Guitar Hero LED Mod




About: I like to make things for the internets. I also sell a pretty cool calendar at You'll like it.
Guitar Hero rocks, but it really needs some lights to liven up the virtual shredding.

What to do? Cram in some LEDs!

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Step 1: 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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.

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    231 Discussions


    Question 2 months ago on Introduction

    Hope you still read this. Do you have the capacity to still make some of those buttons? Be happy to pay a fair price for them.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    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?

    1 reply

    Reply 7 months ago

    As per what I know, he drew the power from the existing power source of the guitar. If he used it from an external source, the LEDs would be constantly on, unless he connected that external source to the power source of the guitar, extending its life. But I would say he connected the LEDs straight to the guitar


    8 years ago on Step 10

    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.


    11 years ago on Step 10

    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

    4 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Step 10

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


    9 years ago on Step 9

    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.

    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.


    10 years ago on Step 3

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


    12 years ago on Step 9

    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

    4 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Step 9

    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


    Reply 11 years ago on Step 9

    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.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

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