Frequently Asked Questions
Why Upgrade to Mechanical Frets?
Common questions about the HobbyCNC Mechanical Fret Upgrade:
- What is the upgrade? Answer: Guitar Hero Fret Board Upgrade to Mechanical Switches
- Why would I consider doing the upgrade? Answer: Guitar Hero Fret Board Upgrade to Mechanical Switches
- How is the upgrade done? Answer: Guitar Hero Fret Switch Upgrade
- Does HobbyCNC do the upgrade? Answer: No. We only supply the boards (with or without switches). There is a guy who does do the upgrades, check our Guitar Hero Resources page.
- What switches do you use? Answer: Kailh low-profile heavy switch, Choc Burnt Orange or Choc Yellow. Both are 70g operating pressure. Feel is identical as far as I can tell. Kailhswitch.com
How do I know what board to buy?
I was shocked to find out that there are (at least) 13 different fret boards, depending on the guitar and the game system. So much for 'standards'. I can also appreciate that it may not be easy to tell one board from another. For instance, the GH-07 and GH-08 look identical, but they ain't. Whereas the GH-03 and GH-04 are electrically identical, but have different sized mounting holes. If you've studied the Selection Guide but you still can't be 100% sure, don't worry - you may have the 14th variation that I haven't seen yet. Here's what to do:
- Take a good, well lit photo of the original fret board from your guitar - I only need one photo of the side of the board with the traces and switch pads on it.
- A good, readable photo of the plate that tells the guitar name, manufacturer, etc.
- Email the photo and a short explanation to firstname.lastname@example.org.
My fret board isn’t on your list.
Well, if there's at least 13 different boards, it's likely there's more. I have to count on the Guitar Hero and RockBand users to send me boards to duplicate/convert. There is simply no way I can purchase all these guitars on all these different systems. I do try to make it worth you while to give me a hand! Here's my deal:
- Photos - the more the better. Send me good, well-lit photos (Figure 1) of :
- The "fret side" of the original-equipment fret board.
- the whole guitar front
- the ID/serial/model number sticker on the back
- Email to email@example.com.
- Guitar Type. Include the name of the guitar.
- Game System. is this guitar for PS2 or 3, # Xbox, Wii?
Do the switches come already on the board?
Yes. The boards ordered with switches, ship with the switches soldered onto the board.
What’s the difference between a GH-07 and GH-08
These boards can look a lot alike. Look at the original fret board from your guitar. Look closely where the cable connects to the PC board. If you see the two little wires pointed to by the red arrows, then you need the GH-08 board. I still can't figure out why all these guitars cant 'play well together' and use the same board!?! .
How do you ship?
- We normally ship USPS First Class Mail, padded envelope. There is no tracking number for 1st Class Mail.
- Optionally, you can select USPS Priority Mail. It's 4x as expensive, but you do get a tracking number.
- I process the orders every day, they usually ship in the next days US mail pick-up. No shipments on Sunday or US Federal Holidays.
- I will get them out the same day if possible.
- USPS 1st class can take from 3-7 days (Domestic) and 1-4 weeks international.
- No promises though, as the USPS has become quite a bit less predictable, especially for international shipments.
How do I modify my fret buttons?
Well, this is the most challenging part of the project. I've received ideas and inputs from several customers and associates. Check out the page Modify Fret Buttons for an excellent tutorial on using a Dremel as well as a list of other ideas. If you have a technique that works, please let me know and send some photos to firstname.lastname@example.org
The connector is numbered backwards
It is not backwards. It does indeed look backwards, but that is because the boards are "backwards" from each other. Check out the page Wiring Details for HobbyCNC Mechanical Fret Buttons and the installation video HobbyCNC Mechanical Fret upgrade, GH 04 install. You can also check out a condensed explanation in my blog post The Pin Numbers Are Backwards (not).
How do I upgrade my frets to mechanical switches?
It's not all that difficult, but some tools and skills are needed
- Soldering iron and solder
- T-10 Torx driver
- The proper HobbyCNC replacement fret board
- Some method to modify the fret buttons
Only some of the buttons work or one button activates two colors.
Sometimes only a few buttons work, sometimes the wrong 'color' is pressed (e.g. press the blue button, but GH thinks the yellow button was pushed), sometimes it's a combination of these issues. There's a few things that can cause this:
- Most Likely: You accidentally flipped-over the ribbon cable. The ribbon cable should the 'same side up' as when you took it off. The only difference is that you feed the wires 'up' from the underside (e.g. the button side) of the board to solder. See a detailed page on Wiring the Guitar Hero Upgrade for lots of details.
- Solder bridge where you soldered on the cable. Don't be embarrassed, it happens to the best of us! You need to look V E R Y C L O S E L Y with good lighting and magnification at where you soldered the wires onto the board. Look on both sides, it is possible for one, very thin wire to not go into the hole and just 'slide sideways' and touch an adjacent wire. Look for anything that might be connecting two adjacent solder points together. This wouldn't be obvious with a voltmeter unless you were specifically looking for shorts. Quickly running your hot soldering iron between the bridged pads (as if it was a knife) will usually do the trick. You can see some good examples here on the All About Circuits website.
- Sort of the opposite of a solder bridge is a cold solder joint. It may look connected, but it ain't. You need to look V E R Y C L O S E L Y with good lighting and magnification at where you soldered the wires onto the board. Usually, re-heating that joint and a touch more solder will fix the problem You can learn more than you ever wanted to know about these on the WellPCB website. I also had an 'explosive' experience with a cold solder joint - see my blog post "Where has all the power gone?"
- You got the wrong board. The damn things look a LOT alike. Don't worry (be happy). Send me a photo of the fret board you took out of your guitar (not the one you bought from me) and I'll double-check it for you. If we determine you ordered the wrong board, I'll send you the right board at no charge, but you've got to promise me to return the 'wrong' board. You get to pay return postage. It's a fair deal.
One or more buttons are stuck “on”
It's most likely that you did not remove enough material from the underside of the fret button. There should be roughly 3 mm of travel when the fret button is pushed. The quick(ish) test:
- Open the guitar neck
- Remove the PC board
- remove the offending fret buttons
- Replace the PC board and screw down
- Put the neck together with rubber bands
- Put it back on the guitar body and test it
Requesting a replacement board
Okay, so you tried everything in the FAQ Only some of the buttons work or one button activates two colors and One or more buttons are stuck “on” and it's still not working? Drop an email to email@example.com. I'll want to confirm you did indeed attempt everything in the two FAQs above. I'll send you a replacement board (US Customers only) with your promise to return the 'bad' board to me for investigation/evaluation. I'll dog you until I get it back. I promise.