other instrumental musicians were used "behind the scenes" to fill out the sound.

Two-piece bands in rock music are rare. However, starting in the 2000s, blues-influenced rock bands such as The White Stripes and The Black Keys utilized a guitar and drums scheme. Death From Above 1979 featured a drummer and bass guitarist. Tenacious D is a two-guitar band; One Day as a Lion and The Dresden Dolls both feature a keyboardist and a drummer. The band Welk consists of a two-man psychedelic flute band, with the occasional synthesizer. Two-person bands have grown in popularity in experimental rock music. Providence-based Lightning Bolt is a two-member band. Bassist Brian Gibson augments his playing with delay pedals, pitch shifters, looping devices and other pedals, occasionally creating harmony. Local H, No Age, Warship, and Growing are other prominent two-person experimental rock bands.

Example line-up

Three parts

Motorhead is a power trio band with a vocalist/bassist, lead guitarist, and drummer lineup.

The smallest ensemble that is commonly used in rock music is the trio format. In a hard rock or blues-rock band, or heavy metal rock group, a "power trio" format is often used, which consists of an electric guitar player, an electric bass guitar player and a drummer, and typically one or more of these musicians also sing (sometimes all three members will sing, e.g. Bee Gees or Alkaline Trio). Some well-known power trios with the guitarist on lead vocals are: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, Nirvana, Green Day, Sublime, Muse, and ZZ Top and with the bassist on vocals Primus, Motörhead, The Police, Rush, and Cream.

An alternative to the power trio are organ trios formed with an electric guitarist, a drummer and a keyboardist. Although organ trios are most commonly associated with 1950s and 1960s jazz organ trio groups such as those led by organist Jimmy Smith, there are also organ trios in rock-oriented styles, such as jazz-rock fusion and Grateful Dead-influenced jam bands such as Medeski Martin & Wood. In organ trios, the keyboard player typically plays a Hammond organ or similar instrument, which permits the keyboard player to perform bass lines, chords, and lead lines. A variant of the organ trio are trios formed with an electric bassist, a drummer and an electronic keyboardist (playing synthesizers) such as the progressive rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Another variation is to have a vocalist, a guitarist and a drummer, an example being Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Example line-up



Four parts

Red Hot Chili Peppers is a four part band with a lead vocalist, guitarist, bassist, and drummer lineup.

The four-piece band is the most common configuration in rock and pop music. Before the development of the electronic keyboard, the configuration was typically two guitarists (one lead guitarist and one rhythm guitarist, with the latter on vocals), a bass player (typically the electric bass guitar) and a drummer (e.g.The Beatles, KISS, Foo Fighters, Weezer, Metallica, The Clash, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Kinks, The Fray, The Killers, Nickelback and The Smashing Pumpkins).

Another common formation was a vocalist, electric guitarist, bass guitarist, and a drummer (e.g.The Who, Led Zeppelin, Tool, The Ramones, Sex Pistols, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Queen, Rage Against the Machine, Black Sabbath, Pantera, No Doubt, Cheap Trick, Van Halen, The Stooges, Joy Division, U2, Coldplay, Jane's Addiction, Motley Crue, Blur, The Stone Roses and Creed). Instrumentally, these bands can be considered as trios. In some early rock bands, keyboardists were used, performing on piano (e.g., The Rolling Stones initially used Ian Stewart on piano), The Doors with a guitarist, singer, drummer and keyboardist. Some bands will have a guitarist, bassist, drummer, and keyboard player (for example, Small Faces, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Coldplay (during some of their later work) and Blind Faith).

Some bands will have the bassist on lead vocals, such as Thin Lizzy, Pink Floyd, NOFX, +44, or even the lead guitarist, such as Dire Straits. Some bands, such as The Beatles, have a lead guitarist, a rhythm guitarist and a bassist that all sing lead and backing vocals, and also play keyboards regularly, as well as a drummer.

Example line-ups

Five parts

The Strokes are a five-part band with a lead vocalist, two guitarists, bassist, and drummer lineup.

Five-part bands have existed in rock music since early times. The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Def Leppard, AC/DC, Oasis, Pearl Jam, Guns N' Roses, Radiohead, The Strokes, Styx, The Yardbirds, 311 and My Chemical Romance are examples of the common vocalist, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass, and drums lineup. An alternative to the five-member lineup replaces the rhythm guitarist with a keyboard–synthesizer player (examples being the bands Dream Theater, Bon Jovi, Yes, Fleetwood Mac, Marilyn Manson and Deep Purple, all of which consist of a vocalist, guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, and a drummer) or with a turntablist such as Incubus or Limp Bizkit.

Other times, the vocalist will provide another musical voice to the table, most commonly a harmonica; Mick Jagger, for example, played harmonica and percussion instruments like maracas and tambourine. Ozzy Osbourne was also known to play the harmonica on some occasions (i.e. “The Wizard” by Black Sabbath).





or even

Larger rock ensembles

Iron Maiden is a six part band with a lead vocalist, three guitarists, a bassist, and drummer lineup. (Not shown in this image are Bruce Dickinson and Nicko McBrain.

Larger bands have long been a part of rock and pop music, in part due to the influence of the "singer accompanied with orchestra" model inherited from popular big-band jazz and swing and popularized by Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald.To create larger ensembles, rock bands often add an additional guitarist (as in Iron Maiden); an additional keyboardist (as in Procol Harum); additional percussionists (as in Latin-rock bands, e.g. Santana); or second drummer (as in The Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers Band), an entire horn section (Chicago), and even a flutist (Catharsis). Stevie Nicks has an extra guitarist, sometimes drummer and three backup singers in her band.

Nu metal band Linkin Park fits the rap rock genre with the inclusion of their turntablist & their emcee, who also plays rhythm guitar & keyboards. Slipknot has nine members, including a turntablist and two percussionists who match the drum beat. In other rock bands, particularly those influenced by other genres such as folk, classical, or country, the additional instrumentalists might include a mandolin player, a banjo player, a sitar player, a fiddler/acoustic violinist, an electric violinist, a timpanist, or a pedal steel guitarist. In some of these larger groups (such as The Band), instrumentalists could play multiple instruments, which enabled the ensemble to create a wider variety of instrument combinations. More rarely, rock or pop groups will be accompanied in concerts by a full or partial symphony orchestra, where lush string-orchestra arrangements are used to flesh out the sound of slow ballads. Third-Wave Ska bands may have six to eight pieces including vocals, guitarist(s), a bassist, a drummer, a trumpet, saxophone, and trombone.

Other situations occur depending on the genre the band prefers. For instance, the band Incubus has five members, one of them being a DJ. Also, the band Dare to Dream has five members, including Steven M. Cooper. Huey Lewis and the News also had a large rock ensemble, including the members of the News and the separate jazz band Tower of Power on many of their early hits. Another interesting example is Bang Camaro, who have three guitarists, one keyboardist, one bassist, one drummer, and ten to fifteen singers who sing simultaneously. Bluegrass and other music has roots in Irish folk, and some Irish punk bands such as Flogging Molly have multiple members, some of which play the fiddle, banjo, and the accordion. On the extreme, symphonic metal group Haggard at one time had 21 members, being numerous different types of instrumentalists and vocalists, approaching something more reminiscent of a small chamber orchestra, and the extreme gothic metal band Theatres des Vampires (usually with eight members: three vocalists, two guitarists, a drummer, a bassist and a keyboardist) reached 12 members in 2004, with Nightbreed of Macabria (Four vocalists, two guitarists, a drummer, a bassist, a keyboardist, a violinist, a violist, a cellist, an hornist and a flautist). Roger Waters during his The Dark Side of the Moon Live tour was observed with two drummers, three background singers, a lead, rhythm and alternating (lead, rhythm and bass) guitarist, sax player, keys/Moog/synth/effects man and himself playing bass.

Example line-up




Musical drama

Sung dramas such as operas and musicals usually have numbers where several of the principals are singing together, either on their own or with the chorus. Such numbers (duets, trios, etc) are also referred to as 'ensembles'.

Other western musical ensembles

In the 1900s, the Wind Symphony or Wind Ensemble became popular, especially in academic circles. A wind ensemble consists entirely of wind instruments and percussion instruments, but may also include a double bass. Schools from elementary level onward often have a school band program which is usually centered around its wind ensemble, often known as a concert band.

A choir is a group of voices. By analogy, sometimes a group of similar instruments in a symphony orchestra are referred to as a choir. For example, the woodwind instruments of a symphony orchestra could be called the woodwind choir.

A group that plays popular music or military music is usually called a band. A group that plays while marching on a football field, without being a marching band, is called a drum and bugle corps. These bands perform a wide range of music, ranging from arrangements of jazz orchestral, or popular music to military-style marches. Drum corps perform on brass and percussion instruments only. Some corps perform on bugles in the key of G, while others perform on brass instruments in multiple keys, depending on the group. Drum and Bugle Corps incorporate costumes, hats, and pageantry in their performances.

Other band types include:

See also


  1. ^ Raynor, Henry (1978). The Orchestra: a history. Scribner. ISBN 0-684-15535-4. 

External links

Music, Historical images. From New York Public Library Digital Gallery

Rock Band
Genre(s) Music video game
Developer(s) Harmonix Music Systems
Publisher(s) Electronic Arts Studios
First release Rock Band / November 20, 2007
Latest release Rock Band Unplugged / June 9, 2009

Rock Band is a series of music video games developed by Harmonix Music Systems and MTV Games, and distributed by Electronic Arts for the PlayStation 2 and 3, Xbox 360, and Wii game consoles. The series, inspired by Harmonix's previous efforts on the Guitar Hero series, allows up to four players to simulate the performance of popular rock music songs by playing with controllers modeled after musical instruments. Players can play the lead guitar, bass guitar, and drums parts to songs with "instrument controllers", as well as sing through a USB microphone. Players are scored on their ability to match scrolling musical "notes" while playing instruments, or by their ability to match the singer's pitch on vocals.

The first game in the series, Rock Band, was released in 2007 shortly after Harmonix was acquired by MTV Games, and its sequel Rock Band 2 was released in 2008. Harmonix has also regularly provided downloadable content, in the form of additional downloadable songs on a weekly basis through the game consoles' network services. To date, over 700 songs are available between those on the game discs and through downloadable content. Harmonix has also created standalone Track Packs that either contain a selection of downloadable content, or a selection of band-specific songs. To date, over 10 million copies of Rock Band titles have been sold[1] with more than $1 billion in total sales,[2] and over 40 million songs have been downloaded.[2]



Harmonix Music Systems previously developed several music-based games, including Frequency, Amplitude, and the Karaoke Revolution series. Harmonix was approached by RedOctane to help develop Guitar Hero, a music video game similar to Konami's GuitarFreaks in that a special guitar-shaped controller was used to mimic the playing of lead guitar to several rock tracks. Guitar Hero proved to be a surprise success, and led to the development of a full sequel, Guitar Hero II, and an expansion title, Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s.

In 2006, both Harmonix and RedOctane were bought separately, by MTV Games and Activision respectively. RedOctane continued to publish the Guitar Hero series, bringing Neversoft on board for development duties. According to Harmonix Vice President of Product Development, Greg LoPiccolo, the Harmonix team had already envisioned the possibility of different instruments before they were completed with the Guitar Hero series.[3] Rock Band took twenty months and approximately US$200 million to develop. Harmonix was able to use MTV's music licensing abilities to secure the licensing rights for the music in the game. Rock Band was praised by critics and was highly successful, leading to the release of a sequel, Rock Band 2 less than a year later.

On June 2, 2008, Harmonix announced that it had begun codeveloping a Japanese version of Rock Band with Q Entertainment for exclusive release in Japan on the PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii and Xbox 360. According to Harmonix, Rock Band: Japan will be "the first US-originated rock music game to be heavily localized for the Japanese market".[4] A release date has not yet been announced. While the game mechanics are expected to remain the same as Rock Band, the game will be localized and its soundtrack will include songs by popular Japanese artists,[5] such as X Japan.[6]

[[File:|thumb|left|Screenshot of The Beatles: Rock Band featuring all four Beatles members performing on the set of The Ed Sullivan Show.]] In October 2008, Harmonix, along with MTV Games, announced an exclusive agreement with Apple Corps, Ltd. to produce a standalone title, titled The Beatles: Rock Band, based on the Rock Band premise and featuring the music of The Beatles. The game is scheduled for release on September 9, 2009, coincidentally with the release of remastered collections of the Beatles' albums, and will feature a visual and musical history of the Beatles with United Kingdom-released versions of songs from their albums Please Please Me through Abbey Road. Harmonix stated, despite building on the Rock Band gameplay, this will not be a Rock Band branded title, and that the songs will not be available as downloadable content for the Rock Band series.[7] The agreement had been in discussion for more than 17 months prior to the official announcement.[8] In part due to ongoing development of The Beatles: Rock Band, Harmonix announced that Rock Band 3 will break the "annual release cycle" and will not be released in 2009.[9]

Rock Band Unplugged was developed by Backbone Entertainment and was released for the PlayStation Portable in North America on June 9, 2009[10] and will be in Europe by the end of 2009. The game uses the PSP's Wi-Fi capabilities to provide an online store for additional downloadable content from music providers.[11] The game is played similarly to Harmonix' previous games Frequency and Amplitude, with the player using the face buttons on the PSP to match notes; after completing a length of a phrase on a given instrument, that instrument will then play by itself for a while, allowing the player to switch to another instrument. The soundtrack includes works from Blink 182, Boston, AFI, Kansas, Lit, Alice in Chains, Judas Priest, System of a down, Lamb of God, and The Police.[12]

[[File:|thumb|right|Lego Rock Band will feature Lego-style avatars with full customization along with a family-friendly soundtrack.]] Harmonix and MTV Games have worked with Traveller's Tales, developers of the various Lego-themed video game titles such as Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment to create Lego Rock Band.[13] The game's announcement was preceeded by industry rumors of the title's existence,[14] including mention in a slide in Harmonix' Dan Teasdale's presentation at the 2009 Game Developers Conference.[15] The game will include songs that are "suitable for younger audiences", including Blur's "Song 2", Carl Douglas's "Kung Fu Fighting", Europe's "The Final Countdown", Good Charlotte's "Girls and Boys", and Pink's "So What".[13] The game will also including the "fun, customization and humor of the Lego videogame franchise" by allowing players to create their own Lego-style avatars. The game, which will be released during late 2009 on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii consoles, will support existing Rock Band instruments.[13] There will also be a Nintendo DS version co-developed with Backbone Entertainment.[13]

The band Pearl Jam is working with Harmonix and MTV Games along with Rhapsody on a Rock Band-related project to be released in 2010, allowing for users to vote for their favorite live versions of the band's music. It is unknown at this time if the content will be released as a band-branded game, track pack, or a collection of downloadable songs.[16]

Image Metrics, a 3D facial animation company, has provided the pre-rendered introductions to both Rock Band and Rock Band 2.[17]


The Rock Band games are score-based music video games that combine elements of two of Harmonix' previous efforts: Guitar Hero and Karaoke Revolution, allowing up to four players to play on lead and bass guitar, drums, and vocals. Players must play these instruments in time with musical "notes" as they scroll towards them on the screen.

Rock Band titles' gameplay and on-screen interface use a combination of elements from Guitar Hero and Karaoke Revolution.[18] Rock Band has up to three tracks of vertically scrolling colored music notes, one section each for lead guitar, drums, and bass.[18] The colored notes on-screen correspond to buttons on the guitar and drum peripherals.[18] Along the top of the screen is the vocals display, which scrolls horizontally, similar to Karaoke Revolution. The lyrics display beneath green bars, which represent the pitch of the individual vocal elements.[18] The Beatles: Rock Band will have three part harmonies using three different microphones. [19] If any part is not being played, its interface does not appear on-screen. The remainder of the screen is used to display the band's virtual characters as they perform in concert.

's "Enter Sandman" in Rock Band: each instrument is represented by a different interface: lead guitar (left), drums (middle), bass guitar (right), vocals (top).]] During cooperative play as a band, all players earn points towards a common score, though score multipliers and "Overdrive" (the equivalent of Guitar Hero's "Star Power") are tracked separately for each player.[18] The bass guitar player's multiplier can reach as high as 6x (compared to a 4x multiplier for the other players) and achieve "Bass Groove".[20] Overdrive is collected during select portions of a song by successfully playing all white notes within that section (guitar and bass players can also use the guitar controller's whammy bar to extract Overdrive from white sustained notes).[21] Once the Energy Meter is filled halfway, players can deploy their Overdrive, resulting in the "Band Meter" (which tracks how well each player is doing) changing more dramatically. This allows players to strategically use Overdrive to raise the Band Meter and pass portions of a song they otherwise might have failed. Overdrive can be used to activate score multipliers, which vary based on a player's note streak. In solo play, deploying Overdrive doubles the player's score multiplier. However, in band play, activating Overdrive instead increases the score multiplier of the entire band by two. Additionally, players can deploy Overdrive independently of each other (Guitar Hero games require players in Co-Operative mode to deploy Star Power simultaneously), as well as collect additional Overdrive while it is deployed and draining. [21]

Each band member can choose the difficulty at which they play (spanning Easy, Medium, Hard, and Expert). If a player does not play well enough and falls to the bottom of the Band Meter, they will fail out of the song and their instrument will be muted from the audio mix. However, any active player can activate their Overdrive to bring failed players back into the song,[18] "saving" the band member. However, a band member can only be saved twice; after the third failure, they cannot be brought back for that song. Failed players continuously drag the band's Band Meter down until they are saved. If the player is not saved before the Band Meter reaches the bottom, the band fails the song. Special portions of songs are labeled as "Unison Phrases," which reward the band with a score and Overdrive bonus if each player can play their parts perfectly during the phrase. Select songs end with a special "Big Rock Ending," which gives the players a chance to improvise and earn extra points. If each player successfully plays the final notes of the song following the freestyle portion of the "Big Rock Ending," the band earns all of the "Big Rock Ending" points. Otherwise, the bonus is lost.

As the song progresses, the screen shows a meter with the current accumulated score for the game, as well as the number of "stars" earned so far based on their score and the progress towards the next star indicated by a partially filled ring. Players can earn up to five stars, with the chance of getting 5 "gold stars" by getting a very high score with all players on the Expert difficulty. The performance's star rating will influence the monetary reward for the song within the various game modes.

Instrument peripherals

Rock Band features instrument controllers designed for the game. However, Harmonix and other companies have attempted to provide compatibility between competing instrument controllers and music games, allowing Rock Band to be playable without use of specific controllers.

The guitar controller for Rock Band, modeled after a Fender Stratocaster, is used for lead guitar and bass guitar gameplay. It has several features akin to Guitar Hero's controller, as it features five colored fret buttons on the neck of the guitar (which correspond to on-screen notes), a strum bar, and a whammy bar. To use the guitar controller, players must hold the fret button that corresponds to the scrolling colored note on-screen while simultaneously pushing the strum bar. In addition, five smaller fret buttons are located further down on the neck. These buttons can be used to play all notes in guitar solos (denoted by the note track turning blue) as hammer-ons and pull-offs, without strumming.[18] A special effects switch can be used to toggle between five different guitar effects during solos and Overdrive periods (none, wah-wah, flange, chorus, echo and on bass, distortion for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions; none, doubler, slap back echo, medium echo, and long echo for PlayStation 2, and none, flange, slap back echo, chorus, and echo for the Wii version[22]). Overdrive for guitarists can be deployed by holding the controller in a vertical position or pressing the "Select/Back" button. The controller is offered in both wired and wireless versions. Rock Band games allow players to apply a "Lefty Flip" setting, supporting left-handed guitar players. The second version of the controller, distributed with Rock Band 2, introduced quieter fret buttons, a more reliable strum bar, and optical sensor/microphone to help the player calibrate the video and audio output from their television/stereo system's setup.

The drum set for Rock Band features four rubber drum pads and a bass pedal. The pads have colored rings around the edges that correspond to the notes on-screen. These pads represent a snare drum, toms, and cymbals. The pedal represents the bass drum, with on-screen notes represented as orange horizontal lines. To use the drum controller, players must strike the pads with drum sticks and press the bass pedal in time with the scrolling notes on-screen. Drummers can improvise in special "freestyle drum fill" sections of songs, indicated by the columns for each note turning a solid color. The four pads will commonly change functionality to represent other drums, depending on the requirements of a song. The default pad order can be reversed using the "Lefty Flip" option in the game. The legs of the drum peripheral can adjust in height or be detached if the player wishes to place it on a table-top.[23] The drum controller also features standard controller buttons in the middle of the peripheral for navigating in-game menus. Overdrive for drummers can be deployed by hitting the crash cymbal (green note for right-handed configuration) that appears directly after a freestyle drum fill. The second version of the controller, distributed with Rock Band 2, introduced quieter, "velocity sensitive" drum pads, a reinforced bass pedal, wireless capabilities, and compatibility with separately-sold cymbals. ION Audio has also produced a premium drum kit that includes cymbals and can be upgraded with a drum brain to be used as an electronic drum kit.

The microphone is a standard USB microphone. Players can use most other USB microphones, while Xbox 360 users can substitute their console's headset, if they wish. For the most part, singers are judged on how closely they match the pitch of the song's vocalist. During "talking parts" that do not judge pitch, a phoneme detector will pick up individual vowels and consonants of the spoken lyrics.[18][24] Some sections without vocals will display circle notes, allowing for the microphone to be used as a tambourine and cowbell by tapping it or making vocal cues. Overdrive for singers can be deployed by singing in freestyle vocal sections of songs, denoted by yellow artwork in the background of the vocals interface.

On January 4, 2008, video game peripherals manufacturer Mad Catz announced it had reached an agreement with MTV and Harmonix to produce peripherals for Rock Band.[25] Other peripheral companies have developed their own guitar controllers, such as Nyko's Wireless Frontman, that work across both Rock Band and Guitar Hero titles.[26]

Game modes

]] The primary mode of play in both games is a "Band World Tour" mode (renamed "Tour" for Rock Band 2); in the first Rock Band, this was limited to a band of two or more players playing locally, but Rock Band 2 expanded this to any number of players, locally or online. After choosing a band name and hometown city, the band members can create their own rock characters, as well as a band logo. Once setup is complete, the band can begin playing concerts in small venues in their hometown until they unlock vans, tour buses and private jets, which unlock more cities and different continents. Unlocking and completing new gigs unlocks additional songs for play across all game modes. Successful performances also earn the band fans (used as a metric of measuring the band's popularity), stars (which accumulate based on the success of each individual song performed), and in-game cash (which each player can spend at the "Rock Shop").[27] Most cities and larger venues require the band to achieve a certain number of fans and stars before they are unlocked. In the process, bands can loop through cities multiple times, eventually playing larger venues in cities they have already visited.[27] In-game venues are inspired by real-life venues and often display local art styles from each of the represented cities.[27]

Players complete unique sets of activities at each venue. Performances consist of single songs, multiple song sets, "make your own" setlists, and mystery setlists.[28] Players are also faced with decisions that Harmonix refers to as "risk-versus-reward."[28] Bands need to choose which sized venue they perform at carefully, as a poor performance at a larger venue poses a greater threat of the band losing fans.[28] For certain performances, bands are faced with an optional challenge that requires the band to average a certain amount of stars for their gig in order to reap the rewards.[28] Bands can also choose to perform a benefit concert (earning no in-game money but gaining more fans) or "sell-out" (earning more in-game money but losing fans).[28] Additionally, for certain gigs, bands can compete for band managers, roadies, security personnel, and sound guys, as well as a recording deal with a record label.[28] The "Endless Setlist" allows players to experience an all-day concert atmosphere, as the setlist requires playing the entire game disc's setlist from start to finish.[29]

Rock Band 2 introduced two new modes. "Challenges" allow a band to play through pre-determined setlists, arranged via difficulty, to earn in-game money. These "Challenges" include those based on songs on-disc, as well as through additional songs from the first Rock Band or from downloadable content. A "Battle of the Bands" mode consists of limited-time online tournaments updated on a daily basis. Each specific "Battle of the Band" challenge will have a number of songs and may have specific requirements or limitations; for example, a challenge may require a vocalist, or that the band cannot use Overdrive for the challenge. The goal in these challenges is to achieve the best "score", which may be the numerical score, the number of stars earned, or the longest streak of consecutive notes played correctly. This score is tracked on global leaderboards, and allow the players to compare their performance to their friends and others. "Battle of the Bands" challenges utilize both on-disc content and other songs the players may have available.

The first Rock Band features a more traditional "Career" mode for a single player on either lead guitar, drums, or vocals, dividing the on-disk songs into nine tiers arranged by difficulty of the song for that instrument. Each subsequent tier would only be unlocked after completing the songs in the previous tier. The player would earn in-game money based on their performance. This was removed in Rock Band 2 in lieu of the improved "Tour" mode.

"Quickplay" mode allows up to four players to play any song that has been unlocked. Single players may play head-to-head with another player on the same instrument either through "Score Battles" (both playing at the same time to earn the highest score) or "Tug of War" (each trading off sections of a song, trying to outplay the other). Also included are "Tutorial Mode", which allows players to learn how to play each instrument, and "Practice Mode" which allows players to practice songs for each instrument. A more complete "Drum Trainer" mode was added to Rock Band 2 to help players learn basic drum patterns and drum fills at various speeds.


Players can create and customize their own in-game character, complete with adjustable hair, body physique, clothing, tattoos, onstage movements, and instruments. (Playstation 2 and Wii does not have this feature) Using cash earned within the game, the player may purchase items at the in-game "Rock Shop," with which they can customize their rock star. The game features an art maker where players can combine different clip art elements to create custom face paint, tattoos, clothing designs, instrument artwork, and band logos. Bands themselves can create their own logo, and in Rock Band 2, players can assign any generated character to "stand in" for parts that are not presently being played.

With the release of Rock Band 2, players are able to use the official Rock Band website to create physical merchandise of their characters and band, including posters, t-shirts, as well as six-inch tall figurines.


Rock Band and Rock Band 2 featured soundtracks containing 58 and 84 songs, respectively, spanning many genres of rock music from the 1960s to 2000s, and including licensed music from both well-known artists, as well as independent groups. The majority of songs for Rock Band are master recordings, with a handful of cover versions, while all of Rock Band 2's songs are master recordings. Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 players are able, for a fee, to export most of the songs in Rock Band onto their console's hard drive to play in Rock Band 2 and future Rock Band games.

Harmonix has provided new songs, compatible with both games, through regular weekly downloadable content, with over 700 songs, including 11 complete albums, available from over 250 different artists presently available.[2] These have included various singles, artist packs featuring three or more songs from the artists, and full albums. Singles cost $1.99 to download, with packs and album costs varying depending on the number of songs. The music can be purchased either directly from the console's online store, or through the Rock Band games directly via its own "Music Store", which allows users to preview the music prior to purchase. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of both games support downloading; the Wii version of Rock Band 2 also has this feature, and Harmonix is re-releasing existing downloaded content on the Wii Shopping Channel over time. Harmonix has stated that the Rock Band series is a music platform to allow players to discover music and provide a wide range of music through additional content;[30] a recent download pack includes five country songs as well.[31] Over 40 million downloadable songs purchases have been made through Rock Band music store service through February 2009.[2][32]

Harmonix has created a series of Track Packs that contain up to twenty songs previously featured as downloadable content that can be played as a standalone title with reduced features (such as no character customization and limited game modes). These titles were initially intended for users of Rock Band on platforms that lacked network capabilities, specifically the PlayStation 2 and the Wii. However, the second Track Pack was made available for all four console systems, and allows users on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 to download these songs for use in the main games. A third Track Pack provides all the tracks from AC/DC's Live at Donington album in a similar manner to the second Track Pack, including exporting them to the main games. More recent Track Packs have been gerne-specific such as classic rock, country, and metal. Some Track Packs have included songs not yet available through downloadable content, though Harmonix has stated that these songs will eventually be in the game's Music Store for purchase.

Cultural impact

Template:Seealso Like Guitar Hero, Rock Band has influenced the music culture. Alex Rigopulos and Eran Egozy, the founders of Harmonix, were together named in Time Magazine's list of the 100 most influential people of 2008 for their creation of Rock Band. In the article, guitarist Steven Van Zandt claims, "in the history of rock 'n' roll, Rock Band may just turn out to be up there with the rise of FM radio, CDs or MTV."[33] Both were awarded the 2009 Game Developers Choice Pioneer Award for their influence on music video games culminating with Rock Band.[34] A reality television show, Rock Band 2: The Stars, was created by VH1, featuring several players performing and being eliminated by judges Alice Cooper and Sebastian Bach.[35] The Pennsylvania-based band, the Jellybricks, released a viral video of their song "Ruin Us" which is overplayed on footage from Rock Band 2 using avatars resembling the band members.[36]

In terms of sales, Rock Band trails the Guitar Hero series, selling only 4 million units in 2007 compared to Guitar Hero's 11.8 million.[7] In 2008, Rock Band was the third highest brand, trailing Guitar Hero and the Mario series, with $662M in total sales for the year.[37] Wedbush Securities gaming analyst Michael Pachter believes that both game series will sell another 3 million units each by early 2009.[7]

Sales of downloadable songs have been in favor of hard rock bands; Mötley Crüe's single "Saints of Los Angeles", debuting as a Rock Band track at the same time as the release of the album of the same name, saw 48,000 Rock Band downloads and 14,000 iTunes downloads during its first week of release.[38] The popularity of some tracks have also led to groups considering releasing more material for the game. Rush's alternate version of "Working Man" released only for Rock Band was met with so much praise from players of Rock Band that the group released the song for download through iTunes, as well as considered making full albums available.[38] Guns N' Roses has delayed their long-awaited album Chinese Democracy so often, many doubted it would ever be released; however, the Rock Band 2 debut of the song "Shackler's Revenge" was thought to be the precursor to the release of Chinese Democracy; the album was indeed released in November 2008 and was later made available as a downloadable album for the Rock Band games.

Rock Band's downloadable content has been given away as part of promotions tied in with the game. Playable tracks from Disturbed and Pearl Jam were given to customers that had purchased new albums from the respective bands in certain stores.[39][40] During the summer of 2009, customers of specially-marked Pepsi products had a chance to win a token to select one downloadable track out of about 300 for Rock Band in addition to other Rock Band related-prizes.[41]

Template:Seealso Rock Band and Guitar Hero have been stated to provide significant benefits for music labels and artists through exposure to new audiences.[42] However, not all record labels believe there are benefits; Edgar Bronfman Jr., chairman and chief executive for Warner Music Group, stated that "The amount being paid to the industry, even though their games are entirely dependent on the content that we own and control, is far too small."[43] While industry rumors stated that MTV Games was boycotting artists under the Warner Music label over the music company's stance on licensing[44] the issue has been stated by both MTV Games and Warner Music Group to be a present dispute over increased costs of licensed music as the two companies seek a new deal.[45]


Released Year Title Platform
PS2 PS3 360 Wii PSP NDS
Main Games
2007 Rock Band Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
2008 Rock Band 2 Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
2009 Rock Band Unplugged No No No No Yes No
2009 The Beatles: Rock Band No Yes Yes Yes No No
2009 Lego Rock Band No Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Rock Band Track Packs
2008 Vol. 1 Yes No No Yes No No
2008 AC/DC Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
2008 Vol. 2 Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
2009 Classic Rock Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
2009 Country Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
2009 Metal Yes Yes Yes Yes No No

See also


  1. Magrino, Tom (2009-02-12). "Rock Band 2 sales near 2 million, franchise ships 10 million". Gamespot. Retrieved on 2009-02-12. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Radd, David (2009-03-26). "Rock Band Exceeds $1 Billion in Retail Sales". Game Daily. Retrieved on 2009-03-26. 
  3. "Harmonix Interview". Edge. 2008-10-20. Retrieved on 2008-10-21. 
  4. "Rock Band: Japan press release". Harmonix. Retrieved on 2008-06-08. 
  5. "Rock Band Goes to Japan". IGN. 2008-06-02. Retrieved on 2008-07-11. 
  6. "Yoshiki announces end-of-year live for X JAPAN, new track". Retrieved on 2008-10-23. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Bruno, Antony (2008-10-31). "MTV and Activision face off in battle of the brands". Reuters. Retrieved on 2008-11-03. 
  8. Kohler, Chris (2008-10-30). "Live Blog: Beatles, Rock Band Makers Team For New Game". Wired. Retrieved on 2008-10-30. 
  9. "Harmonix’ Rigopolous: “Rock Band 3 breaking the annual cycle”". Retrieved on 2009-01-07. 
  10. "Rock Band: Unplugged for PSP". GameSpot. Retrieved on 2009-06-3. 
  11. Totilo, Stephan (2009-02-24). "‘LittleBigPlanet’ PSP Announced, Plus Tons Of Other Major Titles". MTV. Retrieved on 2009-02-24. 
  12. Faylor, Chris (2009-02-24). "Rock Band PSP Details: Think Frequency, Amplitude". Shacknews. Retrieved on 2009-02-24. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 "Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, TT Games, The LEGO Group, Harmonix and MTV Games Announce LEGO® Rock Band®". PR Newswire. 2009-04-21. Retrieved on 2009-04-21. 
  14. Faylor, Chris (2009-01-05). "LEGO Rock Band, LEGO Harry Potter Rumors Swirl". Shacknews. Retrieved on 2009-01-05. 
  15. McWherter, Michael (2009-04-05). "Harmonix Designer Unwittingly Confirms LEGO Rock Band". Kotaku. Retrieved on 2009-04-05. 
  16. HMXHenry (2009-05-11). "Pearl Jam Rock Band Project Coming Next Year". Harmonix Music Systems. Retrieved on 2009-05-11. 
  17. Radd, David (2008-10-28). "Ad Watch: Image Metrics: The Face of Rock Band 2". GameDaily. Retrieved on 2009-04-08. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 18.5 18.6 18.7 Plunkett, Luke (2007-06-14). "Rock Band Details Explosion". Kotaku. Retrieved on 2008-07-24. 
  19. kotaku"Retail listings confirm The Beatles Rock Band 3-part hormonies". Kotaku. Retrieved on 2009-06-01. 
  20. Shoemaker, Brad (2007-07-05). "Rock Band Hands-On". GameSpot. Retrieved on 2008-07-24. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 "ScoreHero Invades Harmonix (Rock Band Impressions)". ScoreHero. 2007-10-19. Retrieved on 2008-07-24. 
  22. Moses, Travis (2007-12-14). "Preview: Rock Band PS2 - Impressions". GamePro. Retrieved on 2008-07-24. 
  23. Mitchell, Jason (2007-10-17). "How to Assemble the "Rock Band" Drum Kit". MTV Multiplayer. Retrieved on 2008-07-24. 
  24. "Rock Band: The New Album", Game Informer: 62–69, July 
  25. Crecente, Brian (2008-01-04). "Mad Catz To Make Wired, Wireless Rock Band Gear". Kotaku. Retrieved on 2008-01-04. 
  26. Johnson, Stephan (2008-04-02). "Nyko's Frontman Available Now". G4TV. Retrieved on 2008-04-15. 
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 "On Location With Rock Band". GameSpy. 2007-10-09. Retrieved on 2008-07-24. 
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 28.3 28.4 28.5 Shoemaker, Brad (2007-10-17). "Rock Band Exclusive - Rock Around the World". GameSpot. Retrieved on 2008-07-24. 
  29. "Rock Band Exclusive: The Endless Setlist". ScoreHero. 2007-10-19. Retrieved on 2008-07-24. 
  30. "Harmonix and MTV Games Unveil Set List for Rock Band 2". Harmonix Music Systems. 2008-07-14. Retrieved on 2008-12-08. 
  31. Faylor, Chris (2008-12-08). "Rock Band Country Pack DLC Detailed, Priced". Shacknews. Retrieved on 2008-12-08. 
  32. Pham, Alex (2009-03-16). "Guitar Hero and Rock Band try to drum up new players". Los Angeles Times.,0,7345850.story. Retrieved on 2009-03-16. 
  33. Van Zandt, Steven (2008-05-01). "Alex Rigopulos & Eran Egozy". Time 100. Time Magazine.,28804,1733748_1733752_1735901,00.html. Retrieved on 2008-05-14. 
  34. "2009 Game Developers Choice Awards Names Pioneer, Ambassador Award Winners, Schafer as Host". Think Services Game Group. 2009-02-03. Retrieved on 2009-02-04. 
  35. Halperin, Shirley (2008-11-06). "'Rock Band' TV show, featuring Alice Cooper and Sebastian Bach, to jam on VH1 Classic". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on 2008-11-06. 
  36. Kreps, Daniel (2009-02-19). "“Rock Band 2″ And Smooth Editing Make Jellybricks’ “Ruin Us” First Clever Viral Video of ‘09". Rolling Stone. Retrieved on 2009-02-25. 
  37. Fletcher, JC (2009-06-30). "Top brands of 2008 owned by Nintendo, EA, Activision, and not Sony". Joystiq. Retrieved on 2009-07-01. 
  38. 38.0 38.1 Levine, Robert (2008-07-14). "Planned Guns N’ Roses Deal Underscores Power of Video Games to Sell Songs". The New York Times. Retrieved on 2008-07-16. 
  39. "Disturbed Promotion Info". Harmonix. 2008-05-08. Retrieved on 2008-09-30. 
  40. "Pearl Jam Exclusive Rock Band tracks". Best Buy. Retrieved on 2009-02-03. 
  41. "Pepsi Giving Away Free Rock Band Tracks". Game Informer. 2009-05-21. Retrieved on 2009-07-04. 
  42. Kuchera, Ben (2007-11-21). "Songs included in Guitar Hero 3 see a dramatic leap in digital sales". Ars Technica. Retrieved on 2008-07-24. 
  43. Quinn, Michelle; Pham, Alex (2008-08-18). "Record labels seek more action on Rock Band and Guitar Hero".,1,6051130.story. Retrieved on 2008-08-18. 
  44. Howe, Jeff (2009-02-24). "Why the Music Industry Hates Guitar Hero". Wired. Retrieved on 2009-02-24. 
  45. Bruno, Antony (2009-03-02). "MTV Games, Warner: No 'Rock Band' Boycott Of WMG Artists". Billboard. Retrieved on 2009-03-03. 

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