Rock Band 3

Rock Band 3

Rock Band 3 spices up the brand with the addition of a keyboard peripheral as well as "Pro Mode," and offers eighty-three new songs to rock out to.


In November of 2009, Dhani Harrison stated that was in the process of assisting Harmonix on Rock Band 3 and that they were working on making the instruments "more real" so that players will learn how to play an actual instrument while playing the game.

The band's all here
The band's all here

Rock Band 3 adds support for three vocal parts per song, first introduced in The Beatles: Rock Band and later included in Green Day: Rock Band. With the introduction of the keyboard player, up to seven players can now play simultaneously on one console, though only six players can join an online band.

Rock Band 3 is fully compatible with all existing Rock Band instruments and the vast majority of in game content from previous games. All new Rock Band peripherals are being created by accessory maker Mad Catz, except for a special Rock Band 3-compatible guitar being specially developed by Fender. A keyboard and game bundle is available, but no other bundle is offered.

Game Modes

Rock Band 3 has diverted from the previous games of the franchise in some ways, and in other ways has kept some of the more popular game modes.

Quick Play

Quick Play (Play Now) is mostly the same as it was in previous games--you can choose or create a setlist, or you can pick and choose individual songs. Additional players can jump in and out of Quick Play (and other game modes) at will. The library has undergone changes that provide the player(s) quicker and more efficient methods sorting and searching their library (see Music Library below).

My Goals

Under Career is a new "My Goals" section. The new My Goals section is a cross between achievements that have become commonplace in gaming, and the "Challenge" section in Rock Band 2. The player(s) can complete many of these goals over the course of gameplay, whether during Quickplay or Road Challenges, or simply using the My Goals section to knock out specific goals quickly. Goals may include tasks as simple as creating a band, or something more difficult such as scoring 90% or more on Expert Bass using up-strums only. There will be goals specific to each Rock Band game, and to Rock Band DLC, as well as goals specific to each instrument, and some general goals to chase as well. Although the player(s) can complete goals while playing in other modes, if the player(s) use the My Goals menu, the game will narrow the player's library down to the songs that will count towards the selected goal.

Road Challenges

Road Challenge Menu
Road Challenge Menu

The Road Challenge mode, which can be found under Play Now, is closer to Rock Band 1/2's Tour modes than any other mode in the game. As the picture to the right shows, the Road Challenges have various venues, which the player(s) can only get to if the necessary mode of transportation has been unlocked. As in previous games, the first venue is Hometown, although this time around the Hometown is generic.

Player(s) are not required to play through the disc songs to progress through this game mode. For each Challenge, the player(s) can choose a setlist. In the beginning, for example, the player has a choice between three setlists. The first setlist is usually disc songs. The other setlists will be either Random or Custom setlists based on particular genres or decades of music.

The objective of the Road Challenges is to complete particular challenges at each venue, earning spades along the way. These challenges may include keeping an accurate streak going, or deploying overdrive as often as possible. During the set, spades are accrued as the player(s) work towards completing the challenge. At the end of a set, stars earned are converted to spades, and all spades accrued during the set are added to a total spade count for that particular tour. At the end of a tour, the total spade count will result in bronze, silver, or gold quotas. The different levels of quotas open up different sets of gear for rockers.

A few examples of the challenges featured in the Road Challenge section are as follows:

  • Overdrive Overdose - Deploy your overdrive as often as possible.
  • Share the Spotlight - Each band member will be in the spotlight at different times. When a band member is in the spotlight, they must perform their section accurately. Each band member that performs their section accurately adds to a chain bonus until the chain is broken.
  • Overdrive Chain - Band members "chain" their overdrive deployment get the total band overdrive deployment time as long as possible.

New Features

Pro Mode

One of Rock Band 3's major new features is "Pro Mode," which is designed to bridge the gap between the game and playing actual instruments. Pro Mode has its own easy, medium, hard, and expert modes to ease players into more closely emulating what the actual musicians are playing. Each instrument, except for vocals, has its own variation on pro mode, as described below.


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Keyboards make their introduction with the release of Rock Band 3. The controller features 25 keys, and can be used as a regular keyboard. It can be used as a 'keytar' by using a guitar strap.

The keys are grouped into five colored sections. In basic mode, the note highway looks similar to guitar or bass. Players will only have to make sure to hit keys that match the color of the notes. In Pro Mode, players will have to press the correct individual key on the keyboard. The note highway will display three of the five colored sections and shift accordingly with the song.

The keyboard retails for $79.99 USD (UK: £69.99), or can be purchased in a bundle with a copy of the game for $129.99 USD (UK: £109.99) for the Xbox 360 and Wii. PS3 owners must purchase the game and keyboard separately.


Pro guitar chart on the left
Pro guitar chart on the left

Guitar and bass basic mode remains mostly unchanged from previous games. However, tremolo picking (fast strumming) and trills are a bit easier to do. Rather than having to match the rhythm of the guitarist's trills or fast strumming, players are able to keep their note streak alive by equaling or exceeding the artist's speed.

Pro guitar and bass offer the most significantly altered gameplay, as well as the greatest challenge yet. Pro Mode guitars and bass show and indicate which frets need to be held on each string. The guitarist then has to pluck the appropriate strings with the proper frets held down. As the difficulty ramps up, guitarists move from playing individual notes, to power chords, to imitating the actual guitar parts from each song. "You can go from plucking single notes to power chords and barre chords, we have crazy stuff like tapping and slides," senior Harmonix producer Sylvain Dubrofsky says. "If you ever had any aspirations of connecting with the music in a deeper way ... you are really going to like Rock Band 3." Pro-guitar and pro-bass songs also offer training options that break the songs down into sections and show the player how to play the different chords and notes.

Fender Mustang Pro by Mad Catz
Fender Mustang Pro by Mad Catz

Mad Catz and Fender released new advanced guitar controllers that take advantage of Pro mode. One of those models is a full-sized, fully functional six-string Squier Stratocaster from Fender. According to Harmonix PR man John Drake, "It can tell where your fingers are based on technology in the neck and the bridge of the guitar. No buttons. While you're playing it, it feels exactly like playing a real guitar, because that's what you're doing." The other guitar is the Fender Mustang Pro controller from accessory maker Mad Catz. It features a 17-fret design, which has a field of buttons on the neck, 102 in all.

The basic Rock Band guitar is basically unchanged from Rock Band 2's model and will retail for $59.99 USD. The Fender Mustang Pro Guitar retails for $149.99 USD. The Squier Stratocaster was released in March 1, 2011 for $280 USD and require a separate purchase of the Mad Catz MIDI adapter. The Stratocaster is not compatible with the standard 5-button guitar mode, but the Fender Mustang Pro guitar is.


Like guitar, basic drums are mostly unchanged in Rock Band 3. However, cymbal rolls were changed to work much like Guitar Hero's drums, in that players will have to meet or exceed the drummer's speed when rolling on the cymbals, as opposed to hitting the drummer's pace perfectly. The game supports a second kick pedal, which can be used as a double bass, though no songs will require it. It can also be used to make the yellow cymbal act as an open hi-hat note during drum fills and in freestyle mode.

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Pro Mode drums are different in that the note highway visually indicates which notes should be played on the cymbals and which should be played on the toms. Almost every song already released as DLC supports pro mode drums.

The Rock Band 3 drum kit must be purchased with a full set of three Pro cymbals. It retails for $129.99 USD. The pro cymbals are improved from the Rock Band 2 model in that they are softer, quieter, more accurate, and set at a 30 degree angle to emulate the cymbals on an actual drum set. The Pro cymbals can be purchased separately for $39.99 USD and are compatible with Rock Band 2 and The Beatles: Rock Band drum kits. In the UK, the cymbals must be bought with the Rock Band 3 drum kit as part of a bundle, due to the Rock Band 2 drums never being sold by British retailers.


Vocal harmonies, first featured in The Beatles: Rock Band, return in Rock Band 3. Harmonies are only available for local multiplayer due to "latency issues." However, online bands can have three vocalists if they're all using the same console. Additionally, due to licensing issues, vocal harmonies are not included in DLC that has already been released. Vocals also include some amount of pitch correction to improve the way that singers sound. This feature is optional.

Microphones retail for $29.99. Lips microphones are compatible with Rock Band 3.

Character Customization

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Character customization is more robust in Rock Band 3. As opposed to choosing from a selection of pre-defined body parts and types, each character's features can be individually adjusted via analog sliders to provide a more unique-looking character. However, attitudes (e.g. goth, rock, punk) will not be selectable, as character animations will be more closely tied to the song. Clothing and accessories are unlocked as players progress through goals and road challenges. Players do not earn money to "purchase" clothing for their avatars.

Music Library

The song selection interface, dubbed the "Music Library," is much more robust than the interface found in Rock Band 2, which was based on the Rock Band Store's interface. Harmonix recognized that with over 2,000 songs available at launch, Rock Band 3 had to make it easier for players to find the tracks that they want to play.

Like Rock Band 2, the music library allows players to sort by a number of categories, like artist, song name, decade, genre, and number of stars earned. However, they also added:

  • Sort by Leaderboard Ranking
  • Sort by Date Acquired
  • Sort by Play Count
  • Sort by Review (players can review songs, much like how they can review RBN songs in Rock Band 2)

Beyond sorting, players may also filter songs by multiple simultaneous criteria, like those shown above, as well as showing family-friendly tracks or songs that only have Pro-guitar modes or keyboards. If connected to the music store, the library will also show recommended songs for you to buy based upon the songs that you are browsing or searching for.

Additionally, the music library displays the highest completion percentage and stars that you have earned from playing the song, much like how The Beatles: Rock Band did. When picking a song, you can view a detailed page that will show you your best performances for each difficulty level for each instrument. From that page, you can then choose to play the song, review the song, practice the song, or check your leaderboard rank for that song.

Setlists return in Rock Band 3, though with much more functionality. First, your setlists can be saved and shared with others. You can also challenge your friends to a setlist battle, which is similar to the Battle of the Bands feature in Rock Band 2. The key difference is that you decide the order of songs. While the battle is active, which is customizable, you will try to get the best score of your friends. Lastly, the Party Shuffle feature has the game put together a random setlist from the songs in your library, using your preferences for instruments, song ratings, and play count.

Other Features

  • Rock Band 3 supports independent note highway speeds when players choose different difficulty levels. This means that an expert player's note highway will scroll at expert speeds, even if another player chooses medium or hard difficulty.
  • Band scores also include individual instrument scores so each player can see how they did in comparison to the others.
  • The user interface allows for players to drop in and out of songs, as well as to change difficulty levels on the fly.


Rock Band 3 features 83 new songs for consoles, while the Nintendo DS version includes 26. The final setlist was confirmed on August 20, 2010 via a humorous video made by the developers in response to an earlier song leak.

The video, it should be noted, included a nice Giant Bomb shout out.

ArtistSong TitleKeyboardHarmoniesNintendo DS
Amy WinehouseRehabYes3-Part
AnthraxCaught in a Mosh3-Part
At the Drive-InOne Armed Scissor2-Part
Avenged SevenfoldBeast and the Harlot3-Part
The B-52sRock LobsterYes3-PartYes
The Beach BoysGood Vibrations (Live)Yes3-Part
Big CountryIn a Big CountryYes3-Part
BlondieHeart of GlassYes2-Part
Bob Marley & The WailersGet Up, Stand UpYes3-Part
The BronxFalse Alarm
Chicago25 or 6 to 4Yes3-Part
The CureJust Like HeavenYes2-PartYes
David BowieSpace OddityYes3-Part
Deep PurpleSmoke on the WaterYes2-Part
Def LeppardFoolin'Yes3-Part
DevoWhip ItYes2-Part
DioRainbow in the DarkYes2-Part
Dire StraitsWalk of LifeYes3-Part
Doobie BrothersChina GroveYes3-PartYes
The DoorsBreak on Through (To the Other Side)YesYes
DoverKing George3-Part
Echo and the BunnymenKilling MoonYes
Elton JohnSaturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)Yes
Faith No MoreMidlife CrisisYes3-PartYes
FilterHey Man Nice Shot
The Flaming LipsYoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1Yes3-Part
ForeignerCold as IceYes3-PartYes
Golden EarringRadar LoveYes3-Part
H.I.M.Killing LonelinessYes3-Part
Huey Lewis and The NewsThe Power of LoveYes3-Part
HypernovaViva La Resistance2-Part
Ida MariaOh My GodYes3-PartYes
INXSNeed You TonightYes3-PartYes
The J. Geils BandCenterfoldYes3-Part
James BrownI Got You (I Feel Good) (Alternate Studio Version)YesYes
Jane's AddictionBeen Caught Stealing3-PartYes
The Jimi Hendrix ExperienceCrosstown TrafficYes3-PartYes
Joan Jett and The BlackheartsI Love Rock and RollYes2-PartYes
John LennonImagineYes
JuanesMe EnamoraYes3-Part
Lynyrd SkynyrdFree BirdYes
ManáOye Mi AmorYes2-Part
Marilyn MansonThe Beautiful PeopleYes2-Part
MetricCombat BabyYesYes
The MuffsOuter Space3-Part
Night RangerSister ChristianYes3-PartYes
Ozzy OsbourneCrazy Train2-PartYes
ParamoreMisery Business3-PartYes
The PoliceDon't Stand So Close to MeYes3-Part
Poni HoaxAntibodiesYes
Pretty Girls Make GravesSomething Bigger, Something BrighterYes2-Part
PrimusJerry Was a Race Car Driver
QueenBohemian RhapsodyYes3-PartYes
Queens of the Stone AgeNo One Knows3-Part
RammsteinDu HastYes3-Part
RamonesI Wanna Be Sedated
RaveonettesLast DanceYes3-Part
Rilo KileyPortions for FoxesYes3-PartYes
Riverboat GamblersDon't Bury Me... I'm Still Not Dead2-Part
RoxetteThe LookYes3-PartYes
SlipknotBefore I ForgetYes2-Part
Smash MouthWalkin' on the SunYes2-PartYes
The SmithsStop Me If You've Heard This One BeforeYes
The SoundsLiving in AmericaYes2-Part
SpacehogIn the MeantimeYes3-Part
Steve Miller BandFly Like an EagleYes2-Part
Stone Temple PilotsPlush
Swingin' UttersThis Bastard's LifeYes3-Part
Tears for FearsEverybody Wants to Rule the WorldYes2-Part
Tegan and SaraThe ConYes2-Part
Them Crooked VulturesDead End FriendsYes2-Part
Tokio HotelHumanoidYes3-PartYes
Tom Petty and the HeartbreakersI Need to KnowYes2-Part
T-Rex20th Century BoyYes3-Part
The VinesGet Free3-PartYes
WarLow RiderYes
Warren ZevonWerewolves of LondonYes
The White StripesThe Hardest Button to ButtonYes
WhitesnakeHere I Go AgainYes2-PartYes
The WhoI Can See for Miles3-Part

Rock Band 2 Song Exporting

Rock Band 2's songs are exportable for a fee, as was the case with Rock Band 1. The export costs $10 for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Wii. Unlike Rock Band 1's export feature, songs will not be ripped from the game disc itself. Instead, players use the "Get More Songs" option from the Rock Band 3 main menu, and choose to "Redeem Code." They then use the code found on the back of the Rock Band 2 game manual, which is the same code that was used to download 20 free songs in Rock Band 2 when it launched. That gives the player the option to download the Rock Band 2 Export Pack, which is 1.93 GB in size. Most songs are available for export, but the following songs are excluded:

  • Abnormality - "Visions"
  • AC/DC - "Let There Be Rock"
  • Anarchy Club - "Get Clean"
  • Bang Camaro - "Night Lies"
  • Breaking Wheel - "Shoulder to the Plow"
  • Journey - "Any Way You Want It"
  • Libyans - "Welcome to the Neighborhood"
  • The Main Drag - "A Jagged Gorgeous Winter"
  • Metallica - "Battery"
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Give It Away"
  • Soundgarden - "Spoonman"
  • Speck - "Conventional Lover"
  • The Sterns - "Supreme Girl"
  • That Handsome Devil - "Rob the Prez-O-Dent"

The Abnormality, Anarchy Club, Bang Camaro, Breaking Wheel, Libyans, The Main Drag, Speck, The Sterns, and That Handsome Devil songs are available as a separate free DLC pack from the Rock Band Store.

DLC Pricing, & Legacy Upgrades

  • Due to the changes in how Rock Band 3-compatible DLC files are written, DLC released after Rock Band 3's release are not compatible with Rock Band and Rock Band 2, effectively ending support for those two games.
  • DLC pricing is still $1.99 for songs with keyboards (both basic & Pro), pro drums, & harmonies. For those who want pro-guitar and pro-bass, they buy a separate expansion for $.99 after purchasing the song. Not all songs receive Pro guitar & Pro bass support, but several older DLC songs have received pro-guitar/bass upgrades (e.g. "My Sharona," and "Pretty Noose").

Avatar Awards

Rock Band 3 sports five avatar awards.

  • Rock Band Keyboards T-Shirt - 5 Star on Easy Pro Keys (or 3 Star on a higher difficulty) any 25 Rock Band 3 songs.
  • Rock Band Drum T-Shirt - 5 Star on Easy Drums (or 3 Star on a higher difficulty) any 25 Rock Band 3 songs.
  • Rock Band Bass T-Shirt - 5 Star on Easy Bass (or 3 Star on a higher difficulty) any 25 Rock Band 3 songs.
  • Rock Band Guitar T-Shirt - 5 Star on Easy Guitar (or 3 Star on a higher difficulty) any 25 Rock Band 3 songs.
  • Rock Band Microphone T-Shirt - 5 Star on Easy Vocals (or 3 Star on a higher difficulty) any 25 Rock Band 3 songs.

Pre-Order Bonuses

  • Gamestop: People who pre-ordered the game from Gamestop received a code to download three DLC songs: "My Own Summer" by Deftones, "Blue Monday" by New Order," and "Burning Down the House" by Talking Heads.
  • Amazon: People who pre-ordered the game from Amazon received a code for an exclusive in-game guitar. Additionally, for an unspecified "limited time," PS3 and 360 pre-orders will receive a $10 voucher for another video game purchase.
  • Wal-Mart: People who pre-ordered the game from Wal-Mart received a $10 e-Gift card.
  • Best Buy : People who pre-ordered the game from Best Buy and had a Reward Zone Gamers Club member account received 500 bonus points ($10 value).

Rock Band Network

Rock Band 3 has built-in access to Harmonix's third party content system, Rock Band Network. This was the first Rock Band title to have this feature built in. It allows for third parties to create their own music tracks without going through a Harmonix approval process. The system houses over 1,766 songs available to download.