Can You Use A Real Guitar In Guitar Hero?

One of the great things Guitar Hero does is allow many people to simulate the guitar-playing experience. Using a simplified controller, they can ‘play’ real songs. You may play Guitar Hero for this exact reason. 

However, suppose you want to move up the difficulty level and play the actual guitar. In this case, can a real guitar be used to play Guitar Hero?

You can play Guitar Hero with an actual guitar. Still, you will need to modify your guitar extensively for this purpose. The modification process may be challenging to many. Using the actual guitar and playing with platforms such as Yousician or Rocksmith may be easier.


In this post, we explore if you can play Guitar Hero with a real guitar. We also look at the process of converting your real guitar to play Guitar Hero, and if there are simpler alternatives.

What Is Guitar Hero?

Guitar Hero is a series of guitar-based electronic music video games. Players press buttons on a guitar-shaped controller to match prompts when playing the game. It is playable on many platforms and consoles and was a wildly popular game in the late 2000s to mid-2010s.

Guitar Hero is a series of guitar-based electronic music video games. Many developers have performed work on the game, such as RedOctane, FreeStyleGames, Neversoft, and more.

Players match their controller buttons with the on-screen prompts and music to play the game. The controller looks like a guitar with a simplified controller system. There are 5 different colored buttons for these prompts. 

As players continue to match the prompts, scores increase. The crowd will get more excited as the game progresses and the players do better. Scores are calculated by seeing how well you play to the prompts. The longer your correct streak is, the more score you get. 

Guitar Hero was extremely popular in the late 2000s and early 2010. In 2009, the Guitar Hero franchise was listed as the third-largest video game franchise, only behind Super Mario and Madden NFL. It was also featured in television shows such as South Park.

Guitar Hero’s popular rival is Rock Band, which focuses more on the social experience. Guitar Hero is currently inactive, with no new development plans. The last edition of Guitar Hero was Guitar Hero Live, released in 2015. It was not popular, with poor reception and sales.

Guitar Hero Controller vs. Real Guitar

Guitar Hero controllers and real guitars are different in many ways. These include sounds, play controls, size, operation, and tuning. These made them used in many different ways.

AspectsGuitar Hero ControllerReal Guitar
PurposeController for Guitar HeroMusic playing
SoundNo soundProduces sound
Play controls5 buttons + Strum lever6 strings + fret boards
OperationRequires powerNo power required

Before we explore playing Guitar Hero with a real guitar, we need to understand how different they are. 


The Guitar Hero controller is created as a custom controller for Guitar Hero. The guitar-shaped controller gives a better-simulated experience when playing the game.

An actual guitar is created to play music, to produce musical sounds. You can play it as a musical instrument independently without connecting it to any video games.


The Guitar Hero controllers do not make musical sounds. This is because they are meant to serve as a controller for the video game. It is not meant to be a standalone musical instrument.

A real guitar can be played independently since it is a musical instrument. You do not need any electronic accompaniment to the instrument to play music.

Play Controls

You get a series of buttons and levers with the Guitar Hero controller. Common Guitar Hero controllers come with 5 buttons on the fret side, each with a color. On the strumming side is a lever you can pull and push up and down. There may be a wah pedal too.

With an actual guitar, you get full control. There are 6 strings, each with its own pitch. These strings are strung over the guitar and the fretboard. Electric guitars come with a pedal and knobs to adjust sound effects.


A Guitar Hero controller is smaller compared to the actual guitar. It is often smaller by at least half. This may make the Guitar Hero controller easier to play with, especially with the smaller player.

An actual guitar can come in various sizes. However, the common guitar sizes are at least double the size of the Guitar Hero controllers.


A Guitar Hero controller must be connected to an electric source. Earlier versions of the controller require a wired connection to the console. Later ones operate wirelessly but need a power source from batteries. 

A real guitar can be played without any power source, acoustic ones at least. Electric guitars can be played without power, although it would not produce a good sound. It needs an amp to amplify the sound, and the amp requires electricity to work.

Can You Use A Real Guitar In Guitar Hero?

You can use a real guitar in Guitar Hero. However, before you celebrate, you must understand this will not be a walk in the park. 

Guitar Hero is originally not designed with an actual guitar in mind. In fact, Guitar Hero wants you to buy its custom controller guitar so that they make more money. This means it does not work with a real guitar. 

However, Alan Chatham rigged a setup to convert an actual guitar to play Guitar Hero. However, the setup is complicated and requires good technical skills in wiring and electronics. 

The setup requires using electronic materials such as custom circuitry, diodes, and wires. You will also need to perform soldering work. 

On top of that, you also will need to take apart an electric guitar and a Guitar Hero controller to harvest parts for this setup.

Not easy, but if you are the type that will not give up, it is doable. This may not be a walk in the park, but it’s not rocket science, either.

How To Convert a Real Guitar For Guitar Hero?

 To convert a real guitar for Guitar Hero:

  • Perform insulation on the guitar pickup
  • Run copper wires to the headstock
  • Attach custom circuit board
  • Modify the enclosure
  • Make a conducting pick

Suppose you want to try playing Guitar Hero with a real guitar. At the same time, you are not intimidated by the conversion process. In this case, you can convert your real guitar for Guitar Hero using the steps below:

Perform Insulation On The Guitar Strings

The first step is to insulate the guitar strings. The setup sends an electric current to the controller, telling which string is played. It then sends the appropriate signal to the controller. 

This means you prevent the controller from getting mixed signals by insulating the strings. 

Star by opening up the cover at the back of the guitar, on the guitar bridge. Remove the strings, and then slip in plastic spacers. Repeat the same process on the strings at the front of the bridge.

Run Copper Wires To Headstock

The next step is to run copper wires to the headstock. This is because you need a place to host your controller circuit board; the headstock is the best place. 

Take copper tape and tape over the fret. Then run the tape over to the headstock individually. Do this for the first 5 frets since you only need 5 ‘control buttons.’

Attach Custom Circuit Board

Here, you can focus on soldering the custom controller. You will need a blank circuit board, diodes, and pins. The schematic drawing of the circuit board can be seen here. When done, you need to program the microcontroller too. 

The code to program the controller can be seen here. You will spend time soldering and assembling the electronic equipment on the board. This will take time, but be patient. 

Connect Microcontroller to Headstock

You must now connect the microcontroller to the copper tape ends on your headstock. To do this, it may be better to have an enclosure or mount that can securely connect the microcontroller to the copper tapes.

Make A Conducting Pick

Finally, you need to make a conducting pick. You can take a pick and then wrap the end of the pick with some copper tape. 

Do understand that the guide here is a simpler explanation of the process. You can check out the full work process here if you wish for a deeper, more complete guide.

Is There A Simpler Way To Play Guitar Hero With Real Guitar?

You can play a real guitar with other game-like music-learning platforms, such as Rocksmith and Yousician. These platforms are designed to work with real guitars and have a playing interface similar to Guitar Hero.

If converting your real guitar to play with Guitar Hero intimidates you, you are not alone. One good thing, however, is that there are better alternatives for you.

Some platforms work with a real guitar. This means you can play songs and music on the platform with a guitar. They may not be as gamified as Guitar Hero, but the interface is similar.


Rocksmith is a music learning platform. The platform is not built purely for entertainment, unlike Guitar Hero. Instead, it focuses on education and tries to help you learn how to build a guitar confidently.

As a result, you use a real guitar to play in Rocksmith. The guitar is connected to your console using a specific cable. The platform also contains lessons that help you start with guitar from the basics.


Yousician is another music instrument learning platform with some similarities to Guitar Hero. It uses a similar interface as Guitar Hero, with prompts dropping from the top to the bottom of the screen.

READ MORE: Is Rocksmith Better Than Yousician?

However, Yousician allows you to learn guitar, bass, ukulele, piano, and keyboard. This means it is much more versatile than Guitar Hero or Rocksmith. 

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