Rock Band authoring is always a learning experience for me. Even after doing something a thousand times and getting into the groove enough to do it in my sleep, there’s always some little aspect to coding a song that evades the general knowledge of the charting community, myself included. These are always the things that Harmonix doesn’t allow RBN authors to touch, and as such, they have no documentation on them or instructions on how to utilize the commands. I’d always see the instruction in the .dta file for a song, and just quietly ignore it, and choose to chart songs that won’t encounter an issue requiring me to learn this new command. In “Rain”, however, I had to step out of my comfort zone and tackle two new metadata flags that I had no experience with: “tuning_offset_cents” and “pro_guitar_tuning”.
While these both have “tuning” in their name, they address two distinct aspects of the gameplay. “Rain” was recorded at a slightly faster tape speed and played back slower for the final mix. That’s how the song got its trippy sluggish vibe, but as a result, the song isn’t exactly in a key. It’s virtually in G, but just a little flatter than that. Now this normally wouldn’t make a difference, except this means a world of hurt for vocal players since the chart wouldn’t exactly match the song’s pitch, and cause lots and lots of imperfect phrases. So I buckled down and told myself “welp, you’ve gotta get to the bottom of the tuning offset command if you want to release this song”. I tried a few iterations and, after at first correcting in the wrong direction and making the chart worse, I figured it out. You feed it a number value, and that value will re-tune the pitch sensor up or down, so that you can accurately chart songs that rest in between traditional keys. As the command name implies, the number is a value in cents (there are 100 cents in a half-step, so this is a very precise scale).
I think in the end I settled with something around -15 to -25 for “Rain”, thus tuning the vocal pitch reader down just a fraction of a half step, and the vocal track is now perfectly on pitch! I conducted the rests by taking the song into practice mode with different tuning_offsets and listening to the guide pitches in-game, seeing if I was making them more accurate. Fun times. Now that I’ve gotten to grips with this undocumented command, I can make sure my vocal charts are that much more note perfect, and hopefully other charters will see this post and absorb the knowledge shared here!
(Bonus: Now I can finally chart “Real Love”, which until now I had shelved because the song rested right between keys, and thus was impossible to chart vocals for)
Pro Guitar players: watch out! Since “Rain” was recorded at a different speed than it was played back, you’ll have to tune your strings 2 half-steps down to correctly re-create the song. You’re probably thinking the same thing I thought at first too, “There’s probably an alternate way to play the song that doesn’t require re-tuning.” But since the entire song takes place within a G octave (X076XX, X776XX) making heavy use of open strings, there isn’t an alternative to re-create that ringing chord without just playing the chords as they were originally played, tuned down to match the recording’s speed.
It gets even weirder! At the end of the song we find out the low E has been tuned down seven half-steps to play a rumbling low A, and that’s on the full-speed recording. To match that, in addition to tuning all the other strings down two half-steps to match the final record, we must tune the low E down nine half-steps to reach low G! If you’re looking to make a note-perfect recreation of “Rain”, make sure you’ve got some mighty heavy-gauge strings on hand!