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How To Build Your Own Drummania Set

Ok, this isn't quite Red Green's Handy Man Corner, and I am not going to be using duct tape here. But I will show you how I built my own midi drum set for under $150 Cdn ($100 USD), and with a bit more electronics, hooked it up to the Playstation 2 to play Guitar Freaks/Drummania.

I took lots of pictures to help you in the contruction but I will let you improvise as you see fit.



I got the idea for this project as a result of trying the game at the arcade out over at UBC. At this time, I was good at Para Para and Dance Dance Revolution but I have not done any of the rythmn games yet. I always wanted to be drummer so, I got hooked at this game.


I was so excited about this game, I had to find out more. Find the secrets of getting better and faster. Of course, I started looking at the internet. Here is what I found.

First, there is no sure fire way to get better at drummania except for patience and practice. Sure there are a couple codes to give you auto bass or speed up the lines, but if you suck, you will suck for a long time until you practice it and get better.

Second, people seem to encounter a rather easy learning curve until they hit a stumbling block. Whether the block is physcial, or mental, it is hurdle that must be overcome and the game won't get any easier until you figure out how to get around it. For me, "Right On Time" in basic was my first big stumbling block. I got over it pretty quick but it took me a few months to get past "Right On Time" in Advanced.

Third, making drums is not a new concept. A lot of music people do make their own economical drum sets. It is cheap, and relatively easy. Parts can be gotten almost anywhere.

Fourth, the Playstation 2 version of Drummania 3rd / Guitar Freaks 4th, does support MIDI drums but the documentation in the manual is REALLY limited and vague. There is virtually nobody out there who has really tried hooking up even a real drum set to the PSX2 to play. Even if there was someone out there who did, he doesn't talk much, doesn't tell the WWW how and what he did to do so. I very big lack of the technical aspects of how to hook it up and how to do it. So, thus, you are here reading my ranting....



You can click on the links for detailed pictures.


From the stuff on the internet, the building of Electronic drum pads are not complicated. It seems many people have done it. They have done it cheaply. They have been very resourceful in how they done it.

i) The Parts

Ok, the techincial-ese of what I found on the net breaks down to this. You can build a drum pad out of just about anything: wood, plastic, paper, frisbees, plates, garbage can lids, and etc....

The science behind it is when you strike the pad, the vibration is detected by a sensor. Sensor?!! Yes, first key stone part you have to buy, is a piezo electric element sensor. It is basically a metal disc with some wires attached to it. It basically picks up vibrations and sends them as pulses down the line. You can buy these things from electronic shops for 50 cents to $3.00+ each. Radio Shack sells these things. I also found they can also go under the name as a Piezo Buzzer. This is the opposite use of the element, feed an electric current down the line, the element will make a noise. I have seen many articles of people buying buzzers from Radio Shack and tearing them apart to get at the element inside. This is fine, if you don't have an electronics place near you. I bought mine for $1.49 cdn from www.rpelectronics.com. It is an PE-50 and you need 5 of them.

Ok, so what do we make the pads out of? Well, as done by many other people, you can use just about anything. But since I want to make this thing look kinda nice and of course functional, I decided to use what a lot of drummer's use is a Remo Practice pad. This is basically like a real drum head/rim but underneath it is a sound damping foam cushion. This gives you the feel of drums without all the noise of drum. I got 8" and 10" ones from Tom Lee's Music and Lond's and Mcuade here in Vancouver, for about $20 each. Note, the reason I picked this size is that the real ones on the Drummania game are 9" inches.

Ok, the connectors for this pad is a standard RCA phono jack. You have 2 choices, you can mount it to the bottom of the pad, which you would use the RCA chassis mount jack or if you just want to have it on the wire, you need a RCA inline jack. These are not even 50 cents each and you can by them at Radio Shack too. You will need 5 of them, one for each pad.

ii) Putting it Together.

Alright. First thing, we do is take the Remo pad and take it apart. The rim comes off when you unscrew all the screws. Now, you will just take the bottom piece without all the foam and without the drum rim, flip it upside down and drill a hole in it. What size? If you are chassis mounting your phono jack, then it has to be same size as your phone plug. If not, then a small little hole will do to put the wire through. Now, take that piece of foam and slice it in half thickness wise like sandwich bread. Now insert the peizo sensor in the centre of this foam sandwich. Now, other people's experience has told me, that the sensor by itself might not be sensitive enough to register a hit near the rim of the pad. So, the solution to this is to make the detection area on the sensor bigger. Now, it doesn't have to be so big that it is the entire drum. I just went to Home Hardware and grabbed a 5" aluminium sound Damping Plate from the plumbing section, but I am sure a round electrical plate cover will do. Heck, a lid off of a tin can would do to. I used some Crazy Glue to stick the sensor in the centre of it. If you peizo buzzer or element has any plastic rims or protectors on it, you got to break those off. You just want the raw element, which is just a metal disc with wires attached to it. Ok, almost done, Cut a small hole in the bottom foam piece to allow you to put the wires through it. Then feed the wires through th hole in the foam and through the hole in the bottom plate (or mount it into the chassis if you are doing the chassis mount). Put the foam sandwich back into the pad, put the rim back on and screw it back together. Now take that inline RCA jack and solder it to the wire that you feed through the holes. Red is the soldered on the center pin and black is on the outside ground pin. Ta-dah, that is it, all done.

Now of course, you will need to repeat this five times. However, I am sure it is not quite the same thing if you sit on the floor playing Drummania. Yes, you need stand to mount all these pads so they can make it feel like the arcade.



Again, people on the net have been very creative and resourceful when they built their drum sets. Some people use wood, some people use metal, some people just place them on top of books or bricks. The easiest to work with and cheapest thing I found is PVC piping for plumbing. It is plentiful, you can find it most hardware stores like Home Depot in super long lengths; it is easy to cut, I was lazy and use a jig saw on it; versetile, it has premade angles for connectors; and cheap, 50 cents a foot.

Ok, we have the materials planned out, now we need measurements. Well, that is easy, just go to the arcade with a tape measure and measure it out. Of course, the arcade guy will look at you funny and probably kick you out for wasting his time, but if you are a good customer who plays a lot of games then I am sure he won't mind a few measurements.

i) Ok, I went to the arcade and measured it all out. Here are my kinda messy diagrams.

ii) Anyway, here is how I did it with these measurements and this calculation.

Ok, the easiest things is the 2 cross pieces. I figured out that the drum pads used on the Drummania game are 9 inches in diameter. They are spaced almost 2 inches apart from each other. Well, that works really well, since I bought 10 inch practice pads (Remo pads come in 8" and 10" varieties). So mount the two of them side on side each other on one of the pipes. And repeat for the other one too. I did this by using a drill to punch through the PVC. I used 3" eye bolts, wing nuts and washers to secure the drum pad to the PVC, since there is already a screw threaded hole on the bottom of the drum pad. The reason I used eye bolts over regular bolts and regular nuts is that with these fasteners, you can assemble and take this drum set up apart without the need to use pliers or a wrench.

Ok, now the cross pieces are done.

The side pieces are a little more tricky. You will need a few PVC connectors and angle pieces for this part. They are found in the plumbing department at your hardware store. You will also need some PVC glue to stick all this stuff together. Fortunately, you can test fit your pieces first before you apply glue and make it permenant. Oh, I warn you, this glue bonds fast. I made a mistake on one of the connectors and it didn't even take 30 seconds, and I couldn't pull the 2 pieces apart again. Oh well, fortunately, these angle pieces are cheap, usually under $2.00 for each one.

Ok, the left leg is really easy since it is really just one big loop. From this diagram, you can see that will need 2x 90 angles, 1x 45 angle, 2x 90 T-connectors, and 1x 45 T-connector. The two 90's are used at the bottom of the leg, the 45 is used for the front of the unit since the front pads are lower than the back two, the other 45-T is used because there isn't an inline 135 degree connector to hold up the 45 degree angle, and lastly, the two 90-T's are used to hold each of the cross pieces you made in the last chapter. You might have noticed that a funny screw connector on the cross piece, I will explain that later.

Ok, the right leg is much like the left leg but you gotta add the high hat on the top of it. It is made with the same pieces as the left one is, except the two 90-T connectors are mounted the other way, so they meet up with the others on the left hand side.

Ok, now to explain the screw thingie on the cross piece. Well, when I first designed the stand, I just thought I was going to just glue it all together. Later, I realized that I could build it with wing nuts and eye bolts to make it disassemblable. So, if I was to break this apart again, then these 2 cross pieces must be able to separate from the left and right legs. Thus, we need a screw connector. Again, I found this connector for PVC pipes in the plumbing department. It basically allows you to connect 2 pipes together by basically tightening a threaded pipe ring. Perfect! So, I basically added a little more joiners to add these connectors to the bars and there you go, you can now take these bars apart at will.

Ok, so fastening all this stuff together will give you something that looks like this and this.

Ok, the basic set is done. It might be a bit unstable so, what I did is grabbed an ordinary piece of cheap plywood and drilled some holes into it. Got some regular bolts, more washers and more eye bolts and used them to secure the drum to a nice wood base. You will need 2 for each side, and that should keep it all sturdy. It should look something like this.

So, here is my drum set up in the store almost ready to go.



Ok, this is the most easiest of all the sections since it is just plugging in wires to the right jacks. However, this could also be the most expensive.

When you look in the manual of Drummania, it says it will take Midi Drums. In the arcade, it says the machine is powered by Yamaha. Ok. this is a big hint. Ok, with a bit of research, I found that Drummania is built using a Yamaha drum set namely the DTX line of drums. Now, if you ever go to a music store like Tom Lee's you will quickly see that a DTX set will easily cost you in the $1000 dollar range.

Ok, before you get scared away, lets look at this a little more closely. First of all, the DTX drum set is made up of the drums, the stand and the processor (oh yea, a twirly stool). Well, ok, we just built the drums and the stand, and well, I am sure I can do without an expensive stool with the Yamaha name on it. So what do we have left? the electronic brain of it all, the DTX drum machine. Now the one used in the arcade machines are basically a Yamaha DTX 2.0 drum machine. It is kinda old, since they came out with the DTXpress, and DTXtreme units since the DTX 2.0 models. All these will work for Drummania. Now, you are asking, why just Yamaha? Why not other names like Roland, Korg or Casio? Yes, you might be able to use those, I will explain lower down what it will need to be in order to be compatiable,

So I went on the most obvious place when looking for obscure junk, EBAY. Sure enough, there are lots of auctions selling these DTX units, most of them are new ones and expensive ones. But patience pays off when I found a DTX 2.0 from a guy from Germany, $200 USD. Hey, it was in great shape, and customs let it right through, probably because they couldn't decipher the customs slip. The only problem with it was it had a German power adapter. No big deal, it is just a simple 12Volt 1200mA negative tip AC power adapter. You can get these at Radio Shack if you are desperate.

Alright, now we got the drum machine. Now, computers usually plug into these machines through MIDI adapters usually through sound cards. But we are dealing with a Playstation 2 which doesn't have ports for sound cards. Instead, what the PS2 will do, is it will take the MIDI input through its USB ports.

Ok so this means we need a USB to MIDI adapter. The one in the Drummania manual SUGGESTS that you use the YAMAHA UX series of MIDI adapters. The UX-16 has 1 set of MIDI ins and outs (16 channels), UX-96 has 2 sets (96 channels) , and the UX-256 has 6 sets (256 channels). You only need the UX-16. Now, I did try the MidiSport USB adapter but this was not compatiable. I don't know why, it just didn't work. Anyway, back on to EBAY looking for the USB adapter, and bingo again, someone was selling a new UX-256. Yea yea yea, total over kill for this project but it was $100 USD, and it was going to end in 2 days time. Fuck it, I want to get this working so I can play!!!



Ok, like the back of your home stereo or VCR/DVD setup, there is a big huge wire trap mess. This will be no different. Lets start with the easy one. The Playstation 2 only has 2 USB ports and they located at the front of the unit. You can plug into anyone of them and they will take a standard USB 1.0 male USB-B plug. On the other end of this, goes into the Yamaha UX256 in the USB port, which is a USB-A plug (marked with a red 2). (ie. you need a USB-A to USB-B cable, duh...)

Ok, now you will need to hook up this Yamaha UX256 MIDI device to the Yahama DTX 2.0 MIDI drum machine, using MIDI cables (..duh....) There is a MIDI OUT and a MIDI IN (marked with a red 3). You will be hooking the MIDI OUT of the UX256 to the MIDI IN on the DTX2.0 and likewise, hooking the MIDI IN of the UX256 to the MIDI OUT on the DTX2.0 (I marked the MIDI IN as a green 3, and MIDI OUT as a green 4).

Now the next part you will have to experiment a bit since some pads are the same for different connectors. You will now plug the 1/4" phone connectors to the the RCA phono connectors on the pads. Again, if you need these cables, they are available at Radio Shack. You can plug the pads to the five jacks as show above, or here is an alternative which also works well.

Ok, boot up your PS2 and you got it.



Ok, the more technical crap. As I commented earlier, I tried the USB MIDISport converter but it didn't work. I am not sure why, I fiddled with settings here and there but I couldn't get it work so I returned it. I got the Yamaha unit, plugged it in and it was already working.

As to the other concern, can you use another drum machine? Yes. maybe. The DTX 2.0 needs to be set to a MIDI program. Fortunately, there are lots of pre-configured one already in the memory of the DTX. The one the manual says to go to and use is number 56, which is refered to on the manual as "GENERAL MIDI Standard 1". Now, I am sure most of the other drum machines out there probably also have built in MIDI programs in memory. The trick is to figure out which one is the same or close enough to being the same as the DTX's specs as shown in the picture. So, if you are out there, start with one and just go through experimenting. It might take a while so have at it...



Yea, you are right. I usually play Autobass in the arcade so I don't use the foot all that much. But yes, you can get just about anything thing that switches to be a foot pedal, tape recorder switch, piano or organ pedals. Now, I wanted the real feel of a foot pedal so, that is what I did, I got a real drum foot pedal. I went back on EBAY and searched for an old used but still working foot pedal. Found an old Singer one for $10 USD.

Now, I didn't fully hook this up since I don't really use foot anyway but I am sure you can figure out how to wire this to the DTX. I think the best way is to use metal foil to wrap around the hammer and some wood to build a whack plate and some wire to connect and make the connector.


Well, I hope this information helps you out with your project. If you need additional assistance or pictures or explanations, feel free to email me and I will see what I can do to help.

Good luck with your project and drum on....