Songs2See Review: Seeing is Not Believing

In a genre full of match-the-color-button games like Guitar Hero, Songs2See stands out among the rest. There’s no pretend, plastic guitar or fake drumset; you use your own, real instruments to play the 50+ songs that are bundled with the game. You can practice using any of the eight instruments (guitar, bass, ukulele, piano, saxophone, trumpet, clarinet, and recorder flute – yes, recorder, not typical C Flute), with the potential for additional instruments through updates. It’s the first musical game to allow the player to use actual instruments. All that is required is a microphone and an instrument; my built-in webcam microphone picked up the audio just fine.

In theory, Songs2See does what other music games haven’t done: It teaches you how to play the actual instrument. Fingerings are displayed for each instrument, and there is a learning mode for easier practice; however, the game requires you to already know something about playing the instrument. You can’t borrow someone’s trumpet without ever having played one and learn through the program. There’s nothing currently built in that teaches you about proper mouth position, or how to make sure you’re holding the instrument properly and using the right fingers on the right keys.

Upon opening the program, I was just tossed into a guitar song. No title screen, no tutorials, nothing telling me what buttons do or how to change anything. After some clicking around, I was able to figure out how to change songs and instruments, but it was more of an egg hunt than it was of me understanding the program. Hovering my mouse over the icons told me nothing of what they did, and the pictures on them weren’t intuitive enough to understand without any context.

ResizeSongs2SeeWhen I switched instruments and chose a song, I found the biggest issue I have with the program: I could fool it. I tested all of the instruments and didn’t use an actual instrument; I simply pitch-matched with my voice and the program told me I was doing things right as long as I hit the note and held it for as long as indicated on the screen.  The program doesn’t recognize the timbre (tonal quality) of the actual instruments, and that does not help teach someone how to play properly. As long as you hit the actual note, the tone and sound quality you play with simply does not matter to the program. When I practiced with my actual instruments, it was no different; my trumpet was a guitar and my C Flute fooled the saxophone music.

Beneath it all, the songs provided are simplistic. Under the vocal category, there are no lyrics for the songs, and piano instructions are for playing with a single hand (no chords). I asked a fellow IGM contributor, who had no musical knowledge, to try his hand at the program. He played the piano and called it more of a matching game, and said that he didn’t really learn anything from it; the program couldn’t teach him the techniques for a more complex instrument. If you can match the notes, Songs2See will consider you a successful player.

I can see the potential behind the program, and there are some very useful features within it. There’s an additional Editor program that can be purchased either separately or as part of a bundle, enabling you to upload any MP3 or .wav file, then Songs2See can automatically extract the melody for you to practice or perform. You can print out sheet music to bring with you to music lessons, or to practice outside of the program. While I can see where the program was meant to go, I cannot see it really helping someone learn the songs, and I find the price very high for a program I can so easily trick.

Songs2See is available on Steam, Desura, and through their official website. It’s available for PC or Mac, and currently costs $19.99 USD for the standard version and $49.99 for the Ultimate bundle that includes the Editor – which otherwise sells for $39.99 on its own.

  • I think you are demanding way to much of this little game. Even if you added a studio quality mic (which most people can’t afford) and spent billions on advanced software development the timbre of an instrument would vary according to the room and thousand other variables such as brand, condition, string action, string gauge and million more. Put shortly: Today there is no way that a piece of software can do what even a lazy and lousy instrumental coach can do!

    You have to review it for what it is: Software that present music on screen so you can play along enough to memorize it. And the added bonus of feedback to let you see the notes you play. In other words: Practice aid. The most time-consuming part of becoming a musician is practicing, and every little thing that makes it more fun and efficient is welcome to me!! :-)

  • Karl

    For a start its not the first musical game to allow real instruments!! What about Rocksmith? Looks ver very basic compared to Rocksmith, so ill think i will give it a miss.

  • Random

    Why would tonal quality matter? Isn’t the whole point to develop sight reading skills? If tonal quality really mattered, then people playing other instruments not supported by this game wouldn’t be able to play it.