Introduction: Guitar Hero LED Mod

Picture of Guitar Hero LED Mod
Guitar Hero rocks, but it really needs some lights to liven up the virtual shredding.

What to do? Cram in some LEDs!

Step 1: Open It Up

Picture of Open It Up

Getting the two pieces off the back of the guitar is just a matter of taking off the 16 screws. There's one piece for the neck and one for the body. Try not to lose the screws, but we found that you can keep it pretty secure with only four of them.

Step 2: Remove the Fret Buttons

Picture of Remove the Fret Buttons

Undo the two little screws that hold the small board that has the real buttons on it. You should now be able to easily remove the five colored fret buttons.

Step 3: Make New Fret Buttons

Picture of Make New Fret Buttons

We needed some translucent and tinted buttons that were the same size and shape as the original buttons. I was going to build the buttons with layers of frosted acrylic, but Matt insisted on a more professional technique of making a mold from the originals and casting completely new pieces.

To see how that was done, hop on over toMatt's Instructable on how he made the new pieceshere.

Step 4: Drill Out Holes for the LEDs to Go Into

Picture of Drill Out Holes for the LEDs to Go Into

Now we need to put some holes in the new buttons that the LEDs can go into.

Check the height of the LED and you'll know how deep you need to drill. To make sure we didn't go too far we applied some tape to the drill bit. Just drill till you hit the tape and you're golden.

Step 5: Insert the LEDs

Picture of Insert the LEDs

Insert the LEDs of your choice. We used 5mm white LEDs.

A dab of glue and the LEDs stay put.

Step 6: Bend the LED Legs

Picture of Bend the LED Legs

The legs became the contact points and as such we needed to bend them into a very rough circular shape that would then be making contact for the circuit. We measured the gap between the LED and the circuit board and bent accordingly.

Step 7: Apply Copper Contact Pads

Picture of Apply Copper Contact Pads

On the circuit board we put on some copper tape that would become the contact pads for the LEDs. We put down two here, but in the end only used one for each LED for reasons that will become clearer soon.

The original design, that you see here, has the copper flat on the board, but after some testing we pulled the copper tape up on one side and folded that end under so as to make a very rough spring.

Step 8: Wire It Up - Part 1

Picture of Wire It Up - Part 1

All of these LEDs are to be run in parallel. These are run off of a simple coin battery of the type that come in the keychain LED flashlights, but for a more serious application we'd use a 9-volt and some resistors.

Here you can see the original plan for the wiring. Each set of five copper pads is wired together and the wires on the right in the photo go to the battery.

Originally, the LEDs were set up so that both legs would have to make contact to light up, but this was giving us erratic results. So instead one leg, and it doesn't matter which, gets soldered to the wires for a constant connection. This drops our possible points of failure and gives us more of a likelihood of seeing pretty lights.

Step 9: Wire It Up - Part 2

Picture of Wire It Up - Part 2

After testing out the original wiring plan we ran into the problem of there being too many points of failure. We were requiring that both legs of the LEDs be pushed onto the copper pads for the connection to be made. To fix this, one leg was instead wired to the pad below it. One of these is highlighted in the first photo, but the same thing was done to all of the LEDs.

In addition, the copper tape that the LED was still being pushed onto was too flat on the surface of the board. To create a very rough springiness we peeled up one side of the tape and crumpled it a bit or folded it under itself to make it a little thicker. It's crude and not a long-term solution, but it worked for the first run.

Step 10: Pack It All Back in and Play!

Picture of Pack It All Back in and Play!

Put all the pieces back in their places, screw in the neck piece, and play. You'll want to hold off on putting the back of the body back on since odds are good that you'll be tweaking this setup a couple dozen times before you're happy with it.

When it all comes together, fire up some Guitar Hero 1, 2, or 3 (screw that 80s edition) and play!

Thanks toMatt for all the work and photos and Adam for the Guitar Hero playing.


yaly (author)2011-07-05

you could search for the power pins on the connector between the guitar and the play-station and used them instead of the battery but be sure to use resistor(s) because the console gives any controller it uses 5volts.

spon-tan-ii-us (author)2011-06-16


babayaga2000 (author)2008-02-11

why did you use WHITE leds man, it would be so much better if youused color coordinating leds.i also dont understand yu had to make molds, you could drill a smaller hole and have he led shinethru the plastic. il make an instructable for a WII guitar soon

ZeroXL91 (author)babayaga20002010-10-20

White ones of the same kind are eaiser to calculate the required resistor

whitish (author)babayaga20002008-03-21

you could use the stock buttons but frosted and clear looks so much cooler.

mikeisawesome (author)whitish2008-06-10

u cant make them clear really

Slagr (author)mikeisawesome2009-05-10

strong enough LEDs would probably shine through, but it would be significantly inferior to the molding method.

mrshanko (author)2010-05-21

 Would this work for Guitar Hero for the DS?

zack247 (author)mrshanko2010-09-27

it could, but it would be harder to do, since everything is much smaller

vvshende (author)2010-05-31

Maybe I missed it, or maybe I didn't understand it, but do the LEDs draw power from the already existing powersource or did you attach these to a battery? If they are attached to the preexisting powersource, what would you say would be the best way to attach them to a battery instead?

thirtyfivefox (author)2010-01-01

Hey i'm thinking that it might have been easier to board mount the leds and just relay the lighting off the boards buttons... can you think of any reason why this wouldn't work?  also do you notice any dimming of the buttons when multiples are held? since they are all on the same power supply?  Perhaps if its too noticeable you could up the battery and just use resistors in line... that way there is more voltage available for when two or three batteries are pressed.

Ravenous_Devil (author)2009-11-24

I am desperate for a wiring diagram for the ps2 wired sg controller, the hot glue that holds the 7 wires from the main cord down broke off, making the tiny solders break as well. do you know the pattern of the colored wires to the board, or could you look and post them to me. I can't afford a new one, and have the tools to fix it, just don't know the wiring pattern. Perhaps you have a diagram. Thanks alot.

MuGuFuTsu (author)2009-10-25

do you want to produce two pairs for me? plz xD

mhagen41 (author)2007-11-23

this is awesome! thanks! do you have any pictures of the battery that you hooked this up to?? im just wondering because i dont know exactly how to wire it up and what battery to use thanks

toastytoast10 (author)mhagen412008-01-26

well it seems to me that the top end of the wire, of this picture where the circuit board is on top would be the positive end, so attach that wire to the positive end of the 9volt. then the bottom would be then negative end, so attach it to the bottom wire to the negative end of the battery. if this doesn't work and you are sure you have done every thing else right, then switch the wires. It should work then

VTStevenVT (author)toastytoast102008-03-30

Do you have to worry about adding resistors to a 9v battery? This may be a dumb question as I know absolutely nothing about electronics, but I did blow out the LED's I used on my last attempt at an LED project.

Slagr (author)VTStevenVT2009-07-16

you will fry the LEDs if you run them on too high of voltage. My LEDs, 3.3-3.6 V, heated up and dimmed ominously when I ran 4.5 V (3 AAs) through them, and I'd imagine 9V would be catastrophic.

Arbitror (author)Slagr2009-09-15

They go super bright for 1 second, then slowly dim to nothing, they it emits smoke, and sometimes explodes in two.

zalcior (author)VTStevenVT2009-07-08

Im not sure, use a resistor calculator with the voltage needed of the LEDs Running PARALLEL and for power source use 9v.

supermorph (author)2009-06-29

do u have a method that can take power from the usb?

smsspdh (author)2009-02-05

May I please have an estimate on the of the project(excluding the controller)? BTW awesome instructable

erictepe (author)smsspdh2009-06-16

$80 or so: Molding silicone kit:$25 resin:$25 LEDs:$10 Copper tape:$13 Wire:$5 Solder:$5

Slagr (author)erictepe2009-06-16

and maybe $25 for resin dye I personally molded clear buttons and colored the LEDs with sharpies. It worked out quite well.

erictepe (author)Slagr2009-06-23

Slagr, how did you color the LEDs with sharpies. I tried and the ink does not stick.

Slagr (author)erictepe2009-06-25

are you sure they're sharpies you're using? Those things stick to everything.

erictepe (author)Slagr2009-06-25

Yea, the multicolor pack with like 8 sharpies. Oh well, I had actually purchased the resin dye and went ahead and casted colored buttons. I can run regular white leds in colored buttons off my power pack (3 aaa rechargables-3.6V) with out resistors. I actually have colored leds but really don't like the way the yellow washes out when red/yellow or yellow /blue is pushed. They are all pretty close in brightness but the other colors really over power it.

joel97 (author)2009-06-09

nice how long did that take

Slagr (author)joel972009-06-09

the button molding takes about 2 days for everything to cure properly, and the wiring shouldn't take any more than a day, depending on how much tweaking you have to do.

SethUchiha (author)2009-06-04

if only you had instructions on how to make a slider buttons light up on the WT controller

Slagr (author)SethUchiha2009-06-04

you could try splicing the LED circuit through one of the wires leading to the strip, but I don't see an effective way of getting it to work the way you'd want it to.

gblax123 (author)2009-04-13

The wii guitar has all of those grey things attached together... what can I do about that??

Slagr (author)gblax1232009-05-10

you could apply the copper over the rubber or (as a last resort) cut the spaces between the pads, making sure they can still spring back and still fit in place without moving.

Slagr (author)Slagr2009-05-17

I fixed this problem by taking the grey parts from an SG and hot gluing them onto the WT fretboard. The rubber part from the WT guitar fit into the SG as well, so both guitars still work. If you try this, make sure the contacts (those 2 dots what complete the circuit) line up between the rubber part and the board.

Thepage (author)2009-05-06

I know it would be hard but it would be cool if you made them all light and stay light up when you did star power.

Slagr (author)Thepage2009-05-10

the only way to have them stay lit would be some timing mechanism which may not be accurate due to varying SP amounts, or if you managed to wire it into the circuit that makes wiimotes vibrate during SP, but that would only be for Wii guitars. It would be fairly simple to have them light up when tilted by either wiring the LEDs through the controller's tilt sensor (if it uses the ball-in-cylinder type) or adding a new tilt sensor if it uses a more complex chip type unit.

Slagr (author)Slagr2009-05-11

here's a good tilt sensor for such a project:

I plan on trying this myself.

Bazzatron (author)2009-05-11

how about the rock band/world tour drum kit? if i get round to it ill post an instructable (be prewarned - i didnt check if someone has done it already...)

Slagr (author)Bazzatron2009-05-11

There are LEDs these days that light up by registering vibrations, and I'd imagine those would work well in the drums. I have some drumsticks with them, and the effect if pretty cool. I'd advise looking into it before I do. >.>

dave47561879 (author)2009-03-12

Does this work for rock band too? Please answer.

Slagr (author)dave475618792009-05-10

it would be nearly exactly the same as this (SG), but you'd have to put some electrical tape or something over the fret pcb between B and O before you put the copper tape on because the main fret wires could interfere with the LED circuit if you don't insulate them.

Don't have a Rock Band guitar, but I'm pretty sure it should work. This isn't too complicated.

Thanks. I tried to take apart my guitar, but the screws are too tight and they won't losen. lol

its still possible to take it apart, i had to in order to fix the strum bar defect, since i couldn't send it in due to it being second hand.

Ah well. I guess they've gotten a little stricter about it.

rickkix (author)2009-04-11

Hey, is it possible to do this to a guitar hero world tour guitar? Or even wireless guitars alone? I would really appreciate a quick response because I only have 29 days till i can't return it!

Slagr (author)rickkix2009-05-10

it is completely independent of guitar type. The only possible problem is fitting all the circuitry between the rubber button pads depending on if they're connected or not. just in time!

spen (author)2007-11-18

Screw you 80s rocks Whatever cool mod anyway

Kaitlinthegreat (author)spen2007-12-01

Exactly,80s is my favorite. THREE sucks But it is a cool mod,anyways,it would be a bit easier if you added a materials list at the beginning,otherwise it's a tad confusing.

Slagr (author)Kaitlinthegreat2009-05-10

all you need is: copper tape wire 5 LEDs (white) soldering capabilities molded buttons the touch the power

kbsmevin (author)2007-12-03

Im deffinatly going to do this. wonderful job i like the black finish on yours...what type of paint did you use? and out of curiosity do think it would be possible to mold a black strum bar

About This Instructable




Bio: I like to make things for the internets. I also sell a pretty cool calendar at You'll like it.
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