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Guitar Hero - Using the Controller as a Midi Instrument (Vlog 3.3)
Posted Oct 27, 2008 - 13:49:06

Some of you may have noticed that in my last video I was playing a Guitar Hero controller as a musical instrument -- so I decided that I would create a video showing exactly what my little hack could do.
Hopefully this whole thing doesn't end up being too dry, but I thought I'd talk about the software I'm using to do this little hack. I will mention that I'm using a Macintosh -- so the software I mention is all going to be for Mac OSX and not for Windows. There are, however, equivalent tools you can find to do the exact same thing (or you can go another route... which I'll mention at the end).

First things first, we need to make an XBox 360 Guitar Hero Controller work with the Mac. For that you'll need to download the unofficial Mac driver. This should work with the wired controller, as well as the wireless if you buy the USB dongle. It will also work with Rock Band strats as well.

After that, you'll need something like ControllerMate. Now ControllerMate DOES cost $15, but this is what will let you remap the controller to various keyboard shortcuts. After that, you'll want to experiment with different command configurations. Then, simply launch Garage Band and open the Musical Typing Window. Map the buttons (and combination of buttons) to different keyboard outputs.

I created a Garage Band file with a set of instruments in it, and I use keyboard shortcuts to navigate between the instruments. I also use a combination of commands to switch on and off "ControllerMate" pages so I can change my keyboard layout on the fly.

Not the most exciting thing in the world, but it works fairly well. Now, my way is not the only way to turn a Guitar Hero controller into a musical instrument. The Guitar Zeros are a band that use Guitar Hero controllers as their primary instruments. They use an entirely different set up for their controllers though -- but as their system is cross platform it would be able to use on almost any computer. They have released their FRETBUZZ software for free. I've tried it, and it works... I just prefer my set up a little more.

Update: If anyone wants my ControllerMate settings, you can download them here. I will say that the downstrum is disconnected in those (you'll have to reconnect it) because I have a broken guitar that randomly fires off a downstrum. To use it, you'll want to turn on the pages labeled Master Control and Whammy Bar -- the rest will activate based on the commands I've described. Also, Master Control in a couple of places calls for this Apple Script. You'll need to download that, and then reset the path that leads to it.
- Traegorn

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Neato - I want to try it. It would be cool to map crazier functions to some of those tilt sensors, like have them control filter sweeps or other effects. I can think of a million things to try. But I suppose it defeats the purpose of having it set up as an "instrument" if all it is doing is erupting weird noises. .. but that's how I'd use it.
ControllerMate lets you map AppleScripts too -- so really the possibilities are endless.
As the guitar player in HW, I'd like to politely point out the hilarious irony of the fact that Trae doesn't play Guitar Hero (or guitar on Rock Band), because he's not very good at it. To be fair, though, most great GH players have no real musical talent, so he's got that going for him.
It's true.  I am however half decent at the Drums in Rock Band -- and don't suck at Amplitude or Frequency. :P

I can half decently play a keyboard/piano and have an understanding of musical theory... which is why I can use a Guitar Hero controller for music. :P

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