Using an electronic drum kit with Rock Band – The parts list


This is part 4 of the Using an electronic drum kit with Rock Band FAQ.

This project requires you to make use of a pretty varied set of tools and assorted gadgetry.  For your convenience, I've collected everything you need to buy into a shopping list. 

I'm assuming you've picked out a drum kit already.  If not, visit the guide to selecting an electronic drum kit.

No major modifications are required to the electronic drum kit to use it with Rock Band…which is good, because operating on something costing hundreds to thousands of dollars would be a little scary.

To connect the electronic drum kit to the game, you need a module that will decode the MIDI data coming out of your electronic drum kit and convert it into XBox controller inputs.

Unfortunately, because there is a special chip in the Rock Band drum set that we can't duplicate the behavior of, we need to actually use the Rock Band drum kit itself as an intermediary between ourselves and the XBox 360.  So there are four major pieces to the entire setup.  In order, they are…

  1. Electronic drum kit
  2. MIDI decoder
  3. Rock Band Drum Kit
  4. XBox 360

Main parts and connectors

1. One 10ft. MIDI cable – Amazon link OR One 3ft MIDI cable – Amazon link

This cable will connect your drum brain to the MSA-P.  A 10ft. cable gives you a lot of leeway to put the MSA-P enclosure within the general vicinity of your drum kit.  A 3ft cable will barely reach the floor, but if you plan on mounting the MSA-P on your drum kit near the drum brain, you likely don't want 10ft of cable getting in the way.

2. One MSA-P – Link and One MSA Terminal Block Set – Link

This is the MIDI decoder mentioned above.  Buy the Terminal set together with the MSA-P … and request in your purchase notes that the Terminal Blocks be assembled onto the MSA-P.  Add the 29.95 for assembly … it's a giant pain if you have to do it.

What the terminal block set does is allow you to simply insert wire leads into the holes in the blocks and tighten screws into the leads to secure the connections.  This is immeasurably easier than soldering each connection.  You want this.

3. A suitable enclosure for the MSA-P

Unfortunately, I have no suggestions for this.  I bought this enclosure back when he still had a few in stock.  The MSA-P product page suggests some SERPAC enclosure model numbers…whatever that means.  Wish I could be of more help here!

4. One ethernet cable – Amazon link

This will connect the Rock Band drum kit to the MSA-P.

5. One Roland MDP-7U Mounting Plate – Woodwind and Brasswind link

If you decide to cut away the controller portion of the original drum kit, you can attach the controller to this plate and mount the controller directly onto your drum kit.

6. One Roland MDH-10U Hatched Pad Mount – Woodwind and Brasswind link

The MDP-7U mounting plate will attach to this clamp, which in turn clamps to your drum kit.

Accessories and tools

5. Xacto X73780 Precision Soldering Iron & Hot Knife Tip – Amazon link

The soldering iron is what you need to assemble some parts of the MSA-P and especially to make all the necessary connections to the Rock Band controller board.  The hot knife tip attachment will let you melt/cut through the plastic drum kit.  You'll either be cutting a hole in the drum kit for a new cable to be exposed, or entirely cutting away the controller from the kit.  Optionally, some people have opted to use a Dremel rotary tool to cut through the kit.  Either way is fine…although the Dremel will probably look nicer if done properly.

6. Solder

Not much to say about this.  Just buy some solder from Radio Shack.

7. Braided cord or desoldering pump – Amazon link

Not 100% necessary, but good to have around as a safety net if you're new to soldering.  Basically, these suck up extra solder if you happen to get too much onto the connection and/or neighboring connections.

8. M-AUDIO USB Midisport Uno MIDI Interface – Amazon link

You use this in conjunction with your computer to program the MSA-P.

9. Wire stripper/cutter – Amazon link

You'll be cutting and stripping a lot of wires.

10. Assorted screwdrivers and tools – Amazon link

A standard home tool kit with lots of screwdrivers and other goodies.  If you want to open the Rock Band kit, you're gonna need these.  A lot of you will already have a tool kit lying around somewhere.

11. Two ethernet cables – Amazon link

We're going to use these ethernet cables and harvest the wires in the cables with the wire stripper using the 24 AWG setting.

12. Tweezers – Amazon link

For holding wires to the solder points without burning yourself or otherwise picking up/controlling tiny objects.  Again, many of you probably have some tweezers lying around for other stuff.

13. Snap-In Category 5e RJ-45 Jack – Radio Shack link

Lets you punch all the wires coming out of the MSA-P into a single easy to connect/disconnect from ethernet/RJ-45 jack.

14. Snap-In RJ-45 Coupler – Radio Shack link

Put this on the end of the ethernet cable you're going to be wiring to the Rock Band board so that you can again, attach and detach an ethernet cable from it at will.

15. Velcro – Amazon link

A nice way to mount the cut away controller to the MDP-7U mounting plate in a non permanent fashion.

Optional real drumming equipment

c-n-Soc Nitro – Woodwind and Brasswind link

A proper drum throne helps quite a bit with posture and comfort.  What makes this particular drum throne stand out is that it has a very comfortable padded seat, the seat is slightly bouncy, the height is quickly adjustable because it has a nitrogen piston and lever similar to any ergonomic chair, and the chair swivels smoothly.  Many cheap drum thrones have none of the above.

DW5000 Kick Pedal – Woodwind and Brasswind link

You'll need a kick pedal to go with your drum if you haven't picked one up yet, you might want to try the DW5000.  I don't have one of these yet, but I want one.  Many of the top scoring drummers on Rock Band use this pedal, so I figure it can't be all bad.

Drum sticks – We'll talk about these in another article.


With the above parts, you should have everything you need to begin the modification process.

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