How to build the best fake music instrument set for Guitar Hero and Rock Band

Here's how to build an instrument set with two guitars/basses, a drum set and a mike that will work for Guitar Hero and Rock Band.

The first thing you need to know is that the Rock Band Fender Stratocaster guitar sucks. Here's why:

  • The fret buttons and strum bar are way too soft.
  • It's generally unresponsive and imprecise: it will miss notes that you definitely hit right.
  • Star power / overdrive is difficult to trigger when sitting.
  • You don't need the additional 5 fret buttons and effects switch.
  • The strum bar has a kind of cylindrical tip that will hurt your thumb.
  • I's not wireless.
  • It doesn't work in Guitar Hero.

Of course, there are things to like about it. It's been modeled after one of the most aesthetically pleasing real guitars, I like that it feels heavier and is silent, the start and back buttons are big, nice and accessible, which makes it easy to trigger star power without tilting the guitar. But it just doesn't click (pun intended) and the fact that it doesn't work with Guitar Hero is just not acceptable.

The problem is that if you want Rock Band, you'll have to wait until early 2008 to be able to find the components separately and avoid the bundled guitar.

The guitar that you want is Guitar Hero III's Les Paul. This thing feels even greater than Guitar Hero II's X-plorer, looks great and is wireless. It can't be found separately currently so if you need two that may be a problem. As a second guitar, though, the Guitar Hero II X-plorer is just fine.

As for the mike, apparently any USB mike will work so there's no need to get the Rock Band branded one.

So here's the set:

This will cost you a total of $340.96 with three games and two guitars that work in all of them. Not cheap. One thing to notice is that buying the full Rock Band set might look more interesting as it's only about $15 more and you get an additional guitar and a USB hub. That may make some sense if you don't have an old USB hub that you could re-use hanging around somewhere in the house, but the guitar itself will be pretty useless and I don't like to buy stuff that I'm not going to use.


  • Can you confirm that the Guitar Hero II or III works with Rock Band?
    From reading the GH and RB forums, it sounded like the RB guitar would work on GH, but not the other way around.

  • Julien: the GH controllers work fine in Rock Band, but the Rock Band guitar does not work in Guitar Hero.

  • Darn, by the titleof this post, I thought you were going to show us how to build a USB or blue tooth device from scratch.

  • The Guitar Hero II and Guitar Hero III guitars both work with Rock Band...but the Rock Band controller does not work with either Guitar Hero Games. I have all three games and Bertrand is absolutely correct in his statement.

    The Rock Band guitar doesn't work with the GH games because of the extra fret buttons and effects switch.

  • Dave: sorry, now that you mention it it could give that impression :)

    IKnowNothing: I don't know if it's because of the additional buttons but the behavior of that guitar in both GH titles is super weird: everything works fine in the menus, but from the moment you start a song, the buttons seem to be mapped differently (orange is red, etc.) and the green stays pressed all the time. I'd be more inclined to a more paranoid interpretation which is that Activision sends a command to the guitar when you start a song to remap the buttons. I think it's more likely to be Activision locking you into their own peripherals than MTV not making it right. This is kind of confirmed by the legal mumbo jumbo at the beginning of the game that prohibits the use of GH games with controllers not sold by Activision. Lame in both cases.

  • i gonna buy rockband when it comes out here in sweden.. its just so damn expensive, i hope i can buy drum and microphone and the game only.. cus i got gh3 and gh2.

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