Friday, October 24, 2008

Guitar Zeros show gamers how to hack toy axes Controller Freak
Guitar Zeros show gamers how to hack toy axes

Chad Sapieha, today at 11:33 AM EDT

The cover story of the latest issue of popular do-it-yourself magazine Make features the Guitar Zeros, a California-based band the bassist and lead guitarist of which use hacked Guitar Hero axes rather than traditional guitars to make music.

Owen Grace, who plays “lead controller,” was so obsessed with Activision's music game that he decided to plug his plastic instrument into his laptop and start writing software that would allow him to use the controller's five fret buttons, strummer, whammy bar, and motion sensitivity to play and dynamically modify the sound of 32 distinct notes.

He set his friend up with a hacked bass controller, recruited a drummer and a vocalist, and suddenly the Guitar Zeros had been formed. They've played dozens of gigs across the U.S., as well as a few in Canada, the U.K., and Australia.

The video below, produced by online magazine Current, includes interviews with several band members and shows a few snippets of a Guitar Zeros performance. (The atonal melodies and abrasive vocals aren't really my bag, but different strokes...)

These guys have been doing this for a couple of years now, so they've got the toy-to-instrument transformation process down to an art. The Make magazine article provides detailed information on just how they do it.

But it's not the only way to learn the band's secrets.

Fans can also check out the Guitar Zeros' online Zero Guide, which provides step-by-step instructions on how to hack a Guitar Hero axe, as well as a link to a free download of Grace's open source software.

It might also be worth keeping an eye on the band's website over the coming months. With Guitar Hero: World Tour set to release on Sunday, Grace will finally have a new instrument into which to sink his nerdy teeth—the game comes with a toy drum kit. Xtian, Guitar Zeros' percussionist, may soon find himself trading in his authentic skins for a trio of plastic pads.

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