Introduction: Homemade Guitar Hero World Tour Cymbals (New and Improved!)

First things first, let's give credit where credit is due... if you've found this, you've likely also found my inspiration, as I'm certainly not the first person to do this. Read the "original" first:

Did you read it? Good, isn't it? I especially liked the part about the dog.

Having gone through 3 cymbals myself (I was able to get one replaced under warranty, but then proceeded to break both that I had), I was ready to give this a shot. I did have a few issues with some of his design decisions, though... most importantly, the choice of plastic plates. My biggest issue was that I broke the original plastic... like Dewey Cox, I rock hard (also like Dewey Cox, I'm not nearly as funny as I think I am). I didn't want to go through all the effort of building my own, only to have them break again. I also wanted something a little more "permanent;" the initial design has too much tape in the final product for my liking.

I decided to post my own experience for a couple reasons:
- It's nice to have somebody else's ideas to consider
- I've mooched plenty of other people's ideas (including this one!) off the internet
- I figured it might be a good idea to have something like this out there without all those goofy Metric measurements

I actually wrote this out twice; my initial attempt used Neoprene foam (the black cymbal on the right), the new design uses actual rubber (left, I'll update the picture again when I get the second rubber cymbal finished). The Neoprene was okay, but the foam made it difficult to hold fast streaks on the cymbal. The rubber cover is much better; it gives a better rebound on the stick, and doesn't tear or rip when hit hard like the Neoprene did.

I have two issues with the rubber:
- It looks ridiculous (although somebody told me it looks more like a real cymbal, which I guess I can buy)
- It makes too much noise when you hit it. Maybe if I'd have bought more rubber like I should have, I could have put an extra layer under the top cover.

Step 1: Collect Materials

Here are the materials I used, with approximate costs. The below is for 2 cymbals, as I figured it's best to just replace them both at once.

- 2 10" Coleman camping plates ($6.00). I got them at Menards (our local version of Home Depot or Lowes, but closer to my house than the other two) for about $3.00 apiece.

- 2 27mm Piezo discs ($13.00). You can find them on eBay; I got 10 for $13 (including shipping) from a very friendly Canadian. I went with the ones without the lead wires, because I figured I have to solder wires on anyway, so why pay extra?

- Wire. Pretty much anything that can carry a current should work. Phone wire, speaker wire... whatever you have laying around the house should work. I ended up using 24-gauge speaker wire, because I hear stranded wire is better than solid for not breaking under stress (and because the 18-gauge speaker wire I had wouldn't fit through the holes of the headphone jack!).

- 2 3.5mm (1/8") surface-mount mono headphone jacks ($4.00). Radio Shack part #274-0251 is a package of 3.

- 2 1.5" L-brackets ($1.00). Menards, they're about 48 cents each

- Nuts & bolts to mount the above brackets ($1.00). What I got was a package of "#6-32 Stove Bolts," 1/2" long, 1/8" diameter, round head. Comes in a package of "a bunch."

- Washers ($1.00). I used #6 washers, which I had laying around. Anything to help hold the above in place will do.

- 1/8" Gum (Natural) Rubber ($22.25). If you have a rubber store nearby, you can probably do better than this. I ended up buying it from the internet, which is a real hassle if you don't know what kind of rubber to get. I went with the Neoprene first, and didn't like the results, so then I tried the natural (gum) rubber. Do NOT get any thicker than 1/8", or you'll never be able to fold/glue it.

What I bought was "Approved Vendor 1XWE5 Rubber Sheet." It's a single sheet, 12" x 36". In the end, I wish I had gotten more (two 24" sheets would have done the trick), because I really had to make sure I didn't waste any rubber, given how much I had.

- Glue ($2.50). What I got is called "E-6000." I don't recommend Super Glue, as it's not good for something you're going to be beating with sticks (the glue holds well, but breaks if you hit it). I looked specifically for something that would bond to both rubber and metal (although the plates are actually enamel coated), and specifically mentioned "flexible" or holding up under "shock," which Super Glue specifically says it's not good for.

- 1-1/4" Black PVC pipe ($4.00). Again, Menards. Unfortunately, I had to buy 5 feet, when I only needed about 6 inches. You can probably find something laying around the house you can use as a substitute (I couldn't).

Comes to about $55 if you have to buy everything. Certainly more expensive than the $25 variety, but I'm hoping these ones will last...

Step 2: Drill Holes

Drill two holes in each plate. The first, larger hole is the mounting hole. It will need to be big enough that the cymbal can get not only around the screw piece of the drum kit, but also the larger cylinder. If you only drill it big enough to get around the screw, by the time you get all the rubber in place, you won't be able to get the screw cover on.

You can place this hole wherever you like. The center of the plate seems logical; I put it slightly higher so that the "bottom" of the cymbal would be in about the same place as the ones that came with the kit. Your call. Once you get one drilled (or even just started), use that plate to mark the location on the second plate so that they're in the same place.

I had a BEAST of a time getting the big hole drilled... these are some tough plates. With my 3/8" drill, I was only able to get it up to about 1/4" (by drilling a small hole, then slightly larger ones), which was not quite big enough to get over the whole mount. Fortunately, my dad has a drill press, and bringing the plates over there was the right thing to do... that badboy made short work of these holes. Maybe a coarse, round metal file would work as well, I'm not sure.

The second, smaller hole is to mount the L-bracket on. You can put this wherever you like, but make sure it's in a place where you can still reach the wire on the drum kit to plug it in. I put it just about one inch directly to the right of the larger mount hole.

Step 3: Cut PVC Spacer

Logically, the next thing to do is begin covering the plate with the rubber. Unfortunately, I ordered my rubber online, and had to wait for it, so I did whatever I could while I waited for it to arrive...

Cut two pieces of the PVC pipe about 1/4" each, and file them off so they're somewhat smooth. See the images to see why we need these; it's to hold the plate up so we can mount them tightly.

Step 4: Assemble L-Bracket/Headphone Jack

Unscrew the cap from the headphone jacks, and mount them onto the L-brackets as shown.
A no-brainer; this step is just an excuse to show the image.

Step 5: Sand Plates

Sand the plates wherever we will be gluing. I just used sandpaper, as course as you can find. The object is just to roughen the surface so that the glue will hold better. The first image is the top of the plate (bottom of the cymbal); sand all the way around. The second is the bottom of the plate (you got it, top of the cymbal), where you probably only have to go about 3/4 of the way around, centered in the bottom-middle.

When you're finished, make sure to clean the dust off. Brush off what you can, then rinse the plates in the sink to make sure you get it all. Don't get lazy on this step; the last thing we want is for the glue to give way while we're rocking out...

Step 6: Remove Plate Ridge

Turn the plate upside-down. Notice the inner section of the plate, how it's so much higher than the outer ridge? We want to round that out, so there isn't so much of a "corner" that the drumstick could hit whilst we rock.

I decided to just build that outer section up, so that the final layer of rubber would be more "rounded." Start by tracing the outer-rim of the plate, just over 1/4 of the way around. Cut that piece with some nice sharp scissors.

Don't use the kitchen shears like I did. They're great, but it left red Sharpie ink all over the blade. My wife was none too pleased with that.

Once you've got the outer line cut, put the piece on top of the plate and trace as best you can where the inner ridge is, and cut the piece out. It should look about like the second image. In the interest of mass-producing, keep using the plate for the outer edge, and use the first piece as a pattern to cut out 7 more pieces just like this (you'll need 4 for each plate).

Glue them onto the plate, as seen in the 3rd image. I put one layer on each plate, and figured the inner ridge was still too high, so I put a second later more on the inside. Put them as close together as you can, but it doesn't really matter what it looks like, since this will all be covered up anyway.

Step 7: Cut Out Rubber Cover

Put the plate onto a large piece of rubber, and trace the outer edge. Then, cut it out about an inch (maybe inch-and-a-half) larger. Doesn't have to be exact, this cut-line will be on the bottom of the cymbal.

Step 8: Divide Outer Rim Into Sections

In order to make the final product look nice, we need to cut little triangles out of the edge of the rubber. This is to create small "sections" to be folded over the plate, so that you don't see the folds on the outside of the finished product.

I decided to go with 12 sections. First, find the center of the circle. Then, divide the plate into 12 sections using a ruler, and draw the lines to the outside of the rubber, as in the second image. Being as anal retentive as I am, I actually used a protractor to make sure the sections were equal, but that's not really necessary.

Once you've got the lines drawn, cut a small triangle out of the edge at each one, using the line for the tip of the triangle. See the third image for how "far down" to cut... I went just shy of the plate circle. If you cut too far, you will see all those cut-lines on the top of the cymbal when you're all done.

Step 9: Cut/Glue Inner Rubber Spacer

We need anther piece of rubber, to sit between the bottom of the cymbal and the drum kit, to help minimize the vibrations between the two. I would have liked this piece to be bigger (to cover the whole "inner" circle on the underside of the plate), but I didn't have enough rubber.

Cut out a piece of rubber, as big as you can without running out. Glue this piece on, centered around the mount hole. Once it dries (and not before!), hold it up to the light so you can see where the hole is. Use a marker to draw the hole, and cut it out with an Exacto knife or some similar tool.

Step 10: Mount L-Bracket to Plate

Mount the L-bracket as shown to the bottom of the plate, using the nuts, bolts, and washers. Be sure to tighten it thoroughly, since you won't be able to get to the top later...

Step 11: Glue Top Cover Into Place

I wanted the top cover to be glued all the way around, but I wanted the glue on the bottom of the cymbal, for a more "finished" look. This step is going to take a long time, because you have to wait for a LOT of glue to dry...

Put the rubber down, "nice" side down, and put the plate on top of it. You're going to need to fold the rubber over the edge of the plate and glue it into place in sections. I found 2 hours is the "right" amount of dry-time before you can move to the next section.

I first folded over a section of rubber, then traced on the plate with the marker where it sat. I did this so that A) I knew where to put the glue, and B) once I was ready to clamp, I knew where the edge of the rubber should be. Next, squirt some of the glue onto the plate using the trace line as a guide.

The order may or may not really matter. I did a "back-and-forth" sort of pattern. First one section, then the section on the opposite side. Then the next section as far away as I could get to where they were already glued. This way, you get more 'even' coverage.

After it's done and dry (and not before!), cut the small mounting hole in the top. I used an Exacto knife, you can use whatever you have. It doesn't have to look perfect; it'll get covered up when we mount it.

Step 12: Prepare Piezo/Headphone Jack

Now that we've got the "physical" parts finished, we'll start working on the electronics. Start by cutting a section of wire (per cymbal) about 6-7 inches long, and strip both ends.

How the wiring is actually done is up for debate. I've been able to determine the following:

1. The outer rim of the headphone jack is the positive side
2. The inner circle of the piezo is the positive
3. It may or may not matter how you actually wire the piezo

To be sure, I wired positive-to-positive. I'm sure somebody out there knows if this is actually necessary. I started by threading the wire through the holes in the connectors of the headphone jack and bending them over to hold them into place, then soldering the wires on.

This is probably a good place to mention that my soldering skills are decidedly subpar. I already know this, there's no need for you to tell me.

Anyway, wire is soldered to the jack, solder the other end to the piezo. I used electrical tape to hold them together while I fumbled around with the solder. After the solder dried, for good measure, I slapped some silicone caulk over the wire and connections, hoping this would help keep the "structural" integrity of the piece (knowing these wires tend to break off, as they have inside my drum set a good number of times).

Once the whole thing is assembled, set it aside to dry.

Step 13: Assemble Cymbal

At this point, we're ready to test it out. Not being sure if I would be able to glue the piezo directly to the plate, or if I would need something in between to help 'soften' the vibrations, I first did it by taping the piezos to the plate to see which way worked better. I also worried about the wire/piezo connection just hanging there with nothing to 'protect' it, so when I taped it together, I put a small piece of Neoprene foam that I had left over (you could use extra rubber as well) over the piezo to further protect that connection.

Using one of the yellow/orange colored pieces as a guide, cut out a circle of rubber. It doesn't even have to be that big; it just has to be bigger than the piezo.

Screw the headphone jack back into the L-bracket, and tape the piezos to the plates, so that the piezo is on top of the small piece of rubber.

Assemble the cymbals to the drum set (it's getting fun now!) by first putting on the PVC spacer, then the cymbal, then the yellow/orange circle from the original cymbals, then tighten the whole thing with the plastic nut. You really have to screw that nut on tight, otherwise when you hit the cymbal, it tends to 'spin' around...

Also worth noting is that sometimes you may have issues with the screw mechanism on the headphone jack coming apart from all the banging. It's disheartening when your cymbal stops working mid-song because the headphone jack piece fell apart. Use a needle-nose pliers and screw it on as tight as you can.

Step 14: Run Intial Test

Hook those badboys up to the Xbox (or PS3 or Wii or whatever), plug in the laptop, and fire up the Recording Studio to start testing sensitivity. You will probably have to turn the cymbal sensitivity down, so that it doesn't fire when you hit the other drums...

...don't forget to plug the cymbal in!

Step 15: Glue Piezos Into Place

Armed with your new found knowledge, feel confident in gluing the final pieces into place. First glue the small rubber circle to the plate, then slap some glue on the top and glue the Piezo to it.

Another opportunity to learn from my mistakes... I got overzealous and glued these pieces down before I tested as thoroughly as I should have. I glued them to the center of the plate, and later that night when I sat down to jam, found that I couldn't hold a fast beat on the yellow cymbal to save my life. As it turns out, with the piezo in the center of the plate, there were two problems:

1. If the sensitivity was too low, it only worked when you hit the plate in the center, where the piezo is...
2. If the sensitivity was too high, the piezo was close enough to the mount that the other drums would trigger it when they weren't supposed to.

A little more testing (after ripping the glued piece up) showed that the proper location for the piezo is bottom-center.

I decided to use the electrical tape long-term to cover the piezo with. I would still like to be able to get at the little sucker if I need to in the future...

Step 16: ROCK!!

Mount the cymbals to your kit, plug them in, adjust the settings with the "Drum Kit Tuner," and rock out to your heart's content. Enjoy!