Rock Band 3 drops in a little over a week!
I recently had the opportunity to outfit the ultimate(-ish) Rock Band 3 setup at our NYC home office, where we had almost nothing in place except a large plasma TV. So here’s my picks for the Ultimate Rock Band 3 Setup. Fair warning: I may have gone, uh, a little crazy.
There are so many great fake plastic guitar choices now that it basically comes down to personal preference. Guitar Hero 3, 4, 5, and 6 all have unique guitars — having tried them all, I personally think the GH5 guitar is the best of the series. The Guitar Hero style Logitech wireless guitar is excellent as well (and down to about $90 which makes it a killer bargain).
If you prefer the Rock Band style of guitar, that works too. Just be sure to avoid the first RB1 stratocaster at all costs — it had a lot of issues. There are some new RB3 guitars in Blue and Cherry Red which are safe bets, as they have the latest revisions of the guitar hardware. And if you’re OK with the bass-only styling, the Mad Catz Wireless Bass is of comparable quality. There are also some new wireless Fender telecasters in very pretty light blue and gunmetal gray.
For our setup, I elected to go with the wooden Mad Catz Wireless Fender Stratocaster …
These aren’t for everyone because they are truly full size and quite heavy. But they play great, look impressive as hell, and are things of real beauty — which was my overriding goal.
And don’t forget a nice custom guitar strap. All guitars that I know of, real or fake, are compatible with regular guitar straps. They’re not just cooler looking, they’re also more comfortable.
(I don’t think we’ll get into Pro Guitar in the NYC office, but if you will — check out the Fender Mustang Pro Guitar shipping any day now, or wait until 2011 when the honest-to-god-real-guitar will be available in the form of the Fender Squier Strat.)
I favor the Rock Band 3 pro drumkit as a proven choice. It includes the new pro cymbals, which are a marked improvement over the RB2 cymbals, and the drumkit hardware has been progressively refined through three full versions now.
Now, if drumming is “your thing”, or if you need ultimate durability, you could also go with the new Ion Drum Rocker Pro, of course. (Make sure it’s the pro version so it’s fully compatible with everything Rock Band 3 offers, and is the latest and greatest kit). Or, get the new MIDI adapter and use whatever electronic drums you like!
A comfortable, easily adjustable Drum Throne is the difference between a terrible drumming experience and a great one. The more people you plan to play with, the more important this is. I chose the NR Nitro Gas Lift Drum Throne. Easy adjustability is critical in a party / group environment, and having a simple hydraulic height adjust is as easy as it gets. It ain’t cheap, but man — will it be comfortable and fit anyone!
As for drum sticks, I’ve previously recommended the Zildjan anti-vibration sticks, and they are still a great choice. But the plugs on the hollow ends where you hold the sticks tend to come out in play. This time, I went with Vic Firth Drumsticks in 5A nylon tips with rubber dipped grips.
The grips are more important than you might think. If you drum a lot, you will want to wear gloves to prevent your hands from getting blisters — especially if you have girly, sensitive programmer hands like I do. With the rubber grips, maybe that’s not necessary? I’m not sure but I am willing to give it a shot.
Well, duh, the only keyboard we could possibly need is the official Rock Band 3 keyboard — since it is the big new instrument in this release, and everything!
You’ll notice that Harmonix has gone to great pains to never let us see this being played as a keytar. :) Not that there’s anything wrong with keytars, of course, but we should probably invest in the official keyboard stand, so we too can look as cool as possible while tickling the ivories!
It’s also possible to use your own keyboard if you get the MIDI adapter as well.
Ah, the vocalist. Or should I say vocalists? Remember that Rock Band 3, like Green Day and Beatles Rock Bands before it, supports three part harmonies. So you can have up to 3 singers in your band now. While three wired USB mics will work — they’re all pretty much the same — we want to go wireless if possible.
If you are on a PS3 then try the SingStar Bundle, though I don’t see any wireless options. And there’s always the Logitech wireless mic which works on any platform. But, honestly, the standard Xbox 360 wireless mic is the easiest option. While you can buy the mic standalone, it’s generally cheaper to buy it in the two microphone pack bundle with the original Lips game — only $25 on Amazon at the time I am writing this.
Assuming you have at least one wired mic somewhere, you’re good to go for those sweet, sweet 3 vocalist harmonies. If your bands tend to be of the “play guitar or drums and sing at the same time” type, then you also need a microphone stand. The Mad Catz universal microphone stand isn’t fancy (and if you play drums and sing you will need a much fancier boom mic), but it works fine and does come with one absolutely crucial bit of kit — a clip to attach your Xbox 360, PS3, or Wii controller to the stand! The next time a vocalist is trying to remember where the heck they set their controller down between songs and holding up the proceedings, imagine if you could say “it’s right there in front of you!”
Vocalists need a tambourine and cowbell, too, for those sections of songs which require them. Hitting the microphone with your hand works too, but c’mon — that’s not rock! You need a cowbell. And not just any cowbell. You need the NO RULES HEAVY METAL COWBELL with a BRUTAL CUTTING TONE. And, well, a tambourine. And a cowbell beater. Duh.
If you’re crazy like me then you go on to build electronic cowbells and tambourines for the ultimate vocalist battlestation. But the items above should suffice.
Unless you can turn it up to 11, it isn’t rock. And no the built in speakers on that plasma TV do not count. We need a sound system that can support a huge rock sound without being too complex or too large to stow — and without breaking the bank.
The Logitech Z-5500 THX-Certified 5.1 Digital Surround Sound Speaker System is what I use in my very own boom boom room and it’s fantastic.
It has a built in mini-receiver “brain” — with remote control — that handles whatever input you throw at it by just plugging stuff in. And it lets you switch between multiple digital analog and analog sound sources at will. With the integrated subwoofer and 5 quality speakers, you get awesome, THX certified surround sound worthy of the world’s greatest fake rock bands.
I know what you’re thinking. Even more Rock Band 3 stuff? How much more could there be? Hey man, I didn’t call this list ultimate for nothing! You read this far, now shut up and keep reading because it’s about to get awesome up in here.
First, the classic Xbox 360 Rock Band Stage Kit. It is confirmed supported in Rock Band 3, and has LED effects, a strobe, and fogger that are all synchronized with the game itself — it’s fed off the low-level track data.
As I noted in my review, there is a downside: it takes a controller slot because that’s how it syncs the strobe, led, and fogger with the actual song track data. And that controller ends up on the LED pod, which is never in a convenient place. This is a bit more traumatic than it used to be, because in Rock Band 3 vocalists can go into “controllerless” mode to let the bass, guitar, drums, and keyboardist play (count ‘em — four controllers). Using the stage kit means you can’t do that. It is still an amazing bit of kit, but it’s probably no longer a good idea if you plan on having guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, and a vocalist in your band.
The lighting effects that feed off an ambient microphone are more flexible, though they cannot sync nearly as well with the music as the stage kit can.
The Hexolights are an inexpensive way to dip your toes into microphone based stage lighting.
They’re pretty basic — they have a sound threshold dial, and a speed dial. But you’d also be surprised how decent a microphone based light show can do, because rock music tends to have some very distinct and loud patterns for it to key off of.
If you want to get fancier and more sophisticated, then you get into real DJ stage lights. The variety here is endless, as are the price tags! I went with the basic American DJ LED Color Changing Light Bar, and recorded this video of it in action. It’s still keying off ambient sound, remember.
This guy has about 50 different microphone-activated modes out of the box, and they’re all good. See my full review for more detail.
I’m not saying you need all this stuff. Of course you don’t.
But if you want to rock out in a style truly befitting the almost-here awesomeness of Rock Band 3 … then, you know what to do. :)