April 30, 2009

The Axe Claw: Display Your Fake Plastic Axe in Style

About a year ago I came up with a cheap guitar hanging solution to wall mount our fake plastic axes.

I have another extra guitar I wanted to mount next to my desk, in case I wanted to play a quick tune or two on the Mac/PC versions of Guitar Hero III, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, and (upcoming) Guitar Hero: World Tour. But my old mounting solution lacked that critical Wife Acceptance Factor for indoor use.

I researched a bit and found The Axe Claw.

the-axe-claw

It comes with all the parts you need to mount it to the wall, at least, typical drywall, anyway — two long screws, two drywall reinforcing screw mounts, the wooden plate, and the hanger.

axe-claw-parts

I used the wooden part as a template, screwing the screws into the drywall a tiny bit to get starter marks. Then I just drilled those into marks in the drywall, hammered the drywall screw mounts into the holes, then screwed the wooden plate in flush. The rest is obvious!

axe-claw-mounted

It is a very classy mount, with its wooden base and cool swooping black foam lined arms. It really makes the guitar look awesome. Well, as awesome as a fake plastic guitar can look, anyway:

axe-claw-closeup

axe-claw-distant

It has a nice dramatic shadowbox effect because it hangs the guitar pretty far out from the wall. And it’s very, very sturdy — much sturdier than my old ghetto guitar mount!

I found the best price / availability on the Axe Claw on eBay, but there are also good specialty stores like 7 Ball Music that have them as well.

Oh, and yes, I still think the Guitar Hero World Tour axe is the best fake plastic axe going! All of my guitar mods are on display here:

  1. I added some weights to give the guitars more realistic “heft”. I still say this is one of the best, if not the best “bang for the buck” mod you can do.
  2. I used my white lithium grease crayon to lubricate the buttons. You’d be astonished how much this reduces button noise — easily 50% quiter, and smoother movement as well. I also lubricated the strum hinges while I was in there, but it comes fairly well lubricated out of the box, so that one’s for completionists only.
  3. I used a silver metallic sharpie to add some faux metal flair to the fretboard and pegs. This one is totally easy, and it looks great!
  4. A custom faceplate; I am planning to paint my own faceplates again one of these days, but since we had a baby, I haven’t had time. (and as you have probably noticed by now I haven’t had as much time to devote to my FPR blog too, and I apologize..)
  5. A custom strap, which not only looks way sweeter but is also much more comfortable! Remember that all fake plastic guitars accept regular guitar straps, so your local music shop probably has some nice guitar straps to choose from.

As I always say, if you’re going to fake plastic rock out, you might as well fake plastic rock out in style!

March 30, 2009

Rock Band Art Themed Accessories

I’ve always loved the art direction and visual style of Rock Band. Most of it was created by Harmonix artist John Dee:

HMX artist John Dee created some of the most memorable art in Rock Band. His designs are featured not only in game menus and backgrounds, but also on Rock Band t-shirts, messenger bags, drum silencers, and other merch.

If, like me, your Xbox is little more than a machine capable of booting Rock Band (and other awesome fake plastic rock games — I don’t discriminate), you might be interested in these official Mad Catz Rock Band Xbox 360 faceplates and skins. Apparently they’re high quality; I’ve heard very good things about them from informal Harmonix chatter on Twitter.

mad-catz-rock-band-xbox-skinz

Three styles are available:

  1. Tattoo (black base)
  2. XTiger (white base)
  3. Scorpion (dark blue base)

Similarly, there are official Rock Band Jam Kits that allow you to get that same Rock Band art on your fake plastic guitars and drums, too:

rock-band-jam-kit-contents

The kits provide officially licensed art on a custom guitar strap, guitar skin, and drumsticks. Available in two styles:

  1. Koi fish (black/red)
  2. Tiger (black/purple)

And if you liked this, definitely check out the officially licensed Rock Band faux drum kick heads, too!

custom-kick-drumhead-elephant

OK, yes, so I’m a sucker for Rock Band. Which part of the “runs an entire blog dedicated to this crap” did you not figure out yet? :)

March 29, 2009

Dual Drum Kick Pedals for Rock Band and Guitar Hero

Most of the time, pre-order bonuses for games are crap. But not in the case of Guitar Hero: Metallica — the pre-order bonus is a second drum pedal for the Guitar Hero: World Tour drum kit. I picked mine up today:

guitar-hero-dual-pedal

As you can see, it’s a simple splitter cable and second pedal, identical to the Guitar Hero: World Tour drum pedal. There doesn’t appear to be a retail option (yet), but there are a few sellers offering standalone Guitar Hero World Tour Bass Drum Pedals. I’m guessing if you add a Radio Shack mono male to 2 female splitter, you’re in business.

I haven’t yet experimented with the new Expert+ drum difficulty mode in GH:Metallica, yet, but I will. The game is great, by the way! Easily the best band-specific fake plastic rock game yet. I even like it better than Guitar Hero: World Tour, to be honest, and I’m not much of a Metallica fan! If the GH:Metallica track list appeals to you at all, I recommend picking up a copy.

On the Rock Band side of the fence, I was surprised to discover that Harmonix now has an officially blessed dual drum kick pedal solution too! It’s the Universal Rock Band Replacement Kick Pedal for $24.99.

rock-band-dual-pedal-box

As you can see it works on all platforms (PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii), and surprisingly for either the Rock Band or Rock Band 2 drums!

rock-band-dual-pedal-packaging-closeup

The GH:WT pedal works very differently than the Rock Band pedal. A simple splitter doesn’t cut it. You need a double bass pedal adapter box, powered by AAA batteries, for both pedals to work independently. Fortunately, this is included in the box with the pedal:

rock-band-pedal-adapter


The only place I could find the pedal for sale today is at GameStop, as the Universal Rock Band Drum Pedal.

I scanned in the instruction sheet, and upon closer inspection, it looks like this pedal works with either the Rock Band 1 or Rock Band 2 drums, surprisingly, and on all platforms! It’s almost universal. (click the image to see the full instruction sheet.)

rock-band-pedal-user-guide-small

Using dual pedals in Rock Band does have a few side effects. For one thing, you can no longer hold down the pedal to select the category menu. And since it’s a battery operated device, it can possibly go to sleep, or run out of juice entirely. I’m not sure how many songs in Rock Band 2 really justify dual bass drum pedals. There are a few, perhaps in the Thrash Pack or the Disturbed tracks.

Dual bass drum pedals is more logical in GH:Metallica, where they designed a whole new Expert+ drum difficulty level around it. Good thing for us fake plastic rock enthusiasts, the game supports either Rock Band or GH:WT drums — and we now have officially blessed dual-pedal hardware options on both sides of the fence!

December 31, 2008

Metal Flake Les Paul Faceplates

Back in February of this year I became a little.. obsessed.. with achieving an actual metal flake paintjob on a fake plastic guitar. You know, something like real world guitar metal flake finishes:

real-guitar-metal-flake-finish

Well, I finally figured out how to replicate an awesome looking metallic flake paintjob, and I spent most of February doing a whole bunch in different styles and colors, using Guitar Hero III Les Paul faceplates as the base. They totally rock, but I went a little overboard. I have too many!

Here’s an example; this one is black metallic spraypaint, with green to gold iridescent fine flakes.

black metallic flake les paul faceplate

black metallic flake les paul faceplate, closeup

The larger (medium) flakes are awesome as well; here’s a closeup of the pink metallic flake I made for my wife.

pink metallic flake, medium, les paul guitar faceplate, closeup

Well, I am now selling most of the metallic flake Les Paul faceplates I made on Etsy:

Click here to visit the Fake Plastic Rock Etsy shop

These were all a labor of love, and they look amazing. Hopefully they can find a good home to a fellow fake plastic rocker who owns a Les Paul fake plastic guitar for the Xbox 360 or PS3, and appreciates an awesome fake plastic guitar paintjob as much as I do..

December 23, 2008

Drum Silencers for Rock Band 2 Drums

In Quieting your Rock Band Drums, I described a few ways you could reduce the terrible clickety-clack noise of the old Rock Band 1 drumset. Fortunately, with the Rock Band 2 wireless drum kit, noise is much less of a problem, as the drums come with a thin rubber layer on top this time around.

I was skeptical of thin rubber on the RB2 drumkit, but I have to say I’ve been pleasantly surprised — it’s a vast improvement the original insanely loud RB1 drum kit, for sure! That said, the thin rubber is certainly no match for the much thicker aftermarket gum rubber or neoprene I had on there before.

But once I cracked one of my Rock Band 2 drum heads, I started thinking seriously again about upgrading the drum heads, for several reasons:

  1. Protecting the semi-fragile plastic underneath (obviously)
  2. Additional “bounce” for better, more realistic stick hits
  3. Less noise

Although I generally prefer the RB2 drum layout, and the RB2 kit is much improved over the original RB1 kit, this is one area where the Guitar Hero: World Tour drumkit is clearly better; the cymbals and toms are heavily rubberized.

But like so many things in life, it’s nothing we can’t fix with a little extra cash and/or time. There are lots of sites selling drum silencers now, both for the RB1 and RB2 drumkits. There’s even an official set of Rock Band Drum Silencers endorsed by Harmonix, though they are intended for the RB1 drums. There’s a review on rockbandmods if you’re curious.

One of the best vendors for aftermarket drum pads / silencers I’ve found to date is Rock Band Drumsoft. I love their attention to detail. They offer gum rubber, neoprene, foam, and urethane — and they understand (and explain) the differences between all the materials in the drum pads they sell! In my own experiments, I’ve already discovered the drumming properties of mousepad neoprene and gum rubber in trial and error, and yes, the differences are significant. In order to figure out which material is best, You have to ask yourself — what type of drummer are you?

I decided to go with the MCU Dual layer pads, with gum rubber underneath:

  1. 3/32″ layer of microcellular urethane (MCU)
  2. 1/8″ layer of gum rubber

It was a little expensive, but I was sold on the optimum two-material approach. This is also what they specifically recommend for RB2 drumkits. The MCU dual layer pads finally arrived today; here’s a picture of them installed.

rock-band-2-drum-silencers

(Some other stuff you can see in this picture: nylon tip drumsticks, triple cymbal kit, faux drum kickhead, pedal metal reinforcement. Oh and that is the edge of the GH:WT drums in the upper left as well. Yes I am a little obsessed.)

You can’t quite see it in the picture, but the gum rubber layer underneath is smaller, and fits in the center. The MCU layer on top is larger and covers the edge of the drum rim as well. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this (I miss my sexy silver RB2 rims), but in practice it reduces the noise from the occasional rim hit, which is nice. So I’ve warmed up to the look.

But how’s the performance? I’m happy to report, outstanding!

  • In terms of gameplay, it’s perfect. No missed hits whatsoever. I did notice that in the drum trainer, when going for a max pressure hit, you do have to use a smidge more force than before, but it’s hardly a problem.
  • The feel is also much, much better than the thin default rubber of the RB2 kit. I’ve been a fan of gum rubber for a long time now as a drum surface, and having it back makes my inner drummer smile. The drums feel far more “alive” and bouncy in gameplay.
  • As for noise, it’s definitely quieter. But any additional noise reduction over the already-quieter RB2 kit is relatively small. Is it better than gum rubber alone? Absolutely. Gum rubber has a “slapping” sound when you hit it that is noticeably reduced with the MCU on top.

On the whole, big thumbs up. I like that they included a comprehensive set of instructions with tips, colored adhesive dots to “label” the pads, and even some alcohol swabs for cleaning the drum surfaces before applying the pads. The instructions are actually useful, too: I initially had some air bubbles under the MCU layer, and the instructions told me push a pin through the MCU and push the bubbles out — this worked like a champ, and my drums are perfectly smooth now with no unsightly bubbling!

Adding aftermarket drum pad silencers isn’t absolutely required for the RB2 drumkit, like it was for the RB1 kit. But it is certainly a nice upgrade — and if you tend to play the drums aggressively and crack the drumheads, I’d strongly suggest you look into aftermarket drum pads. Either way, Rock Band Drumsoft should be at the top of your list.

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