January 24, 2010 | 67 Comments
So I play guitar (a little) and I used to play Guitar Hero on PS2 from time to time. Last year, for Christmas we got an XBox 360 and it was my intention all along to get Guitar Hero World Tour or Rock Band to try the drums. Little did I know where it would take me. I played passionately for a year, every week end. I made it pretty far in Rock Band 2 playing in Hard or Expert mode and I finished the awesome Rock Band the Beatles in expert mode. I survived the war declared by my neighbors and totally abandoned my plastic guitar.
A year later, my Christmas present was a real electronic drum kit. I picked the Yamaha DTXplorer. I understand it isn’t the best instrument on the planet (neither am I the best drummer) but it is a complete, well built kit. It is a good price and a great way to learn to play for real. I got the drums and look forward to taking some lessons though my weeks are a bit too busy at the moment for me to insert that in my schedule. So, in the meantime, I work on my own thanks to a couple of learning DVDs.
Still, sometimes, I want to plug the drum kit to the game(s) to get some help as to what to try and play. I like the Beatles beats lessons in the Rock Band training mode. Whenever I can, I plug the drum to the game and practice away with the metronome.
How to Do It ?
So, if any of you out there are in the same situation (you like the game, you have a real kit) and you are wondering if they can be used together : they can. They are several solutions on how to achieve this (depending on your drum model, your console and your plastic rock gear). So, let’s get some solutions out of the way:
- If you have a PS2, I understand you need to upgrade your console, sorry
- If you have a WII or a PS3, a hardware solution exists for you to make this a little bit easier though the solution I will describe here will work for you, too
- If you have a drum kit that allows midi remapping, the whole setup is a lot easier for you, you can skip the computer part
- Solutions on the web describe how you can tweak your drum kit (taking the sensors off the plastic rock kit and placing them on the real one) or tearing up the plastic kit and hooking wires to it. I decided to not take any chances with my electronic skills and not build/destroy anything. Some solutions involve soldiering either on the plastic rock kit or on the real drums themselves. There was no way I’d touch the new kit 😉
For more infos on these other solutions, run a little search for “DTXPlorer” or “real drums” on the Rock Band forums for example
What do you need ?
The solution described in this post works for both Guitar Hero and Rock Band.
- A real electronic drum kit
- A midi cable
- A computer
- A Guitar Hero drum kit or at least, the best part of it
When I bought my plastic rock game, I checked out the instrument compatibility matrix for Xbox and got the Guitar Hero World Tour pack because the Guitar Hero instruments would allow me to play all the games I could ever buy on Xbox anyway. Then, I bought the Rock Band games alone. Okay, later on, I gave in and traded the guitar hero guitar for the Rock Band George Harrison Gretsch. Actually, Derrick done that for me and I got the good looking Gretsch for Christmas, too.
Anyway, the point is, because Xbox uses a closed source system to communication between the controllers and the console, it can not be reproduced by any home made hardware (as it is possible for PS3). The great thing about the GH drums, though, is that it has a MIDI In plug. It allows you to do just what we want, plug a real electronic kit to the GH kit and let the GH kit send the signal to the console. So, what if you don’t have the GH kit ? Well, that’s where you can tweak your RB kit with a soldiering gun or buy this little GH drum kit “module” online. Personally, I sold my GH drum kit on ebay for 50 euros and bought the little GH box online for 60 dollars and came out even (quick shipping, great product).
So, all you gotta do is plug the DTXPlorer to that box and start rocking… Well, yes and no. The game expects some basic information: yellow, red, orange, blue or green. The real kit, on the other hand, has more notes to offer. So we need to map these notes and describe which is yellow, which is red, etc… If your module allows you to map the notes, everything is simple. If not (and the DTXplorer doesn’t) you need to add a computer in the mix to tackle the job. I use a MacBook running Midi Pipe to do that but I heard of a similar software for PC. As for the midi cable, I suppose you can use any which one. Here is a link to mine (Prodipe Midi USB 1i10).
Again, if your drum kit enables midi remapping, you can skip this step altogether and you do not need a computer to connect your kit to the game. If not, here we go.
A little theory
Rock Band and Guitar Hero try to be compatible with each others instrument controllers which is great news for users like me. I don’t think I would have spent the money to get two plastic drum sets and I know for a fact my living room couldn’t hold another of these bulky controllers. That’s why I bought the Guitar Hero Pack. The Guitar Hero controller was an obvious choice since it has the “Orange” pad needed to play GH:WT while allowing to play Rock Band. What I didn’t know at the time was that the GH:WT would prove to be an even better choice because it has the MIDI IN plug.
Midi is a standard protocol that enables musical instruments (such as keyboards, electronic drums) and computers to communicate and control each other. Midi data is not an audio signal or media, it refers to “event messages” such as the pitch and intensity of musical notes to play, control signals for parameters such as volume, vibrato and panning, cues, and clock signals to set the tempo. (more about Midi on Wikipedia)
So, the Guitar Hero controller understands Midi and is the bridge between the signal sent by your drum kit (Midi) and the signal expected by the XBox (some wireless Microsoft proprietary protocol). If GH:WT input is midi note 38, the signal sent to each box will be “the red button has been pressed” just as if you had pressed the red button on the regular XBox controller or hit the red pad on the GH:WT drum kit.
The games use 5 (Rock Band) or 6 colors. Their Midi equivalences are noted below:
- RED: MIDI Note 38
- YELLOW– MIDI Note 46
- BLUE– MIDI Note 48
- GREEN– MIDI Note 45
- ORANGE– Midi Note 49
- KICK– MIDI Note 36
The Yamaha drum kit on the other hand, is more subtle. It acknowledges a difference between hitting the center of the snare or its rim, it plays a different sound if you play the center or edge of the clash and ride and offers more toms. Each of these actions also have a matching Midi note that the drum kit can send out to a computer using the Midi out plug.
In order to play the games with the DTXplorer we simply need to map what each pad on the DTXPlorer should trigger in the GH:WT module. For example, the DTXplorer snare sends out the midi note 31. I want it to control the “red” pad in the game. So I must transform the midi note 31 sent out into a 38 for the game to register the hit. That’s what the computer will do for us.
|Snare||31||G# 2||Red||38||D 3|
|Snare open rim||34||A# 2||Red||38||D 3|
|Snare close rim||37||C# 3||Red||38||D 3|
|Hi Tom||48||C 4||Blue||48||C 4|
|Mid Tom||47||B 3||Blue||48||C 4|
|Low Tom||43||G 3||Green||45||A 3|
|Ride||51||D# 4||Orange||49||C# 4|
|Ride edge||52||E 4||Orange||49||C# 4|
|Clash||49||C# 4||Yellow||46||A# 3|
|Clash edge||57||A 4||Yellow||46||A# 3|
|Hi Hat Open||46||A# 3||Yellow||46||A# 3|
|Hi Hat Close||42||F# 3||Yellow||46||A# 3|
|Kick||33||A 2||Purple||36||C 3|
Setting up Midi Pipe (Mac OS X)
Once your drum kit is successfully connected to your Mac (see Troubleshooting section below for help on that) launch Midi Pipes.
You will have a tool list on the left and a pipe list on the right. Start by dragging the Midi In to the right and click ‘Hijack’. The hijack option will allow us to trick the signal before it is send out. Then, add the Keyboard and check the ‘highlight’ box in order to visualize the signal as you hit your drums. Finally, add the Midi out and uncheck the ‘pass through’ to send out the tweaked signal.
Now it’s all a matter of adding Key Mappers for each note that needs to be remapped to its GH:WT equivalent. Add a keymapper element to the pipes and select the drum kit note of a given pad on the left and the matching note for the games on the right. Below is the example for the snare which we map from midi note 31 to midi note 38 (red) in the game.
You can now name your pipe and save your setup. Next time, all you have to do is launch Midi Pipe and load your configuration back.
Warning: the order is important. As you can see from the table above, for example, we map the 49 into a 46 (clash) and the 51 into a 49 (ride). Make sure to remap the the clash to a 46 first and the ride second or you ride will remap to 46 (yellow).
If you don’t want to create your own configuration, just download mine (see diagram below for color codes)
You are free to assign the pads you want to any of the colors you want in the game. It is possible also to have a set of different Midi Pipe configuration to use for different songs in the game as well. Below is a diagram showing the color repartition I chose.
Getting it all together
- Plug your Midi In to the DTXplorer
- Plug the USB to the computer
- Enable the remapping
- Plug the Midi Out to the GH box
- Turn everything on… You Rock! (Do not let your mac go to sleep while you play or eventually you’ll loose the connection between the kit and the game)
I hit the “green” on the real drum kit and nothing happens in the game.
Two possibilities: the signal doesn’t make it to the computer or the signal doesn’t make it to the GH box. On Mac OS X, you can make sure that the signal at least gets to the computer by running Garage Band. If Garage Band sees your drum kit and allows you to record yourself, the signal makes it that far and the problem is with your GH box. Check the connections. If Garage Band doesn’t see your drum kit, you have a midi connection problem which I usually solve by launching the Audio Midi Setup application. Go in Window and click on “show MIDI window”. The Prodipe Midi USB appears. I then click on Default (in the configuration section) and select “Create New Configuration). I name it Prodipe and it usually somehow turns the MIDI on.
I was rocking and suddenly when I hit the pads, nothing happens in the game
Don’t let your computer go to sleep. At least, with my MacBook, the midi signal is not sent out anymore when the Mac enter sleep mode. If you are using a laptop, you might just be out of battery, too. That would never happen to me though, I’ll get shot by the neighbors if I ever played long enough to exhaust my battery.
When I play, some hits don’t seem to register in the game
Electronic kits try to emulate real (acoustic) kits. Some of them will handle two or more signals for the same pad depending on where you hit it (center, side, etc). If you want all these to register with the game you must map these extra notes as well. The hi-hat for example needs to be mapped whether it’s hit when closed or open. You can refer to your kit user guide to get a full list of the notes it uses. I have included the one for the DTXplorer earlier in this post.
I read a lot (more than a lot) about plugging a real drum kit to the games before I bought mine for Christmas. As much as I wanted to play the real thing, I knew being able to play the games would be important to me to access the training mode or just jam with the Beatles. So I read until I was sure it was possible to plug the real drum in the game. When I was reading, I came across several links of interests. Here they are: