How To: Use your e-drums as a Guitar Hero controller

Did you know you can connect your e-drums up to your console and use them to play Guitar Hero with? Well one of our lovely site visitors has done you a nice easy to follow guide to help you on your way!

This example is for the Xbox 360 but it should work just the same on any console.

To get your e-drum working with Guitar Hero on the Xbox 360 you need a least the following six things:

- an e-drum with a MIDI Output, e.g. Roland TD-12,
- the Xbox 360 Controller Box from the Guitar Hero drum kit,
- the Drum Brain from the Guitar Hero drum kit (it's called "DRUM SYNTH V2R00" on the circuit board),
- the MIDI Input from the Guitar Hero drum kit,
- a MIDI cable,
- a Guitar Hero game which supports drums (all versions including World Tour and up should work).

You can get all of these parts (except the MIDI cable) from the guitar hero spare parts store for a very reasonable price. Of course you can get a Guitar Hero Drum Kit and use this as your MIDI connector to the Xbox, but that might take up a little bit too much space in your living room.

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Now to the setup:
1) Connect the Drum Brain to the Xbox Controller. Make sure that the red cable is connected to the pin marked "CK".
2) Connect the MIDI Input to the Drum Brain. The red cable must align with the "Kick" pin.
3) Connect your e-drum's MIDI Output with the MIDI cable to the Guitar Hero's MIDI Input.
4) Put some batteries in the Xbox Controller, turn on your e-drum and the Xbox Controller and start Guitar Hero (at least World Tour, Guitar Hero III doesn't support drums). Make sure, the Xbox Controller is paired and works (i.e. you can navigate the menus).
5) If your e-drum sends the standard MIDI notes for the different pads on the standard MIDI channel for drums, you should be set and ready to go. Just choose Drums as your instrument and give it a try.

That was easy, wasn't it?! 🙂 For a little more tweaking, just read on.

Hm, what to do, if the e-drum doesn't use the correct MIDI channel or notes? That involves a little bit more of work, but no magic at all.

Go to your devices MIDI setup (check with your manual on how to get
there) and set your e-drum's transmit channel to 10. This setting is usually buried somewhere in the global settings.

Now the only thing left to do is to set the pads to send the correct MIDI notes for Guitar Hero. This setting is usually done in the pad's settings section. You need to setup them up like this:

Red Pad: Note 38,
Yellow Pad: Note 46,
Blue Pad: Note 48,
Green Pad: Note 45,
Orange Pad: Note 49,
Purple Pad (Kick Pedal): Note 36.

The Red pad is usually a Snare Drum sound, so it's a good idea to map your SD pad to note 38. Blue and Green are Tom Sounds, Yellow and Orange are Hi Hat resp. Cymbal. Purple is the Kick Pedal (Bass Drum).

If that didn't work, first try the other MIDI connector on your e-drum.
Sometimes the MIDI connectors are labeled weird regarding Input/Output.

If you have got multi-zone pads that send different notes when being hit in different zones, make sure to map them to the same note. E.g., a Snare Drum pad is usually equipped with a rim and head sensor. You want Guitar Hero to recognize both sensors, so set both to Note 38. The same applies for multi-zone Cymbal Pads and so on.

Of course you can map your pads to your liking. I have my Ride pad and the Hi Hat mapped to the same note and both the Crash pads mapped to the other colour, so that you are free to play the rhythm stuff on the HH or Ride to your liking (or whatever the sounds in Guitar Hero are like ...;-) ).

Hope you enjoy it. If you have any problems, just drop a note in the comments.

Many thanks to our reader for that nice tutorial.

We couldn't stop without having a little play ourselves and have come up with a nice little mod to this guide, allowing you to enclose all the parts in the original controller box. The mod is quite simple all you need to do it to cut the GHWT midi port out and replce it with a slick looking surface mounted one which will cost pennies.

Open the back of the controller box by removing the four screws in the back

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Cut the circuit board off the end of the Guitar Hero midi port cable leaving you with as much of the ribbon cable attached as possible, You wil see that the ribbon cable is made up of 6 wires, we only need wires 3 and 4 (doesn't matter which way you look at it, it's the middle two!). You need to strip and solder these two wires onto your surface mounted midi port, attaching them to the same pins as they were attached to before (The red and yellow lines on the image show where they were attached, look at your own it will become clear, just make sure you have the midi port the right way up!)

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Drill a hole in the side for the port to go through and your done! You should have plenty of room to fit everything back inside the controller box, leaving you with one small neat box to connect up!

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5 Comments on "How To: Use your e-drums as a Guitar Hero controller"

  1. MiDiShOcK on Thu, 1st Oct 2009 4:05 pm 

    Excellent tutorial thanks, had my new controller setup and working in less than 2 hours. Pretty simple stuff.
    The results are soooooo cool using these drums, makes me feel like a better player!!
    Cheers for the quick delivery on the bits too, arrived next day!


  2. Use your GHWT drums on your PC as e-drums! | on Wed, 21st Oct 2009 7:00 pm 

    […] an article a while ago with a great deal of help from one of our visitors showing you how you can use your e-drums as a Guitar Hero Game Controller. This was a very popular article with lots of […]

  3. Alejandro on Thu, 3rd Feb 2011 9:27 pm 

    I’m trying to follow your tutorial to connect my drum kit to my Wii, but I’ve run into a snag when it comes to setting up the MIDI notes…

    I’m trying to use an old ‘Sessions PRO DD505’ and it doesn’t seem to have notes that go above 31… Are there any alternative notes? or are they just set up differently on this type of drum kit?

    Thanks for any help.

  4. build a computer from scratch online on Mon, 25th Feb 2013 7:00 pm 

    Great delivery. Outstanding arguments. Keep up the amazing work.

  5. CPUJediX on Mon, 5th Aug 2013 5:54 am 

    OK. I spent some time and researched this subject to great length because I didn’t want to waste money on repairing the drum kit if it was just going to fail. I happened across some of the cheapest E-Drums I’ve seen (Good quality) the Simmons SD5K which are running about $250(They are currently available online!). That does NOT include a kick drum pedal (which you will need!) I bought a cheap one for $20 at the local Guitar Center. Grabbed a MIDI cable to plug into the Guitar Hero Drum controller. You can’t remap the channels, but all the channels are present. The snare (RED), Hi-Hats (YELLOW), Bass (PURPLE) all work fine. The others; orange, blue and green also work but will require you to actually swap cables in the drum brain for your preference. I shifted the Crash (ORANGE) to the Ride, and the toms so I ended up with 2 (BLUE) in the middle and (GREEN) as the floor tom. BEST performance EVER! Plus, I used the headphones on a small speaker to actually hear the drums!

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