drumkitapart 580x379 Drum Controller Parts Harvesting

Today’s dumpscore included a Guitar Hero drum controller. I don’t have any use for it as a controller, but I’ve been curious what’s inside this type of device. There were also about a half-dozen guitar controllers for various game systems, but I wasn’t as interested in those.

When I got home, I cleared off the table and grabbed a screwdriver. A half hour later, I had a nice neat pile of the electronic parts, and the rest of it was in the recycle bin. There was some neat telescoping tube in the stand, but I don’t have an immediate use for that, and don’t have enough of it to bother storing for future use.

In the game controller, I confirmed my suspicion that there would be some piezo elements. These are neat devices that generate an electric signal when are bumped or deformed. They are also capable of making a sound when a pulse of electricity is sent to them.

As speakers, piezos are used in lots of things, including many smoke alarms, newer computer modems, motherboards, and things that go “chirp.” My guess is that there’s one in my car’s alarm. They’re made of metal, so don’t degrade as easily as a paper speaker membrane.

Piezos are also used to gather vibration signals, and can be found in some guitar pickups. In the Cigar Box Guitar article in MAKE Volume 04 a piezo is used as a pickup. The sensor in the Secret Knock Gumball Machine from MAKE Volume 25 is also a piezo.

Some will likely take offense at my shredding what may have been a usable game controller, but I did see that the snare wires were broken. One set of wires was frayed, and the other had a broken plug. This is probably the reason it ended up at the dump. If I were interested in fixing it, the repair would have been fairly easy with a new length of wire for one and a plug for the other.

One other feature of this parts harvest is that I was careful to remove each piece with as little permanent damage as possible. Rather than cutting and breaking things apart, I pulled the connectors and passed the wires out of the tubes or untaped them. It would be possible to reconstruct this drum kit on a new stand, and it could work just fine. The only thing that I really destroyed was cutting the rubber holders that attached the three drum pads to their bases. I was a little pressed for time, and had the whole decommissioning process complete within a half hour.

In my recent Arduino experimentation, I’ve been messing around with piezos as a sound output device, and have gotten it to play some recognizable tunes and tones. How would you use the guts of a drum kit? Have you done successful (or not) experiments with piezo elements? Have you built a new drum set out of the components that I found in this one? Post up in the comments and let us know!


Chris Connors

Making things is the best way to learn about our world.

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