I got Rocksmith as a gift a few months ago, and I immediately loved the game. The only problem that I found was that it required a controller for navigation. This was awkward for a few reasons. I disliked having to pick up and put down the controller to do every little thing in the game, like pause, restart, and especially to select my pedal presets. Guitarists use stompboxes and pedals to control their effects with their feet, which leaves their hands free to play the guitar. This controller is an attempt to copy that funtionality. You can select preset pedal effects in the game by pressing X,Y,or B during a song (the A button resets the pedal to the song's original pedal). This is a cool feature. Cool, but hard to negotiate while trying to play guitar. I tried to see if there were any premade solutions out there. There were none that I could find.
I started planning.
Step 1: Tools and Supplies
18"x12" 22ga plain steel ($8 home depot)
Approx 3' of 1x6 Maple (Home Depot, leftover from another project)
DJ hero controller (just the fader portion, not the turntable part)
7 Suzo Happ Arcade Buttons
1 LED lit arcade Button
6' or so solid core cat5 cable
5 rubber feet (they are secured by the screws)
Shop-made bending brake (more on this later)
Step Drill (UniBit style)
Pilot hole/countersink bits as required
Drill press(I wish I had)
Helping hands (soldering stand)
Step 2: Planning
I decided to go with one box, with as few buttons as possible, but still able to start and navigate the game without grabbing another controller.
I had a few seldom-used controllers around (DDR, Rock band drums and guitar, DJ hero, scene it). After talking to my wife, I knew she wouldn't be happy with me destroying DDR or Rock band drums. I didn't want to part with my plastic guitars, and Scene it uses Infrared, which I thought would complicate things. I had 2 dj hero controllers, which I got for super cheap, so I decided to use one of those, if I could. if not, I would go purchase a 3rd party controller as cheap as possible.
I tested out playing the game with the turntable, and was able to do everything I needed to do. FYI: I was also checking to see if I could make the DJ hero turntable into a fight stick for Street fighter, etc. It is not well suited for that, as I could not find a way to use trigger or shoulder buttons.
It took me a long time to decide on my materials for the enclosure. I finally settled on sheet metal and wood. This seemed the most durable to me. during this time, I also came up with a rough layout for my buttons. I used a cad program to lay them out, but Pencil and paper would work fine too.
Step 3: The Enclosure
I started with a very basic form of that press brake, knowing that I would not need very sharp angles. really, I just took 2 equal lengths of 2x4, and put them together with 2 heavy duty hinges that I had lying around. I used a piece of 1x4 cut to the same length as the gap between the hinges to clamp my sheet metal in place.
I used a sheet of plain 22 Gauge steel from home depot. It measured 12"x18",
I measured out and marked both long sides of the steel. I wanted the front to be 2" tall, the back to be 4" tall and the top to be 8" from front to back. I also left 1" to curl under the bottom at the front and 1" at the back. these lips would serve as a place to secure the sides.
Using my makeshift pressbrake, I bent the sheet metal into shape. I had to fold the back a little extra by hand, as I could not achieve a 90+ degree bend with my rig. This was easy enough to do.
Once I had the metal bent, I traced the shape onto some 1x6 maple I had from another project. I cut this out with a jigsaw, made a second copy, and sanded them until they fit just right. I drilled pilot holes through the metal and put drywall screws into the sides to hold them in place.
Step 4: Button Placement
I decided to have a minimal number of buttons, which meant leaving out buttons I didn't need.
I did not need a select button. I did not need shoulder buttons.
I needed A,B,X,Y, Start, and Guide.
I knew from playing that the menus could be controlled with left and right or up and down. I decided to use just up and down. this also let me make selections from the guide menu without another controller. Unfortunately, there is one in game menu that doesn't work with these controls. The pause menu. I dicsovered this after I was done building my controller. I am annoyed by this, but at this point, I am just hoping that rocksmith will be patched this in a future update so that the pause menu is the same as the other menus, from a control standpoint. I know it is unlikely. C'est la vie!
This next part is where I made some mistakes.
I had decided to use suzo-happ arcade buttons. They are very durable and pretty inexpensive. They require a 1 1/8" hole. For the guide button, I decided to use an LED lit arcade style button. I got all of my buttons on eBay.
At the center of each button location, use a center punch to make a ding in the surface so your drill bit won't wander. I made the mistake of trying to use a spade bit to cut these holes. I ruined my spade bit. I only had a dull holesaw aside from the spade bit, so my progress stalled for a few days. Instead, I decided to use a step drill (unibit). These are not cheap, but harbor freight has one for about $16. Use a drill press and clamps to make these holes if at all possible. My buttons required a 1 1/8" hole. If yours are smaller, this may not be nessecary.
Looking back, I would have drilled out my button holes before I bent the metal, and I would have used a drill press with a step drill bit. Not doing that made this step very difficult for me. I would have had to do some additional planning, but it would have saved me lots of time and energy.
Step 5: Fetching a Brain!!!! (Abby Normal)
Inside is pretty straight forward. there is a large board that has button pad connections, a small rectangular board soldered to it (piggybacked) with about 20 pins, and several little boards fed from ribbon cables.
I was intending to solder my connections to the button pads, as described in this instructable by Cleetus:
However, I realized that all I really needed was the small rectangular board that was piggybacking on the button board.
I tried to delicately desolder the boards. I did not have enough patience. Instead, I took my dremel and whizzed away the solder points on the button board with a sanding drum until I could seperate the 2 boards. That was actually very effective.
I now had my brain!
Step 6: Wiring and More Mistakes
Instead, I ended up using solid cat5 cable. this was much easier.
Skip the coffee before this step , it requires a steady hand. This is just about the smallest stuff I can solder without ruining it. Desolder all the pins, put lengths of wire in the through holes and resolder. Solder or otherwise connect the other ends to the appropriate microswitches (actually, I did the next step before I connected the microswitches).
See the picture for connections to the switchs. Connect to the "Com"(Common) and "NO"(Normally Open) terminals on the switches. Connecting to NC (Normally Closed) will cause problems.
The Connections for each button are as follows:
A,B,X,and Y share +V in common. It is the closest +V to them on the board. Connect this to the Com connection of all four of these buttons. Then connect the NO terminals to the A,B,X,and Y solder points respectively.
The guide button has 2 solder points. One is called "Guide" and the other "VBat" connect these to the terminals of your button.
The LED connects to another "VBat" and to "Quad1". Make sure you connect the anode and cathode of the LED correctly. I can never keep these straight, but I knew that the resistor that was presoldered onto my LED should get the "VBat" connected to it.
Start is connected to the "Start"solder point and the "VBAT" solder point next to it.
UP and down connect to the UP and DOWN Solder points, and they both connect to the VBAT solder point above the "RIGHT" solder point.
Step 7: Assembly
Put the microswitches in them. This is easier to do before soldering the microswitches to the brain. if you are using some other kind of pushbutton, it may be required to assemble the switch in the hole before connecting.
My LED button required a spacer to fit snugly to my panel. YMMV.
I then cut a piece of wood the width of the bottom of my box, between the sides. I put 2 screws in from the side so it could flip open for battery access.
I put rubber feet on the bottom corners, and one to hold the lid shut when it is on the ground. the feet will keep from scratching our wood floors and keep the box stationary while playing.
Step 8: Finishing Touches
I also tried to find a Rocksmith logo sticker, but was unable to. instead, I got the fret sticker sheet out of the box and trimmed the logo from it. I applied the logo to the top, between the start and guide buttons.
The guide button I got is lit with an LED. According to the seller, it is supposed to be supplied with 12vdc. From the brain board, it recieves about 1.5vdc and still lights. I will probably replace the resistor (390 Ohm) that came with it to get some more brightness out of it. If I did my math right, it would be about a 50 Ohm resistor to be of equal current. I'll probably play it safe and go 75 or 100 Ohm.
I may improve the way the door closes on the bottom. Right now it hold itself shut with friction.
Step 9: What I Would Do Differently
2. Use a drillpress, clamps, and step drill to drill the large holes. the step drill is pretty picky about angle, and will catch and spin your work. I was beaten and bruised after putting the holes in my sheet metal.
3. Used a lower wattage soldering iron. I like to work hot, but didn't need the heat for such a delicate project.
4. Paced myself, despite my excitement about the project. I couldn't wait to be done, and as a result, there are little things I wish I did that I didn't do (taking pictures, clearcoating after texturing the steel.)
5.Consider changing the control scheme. I used Up and down for menu navigation. This seemed the best choice, but the pause menu doesn't work for me without another controller. I can pause, but cannot restart or "end now" mid song. the tradeoff would be possibly losing the ability to turn the console or controller off from the controller (from the guide menu). Perhaps a mix of Up and Right would work better. I didn't want all 4 directional buttons on my controller. This is my big comprimise.
6. Use a terminal strip between the brain board and the buttons. The soldered joints at the board are not heavy duty, and I worry that flexing will break the solid core wiring eventually.