Friday, February 6, 2009

Do-it-yourself Guitar Hero:World Tour Cymbal Repair

Has one of your drum kit's cymbals stopped working some or all of the time? Does it register hits when it's not supposed to? If either of these things happens to you, it can be pretty frustrating. Your scores will plummet, your bandmates will ridicule you, and worse yet, instead of having fun, you'll be bummed out.

If the wire's cut, you can easily repair it by removing the outer sheathing, stripping the two wires inside and reconnecting them. Then you can tape them with electrical tape, or if you're so inclined, solder them for a more permanent fix.

But if the cymbal itself is the problem, what can you do, apart from send the cymbal back to the manufacturer and wait for a replacement? Well, if you don't mind doing a little bit of soldering, you can actually replace most of the cymbal for very little money.

What you need

Quick Fix Materials
  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Soldering iron
  • Solder (with flux if needed)
  • Electrical tape (optional)
  • Scraping tool / knife
  • Wire cutters / strippers
Full Fix Materials
  • All of the above, plus:
  • Wire (I used hookup wire, which is cheap and sturdy)
  • Mono audio jack
  • Pliers (optional)
  • Glue suitable for gluing plastics together
  • 'Helping hands' (optional)
  • Pencil (optional)
Identifying the Problem

The underside of a GH:WT cymbal looks like this. There are four small screws which you should carefully remove with your Phillips head screwdriver. Once the cover is removed, you're ready to find out exactly where the source of your trouble is.

This kind of problem is usually due to one of the connections inside the cymbal having broken loose. There is a kind of white compound covering each solder point, as the picture to the right shows, and this can make it difficult to find out which connection is having trouble.

The transparent tape in the picture was not originally present; I added it as a cheap fix to low sensitivity.

The first thing to do is to slowly tug on each wire to see if you can find out where it's loose or broken. If you're lucky, you'll only have to resolder a single point.

If you find one or more loose wires, this usually means you simply have to resolder them, and you can use the Quick Fix method listed below.

If you don't find anything wrong (or everything is wrong), don't panic! You can use the Full Fix method below to get back on the skins in no time.

The Quick Fix

If you find one or more loose wires, great! Simply clean the white rubbery compound off both the wire and the area underneath it, which will reveal the original solder point. I usually find it easier to resolder the wire slightly away from the original solder point. If you're resoldering one of the connections on the piezo sensor (the round copper ring with a white center), remember that you must have one wire soldered to the copper ring and one to the white area in the center. Strip a short length of the wire with your wire strippers. Tin the wire by applying a small amount of solder to it (apply flux if necessary), take a small drop of solder, and apply it to the wire while it's pressed down onto the sensor (again, apply flux if necessary to the sensor). Your cymbal should be working fine again. You may want to apply some electrical tape to keep the newly soldered wire from becoming loose again.

The Full Fix

If you're unlucky, like I was, you might find out that you have more than one broken connection, or worse, that the little board or the audio jack have malfunctioning connections. However, all is not lost. In fact, the board does nothing but provide a way to secure the audio connector to the cymbal. It's not required, and with this fix, we'll bypass it completely and still have a fully functional cymbal.

In this case, we'll assume the worst and consider the board and/or the audio jack are completely broken. Start by removing the screw keeping the board in place, and remove it entirely. Remove all the white compound around the wires on the piezo sensor and cut the wires, as we will have to replace them with longer ones.

Take the audio jack and place it on the cymbal, with the single pin facing upwards (it's a mounting pin, but we won't be using it). Place the plastic cover on top to make sure you have the jack lined up with the hole in the cover. We will be gluing the jack in place here, so you may wish to mark the position of the jack with a pencil before proceeding further.

Once you've done that, measure two lengths of wire, each one long enough to connect the jack to one of the areas of the sensor (one for the copper ring, one for the white ring inside). If you have a 'helping hands', as shown in the picture to the right, use the clips to hold your audio jack.

Hook the two wires into the two parallel connectors on the audio jack, as shown to the left. Use the pliers to make them nice and tight. If needed, apply some flux to each connector, then take a small drop of solder with the iron and press it to the area where the connector and the wire meet.

Once you have the jack soldered to the wire, position it in the proper area (use the plastic cover to check if you haven't marked the position).

Solder each wire to the piezo sensor, applying flux if needed. One wire has to be soldered to the outside copper ring, one on the white area inside. Once the wires are soldered in place, you can put some electrical tape over the sensor to minimize chances it will come apart again.

Glue the audio jack to the cymbal. I used a small amount of quick-set epoxy, but many types of glue should work for this. Wait long enough for your desired glue to set before replacing the plastic cover. The picture to the right shows a completed fix.

Test your new cymbal by playing a song or two. Mine works flawlessly!


  1. thx Raphael! unlike the lamers trying to sell a $1.25 worth of cymbal connector wire for $20 on eBay u Sir r providing truly useful info for free! Many thx 2 u.

  2. This sounds like a very solid fix. I think that some more pictures would have been helpful though, particularly for those of use who haven't soldered in a while and to provide visual aides for the solder point, etc.

    But thank you for this effort, it sounds like you hit on something here that should make a lot of people happy.:)

  3. Hi Mike,

    Yeah, I'm still getting used to taking pictures as I go along. I don't solder very often either, so I understand you there.

    I have to fix it up again soon, so I'll take some new pics and show you the innards.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Our wires on the cymbals have been yanked out, pulled by a young child. I have been tring to research how to get them fixed. I am having no luck. I have both of the cymbals not working do to this situation. Do you know how or where I can go to get it fixed

  5. And to think I was about to pay $15 each for new cymbals on Ebay... Thanks a lot for this. It was so easy. I had no idea the internals were so cheap and poorly assembled. At least it is easily repaired.

  6. Dude! Thanks for the info! I had a couple of other problems after I applied the fix, but it got the cymbal to at least register again and at that point, I just wasn't going to give up. The problem I had was the cymbal registering an extra strike each time I hit it. So I'd come out of practice sessions with like 96% of the notes hit, but my longest streak would be 10. Very frustrating. I figured it had to be something rattling and hitting the cymbal surface everytime I struck it, thus causing the extra hit. Too sensitive rather than not sensitive enough. After looking over the original design, I realized that the designers went to a lot of trouble to prevent anything touching the surface of the cymbal itself, except for the piezo pad. So, I remounted the little circuit board and mounted the jack on top of it. I made a shock absorber pad by rolling up some electrial tape. Then I bound the jack to the pad by simply wrapping a piece of electrical tape around the jack and the pad. Finally, I epoxied it to the circuit board....pad side to the board. The rubber cover is pretty useless, so I chopped off the cover part and just reattached the back ring spacer/shock absorber part of the cover to the cymbal so that the cymbal will mount properly on the drum kit. I also cut a horizontal strip from the cover that contained the two screw holes and reattached that in order to tightly secure the circuit board to the pad. Some electrical tape over the piezo pad itself ensured that IT wasn't causing the problem. Ugly as sin on Sunday, but that seems to have fixed it. I get the occasional extra hit, but it's tolerable now. By tolerable, I mean I can usually pull a 400+ streak on Steely Dan's Do it Again, which is almost all right cymbal and snare. So I'm a happy drummer. Thanks again for the info!

  7. Mate your a star.
    I was mortified when the cymbal started to in Dubai its so hard to get anything delivered reliably and in any sort of urgency.....the soldering worked so well!!! i will do away with the circuit board if it happens solder had cracked at the board with the jack to board connection.
    thanks again....

  8. What is the problem if you swap cymbals and neither work on the left post and they both work on the right post.

  9. Hey,
    My yellow cymbal doesn't work anymore and I found out that the audio jack plug sort of just broke in two pieces, but I can't find an audio jack plug on ebay nor anywhere else. Do you know where I can find an audio jack plug???

  10. Hi Siebe,

    You should be able to find that at any electronics store, like Radio Shack. It's just a regular mono audio jack.

  11. Hi Jeff,

    Sorry it took so long to reply. If only the right post is working, your cymbals are fine, but the wiring in the left post is probably broken somewhere along the line. It can be tricky to find out where the breakage is, but with a little bit of work, you could just run a new wire in the old one's place. My advice is this: try to find where the wire is broken, and reconnect it if you can. If you can't, or you can't find out where the wire is broken, run a new one to the inside of the drum controller.

  12. My nephew turned the both cymbals around and broke both wire jacks at the tip of the jack.. so it cannot be re-paired.

    I have to go in search of a new jack tomorrow, but wasn't sure what wire to get as I plan to re-wire it.

    Can someone e-mail me your response a.s.a.p.

  13. Mindi,
    Did anyone ever answer your question above? We just had a child that turned our yellow cymbal around and broke it. Please let me know what you decided to do.

  14. To repair a broken audio plug on my cymbals, I picked up a six foot, two-conductor (mono) audio cable from Radio Shack(part #42-2420), about $4 US. That gives me 18 inches for each plug if I cut the cable in half.

    The only thing I couldn't find is the little white connector on the other end of the cymbal wire, that plugs into the circuit board inside the drum unit. I just used the end of the orig wire and connected it to the new Radio Shack cable. Be sure to connect center wire to center wire, outer wire to outer wire. Works great. Be sure to cover everything with elec. tape and to anchor it down inside the drum unit before reassembling.

    One thing the original poster didn't mention: if you have a multimeter, you can check the cables before you start hacking things up. Unplug the cable from the circuit board inside the drum unit. Set the meter to check resistance. With a prong-style sensor on the meter, poke the end down into the plastic connector on one end, and touch the other sensor to the plug. The end of the plug corresponds to the white wire, the other conductor on the plug corresponds to the black wire on the connector. The connection should have NO resistance at all, should conduct a signal from end to end. That allowed me to check whether it was the wire or the cymbal unit itself.

  15. Thanks for the info! My cymbal hasn't been working from the beginning but if I send it to the us it's going to cost me more than either fixing it like you said, or finding one that is sold here in europe. These things are impossible to find in Greece, which is where I live, so i think I am going to fix the cymbal myself!
    oh, and a Very Happy New Year!!

  16. BTW, after I repaired the cable and plug, my cymbal still wasn't working. I disassembled it and soldered some speaker wire from the jack to the cymbal sensor. I couldn't tell where the original microscopic wires were broken, and the ends were covered by that white rubber sealant (is that caulking?), so it was just easier to scrape all that off and re-solder.
    Here's a tip to the manufacturer: use a little heavier wire. Even if the drum and cymbal worked right out of the box (it didn't) you KNOW kids pounding on those drums & cymbals is going to make those tiny wires break. I wish I would have read the reviews before I bought...

  17. To repair a broken audio plug on my cymbals, I picked up a six foot, two-conductor (mono) audio cable from Radio Shack(part #42-2420), about $4 US. That gives me 18 inches for each plug if I cut the cable in halfTo repair a broken audio plug on my cymbals, I picked up a six foot, two-conductor (mono) audio cable from Radio Shack(part #42-2420), about $4 US.

    <--- Can i somehow do this with stereo cable? I cant seem to find a mono one anywhere. I live in Norway.

  18. Hi Sherm,

    The multimeter is indeed a good tip. I don't have one handy, since I don't do this kind of thing very often.

    Good luck trying to convince the manufacturer to upgrade their quality... I think the whole kit was designed with "just enough" as the specification. The wires are really small, the soldering is generally pretty shoddy, they put sealant everywhere but it doesn't help, etc...

  19. Just a follow up here. I repaired the cymbal by changing the wires and using a new audio jack and it worked perfectly!! Thanks for the great help!

  20. Hi Locutus,

    Glad to hear it! Nice job, and keep on rocking out in Greece!

  21. To those who posted about a broken jack (mindi, ripgurllulu, connorjj28): All you need is mono audio cable, a mono audio plug, and a mono audio jack. With those three items, you'll be able to fix any damage done to the jack, the cable, etc. It should be really easy to do, but I'll post detailed instructions if anyone else asks.

    Sorry I didn't reply sooner... I only catch up on these comments every little while.

  22. Hi, thanks for the help first of all and a question. Are those little white connectors that plug into the main board standard connectors (and if so do you know the specifications) or are they specially issued for the GH drum set?

  23. Hi Juan,

    They are standard connectors, but I don't know what they're called. They're 2-pin connectors, about 5mm across, with a notch on one side to prevent them from being plugged in backwards.

    It's likely that anyone with a background in electronics can tell you what they're called by looking at the board.

  24. Hey, had to say great site and great tips. I have been wanting to get a soldering iron for a while and now that my cymbal is broke I can go get one and not have my wife yell at me. They really should invest just a little bit more money in these things considering what I paid for it. Thanks again.

  25. Im askin so how do I repair the ripped out wires of the jack.

  26. Thanx, my cymbals broke last week and I haven't been able to play since then. I was planning to sell my generic viagra box and buy new ones, but now I changed my mind.

  27. Hi, just like to state up front that I am not mechanically inclined. With that said the right tower on my 360 drum set is not working. I thought perhaps it was the "orange" cymbol, but alas it wasn't. It must be the "tower" for the lack of a better term. How do I fix that? When playing that "tower" doesn't register anything at all.. Help please!

  28. Hi cbrunettelittle,

    Sorry for the late reply; I don't check this blog all that often anymore.

    If your right cymbal is not responding regardless of what you plug into it, the wire inside the 'tower' or cymbal arm is probably broken.

    The only fix for this is to replace the wire. You'll have to open up your drumset, find the wire for the orange cymbal (it connects to a small board inside the drumset), cut it somewhere before the broken point, and solder a new length of wire to it.

    I've done this a number of times, but I didn't bother documenting the process. I don't have a camera available right now, but I am working on fixing a neighbor's broken drumset, so I may end up doing that.

  29. This comment has been removed by the author.

  30. This comment has been removed by the author.

  31. Thank you very much! just saved my day!