Automating Rock Band vocals

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When it comes to Rock Band, our friends suck at singing. No, really.

We’re cool with them beating on the drum set completely off-time, but the sound of them trying to sing “Tom Sawyer” makes us want to cut out our eardrums.

We’re willing to bet that Cornell students [Gautam Kamath and Dominick Grochowina] have friends like ours. Their Electrical and Computer Engineering final project aims to remove the tone deaf from in front of the microphone, allowing a computer to sing vocals instead.

Since Rock Band simply listens for the proper frequency to be sung, the pair figured it would be easy enough to monitor the game’s output and feed computer-generated signals back into the microphone. Once the game’s vocal bar is isolated via a series of filters, an ATMega644 is used to interpret the notes and generate the corresponding tone via a speaker.

While automating Rock Band gameplay is nothing new, we don’t recall seeing anyone try to cut the singer from the band. We think it’s a pretty cool concept – rock on!

Edit: Updated with video

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MIDI drum interface helps you step up your game

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[Dan] likes Rock Band, but playing it makes him feel as useful as a one-legged man in an ass-kicking a drumming contest. He says that even using his friend’s ION kit leaves him searching out excuses as to why he’s not as good as he should be on the drums.

Eventually, he decided that he would settle things once and for all. The final excuse he came up with was that it is too difficult to press the drum pedal rapidly without getting tired, as the Rock Band gear does not properly simulate real drum equipment. Bass pedals on professional kits are weighted and balanced to allow the drummer to exert the least amount of work for the most return, resulting in a less tiring experience.

To give him a leg up while playing the game, he decided to rig a trigger to his Yamaha MIDI bass pedal, which is properly weighted. He consulted the Rock Band forums, and after looking at a couple of different circuit diagrams, he designed his own. He etched a PCB, mounted his SMD components, and was well on his way to becoming a drum legend.

He says that the pedal interface works quite well, and despite a couple of tiny soldering setbacks, he has yet to see any errant hits register in-game.

Be sure to check out the video below of his drum trigger undergoing some tests.

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Instruments as games – games as instruments

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Here’s a pair of diametrically opposed hacks. One makes use of a real instrument to play Rock Band, the other makes use of a game controller to play real music.

[Tim] lets us know that his friend figured out how to play Rock Band 2 on expert level by playing flute instead of singing. Of course this works because the game is just looking for the correct frequency for scoring. It makes sense that the vocal lines can be offset by an octave and still register correctly. We wouldn’t have thought of this ourselves but now that we’ve seen her success, we will try it (our instrumental skills far out pace our singing talents).

Seeing this sparks a correlation with Phone Phreaking, which started with a blind kid singing a tone into the receiver to make the remainder of his long distance call free. This was followed by Blue Boxes that allowed people without perfect pitch to play the tones electronically. It would be interesting to see what could have been done with a talented flute player (like the beat-boxing flutist) and one of those old phone networks.

On the other side of the coin, we have [Jordan's] project in which she creates midi controllers using Wii drums from Guitar Hero World Tour and Rock Band. The Guitar Hero drums are velocity sensitive, a feature she’s using in her setup. The MIDI data takes into account how hard the drums are struck and the resulting sound reflects that. This particular writeup outlines her use of Osculator for the velocity sensitive system, but you can also check out the tutorial she wrote covering the use of JunXion with the Rock Band controller that we covered in the past.

Video for both of these control schemes is included after the page break. We love to see people break the guise of “I’m creating music by playing a video game” and actually use their musical talents in a new and interesting way.

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Rock Band drum set remake

We’ve seen some impressive mods for the popular video game Rock Band, from new cymbals to an air powered kick pedal, but we cant say we’ve seen someone go as far as the folks over at EDrums. They start off making their own mesh heads, a junction box to connect everything, and then a base to hold it all together. It is definitely some dedication and hard work for a setup that will only be used in the living room in front of the T.V. Check out some more video of it in action, and a comparison to the original Rock Band drum set, after the break.

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Your music in Rock Band 2

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[Peter Kirn] over at Create Digital Music takes an in depth look at the process of adding your own music to Rock Band 2. This involves using REAPER audio production software, uploading your work via the XNA Creators’ Club, and then playing the fresh track on an Xbox 360. Both REAPER and the XNA Club cost money, and the total price comes out somewhere between $100-$160. The process is now in closed beta but a wider beta is expected in September followed by a full release in October.

Banjo hero

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We’ve posted a plethora of Guitar Hero style hardware hacks, but this one is completely different than the others. Behold, the Banjo hero. This unique controller was constructed from an old banjo and a guitar hero controller. Custom software was then built with custom songs for game play. We really wish we could see it in action. There are a couple videos available for download, but they are just pictures of the build process.

[via Boing Boing]

Breath controlled Guitar Hero kick pedal

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[Ben Heck] the uber modder has posted a new project. He has made a breath controlled kick pedal for all of the Guitar Hero style games. Though the tutorial focuses on Guitar Hero World Tour, he does explain how it could be done for Rock Band at the end. This is intended for someone in a wheelchair who couldn’t actually use the kick pedal and needed their hands free to play the rest of the drums. He took apart the kick pedal that came with it to get the piezoelectric switch out of it. Then, he made a little chamber and placed the switch on a diaphragm at one end. When you blow, the diaphragm moves and triggers the switch. Pretty simple really. There is a video available of [Ben] trying it out as well.

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