Tips And Tricks To Build A Real Guitar Controller Just In Time For Guitar Hero 3

Guitar Hero III is only a few days away, so I figured now was the time finish a project I had planned for a long time.  Converting a Gibson Electric Guitar to a Guitar Hero Controller, Compatible with Guitar Hero 2 and Guitar Hero 3, and Possibly Rock Band.  The Total cost of this project is fairly high.  I used a $69 Gibson Guitar from Target, an Xbox 360 Guitar Hero Controller, and about 12 man hours between Pete Mountanos and I.  The result if very stylish, and pretty competitive.

Destroy a Guitar Hero controller Gently.  You will need all of the Printed Circuit boards to be in good shape, and you don’t want to damage any of the pieces of the shell.

Guitar Hero Controller

Next you are going to want to take apart your real guitar.  This is again straight forward just use a philip’s screwdriver and save all of the parts.

Time to break out the chisel…  Remove the frets from the guitar, and enough wood from the neck to accommodate the PCB from the Controller’s neck.

Gibson Guitar Neck  Removing a Fret Neck cut out for PCB

Now you will need to drill a hole in the neck to attach the wires to the "Frets".  Take care, we didn’t know there was metal in the neck of the guitar.

 

Clamping the neck to drill itDrilling the Guitar Neck

Next you will want to desolder the buttons that allow you to strum from their PCB.

 

 Strum bar PCB IMGA0033 IMGA0034 IMGA0035 IMGA0036

To hold the strum bar we are going to use the pickups from the Gibson.  So first we have to remove the pickups.  Then we need to drill a hole in each to hold the strum bar.  Wrapping the pickup in duct tape makes it easier to drill and less likely to scratch.

 

Removing the Pickups Drilling the pickups IMGA0039

Solder new leads to the two micro-switches labeled Up and down.

 

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Thread the wire through to the back of the guitar.

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Replace the Pickups

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Check that you have it all how you want it… And now take it all apart so we can run the wires from the neck.

 

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You can hide some extra wire in the space under the pickups.

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Reattach the strum bar and the pickups.

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Pickups are spring loaded and can be adjusted for height.  Run them most of the way up as shown above. (those aren’t drill marks that the reflection of the lights in the ceiling)

 

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We expanded the hole in the back of the guitar.  Solder all of the wires to the PCB on the back.  (notice the green LED on the PCB I checked that all my connections were working before sealing things up too much.

 

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Cut a cover for the enclosure.  Mine is held on with duct tape until I figure out a good way to push the start button (I forgot this early on.

Wire the Volume rheostat to the whammy.  Not quite a whammy bar but close.

 

  

Sharpie over your mistakes.
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Super glue the rubber over the PCB.

 Completed Gibson Epoch Guitar Hero Controller

And there you have it. Vacuum up your mess and go play.
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This version doesn’t have support for the pedal, or for the Mic,  I also didn’t get the chord to come out the amp output the way I had wanted.  All of these could be done with a few more hours of time, but since I spent longer building this than I have spent playing any games the last month, I figured I would put this up and when I get around to doing one based on the Rock Band Guitar I’d put the lessons learned on this one in to the next one.  If I were to do it again I’d use lighter gauge wire.  I considered using Micro-switches in the neck, and would do that on the next one as I could have made the keys invisible under the removed section of wood, and not used the ugly PCB.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Video of the guitar in action coming soon.

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