Using an electronic drum set with Rock Band


This FAQ describes how to connect an electronic drum kit to the game Rock Band, which is currently out for XBox 360, PS2, PS3, and Wii.

Update 1/1/2009: Much of this FAQ focuses on building the MSA-P as an adapter … currently, the built-in GHWT drum MIDI input is likely to be a much more accessible means of using your electronic drum kit.  See the article about alternative ways of connecting kits to Rock Band for more details.  Other articles still apply.

Quick Q&A

All of the following questions are covered in detail in the main articles, but for the sake of a quick overview, read the following. 

How much does this cost?

Assuming you already have a Rock Band drum controller to modify, the adapter itself will cost around 100 dollars to build.  A used drum kit will be about 750 dollars if you go reasonably low end.  Top of the line electronic drum kits can run up to 5500 dollars new.

How long does it take to perform the modification?

The modification itself will probably take about half a day to complete once all the parts are in front of you.

Why would I want to do this?

Playing on an electronic drum kit is a more authentic and higher quality experience.  Rebound, foot action, and the room you have to move around the kit are all better and adjustable on a real kit.

In most cases, you can learn to hit the "correct" instruments and still play the game.  Also, for extremely competitive players that are aiming for high scores, an electronic drum kit completely overcomes the limitations of the "cheap" Rock Band drum kit.  Any misses will be your fault, and not the equipment's.

Who is using this modification?

Well, in addition to several enthusiasts you probably don't know, some of the top drummers, such as someguy913 and Javman158, have also started using their drum kits with Rock Band via this modification.

What equipment are you using?

A Roland TD-3 drum brain on the default MDS-3C stand.  All pads are upgraded to mesh.  I have a PD-120 for the snare and 1 PD-85 and 2 PD-80's for the toms.  The kick drum is a KD-8 rubber pad.  I actually prefer this over the mesh kick drums in higher end kits.  Cymbals are the default rubber ones that come with the TD-3 kit.

The drum throne is a Roc-n-Soc Nitro.

Drum sticks are Vic Firth SD4N's.

Kick pedal is a low end cheapo Yamaha.  Does the job, but I'm planning on upgrading.

Main articles

Without further ado, here are the detailed articles you should review to understand the modification.

Rock Band drumming vs real drumming

  1. Rock Band drumming vs real drumming – what you learn, and what you don't  

Understanding electronic drum kits

  1. Advantages of an electronic drum kit over the standard Rock Band drum kit
  2. Selecting an electronic drum kit for use with Rock Band
  3. Understanding the different parts of your electronic drum kit

 Buying, building, and configuring the MSA-P for use with Rock Band

  1. Using an electronic drum kit with Rock Band – The shopping list
  2. How to expose the controller inputs of the Rock Band drum kit
  3. Wiring up the MSA-P and the enclosure
  4. Programming the MSA-P and your drum brain for use with Rock Band

Other topics

  1. Selecting drum sticks for Rock Band
  2. Alternative solutions for hooking up electronic drum kits

Appendix A – Original posts and articles

Original forum thread on – Rock Band with Electronic Drums (HOWTO)
Forum thread on – Roland TD-6SW (Electronic Drumset) in Rock Band w/Vids!
Forum thread about this FAQ on – Complete Rock Band electronic drum kit FAQ, feedback welcome

Flash's blog

MSA-P enclosure (limited supply) –

Moriah's Web – Rock Band Uber Mod! 

Homemade drum kit –

sethmeisterg's MIDI to PS2/PS3 adapter (a well received secondary option for those players that don't want to build their own adapter and have a PS2/PS3) –

Appendix B – Videos of electronic drum kits being used with Rock Band

Appendix C – Q&A for jackasses

You're dumb for spending so much money on a game.

The people performing this modification probably make more money than you do and can afford to spend it on something they enjoy.  Which raises the question of who is really the dumb one.

You aren't a real drummer!  Hop in front of my kit and let's see how you do!

Nobody here is claiming to be a "real" drummer after playing the drums in Rock Band…although nearly all of the top drummers in Rock Band ARE real drummers and play the game and enjoy it for what it is.  However, there are a lot of important fundamentals that can be learned by playing Rock Band.  These are outlined in the article "Rock Band drumming vs real drumming – what you learn, and what you don't".


Credit goes to anyone and everyone who contributed to the above threads and took risks on buying the necessary equipment and performing modifications "in the dark".  We couldn't have done it without you.

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