The Rules of the House

"Don't wear your guitar above your waist. You're not in the Beatles."
-- interstitial text in the game "Guitar Hero"

We hauled the giant box into the house. It took me about half an hour untangle all the fiddly bits from the plastic wrappings and figure out how to assemble the drum set, but then we were good to go. Not long after the crash of that opening chord we decided it was going to be a Hard Day's Night and rawked the house until 2am.

The next morning dawned way, way too early. I ran into an acquaintance at the coffee stand as I was wrapping myself around a very large cup of java in hopes of getting the pint of blue mush sloshing around between my ears warmed up to the point where it might start passing current before I got into the office. He started talking about his troubles with Back in the U.S.S.R. the night before and it really struck me.

We may as well be playing two completely different games.

He's a late-20's guy, just out of college and working for an edgy, hip company that makes some sort of gewgaws for mobile phones. He lives by himself. He has the game and a regular Rock Band guitar he picked up when the second game came out. To him it may as well be Guitar Hero with a different playlist. He jams with some buddies over XboxLive, but he's never even hooked up a second instrument.

My house is the diametric opposite. I got a sweet deal on the Limited Edition set, so I have all the instruments. I had to. Everyone taking turns on one guitar would have broken down pretty badly. With all the singers vying for the mic stand it didn't take too much playtime before I broke down and bought two more microphones, too. Six active players and three part harmony makes this game the ultimate cooperative mode.

The only time I get to play alone is a Friday night when they're all off playing that "social life" game. And even then, it's probably not going to be totally alone. Between me and all four of my kids plus their wing-men, girl/boyfriends, and the random neighborhood ebb and flow there's always someone around to pick up the other instruments. And they do. No matter what they're doing, that first chord struck on the loading screen calls them, and you have to untangle the mic cords again so whoever is around can join in.

It's not like a solo game, or even an online multi-player. You can't play the game the same way when eight people are waiting for their turn. And when you can step on the other players toes and there are this many around the number of possible things that can go wrong starts to add up pretty fast. The list of guidelines to manage it's play in my house has gotten long and illustrious. The establishment of "house rules" has been raised to a status of art form.

It's not that I'm trying to be a jackbooted thug here. But without some sort of structure in place you end up with a level of chaotic nonsense reminiscent of Yoko keening Revolution 9 over and over and over again.

Ladies and Gentlemen, if I can have your attention...
Before you're allowed to pick up my Hoffner, you better listen up. We've got a few ground rules.
  • Please remember we are in an apartment. Watch the volume on all the equipment and watch yourselves. The vocalists need to learn to moderate their tone. The drummer doesn't have to flail around like Animal and try to drive the drum-heads through the floor to China to make them register the notes.
  • Watch who you are logged in as. I'm talking to the guitar-freak who did such gratifying things for my scores in guitar-only play in Local Quickplay accidentally.
  • Watch the repetition. Yes, we know Eight Days A Week is your favorite song. But it's not everyone's favorite song.
  • Be sensitive to other's skills and tastes. I know you love the guitar line in I Am the Walrus, but someone has to sing it, and that's a whole 'nother ballgame. Goo Goo G'Joob.
  • Please call the songs by the names in the list when people are over. I know what you're talking about, but your friend doesn't have a clue when you refer to Come Together as "The Shoot-me Song."

Getting by with a little help from my friends...
The byplay between the band members is one of the best things about these games. But let's take care of a few topics that seem to keep springing up for good and all.

  • The fact that I'm old seems to be a favorite topic around here, but these guys have me beat. They are the age of my parents. Stop calling this "my" music. For the record, I was born during the recording of The White Album. If you follow the dates in the game, I come in somewhere near Dear Prudence.
  • Sartorial matters keep coming up for discussion. Yes, that was a seriously ugly striped shirt Mr. Harrison was sporting. This was the late 60's and early 70's; everyone looked like that. None of the band was playing Jesus in anything. And no, I don't know what died to make Mr. Lennon's coat at the Rooftop Concert venue.
  • They all were probably a bit baked on something pretty awesome there by The End. But we don't have to have this discussion EVERY SINGLE TIME we play something from the Abbey Road album.

And Your Bird Can Sing...
With the addition of three microphones worth of harmony, comes the ability to generate three times the cacophony. Mercifully, the game doesn't care what key you sing the song in. It doesn't even care if you change during the song, as long as you keep the melodic line strong and fit their tempo. If you need help adjusting a song to fit your voice better, save all our ears and let me know.

  • Know your range, or just follow me. All of the Beatles have different vocal ranges, and you may not match every song. Crocheting your vocal chords to get them up there with Mr. McCartney can be a challenge for the guys. This also goes for the girls who are trying to go gargling around the bottom lines of the bass clef with Mr. Starr in the Octopus's Garden.
  • No vocalist may smack the bassist for all the whooping noises Mr. McCartney makes, or the guitarist for Mr Lennon's uh, vocalizations in Revolution. I know he sounds like Darth Vader there towards the end, and no I don't know why.
  • No one may smack anyone for I Am The Walrus or Helter Skelter for any reason.

She Came In Through The Bathroom Window...
As long as you follow the rhythm of the vocal parts fairly closely, the game could care less what actual words you're using. Changes to lyrics are acceptable as long as a) they don't detract from the score and b) they're not any more suggestive than the base song. There are some changes I actually recommend.

  • Turning all those instances of "yell-ow sub-ma-rine" into "pimpd-out lim-o-sine" is sort of a household tradition at this point and it's been tested as not detracting from the score even on Expert difficulty. Go for it!
  • If you decide you have to just kick out the jambs and do something racy to an already racy song, go ahead. If you manage to change the lyrics of Don't Let Me Down to anything even close to as embarrassing to sing as the ones that came with it without adding explicit scatological detail then I'd like to hear it.
  • Gender bending and other tricks to make the song fit the singer are suggested where appropriate just to keep the level of awkward down to a dull roar. A good example would be the changes I make when I sing When I Saw Her Standing There. I have to change the gender and then also imply it's a reminiscence rather than last Saturday night so it doesn't come off sounding like "The Cougar's Lament."

Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey
Really want to feel like one of the guys? Got to the point where you're hitting 90+ percent every time on Expert on your chosen instrument? Or just bored? Well, try something a little different. There are many variations on the game with multiple instruments and multiple local players.

  • Try singing and playing an instrument at the same time. With a mic stand, any of the more traditional instruments can join in the chorus.
  • Switch it up. Make everyone there rotate between the instruments after every song. Or make everyone switch from righty to lefty.
  • Battle of the Bands - if you've got eight people, instead of crowding in on one song, set up a local battle of the bands by breaking up into two groups and each group performing a set number of songs or taking turns. Highest scores win, or just go for bragging rights.

Time To Drop Maxwell's Silver Hammer
Even if they aren't my kids, odds are they've been in and out of my house enough to know the basics of how to behave. But just in case, let's go over these again.

  • Watch the smack-monkey stuff. This isn't online. I'm not saying you have to keep it to "golly-wally", but if you can't keep your tongue within reasonable bounds please remember I don't have to wait on a sysadmin to do something about it.
  • Watch the attitude. If you brag about your "mad guitar skiznills" and start really being a jerk about how easy you think this music is, I reserve the right to make you try to cash the check your big mouth just wrote. You do Taxman both playing guitar and singing, both on Expert. Five star with both at once, and you might even regain some respect around here. But not as much as Mr. Harrison. He has got you beat in ways you can't match because he was playing the real instrument, he did it in front of bunchteen thousand screaming fangirls, and to top it off he wrote the song. Or if you don't think you have the chops for that, you can always just shut up. It's your call.

Back to my friend in the U.S.S.R. There's no right or wrong here. He's definitely got a lot less setup to have to deal with. I will never know the pure thrill of his laser-like focus. And I know for a fact I'll never be as good on guitar as him. But we have a heck of a lot of fun at my house in our own way. And that's the whole point.


I find that when people start changing the lyrics in the songs while vocalizing, it's funny the first couple of times but then they begin to do it every damn time and it just gets annoying.
Really fun read though, made a lot of good points and 'rules' while managing to keep it funny.

Great article. It makes me laugh that I recognize a lot of those rules for when we get the gang together and play.

Fun read, momgamer. Thanks!

There are only two rules of Rock Band Club:

1) When we're playing in quickplay mode, the vocalist always picks the song we perform. All of the other instruments can muddle through any song, but making someone sing something that he or she doesn't know or doesn't like isn't fun for anyone.

2) If tonight's your first night at Rock Band Club, you have to sing at least one song.

Oh, and before you ask, I encourage everyone to talk about Rock Band Club as much as possible.


I wish I had Beatles Rockband...

*double sigh*

I wish I had an xbox for that matter...

Great read. Thanks! I'll be thinking of this when I drag the 360 to the family gathering in a couple of weeks (one of the rare times I wish I had the Wii version of a game rather than my 360 copy).

I brought my RB2 setup to school last year, after finals were done and no one had anything to do.

It made Black Friday chaos look civilized. Next time, I'm printing these rules out and hanging them next to the projector screen.

ESPECIALLY the vocal range ones.

What the hell does 'interstitial' mean?

Thanks, guys. The kids read this article and then immediately went out to try them all out. {eyeroll}

TrashiDawa wrote:

What the hell does 'interstitial' mean?

It means "in between." In this case, it's one of the text blurbs that displays during the loading screen between levels. If anyone has a better word for it let me know.

Great article. You are so 'lucky' to have so many folks around to play this game. I have only glimpsed at the possibility when two daughters showed up and wife and I joined in on some fun. 2 guitars, apprentice drummer (who was enjoying herself more and more as the night progressed) and a singer (the other daughter doing a heck of a pass as a true rock & roll entertainer!). That's the max so far. And because we too, are in an apartment, your rules to such so apply. We are hoping to gain a few more friends and family and meet at a house to really 'turn it up a notch' and your regs will come into play and be very helpful. Thanks!

'interstitial' is exactly the right word.

It's a perfectly cromulent word.

momgamer wrote:
TrashiDawa wrote:

What the hell does 'interstitial' mean?

It means "in between." In this case, it's one of the text blurbs that displays during the loading screen between levels. If anyone has a better word for it let me know.


In what industry or field is this term used? This is the first time I have encountered it.

Nice piece. I particularly liked "The Cougar's Lament".

Great read. I love this game so much...for me, as a musician who studied the Beatles in college, it's fun because you can learn the intricacies of their music even more. But you're right, it has been one of the best co-op experiences around. It kind of brings everyone to the same level. Whether you're the hyper-competitive douchebag or the girl who things video games are just for kids, everyone I've shown TB:RB to has loved it right away, and wanted to keep going long into the night.

Of course, our house rule is that the first time you play you have to sing vocals on "I Am the Walrus" .

Awesome stuff! I agree that vocalists should get first choice of song, and veto power if they're not sure what they'd like to play and want the other players to start picking things until they hit something they like. This is probably currently my favourite game being played right now. I've only managed to get enough people together for the full six player band a handful of times, but it was so awesome when we finally did.

One thing I noticed about TB:RB though is that, unlike regular RB where the mic is the last thing to get snatched up (and sometimes nobody wants to sing and it needs to be dropped out later in the evening), when we play Beatles RB, the mics are the first thing to go. I don't know if it's the inclusion of vocal harmonies (something that seriously needs to make its way into the main RB platform) or just the Beatles music (likely a combination of both), but people love to sing in this game, myself included. We have one friend who likes to hog the mic in regular RB (along with my wife) but this game turns everybody into a mic hog it seems.

We're lucky to have quite a few good singers in our group. Getting every triple fab in Paperback Writer on expert is nothing short of amazing. f*ck, I love The Beatles.

Fun Read, good rules and as noted in quickplay, singer's choice rules.

Great article - and many judicious choices among the rules. Several are enforced with my RB events as well, all for the better.

TrashiDawa wrote:
momgamer wrote:
TrashiDawa wrote:

What the hell does 'interstitial' mean?

It means "in between." In this case, it's one of the text blurbs that displays during the loading screen between levels. If anyone has a better word for it let me know.


In what industry or field is this term used? This is the first time I have encountered it.

I believe it's primarily a medical or biological term. If you get a 'shot in the arm' it's usually referred to as interstitial, as it isn't into the bloodstream or a given organ or cells directly, it's just in the 'in between' spaces. I've seen it as I am diabetic and have to give myself shots.

Momgamer knocks another one out of the park. The integration of harmony sounds amazing. Also, you may certainly wear your guitar above your waist. I give you Shawn Lane, and Robert Fripp as sterling examples of the craft. Interstite that, RB:TB! Sorry, I guess that was smack talk.

Comparing and contrasting this game with regular Rock Band is another article in and of itself.

We got them on the same day, and have been playing them both. All these rules apply to that one, too. Just change the songs to something appropriate. For the attitude song, I recommend using "Bad Reputation" from Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. That @)%& "Nine in the Afternoon" song should have a counter that only allows it to show up in the play list once every 24 hours or something. And don't let any guy try to get up there for the choruses in "Carry On Wayward Son" unless they're an Irish tenor.

I've got a bunch of extraverted yahoos, and so there's always someone who will try just about anything. But I have also noticed a signifigant drop in the number of people who want to sing. It has a lot to do with the song, I think. "Eye of the Tiger" or "Any Way You Want It" or just about any of the old arena rock will get them all up off the couch, but not so much with the real angry young man stuff. The verses in "Chop Suey" make me want to kick a puppy.

That stuff is just hard to sing. Particularly for the girls. And if you sing it where you sound at least somewhat good you seem to get bit in the score. Whereas with the Beatles and the other stuff you can get in there and actually sound okay to your own ears while still racking up the points.

Mousetrap wrote:
TrashiDawa wrote:
momgamer wrote:
TrashiDawa wrote:

What the hell does 'interstitial' mean?

It means "in between." In this case, it's one of the text blurbs that displays during the loading screen between levels. If anyone has a better word for it let me know.


In what industry or field is this term used? This is the first time I have encountered it.

I believe it's primarily a medical or biological term. If you get a 'shot in the arm' it's usually referred to as interstitial, as it isn't into the bloodstream or a given organ or cells directly, it's just in the 'in between' spaces. I've seen it as I am diabetic and have to give myself shots.

Thank you. I've been trying to figure out where I learned it. I have a brain like Barliman Butterbur, with all sorts of dusty piles of things stretching out into the corners and you never know when you pull on one thing exactly what might be leaning on it farther into the pile.

Singing on your first night and having the singer pick the songs should be the two main rules at any rock band party.

Okie, as one of the random neighborhood smack-monkeys that frequent your house, I acknowledge the existence of the weakness in class and character we bring to the table. HOWEVER, calling myself and the Horseman of Famine mere WINGMEN to your sons is out of line... when I get back from my tedious crap job, in 5-6 months, I am going to up my game on the smack monkey talk, and somehow convince the younger of your boys to host a Halo Tourney while you are at work. Don't worry, I will definately video record the ammount of verbal feces being flung so that you can enjoy it in high-def when you get home.

Miss you guys, and God Bless...
The Horseman of Conquest

We miss you too, dude. Wasn't trying to disparage you guys; I just wasn't going to explain all of that in a 2000 word article about something else. There are a few more of you lot around here and I'm glad to see you. For example, you'd recognize DominicKnight if you saw that person in real life. I'm glad to see you around here, since you can't clutter up my entry hall until you're back.

When did it require any convincing for Death to do that? We've got Reach, and I'm ready when you are. The level of difficulty on the Doing-Stuff-Behind-My-Back-When-I'm-At-Work Maneuver has been turned up a bit, though. Remember I work from home now.

As far as the recording, be careful, sir, or I will find and post that recording I have of the four of you singing that Back Street Boys song a few years back. Revenge is a dish best served cold, and in four part cacophony.