First Impressions: Playing Rock Band with Real Drums

February 14, 2008

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Just wanted to share some thoughts on how using a real set of electronic drums (my Yamaha DTXplorer) has changed my experience playing Rock Band.

First off, let me say that I have not had nearly as much free time as I would like to play now that my DTXplorer all hooked up to play Rock Band. Thats what being in law school and having a research job and looking for a post-graduation job will do to you.

The first song I tried with my real kit was “Dirty Little Secret” on Expert. This is, in my opinion, a really fun song to play and its one that I have been able to Five-Star consistently on the original RB drum controller (as a result of playing it so many times). However, playing that song immediately exposed all the adjustments I would have to make to be able to play successfully with the real kit.

For one thing, my brain just couldn’t handle the reversed positions of the crash and ride cymbals and the corresponding green and blue notes on the screen. What I mean is that it was way too confusing to have the blue notes (indicating ride) on the left and the green notes (indicating crash) on the right while my real crash cymbal trigger is on the left and ride cymbal trigger on the right. This problem is further complicated by the fact that blue is assigned to the low tom and green to the floor tom (again, positions switched). Pretty quickly, I just decided to switch the positions of my real cymbal triggers and be done with it.

Another problem was crosstalk, but as I covered in the previous post, there was an easy fix for that.

To be honest, it was a little disheartening trying to play on my real kit when I was finding it difficult to reprogram myself to play the RB notes on the right trigger. In an effort to improve my real drumming skills, I am really trying to play the notes on the “musically correct” trigger as well (i.e. play blue notes on the ride when its a ride note and on the low tom when its a tom note).

So, I decided to take a little detour on my journey to earn the AN-I-MAL!!! achievement (I’m three tiers into the Expert tour). I committed to completing the entire Hard solo tour with my real kit to train myself. Like I said, I haven’t had a whole lot of free time, but I’ve managed to make a good deal of progress and now I have only one tier + one song to go before I finish.

A few observations:

  • Using the real bass pedal ALONE is worth all the work I put into this mod. It’s not that using a real pedal is an advantage over using the plastic RB pedal, its just so much more comfortable. One reason being that I’m not afraid I’m going to snap it in half every time I step on it.
  • The benefit of rebound cannot be overstated. If you’re like me and wore your forearms out easily on the RB drum controller, you’ll really appreciate this.
  • The durability of the real kit/trigger pads opens up some options. Specifically for me, I preferred using a pair of Vic Firth SDCs to the rather dinky stock RB drumsticks. I would never use these with the RB controller for fear that the heavier sticks would demolish the fragile plastic kit. Also, you can just play harder, in general, if thats what you prefer.
  • Play on the real kit is infinitely more fun (at least once you’re used to it). You feel like you’re really playing the song because, if you are hitting the right pads for the right notes, you basically are.

I’ll post again when I’ve logged a few more hours on the real kit. I really want to do the Endless Setlist again (did it once on Medium), but I’m debating whether to go for it on Hard or wait until I’m ready to do it on Expert.

Until next time…

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Eliminating Cross-Talk on the DTXplorer (for use with Rock Band)

February 7, 2008

Well, after almost a week of playing Rock Band with my DTXplorer, I am very satisfied with the result of the mod. However, I ran into one problem that had to be addressed before I could fully take advantage of playing with the DTXplorer: cross-talk.

Cross-talk occurs when a pad picks up vibration when another pad is struck. On the DTXplorer, you may or may not notice this problem, depending on how your rack is set up. If you do experience cross-talk, it will present problem if you plan on using the DTXplorer to play Rock Band.

The problem manifested itself when I would hit certain pads (for me, the hi-tom, hi-hat, and floor tom) with medium-high force. Other pads would be triggered, resulting in an extra note being played and a score multiplier spoiled. The following is a brief guide describing a simple way to eliminate cross-talk for good.

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Playing Rock Band with a Yamaha DTXplorer (How-To)

February 3, 2008

You would think that you should just be able to plug your $500+ set of electronic drums into your game console and drum away, but unfortunately, its not that easy. But, it is possible to play Rock Band with a real MIDI drum kit.

Thanks to the ingenious ideas of some members of the rockband.com forums, this mod can be achieved with commercially available parts and a little electronics know-how. Here is my step-by-step guide for the methods I used to get my Yamaha DTXplorer working with Rock Band.

ALL THE CREDIT FOR THIS MOD GOES TO THE MEMBERS OF THE ROCKBAND.COM FORUM THAT CONTRIBUTED TO THIS THREAD, including (but certainly not limited to):

  • Aelius27, who started the thread and came up with the first working solution, building an impressive MIDI interface from scratch, and who has now come up with a solution involving a PC interface with custom software.
  • Blanko, who has been extremely active and helpful on the thread and was the first to complete the mod using the MSA. He also posted an awesome YouTube video showing off his mod and giving an overview of how its done.
  • zolon, who discovered the MSA as a possible solution for connecting the Rock Band drum kit to the game console and has also completed this mod with a Yamaha DTXpress.

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