your own GH:WT cymbals for under $25.
read that right.
so many other unfortunate souls out there, my Guitar Hero: World Tour
drumkit suffered from a fatal flaw: inherent crapness.
worked fine for about a week, after which the cymbals became less and
less responsive. I did the right thing, and ordered the MIDI
sensitivity-tweaking doodad, and waited patiently for two weeks until
it showed up. Half an hour after getting the MIDI
sensitivity-tweaking doodad home, however, I was swearing and cursing
and vaguely contemplating some kind of nasty letter, as adjusting the
sensitivity of the cymbals had almost no effect on the kit's
playability. The whole exercise reminded me very much of trying to play
Winter Games on the C64 with a broken joystick.
In short, one cymbal was registering one hit out of every three or four
(even when hit with what I would consider a ridiculous
amount of force), and the other cymbal would trigger three notes in
rapid succession when a slight breeze wafted over it. To add to the
the flimsy plastic base on the underside of both cymbals was
extensively cracked. This combination of failures made the
part of the game completely unplayable (well, unless you play in hit n' drool
"beginner" mode), just at the time I was starting
to hit my stride and find some rhythm - I'd just finished the
game's drum career on "medium" difficulty, and was keen to graduate to
Being the mindlessly enthusiastic tinkerer that I am, I whipped out the
phillips and laid the guts of the cymbal bare. Discovering only a piezo
transducer element, a PCB devoid of components and a haphazardly
soldered 3.5mm audio socket, I began toying with the idea of
making my own cymbals while I waited for Activision to send me warranty
Iain, a good friend, like minded soul and partner in crime, had been
having similar thoughts due to
similar issues with his kit, and had bought a bunch of piezo elements
from ebay. He kindly gave me a couple to play with, and volunteered to
do some soldering.
I picked up a four-pack of 25cm "unbreakable"
(hah!) plastic picnic plates from Woolworths. Jaycar happily
me two 3.5mm mono audio sockets. I had some wire, gaff tape
crimp connectors at home. We did a quick proof of
tacking small spadey-type connectors to a piezo, soldering connectors
to the audio socket, connecting the two, and gaff-taping the lot to the
bottom of the plate with a bit of padding for the socket to prevent
rattling. To our surprise, when we connected the plate to the
GH:WT drumkit and fired up the game's Recording Studio applet, the
worked extremely well as a cymbal trigger. It was very sensitive
even light finger taps were enough to record a note through the kit. It
didn't skip any notes though, and it didn't register any
I decided that effort expended in going about this project in a
slightly more thorough manner would pay off. I
bought some neoprene from Clark Rubber, Iain brought over a
black spraypaint and a soldering iron, and we set about making
After about a day's worth of measuring,
marking, cutting, gluing, sanding, grinding, soldering, taping,
painitng, smoking, drinking and general mucking about, we had two
working cymbal triggers, that are arguably better than the ones
originally supplied with the kit.
Things you'll need:
four-pack of 25cm (10") "unbreakable" plastic picnic plates. $4 from
Woolworths/BigW (the brand name I used, ironically, is "Smash".)
25-30mm piezo transducer elements. Available on Ebay apparently, in
packs of 20, for $10. (I'll get info in the ebay dealer and post it
if there's significant interest.)
60cm of 300mm x 3mm neoprene. I bought mine at Clark Rubber for $18
($25 per metre).
3.5mm mono audio sockets. Less than $1 each from Jaycar/Dick Smith.
a dozen old coasterised CDs or DVDs. Use Miles Davis recordings for
tone and musicality.
plastic spool or other suitable spool-like thing that vaguely fits over
the GH:WT cymbal mounts and under the GH:WT cymbal retaining nut
thingy. See below.
and a Dremel/rotary tool of some kind (although the morbidly patient
could just use sandpaper, I suppose.)
glue, and lots of it. I'd recommend a 5ml bottle with a brush
applicator. $5-ish from your hardware megastore of choice.
knife, good scissors, a metal ruler, permanent Artline or Sharpie
marker (preferably not black, so you can see it against the black
soldering iron, some wire and solder. Anything bigger than
computer-PSU-gauge wire would
be silly, anything smaller than the awfully thin wires pre-soldered to
the piezo would be fiddly.
spadey-connectory things, if you're not confident soldering stuff (or
want to move things around and experiment later).
your "unbreakable" picnic plate, and mark as per the picture below.
(Making a red-herring squiggled mistake line on the right side is
the diagonal lines are drawn using the mark at the top of the outside of the
plate and the marks on the inside "rim"):
the markings on the plate and the plate itself as a guide, mark out
your sheet of neoprene. You want a triangle-shaped piece that covers
the area bounded by the two diagonal lines and the outer rim of the
Measure the distance from the outer rim to the inner rim of the plate,
and mark this length from the tip of your triangle.
Use an object the same diameter as the inside rim of the plate to mark
the upper curve at that point.
one of your dead optical discs as a guide, mark the location of the
mounting hole on the underside of the plate and the
neoprene. I used Win95-era game discs, because I knew the
content of the disc would have no bearing on the "tone" whatsoever, and
"musicality" isn't a real word.
Cut the marked piece out. You should end up with a piece that
looks roughly like this:
need to cut out three more pieces of neoprene:
... and one smaller one for the underside:
The cymbal is now taking shape (you need three cds/dvds stacked up to
get the right curve):
outside for a bit and take a break with a cool, refreshing tonic water.
Tonic water contains quinine,
which used to be used to treat malaria, which is spread by mosquitoes.
neighbour doesn't look after his pool, and is thus a breeding
ground for the little buggers. Quinine also glows under UV light,
which is how they imitated Cherenkov
radiation in the nuclear-sub movie "K19: The
Unfortunately, the dosage of quinine in your average Australian "tonic
water" is too low to be effective as a preventative for malaria. The
point is moot though, I don't actually live in a malaria-prone
region so the danger of
infection is practically zero. I just like tonic water and movies about
nuclear subs and seeing cool special effects. I also hate my idiot
Now that you've stretched a bit, grind (or sand, if you're very patient) the
ridge off the inside and outside rim of the plate. Wear safety gear,
and put a bucket around your dog's head. Then, put the dog inside for
good measure. Dogs and dremels don't play nicely.
The finished (slightly blurry) plate.
sandpaper to roughen the area inside the inner rim of the plate (and
smooth out the product branding and info), and superglue the two
crescent pieces in place.
a bit of drying time (10-15 minutes should be enough, depending on how
much superglue you've slopped around), roughen the surfaces of the
three dead discs, and glue them in place on top of each other. (Purists
will argue that the shiny side must go up, because of quantum alignment
of the fluxons or something, but purists will pay $600 for a wooden
volume knob, and $2000 for a metre of speaker wire, because they're
morons.) Cut a small hole in the
center of the larger remaining piece of neoprene, and glue it to the
top of the stack of discs.
Be sure to
confuse your camera's autofocus
by wobbling the neoprene about a bit.
the mounting hole...
... being careful not to press too hard with the drill:
a four-pack of plates, right? I'm glad I did. My first plate died in a
failed attempt to cut the plate around the inner rim:
you have been warned.
sand out the hole (gently! let the tool do the work...) so it fits over
the GH:WT cymbal mounts. Trim the neoprene to fit also.
should still have a small neoprene disc, cut a small hole in it, glue
it to the underside of the plate, and trim once the glue has
sufficiently set. Be sure to pose in a distinctly unsafe and
unrealistic manner. The more astute observers will have already noted
the assembly to ensure it fits on the GH:WT cymbal mount. If not, back
to dremeling. Or filing. Or if you're sanding - see you in another two
days. You want a fairly loose fit to minimise the stand transmitting
shock or vibrations from hits to the other triggers into the
plate. A gap of between one and two millimeters should do nicely.
Paint the bits of the plate that won't be covered by the upper piece of
neoprene. This is, of course, optional. You may leave the plate
unadorned or covered in blue squiggly lines if you wish. Slap all the
stickers from the GH:WT box on them, if that makes you happy. That
would make Activision and Red Octane happy, I'm sure, but since you've
already thrown a fair whack of your hard-earned money at them for
something that doesn't really work that well...
try not to get much paint on the outside piece of neoprene. Common
sense suggests masking tape or some other shield-like technology. My
sense is not often common.
this stage, multiple coats, fancy metallic paint and/or demonic
symbology are entirely optional and left to the taste (or lack thereof)
of the user. I have taste, but little patience, so I opted for two
dry(ish - ten minutes in the sun was plenty for me, check the
instructions on your can of paint), glue down only the outer edge of
the top piece to the larger crescent of neoprene.
need some kind of washer/gromit/spacer arrangement to make up
extra 10-15mm needed to match the thickness of the original cymbal. I
was lucky, as I'd bought a spool of wire from Jaycar to complete the
project, and the plastic spool itself was just the shape and
which finished off the construction phase nicely.
on top is the plasticy retaining nut thingy supplied with the GH:WT kit.
Now to the electrickery.
spade connectors to each of the leads coming from the piezo element,
and solder two short (about 70-80mm) wires to the audio plug's
terminals, along with connectors.
Iain or I are remarkably practised soldererers, so this may not be
optimal. You could get all fancy with heatshrink and stuff or molex
connectors or something even more exotic if you like, but try and keep
it as light and flexible as you can. Or just twist the wires together
and wrap them in 'leccy tape for that 70's car stereo feel. Be sure to
add a coathanger bent into the shape of your country of residence and a
Brothers 8-track cartridge.
Gaff tape the piezo element to the underside of the plate, brass side
down, in between the mounting hole and the bottom edge.
another piece of tape halfway along the wires to provide some strain
relief (just in case), and tape the audio socket to the plate, using a
piece of foam or other suitably squishy material to stop the plate
making mechanical contact with the socket. This will protect
socket and solder joints from vibrations and shock (one of the major
failings of the original GH:WT cymbals.)
the socket wires to the piezo wires. It doesn't matter which way you
connect them, as long as they don't short. To this end, tape the whole
shebang down, ensuring no metal bits are touching other metal bits.
(Er, except for the connectors, of course).
Lather, rinse and repeat for the other cymbal, unless you're lucky
only have one broken cymbal. I'd recommend making two anyway, as it's
only a matter of time before the other original one fails anyway, right?
Mount the cymbals on your GH:WT kit, connect the plug to the socket,
and you're done.
You may need to use the aformentioned USB-MIDI sensitivity doohickey to
make the cymbals less
sensitive, depending on how snugly the hole in your cymbal fits around
the mounting peg. I suspect that a very tight fit would transmit
vibration to the plate and thus trigger a false note when you hit
something else on the kit, so try to allow a bit of wiggle-room when
grinding out the mounting hole. Or, if you're feeling masochistic
enthusiastic, gouge out the hole some more and add a rubber sleeve to
I adjusted the sensitivity of the cymbals right down, and playtested.
Actually, Iain playtested 'cos he's better at drums.
Click the image above for a larger version, you can see a 97% score with a 53
note streak on the drums.
Pretty good for $25, eh? Celebrate with a well-earned Vodka, Lime and
Tonic, served with ice, in a highball glass, and rock on.
(Sadly, I have no pictures of the rocking. I'm sure you'll survive.)
Email me with questions or comments: