The Cheapest Way to Play RockBand With REAL Drums




About: Hello there, I'm Scott! I major in IT at George Mason University, and I'm interested in arcade and board games, especially rhythm games.
I used to love RockBand before I learned to play drums, but after a while of playing drums I tried to play RockBand again and I was so much worse than before.  So I stopped playing RockBand for a long time until the other day when I decided to take apart my RockBand 1 drums just to see what was inside.

All you need is the RockBand 1 (I haven't tried with the RockBand 2 drums yet) drums, a screwdriver, and possibly the knowledge of how to make a simple splice.

Here is a video of me playing with them (for the first time)

Step 1: Dismantling the Drum Set

-First, you need to take off the rubber heads you would usually hit.  This is very easy, all you need to to is rip them off from the side (this won't hurt anything)
-Next you need to unscrew all the screws on the backside of the RockBand drums, and basically every screw you think will help take it apart
-After you have taken all the screws out, if the plastic pieces don't separate easily, there are also some screws under the foam inside of the middle 2 drum

You should be able to take the yellow and blue wires out, but the green and red should be stuck in between some plastic

Step 2: The Wires

At the end of this step, you want all the wire from inside of the RockBand drum set out.  You should be able to take all of the wires out besides the red and green.  You will either need to cut the plastic around the wire, or cut both of the wires and splice them after.  If you don't know how to splice a wire, you basically take the covering off of the two wires, twist the white to white, and colored to colored, and after, you can cover them separately with electrical tape to make sure they don't touch/short circuit (If you don't like my explanation of splicing, maybe you can find another intractable that explains it better).  Then, take all of the wires out. you should have:
-One control circuit
-4 colored wires with sensors on the end
-1 input for the bass pedal
-1 USB wire

Step 3: Attaching to the Real Drum Set

First, you rest the controller/circuit board part on the bass drum in a position where all of the sensors can reach the drums.  The hit sensors already have tape on them when you remove them from the RockBand set, so you don't even really need tape.  I recommend taping them to plastic ring inserts if you have them.  The wires are only long enough to put them on your snare and toms, but if you want to (I haven't done this yet so I'm not ure how well it may work) you can cut the wires and splice a longer piece of wire in between them so the yellow can fit the hi hat (i know this works), and maybe the green can attach to the ride, and the blue to the crash maybe.  It's the vibration from hitting the drum head triggers the sensor which is translated as a "hit".

Step 4: The Bass Pedal

The bass pedal is attached to the rest of the controller through the normal bass pedal port.  The easiest way to use the bass pedal is to take your usual pedal aways and use your RockBand pedal or just place them next to each other.  The harder way (which is purely theoretical because I have not attempted this) involves taking apart the RockBand pedal.  On the inside of the RockBand bass pedal is a button activated by magnets that is usually in the black part of the pedal.  Underneath the part your place your foot on is a small magnet that triggers the magnetic button when they get close enough by you pressing down on the pedal.

UPDATE: After I published this instructable, I saw a good instructable on making the bass pedal work, you can view it here.

My idea is that you can place the piece next to (or in between for double bass) the batter head and tape/glue a magnet on side of the batter head(s). my other idea is keep the trigger under the pedal and a magnet on the underside of the pedal.  I haven't tried either of those ideas, nor do I plan on trying them, but I thought I would put them out there incase anyone wanted to try them, and if you do, please leave a comment and tell my how it went!

Step 5: Play!

This cheap way to play RockBand with real drums isn't perfect, but it IS a whole lot of fun! 
If your TV has a headphone port, or you can somehow get the sound into headphones would definitely be ideal.  There are plenty of guides on how to do that, but I still havn't yet so I'll leave that up to you, but its still fun either way.  One problem I have had is that some times I'd hit blue and it would shake the whole bass drum and activate yellow too, and since the floor tom is so large, it sometimes triggers green twice.  Also, be careful not to hit the sensors, it might be a good idea to use the foam from inside the RB drums to protect the sensors.  Have fun playing with your new RockBand drum set!

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    32 Discussions


    3 years ago

    I had a friend come over who is an expert drummer for 20 years and he played an entire song on the toy PS3 drums and it was 100% accurate. So, I'm going to learn how to play REAL drums with Rock Band as my teacher! Thanks for the instructions! :)


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Hey... I wonder if it's possible to use TWO rockband drum sets and use all eight sensors (one on each drum head and cymbals). For example, can you snip off the four sensors from one set and pair 'em with the other four sensors according to the color codes so you can tape one green sensor to the snare, the other green to the ride cymbal; one red sensor to the high tomtom head and the other red to the hi-hat cymbal; one yellow sensor to the mid tomtom head and the other yellow sensor to the crash cymbal; and one blue sensor to the low tomtom and the other blue sensor to the splash cymbal??? The same goes for the bass kick pedal and the hi-hat pedal too as well??? Let me know if this is impossible or doable?

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    It's actually the exact same thing, except that you would have to play to the guitar tracks because there are no tracks for them. On the bright side the guitars are synced in time with the drums so it won't sound as terrible.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Actually the left-most colour is the snare, second from the left is the hi-hat, third from the left is crash cymbal and the rightmost is the ride cymbal. It might actually sound like the game if you set it up that way.

    4 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    yes, but like i said, the hi hat is to far away with the original wire, and the crash and the ride would cause too much vibration and trigger the color multiple times


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for writing this article. I tried this with my rb 2 wireless set, and its pretty functional. The only problem is the vibration of the cymbals (which can probly be fixed with some tape or padding around the sensor) and the hi hats. I just need to splice the hi hat sensor to a switch that can split the signal from one wire leading to the yellow jack to another wire leading to the blue, activated by the opening and closing of the hats. The omega gm 1, which is a commercial version of your project, has a sensor like this, but I dunno if its something you can pick up at radioshack, or if its a custom switch. Have you looked into this at all?


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I haven't looked into this (i'm not the best electrician, but I know some basics), I kinda just started this project one day to see if it could be done, and don't really use it anymore, but I'd love to hear your results!

    I don't think in Rockband you're required to have hi hats open or closed at anytime, I would just use the blue wire on the cymbal closest to the hi hat. Maybe get one of those "practice muter" rubber pads that you put on cymbals to make them quite, and use that to stop the vibrations? That'd be my 'less electrical' answer, but please share whatever you do!


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    The thing is, I havnt played rb in a year, but I play my real set every day. So id like to use rb as a backing track and and a tab to my drumming, but muting the cymbals or using the ride as the open hi hat would make it unnatural. Ill let you know if I can find a solution for that, but thanks for showing me how to set it up

    If you have real drums, and know how to play them, why on earth would you be messing with Rock Band? Not dissing video games, I'm sure it's fine for folks who don't know how to play, but it's definitely nothing like the real thing.

    10 replies

    becouse not every drummer has friends available 24/7 that know how to play guitar/bass/sing
    and those games are just pure fun, and this makes it look waaaay more awesome
    if i would drum/play guitar i would still play games like this, simply becouse its alot more fun with other people that arent skilled musicians


    well, i didnt make a statement, i gave my opinion about something you said
    plus, i have tried learning keyboards and drums. being a musician just isnt for me
    but playing rock band/guitar hero is awesome

    im kinda tired of all those peeps saying "you cant do it, so you cant say anything bout it"
    no, i dont fight in the war in iraq, but i do have an opinion about it
    no, i dont do drugs, but i do have an opinion about it


    Exactly! I'm glad to see you understand the point I was trying to make. An awful lot of people just don't get it when I try to explain things like this to them.

    Well gentlemen...with an explanation first that I absolutely do not want to offend
    anyone with my breath let alone my comments!!!! No. 1, the songsmanship!
    let''s not forget about the songsmanship! What musician could possibly define
    him/herself without songsmanship? That's right...NONE! to this
    matter, I find the "drummer" in this video without what I would describe a very
    rhymetic touch! That is to say if a pianist performed before an audience with
    such a barbaric uncivilized touch I daresay the audience would be rushing down
    the isles to the intermission area! Hands on ears no doubt. THAT...coupled
    with the fact that they hear no music to support and cradle the "knocks and
    raps" rudely pummelling against the drum(s) heads! I shall end the impossible
    description of the "talent" and cushion the review with the additional comment
    concerning the drummist! I think him to be a nice person, his thoughful up-
    bringing I am sure can be attributed to caring parents. Evidenced to this very
    moment. A contributing citizen to all of society I have no doubt! BUT...a gain-
    fullly employed professional musician? Shall we change the discussion to
    the weather? I bid both of you "ado" and hopefully leave you with food for
    thought! Next instruction please...


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Well I've been playing drums for a few years, and this was my first time trying to play with the RockBand sensors, so I was just getting used to it, but I am by no means a professional drummer in the first place, haha.


    im kinda lost here, you said something, i said something wich is quite different, then you say that i couldnt say that, and i explain why i can
    then you say i understand what you're saying?
    with the danger of repeating myself:

    scott!Mr. Potato Head

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Because before I played drums I loved RockBand (might even say it got me into playing), but then when I stopped playing I had 2 useless drum controllers so I decided to take one apart for the fun of it and relaized that I could play drums with it so why not?

    (also it can sort of, in somw shape or form, teach you songs/help you figure out the drums if a song is mixed weird, but that's not why I did it)


    8 years ago on Step 3

    If you stick the sensors onto the resonating heads underneath on the toms and snare, will it reach without splicing?