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How To Make Rock Band 3 Custom Drums

Updated on September 12, 2013

Rock Band Expert Drums "Texas In July - Cry Wolf"

The Breakdown

I'm going to be forward about this from the start. This is going to be a personable article because I'm not a writing robot. I've been playing the Rock Band drums for nearly 5 years and have been dedicated to it ever since. I've spilled hundreds, or maybe even thousands on Rock Band. To nutshell it, i was at what seemed like the end of the rope before i learned how to make custom songs. I wanted someone there every step of the way to teach me how to do just enough to play what i wanted. I want to try to be that person for anyone who is in my old pair of shoes. I'll break it down the best way i can.

What You'll Need

To keep things simple, you will need some things. I have provided almost all of those things in the download to the right.
Cockos Reaper is a Digital Audio Workstation program that can import any audio and MIDI, synthesize, sample, compose, arrange, edit, mix, and master songs or any other audio projects. But its also the program you will use to do all of the authoring for your custom Rock Band song. The picture i have below is Reaper in an active project that is set up optimally for authoring the drums. I'll get into all the details about that program when you're there. Once you have Reaper installed, you'll need RBN Tools installed. This gives you all the plugins for Reaper to author Rock Band songs since its not designed specifically for Rock Band. The last preparation is your Template. Its mostly self explanatory, but since your beginning, you wouldn't know any better without it, so I have one provided for you. Also a little stick smack to save as part of your template when Reaper asks for it-If it does (it may detect the default stick smack). Just put these two files somewhere with Reaper so you know where it is.

Rock Band 3 Reaper Template

This is what your template should look like once everything is installed. Now we can get to work. Lets do it as simple as possible.


Getting a FLAC

I recommend buying your albums and ripping the FLAC yourself. Below i have a link to a guide for doing just that! With the wonderful program, EAC! Just follow through the installation guide, and go all the way through the set up guide. You have to set up EAC correctly, or you wont get 100% Flacs.

Pick Your Song

I think it goes without saying that you should start simple. Its going to help if you choose a newer song that is better mixed so you can hear the instruments better. Its also going to make the audio file look much cleaner.
Once you've picked your song, I recommend getting a FLAC, so buy your music albums! I could write a new article about audio codec and ripping a 100% FLAC, but I'm going to go ahead and force you to figure that part out yourself.
Now that you have the FLAC of the song you want, its time to simply drag and drop it into REAPER at 3.1

3.1 Is the First of The Third

Each number is a beat and the decimal is the measure. Depending on your time signature set (default is 4/4), you have different measures. Usually songs are 4/4, and from what I've experienced, you are good to keep it that way with most songs, however, if you know time signatures, you're a better man than me.
Anyway, if you don't know what time signatures are, simply put, its what deciphers up beats and down beats. 4/4 is essentially..... 1,2,3,4-1,2,3,4-1,2,3,4.
And this fits right into your next step.

All 8 BPM Tool


Determine The Beats Per Minute

I like to use All8 to figure out my BPM with every song i do. Generally, the BPM is easily decided by the hi hat, crash, or ride cymbal. Its constant in a lot of songs, and is easy to follow. So hit the spacebar as the song plays to figure out the BPM.
You may or may not have the greatest timing. Some songs have BPMs that are something like 165.65 or 176.7, but for the most part, if your hitting 174 or 176, its probably 175. So lets check. Im going to do a song with you, so you have something to go by to directly relate.

Breakdown Of Sanity - Deadline

Breakdown of Sanity - Mirrors (2011)

Set and Place

Okay, so In my tracks, i put "Deadline" by "Breakdown Of Sanity". I play the song for a little bit and determined that BPM is either 110 or 220. This is something you will get better at judging as you progress. Basically, I'm being reasonable. The song is very fast paced, so I'm choosing 220 BPM (even though 110 will fit perfect as well).

The next thing i did was click at 3.1 with snap enabled (top left toolbar) and set the BPM to 220(bottom right).
Then i turned off snap and dragged the audio so that the line of the first beat (3.1) is JUST at the first transient. The best way to explain what a transient is, is to simply look at the picture right where the line is and notice the detail. There is a spike in the audio (It is a bass pedal)

Now ill look at the song a little ways down the road. Are the measure line all just as well placed in front of the transients throughout the song? If not, maybe the bpm is funky and you'd have to change this bpm to 219.5 or something (but its not). Just keep it in mind for the next song you do!

Keep in mind what i said about the Time signature. A song may not start off at 1. Sometimes you may have to start at 4.1 because a song could very well go.....3,4-1,2,3,4, etc.
If you can decipher that 1, drag that particular transient to 4.1 because reaper does not like the audio to start before 2 seconds. This song came VERY close to being placed at 4.1, as you can see its almost at 2 seconds or 2.1.


This is going to be a big focus. Most drum tabs on the internet are WRONG. I don't quite know why, but, you're pretty much left in the dirt. So since you're charting by ear, it really helps to use the audio file as your guide. Just keep in mind that the transients being on beat is your entire guide.
Lets carry on, then. Now that your BPM is set to 125, listen to the whole song. Turn on metronome if it helps (top left toolbar).

First BPM Change

Notice at 43.1, the bpm of the song changes, and the transients no long follow the measures. In this situation, what I did was stop and check what the bpm is again, and when i plugged it in, it was wrong (at 190), and that's because the BPM changes twice! So i played with the BPM change at 43.1 until the measures line up. Turned out the BPM changes to 209 for a full beat, and then changes to 190 at 44.1.
Then at 60.1, there was a breakdown, so I halved the BPM. You don't really have to do that, but it makes more sense. (Keep in mind if you want to keep up with the bolded information below, you need to halve the BPM as well)

You can figure the rest of the song out, but just to be helpful I'll say in order what BPM changes there are.
68.1 is 220
92.1 is 140
116.1 is 220
184.1 is 110

Hold shift and scroll left and right
Hold control and scroll to zoom in and out

That or click the + and - buttons every time. Its your call.

To start authoring the drums, double-click the "Part Drums" track.
When i chart, i dock the editor to the bottom, but you can do it however you want to. If you do want to do that, click the little "down arrow" on the top left of the editor you just opened. And what i do next is zoom in so i can only see Expert green, blue, yellow, red, and kick. After you've understood that, you're kind of on your own for a long while. Just keep the basics in mind, even though they are the main struggle.

Red - can only be snare
Yellow - is generally for closed hi hats, but also open hi hats
Blue - Is for ride cymbals, splash cymbals, and crash cymbals
Green - is for crash cymbals

And as far as toms go, yellow is the highest pitch, blue is medium, and green is lowest pitch.

If you get any more technical of a song than those cymbals, you'll have to implement some educated opinion on it. Trust me when i say that that is the most frustrating part, is deciding what cymbals go where.

And don't forget! All notes go on beat (for the most part). Make sure everything is perfectly spaced, and your crash cymbals are on the first measures of beats. If that's impossible, because there are 3 bass pedals per measure, change the grid from 1/32 to 1/32T.
The picture below shows an example

VSTI Visuals

See What You Chart

single-click the drum track to select it, and click
View>FX Browser>VSTi>double-click VSTi: RBN Preview (RBN)
Then click the VSTi preview and make sure the "Mode" is set to STD Drums. You should see everything you need to!

Star Power

This is hard to learn, but easy once you've grasped it. Overdrive is put every 10 beats, so you'd put it at 4, then 14, then 24, and so on. Its not written in stone though, its just an estimate. You decide how long the overdrive is and around where to put it as well.

When there is a break in the song, put the next overdrive up the same amount of beats the break was. So if the drums stop for 4 beats, instead of putting the overdrive at 24, put it at 28 or so.

The order i do star power in is depending on the simplicity of the song. Usually, i put my first overdrive towards the beginning of the chart, and then i look for the first drum fill in the song. I pick that as my spot to add my drum fill. it looks like that v-down there-v. There's overdrive there too!

It's hard to say exactly how long to make star power, and exactly where to put it, but, its more often predictable than not. Normally a faster song like 220 bpm and up, a full beat is goo for a drum fill, but its ALL about the feel when YOU are drumming, since its more of an arcade feature than it is a logical one.
My suggestion is to have drum fills that are half a beat, for the most part (I have 3/4 of a beat in this picture).

Once the drum fill is decided and placed, normally, they are always 4 measures apart, so if you copy/pasted your drum fill for every 4 beats, you would more than likely, be on a drum fill almost every time you place one. One of the BIGGEST things about choosing where to put one is to make sure that it ends on a crash cymbal at the end/star of a beat. It always feels the best when you're playing.

Last Little Details

Drum fills have to be at least 2.5 seconds apart
There cannot be any more overdrive after the last drum fill
Don't put a drum fill within probably the last 5 beats of the song

And whether you want to chart Easy, Medium, or Hard is up to you, but it has to be filled out for Magma to accept it.
So if you don't want to chart it, copy and past your whole expert chart in easy, medium, and hard.

Your Last Moments In Reaper

Make sure snap is turned on and cut the audio track short to any beat. Then drag your other tracks to the same spot, except for "Events"

Events is where your going next. Double click the track and scroll back, in the song until you see red ticks labeled [music end] and [end].

Double-click the ticks and change the position to the end of all the tracks (besides events). Mine was 193.1, as you can see in the prior picture. Now you can close Events.

Now double-click the "Beats" track. Scroll back to about the measure you found the red ticks. The easiest way to do this is to copy the all the beats. So select a whole bunch of them, and then paste it so it still follows the pattern. If you overshot, just drag the track back to where you initially put it.

You're Done!

Just Render and export project MIDI. They are both under File on the top left. Those need to look just like v-This-v


and THIS

Put It All Together With Magma

Get yourself Magma, and prepare to finish it all up! You'll need the "PART DRUMS - rb temp_mid render 16bit" as well. Ill explain all this with pictures, as its pretty simple.

Just keep in mind that what you name the "Build to" needs to be one word, and not more than, im guessing somewhere around 13 characters.

In the section labeled "Drum Kit", put the PART DRUMS - rb temp_mid render 16bit. Set the stereo from 3.0 to 0.0
In the section labeled "Backing", put the wav that you rendered in Reaper. Set the stereo from 3.0 to 0.0

The "Start Preview" is self explanatory. Go back into Reaper, and choose the second you want to start the song preview you hear in the song selection screen in Rock Band.

In the section labeled "MIDI", put the MIDI you exported.
Continue filling it all out.

Make sure you save it, and finally hit Build.
If you have done everything right, You made the song!
Otherwise, Magma is very specific about the errors that were made. If you DID do something wrong, ITS NOT ON ME, but uhh... I am nice enough to help. I'll have contact links somewhere around this Hub Page, wherever i feel necessary.

The product of your Magma build is an RBA. To put that on your flashdrive to pay it, you need to extract the rb3con from it.

Get RB3 Maker and execute it
Put the RBA in an empty folder
File>open folder
It should create a bunch of files. All you need is the rb3con.

What to do with the rb3con is covered in the Install Guide.

Recorded Play-through of a Song by Dreamshade


If you plan to record your songs in game, i strongly suggest a capture care that you don't need to plug into the PC.


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