Degree Name

Masters in Education - Research


Faculty of Education


Guitar Hero and Rock Band have become increasingly popular within the realm of video gaming due to their engaging nature through the use of popular music. Despite the potential for these games to provide valuable learning opportunities, there is limited research to demonstrate any impact on a player’s musicianship. This study addresses this gap by investigating adolescents' experiences with music games to discover the impact of music gaming on their musical skills and knowledge to determine whether these games develop their musicianship.

A phenomenological approach was used to examine the experiences of five adolescents when playing the music games Guitar Hero and Rock Band. The study was guided by three research questions: (1) What do adolescents experience when playing music games? (2) How does playing Guitar Hero and Rock Band impact an adolescent’s musicianship? (3) What educational opportunities does engaging with these games provide? The study was framed using Elliott's (1995) theory of musicianship and Bourdieu's (1986) theory of capital. Semi-structured interviews with the research participants and observations of them playing the game in their homes were the key data sources. Data analysis was guided by the research questions using concepts from Elliott (1995) and Bourdieu (1986) and with reference to the New South Wales Board of Studies Year 7-10 Music Syllabus (2003), but also sought to identify emergent themes and issues.

The study found that playing Guitar Hero and Rock Band were largely ineffective for developing the participants' musicianship. However, the results suggest that the games provide a context for the participants to apply their prior musicianship developed through their private instrumental and/or music classes. The study also found that playing music games with family and friends provided the participants with social experiences through the creation of group-specific gaming rules; role-playing experiences through the creation of rock star personas; and musical experiences through associating prior musical knowledge and experience to playing the game. Finally, the participants demonstrated their understanding of and skills with the musical concepts duration, pitch and structure, which are commonly taught in New South Wales music classrooms. The findings suggest that Guitar Hero and Rock Band provide players with the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding and skills with the concepts of music, but has limited application for achieving syllabus outcomes in formal school music education. The results also suggest further research into the use of the microphone controller and the Guitar Hero composition program in education.