November 8, 2008

Guitar Hero and Rock Band Drum Compatibility

Now that Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero: World Tour have been out for a while, we can finally experience for ourselves what “drum compatibility” means.

They promised, and it’s true: either game can be played with either drumset.


However, “compatibility” doesn’t mean you’ll get a good drumming experience out of it. MTV’s gaming blog has a nice writeup on both scenarios:

  1. Using the “Guitar Hero: World Tour” drums in “Rock Band 2”
  2. Using the “Rock Band 2” drums in “Guitar Hero: World Tour”

First, you should know that the GH:WT drums are now the easiest way to use a real electronic drumkit in either game, if that’s what you’re into. Reldan explains:

The GH:WT drums have a MIDI In on the back. If you plug a device that outputs MIDI into the drums, you can trigger the different pads by sending the MIDI signals I outlined above.

Probably the two most common ways you’d do this would be with a keyboard (the musical kind) or a real electronic drum set.

Considering that Harmonix didn’t include this feature on their RB2 drums and instead opted to try and push that Ion Drum Rocker wannabe set, Activision’s set now provides an easy way to just take any real e-drum set and use it to play RB. If you consider that previously the only way to do this was to tear apart a RB drum set, add about $100 worth of parts, and then spend a couple hours doing some careful soldering (and praying you don’t destroy anything), this is a real boon for people looking to take the drums to the next level, even if you’re a RB fan and couldn’t care less about GH:WT.

Apparently the MIDI mappings are as follows:

R: 38
Y: 46
B: 48
G: 35
Kick: 36

I now own both the RB2 drums and the GH:WT drums so I can compare the two directly. As you can see, there’s a reasonable correlation with the stock Rock Band drums. Red to Red, Yellow to Yellow, Blue to Blue, Green to Green.


The one catch is that yellow is always a cymbal on the GH:WT drums, whereas in actual Rock Band gameplay yellow can be either a cymbal or a tom drum, depending on what the particular song needs at any given moment.

Although I love the GH:WT drums, I’m not so sure the 3 pads / 2 cymbals layout is a great idea. With the 4 pad Rock Band drums, the 4 pads can be redefined to play whatever the song needs at any given moment. With the GH:WT drums, 3 notes are always locked to the drums and 2 are always locked to the cymbals.

  Rock Band Drums Guitar Hero Drums
Red always snare drum always snare drum
Yellow tom drum or hi-hat cymbal always hi-hat cymbal
Blue tom drum or splash cymbal always tom drum
Green tom drum or crash cymbal always tom drum
Orange always crash cymbal

Note that Guitar Hero: World Tour incorporates a four-pad note compression mode when playing GH:WT with the Rock Band drums. This means that the GH:WT drumkit orange cymbal hit is translated into a RB drumkit green pad hit — and as you can see from the chart, that’s perfectly equivalent.

The five-note “native” GH:WT drum charts are a bit problematic to me, and counterintuitively seem less flexible overall than the four-note RB drum charts, despite the GH:WT drums having an additional input. Reldan, as before, explains it better than I can:

Here’s a few of the issues I have with the 5-pad charts.

  1. Open/closed hi-hats. In RB these would be charted with closed hits on Yellow and the occasional open hit as Blue. In GH they don’t differentiate at all so it’s just charted as straight Yellow notes (See Living on a Prayer in both games for an example of this). This is an oversimplification; they are leaving stuff out of the Expert charts as a result. In RB they could use both Y and B for the hi-hat and have G be the crash, and they don’t have that option in GH.
  2. Only two toms. There are numerous examples of drum fill patterns that use Yellow, Blue, and Green toms in RB. In GH from what I’ve seen they chart what would have been Yellow in RB as Blue, and what would have been Blue and Green in RB as just Green in GH. Again this oversimplifies the Expert chart. I’m trying to imagine, for example, what the intro to Enter Sandman would look like in GH. They pretty much nailed it in RB but it would look quite off in GH.

Frankly, the most basic rock drumset is a snare, 3 toms, and 3 cymbals (hihat, ride, and crash). What the GH:WT set is is a jazz drumset – a snare, 2 toms, and 2 cymbals (hi-hat and crash/ride). I’m sure they could perfectly chart jazz drumming, but it doesn’t capture rock drumming very well at all.

While I am not sold on the overall layout of the GH:WT drums, I am a huge fan of the fake plastic cymbals they introduced me to! I’m starting to think the ideal fake plastic drumkit is the Rock Band 2 kit with the optional Rock Band 2 cymbals installed:


This gives you the best of both worlds — four pads and three cymbals (and of course the standard kick drum pedal). I have a very strong suspicion that these cymbal add-ons are preludes to something that will come as a standard feature of the Rock Band 3 drums.

Now that Rock Band 2 drums officially support add-on cymbals, all that’s needed is a configuration option in Rock Band to send alternate note gems down the green, blue, and yellow channels to distinguish between drum and cymbal hits on-screen. Making this an option means people without cymbals would get the same excellent gameplay experience. But those with cymbals get an optimal fake plastic drumming experience — they’d have to hit the “correct” cymbal or pad respectively, matching the drum note played in the song.

Red isn’t always snare. In songs like Orange Crush and Everlong when playing Expert, red becomes the hi-hat and yellow is the snare.

November 10, 2008 at 9:31 am

“Now that Rock Band 2 drums officially support add-on cymbals, all that’s needed is a configuration option in Rock Band to send alternate note gems down the green, blue, and yellow channels to distinguish between drum and cymbal hits on-screen.”

Agreed…all they’d really have to do is still have the main four tracks and when it’s supposed to be a cymbal instead of tom, send a “hammer-on/pull-off” gem. That would work quite nicely in my opinion.

November 10, 2008 at 4:10 pm

As a PS2 expert drummer still eagerly awaiting RB2, I’ve been seriously tempted to pick up GHWT. I don’t really have room for two fake plastic drum sets, though, and I’m not convinced the RB mappings are adequate, especially for songs such as Everlong – if they’re keeping the snare on red and the hi-hat on yellow, it means you have to play the song left-handed on an RB1 kit! Also, I hear the crash cymbal “compresses” to yellow, which seems kind of wrong (no distinguishing the crash from the hat). If GHWT would have charted the drums to RB conventions when using an RB set, I would have bought it already.

November 11, 2008 at 6:29 am

> If GHWT would have charted the drums to RB conventions when using an RB set, I would have bought it already

I think they did, to the best of their ability — but they didn’t come up with two completely *different* note charts, they just compressed their existing 5 note patterns down to 4. This means, ironically, the RB drumkit when playing in GH:WT inherits that weakness — you’ll never play more than two “cymbals” at any given time, ever.

Jeff Atwood
November 11, 2008 at 7:08 pm

Possibly a touch off topic, but a couple of questions about the two drums. Living in Australia I was finally able to get RB1 (yes 1) last week, and Guitar Hero World Tour today. I have found no sync/lag issues with the RB drums on medium so far. However I am seriously struggling with the GHWT drums on medium. I have run the calibration many times to no effect. Anyone else having similar issues?

Secondly, I went out of my way to have good pedal technique on Rock Band. I have been using the technique of having the pedal pressed down, and lifting and pressing when I need to use it. I was using this as it was recommended on websites as a good way of starting, and I find it easy and comfortable. However it seems if I use this technique on GHWT the ‘uplift’ counts as a failed note. Grrrrr! I have also experimented with the ‘heel up’ technique in RB and was going fine with that, but I find it very uncomfortable on the GHWT pedal. So far for me the RB1 pedal is killing the GHWT pedal.

Chris Mayer
November 12, 2008 at 12:05 am

dude your an idiot, you obiously own the RB drum set, and dont play drums. gh\wt drums are so much better tha RB. they are not even at the same level. cymbals are a must, plus GH\WT has 6 things you can hit,not 5. keep playin on your RS drums and keep being sub-par……………

November 26, 2008 at 9:35 pm

just a small imput, i play drums and actually, the “snare, 2 tom, 2 cymbal setup” is not only used for jazz but that is also the basic punk kit, and in fact many drummers that are well known have used a similar setup (snare, 2 toms, *3 cymbals) so even though the kit is smal does not mean it won’t suffice as a rock kit, in fact i was using a similar kit with a snare, double bass drums, a small amount of cymbals, and just 2 toms for awhile, and was able to cover many different genres of rock and keep the song recognisable…

its not so much the number of things you have its how you play them, the majority of songs (sans songs requiring extremely fast double bass) can be played sufficiently with the GH:WT kit…

just keep an open mind, and happy drumming =]

December 1, 2008 at 6:54 am

mmm ok nice, what about the mic and the guitar??? the compatibility is the same??? can i play GHWT with the rock band guitar and the mic?

December 1, 2008 at 8:57 am

So if you get the cymbal addon for rockband does that work on the original rockband drumset? Do the cymbals actually become the cymbals when playing GH:WT? or do they just duplicate their same colored pads?

December 2, 2008 at 12:13 am

I’m curious too, how does the RB2 drumset with cymbals do on GH:WT? Is the game able to recognize the cymbals and use its full note chart?

Jason Owen
December 11, 2008 at 8:39 pm

Yeah I’m curious as well if the cymbals work with GH:WT or not. Any updates?

December 27, 2008 at 11:46 pm

yeah i just got the the cymbals for my rb2 set and the answer is no ghwt has problems reading the second cymbal. the yellow works fine but the second whether i plug it into the blue or green input won’t work. after a few seconds it stops the game and give and error message….

December 29, 2008 at 12:18 am

The Orange cymbal is pissin me off. Basically everything else works on the set except for the orange. I have Gh/wt and purchased the rb2 set and cymbals.

January 1, 2009 at 9:12 pm

This is the best way to do this IMO. It’s expensive, but worth it for the hardcore player. Get a real electric drum set and the Guitar Hero:World Tour drum kit. Make sure the drum set’s brain can change the midi note number output for each drum (the Yamaha DTXplorer *cannot* do this, but pretty much any other brain in that series can; i upgraded mine to the DTXpress IV). Set up the custom drum kit settings in the drum brain, one for each game as appropriate via the above configurations. Use a midi cable going from the midi out port on the drum brain to the midi port on the GH:WT drum kit. Make sure you reduce cross-talk if needed (lots of instructions out there for that).

January 16, 2009 at 1:59 am

I am a cheapskate ps2 owner who has RB1 and RB2 with the rb1 kit. I am allways getting conflicting answers to the “RB1 drums with GHWT” question. I really don’t want to buy a whole GHWT complete set and have an extra guitar (I have a RB and a GH2 guitar) which I suck at playing. Will the RB drums work with GHWT for PS2?

February 8, 2009 at 9:22 pm

You need to update this article to state that the RB/RB2 drums for the Wii will not work with GH:WT! Make it big and bold because, after reading this page, I went out and wasted $100 on GH:WT with guitar-only expecting to use my RB2 kit. It’s not your fault, but you should post something and spare someone else making the same mistake.

February 10, 2009 at 7:41 pm

QUESTION/PROBLEM– I have GH/WT. I bought the RB drumset, and then my wife bought the 2 add-on cymbals. So, now I have 6 pads (4 drums, 2 cymbals. When I play a song, there are 5 gems at the bottom and one is an “orange” gem, but not one of the pads has an “orange” option. So, I fail any game that requires “orange”. There is not an input on the drum kit for “orange”.

Then, I restarted the game and only 4 gems appeared –finally! Now the problem is that an error keeps popping up saying that one of the ports is not syncing. I have to hit the sync button which works for only 30 seconds — then the error again. Ugh. Any ideas?

Feel free to email me at Thanks in advance.

February 15, 2009 at 8:53 am

Email above is incorrect…it’s:

February 15, 2009 at 8:55 am

Jim, I have the exact same problem! Were you able to figure out a fix?

March 19, 2009 at 10:43 pm

ok, dont use the cymbals in GH, when u do u will get an error that says u disconnected the drum kit. resyncing will get u going again, so just dont use the cymbals from RB2 kit on GH and u will be good.

March 29, 2009 at 12:02 pm

wow this helps alot, now i can play drums in GH with my RB kit, although u GH junkies perfer everything GH, i like the RB drums better. although i do like the GH:WT kit, alot, i have the RB symbols for my yellow and green pads. Oh and just incase u GH junkies spam me. Harmonix made GH 1&2!

April 10, 2009 at 7:07 am

do the drum in rock band 1 is compatible with guitar hero world tour?????

April 18, 2009 at 1:37 pm

The Guitar hero world tour kit has 5 things to hit, the Rockband 2 or rockband 1 drum kit has 4 things to hit, im having the same problem with the orange note though, how do you hit the orange note playing the ROCKBAND drumkit? cause there is no orange note to hit on it, all the other ones work PERFECT its just there’s no damn orange tom or symbol to hit, what do you do? is there any possible extentions for the rockband 2 kit? to make orange possible in guitar hero world tour?

April 19, 2009 at 4:15 pm

Ok, From my understanding If you have Rock band 1/Rock band 2 Drums they will both work with Guitar Hero World Tour however even if you have the Symbol extentions for Rock band 2 drums this will still not enable you to play all 5 notes on GH/WT you will have to disconnect the symbols and then GH/WT will automatically change the 5 notes down to 4 when RB drums are connected.

May 12, 2009 at 3:51 pm

ok, this might seem like a really stupid question to some, but how do you deploy star power while playing GHWT if you are using the RB drum set???

June 2, 2009 at 8:15 pm

when playing GHWT could you use RB drums with the GH guitar? or would you need to use equipment from the same game?

June 7, 2009 at 12:40 pm

The one thing that beats me on the RB drum charts is actually the fact that there’s no consistent mapping (the “mapping” to real drums you posted is right 90% of the time or so, but not the last 10%).

Red is the most consistent, being either snare (mainly) or hi-hit

Yellow is around same level as Red and is used for Hi-hat (main), tom 1 and snare (and possibly others!)

Blue is… Ride, tom 2 and possibly even a crash/splash too.

Red is Crash/Splash and tom 3

Trying to map this to a real drumkit so you can play all songs properly is a mess – you have to start literally abusing the dual/tripple trigger pads you’ll have and program the rimshots on the snare as yellow and edge of hihat as red and so forth…

The WT chart here is so much easier to work with in that aspect – and the main issue I have here is the lack of a 3rd tom. The open/closed hi-hats I do believe is charted with accents – and besides, the real “mapping” here to our fake plastic rock kits should be a 2nd pedal, not a different colored note.

That said – I’m a fan of rock band still (compared to World Tour). Mainly cause I have had so bad experiences with my World Tour kit – can’t wait till my Roland TD-12 arrives…

June 18, 2009 at 11:14 pm

so how do you trigger star power if your using rock band drums with guitar hero world tour. i cannot figure this out.

misty allison
June 26, 2009 at 10:43 am

I am using an electronic drum kit connected up through the midi input on GHWT drums. All is working OK except GH Smash hits, it will not recognise the drumkit at all. I am using a Wii console.
Has anyone else found this problem.

Uncle Fester
July 5, 2009 at 2:51 am

Hit blue and yellow pads at the same time to trigger star power with RB kit in GH.

July 26, 2009 at 10:45 am

There are a few HUGE problems with your review here.

1. Guitar Hero DOES differentiate between Open and Closed Hi-Hat. Have you ever seen the yellow note with the white crowned top, yeah, that’s an open Hi-Hat. Some songs, I think they forgot to do it! But for most of them, they hit the hammer on the nail. For example the opening part to Everlong. They def. have the white topped open hi-hat notes that if you hit them harder then they give you extra points. Same goes for Ride/Crash. Light hits are crash, white-topped notes that you hit harder are crash. This is also apparent in the music studio. Go test it out. Hit your yellow soft (closed) then hard (open). Hit orange soft (ride) then hard (crash).

2. On RB drums, both ride and crash are on Blue on GH games, not green.

3. Any real drummer will tell you that the GH setup is better for a few reasons. 1) You always know what you’re going to be hitting. The pads don’t change, much like the pads on my real drumset don’t change. 2) There’s a more even flow and moving your hands up from the cymbals down to pads just feels more authentic.

4. Lastly, the cymbals for RB suck! You can’t do anything fast on them, or they don’t register, I have the rare 3 cymbal kit. Since I’ve had them the green and blue started to double hit. I had to untighten the blue (hince, in the middle of songs like Aqualung and Train Kept Rollin the blue cymbal just raddles the lug nut right off during the song, but if I tighten it as much as my other cymbals, it double hits.) The green has to be over tightened. On the yellow side, the clam that keeps the pad to the steal part now ALWAYS comes loose after about 2 songs. I had to buy clamps because the cymbals make the set to heavy for the stock clamps that adjust the height. This is all on the “New and Improved” Rock Band 2 drumset. I’ve also broken a bass pedal (the “New and Improved Steal” one the plastic at the base still broke). The adhesive for the pads are notorious for bubbling and then the pads eventually just come off (so you have to buy a the RB drum pad silencers to protect your RB2 pads).

What’s wrong with the World Tour Set?
-For game play, nothing! They work like they are supposed to, and like the actual drummers of the songs, once you know what pads do what, you can close your eyes, play, and get 100 without a hitch.
-There are problems with the set though… The hardware.
1. Under the rubber pad is a hard piece of plastic that is NOTORIOUS for breaking and causing double hits. I’ve had a blue one break. Then I’ve had a red one break. It’s a pretty easy fix if you’re careful enough, because Activision doesn’t make it’s products to dificult to mod and change around.
2. The cymbals of the first few thousand kits that came off the line were notorious for breaking and double hitting. Along with calibration of the sensativity out-of-box was faulty.
3. After awhile, the plastic wears away on the bass pedal causing exposure to the adhesive that holds it on to the hit recognition unit, thus causing the pedal to stick and cause double hits in game; however, all you have to do is put a peice of clear mailing tape over the exposure and wipe off the adhesive from the top that hits the bottom part and it’s as good as new. No difference, and me not spending 30 dollars on a new pedal.
-That’s about it though.

July 29, 2009 at 5:07 pm

Can someone please tell me how to use the rock band 2 drums for guitar hero world tour? I have seen videos where people use the RB 2 drums on GTHR 4. When i try it won’t work.

Marvin Nieto-Robles
August 4, 2009 at 10:53 am

can you switch from tom to cymbal on say green on rb1 drum kit on ghwt? and if so how

September 2, 2009 at 4:39 pm

Went out and bought a replacement foot pedal for the GH drum set – it actually had a switch on the back that enables you to flip between GH and RB (which I thought was cool) but now the red pad won’t work anymore. Tried re-calibrating, unplugging, etc. Nothing seems to work. Anyone got any ideas?

September 28, 2009 at 4:52 pm

Guys I have a problem, I have the Guitar Hero world tour Drum Set with the wireless dongle for the PS2 and I can play the guitar hero stuff no problem but the rock band stuff won’t work except Rock Band Classic Track Pack. I went out and bought another version of the ACDC Track Pack and that didn’t work either. Does anyone have any insight on this?

November 8, 2009 at 4:22 pm

Hey man, I have a Guitar hero World tour drums(on ps2) and I can’t play the Rock Band Drums. I saw that just the guitar hero world tour from ps2 won’t work with the rock band, and it’s with the other consoles. Is there anyway to make guitar hero world tour drums be compatible with rock band on PS2?
thank u

March 7, 2010 at 1:33 pm

I just bought the ACDC Track Pack for the Wii and I have the Band Hero guitar and drums for the Wii. The guitar works fine, but I can’t get the drums to work? Are they supposed to be compatible?

March 7, 2010 at 7:23 pm

i just bought the rock band drums set can i use the drums with gutier hero 2 or 3 and also with the gutier hero gutier…

March 25, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Like many others I was looking for an easy “how to” about hooking up a Wii GHWT drum kit to MIDI, I couldn’t find it so with the help of Fonz I wrote my own. Check my website:



May 9, 2010 at 11:48 am

Ive Been Useing The Ion Rock Band 2 Drum Kit On Guitar Hero van Halen And Metallica! Everytime I Hit The Cymbals The Game Gose To A Drum Controller Disconnected Screen Then Starts Whatever Song Im Playing Back Over But Automatically Starts It Back Over On Expert! The Drum Set Dosent Do That With Any Of My Rock Band Games? Has Anybody Else Had This Problem? If So Do Ya’ll Know How To Fix It?
Please Respond I Wanna Be Able To Use My Ion Rock Band Cymbals On My Guitar Hero Games? What Could Be The Major Malfunction To This?


Casey Parnell
November 28, 2010 at 5:46 pm

on G.H.W.T. I have no symbols so how do I activate special?

April 29, 2011 at 8:33 am

hi i lost my receiver of the guitar can i use the drums receiver

November 26, 2015 at 9:23 am

Can you tell me if guitar hero cymbals work on the rock band drum?

May 12, 2017 at 5:42 pm

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