Tweaking my Guitar Hero drum kit

8th July 2009 – 8.21 pm

Rather than get more frustrated at missed notes on my Guitar Hero: World Tour fake plastic drum kit I take some time out from practice to get the kit set up as best I can. This involves a little modification beyond changing the sensitivities, as detailed in a guide to modifying the Guitar Hero drums, handily linked to by Zoso using his amazing knowledge of fake plastic instruments. The guide mentions using hot glue to add a firmer physical connection between the transducer and the drum pad, which gives a better conducting path for the vibrations to be picked up.

I don't have a hot glue gun, so instead mix up the alternative methods of securing the transducers with tape and stuffing cardboard in to the cavities, on the understanding that it is improving the conduction path that is important. I am not going to use masking tape, though, as it perishes far too quickly, within a matter of hours, and leaves behind a horrible residue. I prefer gaffer tape, as it is strong, sticky and long-lasting. Again, however, the gaffer tape has a habit of leaving behind a residue, so rather than securing the transducers solely with tape I will mask the transducers with cardboard and use the gaffer tape to hold the cardboard in place. The gaffer tape should give a secure fastening for the stiffer cardboard to provide the necessary conduction path. All I need to do is take the fake plastic drum kit apart and apply the patches, so to speak.

The cymbals are easy enough to modify, the pads being separate from the main kit and the covers held by only a few screws. I would be reluctant to modify the main drum pads, because of the extra complexity involved, if it weren't for the blue pad exhibiting some dead spots that increasing the sensitivity doesn't fix. With some care I rest the unit upside down and remove all the screws, lifting off the base once that is done. It turns out not to be particularly problematic, merely time-consuming and a little fiddly, although the right screwdriver is definitely required. A bit more cardboard is securely stuck over the blue pad's transducer and I put everything back together again.

Before I attempt to play another track I use Red Octane's drum tuner software to ensure that all pads are registering adequately. The orange cymbal, where I had all the trouble before, is now fine. Whereas I had no complaints with the yellow cymbal before I have apparently changed it enough to warrant an increase in sensitivity, but this is easily accomplished. The modification to the blue pad shows a significant increase in sensitivity, where a simple strike now produces a double-hit, so a reduction is required. The remaining, unmodified pads are still registering well, so I disconnect the tuner software and try playing through a few songs.

A bit of practice shows that striking the blue and green pads together can wobble the shaky orange cymbal stalk and cause a fake hit to register, so a reduction in sensitivity is required on the orange pad. Otherwise I am getting a good response. There are still a few of dead spots on the kit, on the orange and yellow cymbals and the blue drum pad, but nothing serious. The dead spots are enough out of the sweet spots of the pads that I will take any false negatives as indication to improve my accuracy rather than the kit not being suitably sensitive.

As far as drum practice is concerned, I have worked my through all of the medium difficulty gigs in Guitar Hero: World Tour. I have aced a handful of songs and continue to show improvement in my playing when practicing difficult or favourite tracks, which is quite pleasing and a whole load of fun. I have tentatively moved on to the hard difficulty setting, playing through the first two or three gigs, although I mostly remain on the medium setting for practice on the more challenging songs. I am finding the learning curve for the drums in the game to be excellent, with the later songs on one setting approximating the difficulty of the early songs on the next higher setting, leading to a smooth progression in expectation of player ability.

One problem I have is in trying to work out which sets I have played at medium difficulty setting and which I have not, as the sets open up more quickly than I can play through them. Whilst this method of unlocking content allows me to play sets with songs I enjoy rather than working through them all methodically it is not helping me find what I need to do to unlock achievements. I then notice the skull on each gig poster, styled according to the highest difficulty setting on which the gig has been played successfully. Quickly skipping across all the posters confirms this is the indicator of completion at a certain level. It's quite obvious once known and looked for. I can use the skull as a quick way of tracking my progress through the hard difficulty setting.

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