Rock Band without the plastic instruments = still fun!

I was messing around with Rock Band 2's settings the other day and realized that the following settings turns Rock Band 2 into a rather good do-it-yourself backing track:

  • No Fail
  • Performance Mode *
  • Crowd noise (minimum)
* Technically you don't have to choose Performance Mode, but that flashing red highway is super distracting
Then choose the instrument you want to play over the game so it gets no feedback and thus mutes that track for you.  The results for me when I tried this with "re: Your Brains"  are as follows:
(disclaimer: I'm not great at the guitar yet, only playing a year, butchered the solo, blah blah I suck, etc - still fun, damnit)
Anyone else played with this?   Seems like an unexpected side benefit of these games for people wanting to cover songs on real instruments.   And there's a LOT of DLC out there for this game so it would be pretty easy to cover a myriad of songs.
I've had similar success using GH:Smash Hits on beginner vocals and just setting the guitar track volume to minimum instead (your guitar 'sings' into the mic so you don't fail) but the effect isn't quite as pronounced since the guitar isn't totally muted.  Practice mode is also very handy for practicing a riff or solo in either game (you just don't get as nice an overall sound).

Guitar Hero to "Realtar", the first year

I was originally going to post this as a forum post, but I thought this might be an interest topic for my first blog.
I've seen a lot of anecdotal evidence that Guitar Hero/Rock Band is or is not useful for learning real guitar.  What I haven't seen is a lot of first hand testimonials from people who have made that leap - how many people actually were motivated to try the real guitar from playing those rhythm game, and how successful they've been.  For anyone else who's been in this situation, I hope it's interesting and thought-provoking about how one might go from the plastic instrument to the real thing.
I was at a party a couple years ago when I was first introduced to the Guitar Hero series (GH3) and the game instantly resonated with me.  I only played on easy at the time, but it soon convinced me to pick up the game and try it out.  Being a fan of guitar-heavy music in general (something which I feel is in decline at the moment) I loved the setlist, and just the active listening aspects of playing this kind of game.  After playing for a while I was finally getting to the point where I was trying to finish expert in these games I decided that the time spent improving could probably be better applied to learning the real thing.
So just shy of a year ago I signed up for guitar lessons and bought a cheap guitar/amp combo (in that order) and I've been playing ever since.  For what it's worth, in my case, I think the transition has been totally worth it.  I have a very good teacher, and a friend in the area who plays encouraged me to jam with him a couple times when all I could do was basic scales and power chords.  My goals have morphed from simply "I want to do covers on a guitar" to types of music I never really considered playing before, different styles (I got an acoustic last month), improvisational soloing and a new goal to be able to write music at some point.
I know a lot of musicians have been pretty down on these games for what they 'replace' in someone who would otherwise learn the real thing.  I have no illusions that "I learned how to play guitar from Guitar Hero".  But I was motivated to learn because it set a goal for me that I wanted.  My friend I jam with (who is also a gamer, and also likes these games) thinks that at least in my case it's definitely been a good introduction to guitar for me.
For those who dismiss the toy as too different to be useful, these are the things that felt to me as though they were probably easier because of my time with the game:

  • Using the pinky.  I remember how useless it was when I started playing Guitar Hero, and when I was given the minor pentatonic, and pinky strength has never been a particular problem even from the earliest chords and scales that used it.
  • Rhythm (this is a well, duh).  You definitely hear things relative to the beat more when playing these games.
  • Two-handed coordination.  In particular, changing fingering between up and down picking/strumming was never a challenge (landing on the right part of the fretboard early on is another matter entirely)
There are obviously a lot of things it doesn't really help with.  Hitting the correct string with the right hand, slides, bends, vibrato, etc are all uniquely guitar things.  "Feel" is not going to come overnight.

I'm no virtuoso.  I'm starting the guitar relatively late in life (I'm pushing mid-30s), but my guitar instructor puts my progress well ahead of the curve.  When I'm stumped sometimes I play the rhythm games and it inspires me again.  That friend and I now play more regularly, about once a week, and I probably get 8-12 hours of guitar practice in a given week.  
Has anyone else had any testimonials, good or bad, about learning an instrument from a rhythm game like this?   It's still been a lot of work for me, but I do think that it helped to solidify my goals and help me through the 'boring' part (which truly, is only a month or so, if you have a good teacher) and really enjoy playing.
For what it's worth, this is a cover of Blackbird I did a couple months ago (my picking has gotten a lot cleaner since then) as a kind of milestone of my progress.