I've seen a couple of articles that talk about the guitar controllers for Rock Band 3.

Option 1 (the Mustang): A plastic controller in the style of the current controllers, but with buttons for every string and fret (egad!)

Option 2 (the Squire): A real electric guitar that has been designed specifically to work with the game...so it has some modifications that make it slightly different than a normal electric guitar. (a "mute" pad, to muffle the strings during gameplay, an xbox gamepad, and maybe some other things. It sounds like this guitar is a Midi guitar.

An earlier article I read seemed to indicate that a normal electric guitar would also work, so long as a $40 "modification kit" was purchased. But I haven't seen mention of this in a while.

My question is will a "normal" electric guitar work with Rock Band 3? If this mysterious "modification kit" is purchased? How about a Midi electric?

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    Well they haven't really released any definitive information on these topics, which means nearly any answer would be speculation. So while I feel you pain (I want the Squire!!!), I think we should be careful with these questions
    – Ivo Flipse
    Aug 31, 2010 at 13:53
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    As Ivo said nothing is 100% yet. But i do remember some videos about them talking about the Squire, and they mentioned that the neck had all the sensors in it for the game, to know where your fingers where for Pro mode. Also there is a midi box that comes along with the big party pack, so feasibly as long as your regular guitar was in tune, you could run it thru the midi box to play.
    – jblaske
    Aug 31, 2010 at 13:58
  • Wow, this is the first I've heard of this. If this happens I will be one happy dude!
    – Corv1nus
    Aug 31, 2010 at 14:07
  • Well, I know nothing is 100% until it actually ships...but since they're at the point of showing off the equipment and describing how it works, and the game is supposed to ship in less than 2 months, I think it's unlikely that they'll go through a major device redesign at this point. Still, the point is well taken.
    – Beska
    Aug 31, 2010 at 19:57
  • If the option 2 comes true, Jimmy page was right when he said that people should learn to play real guitar instead of playing video games. But he seems to change his mind :-) plasticaxe.com/2010/01/21/…
    – Luc M
    Sep 2, 2010 at 0:25

2 Answers 2


No, only the Squier (and other MIDI-guitars) will work.

From Game Informer, Issue 209 (pg 32):

"Due to technology in the neck the Squier does not need to be re-tuned to alternate tunings," Baker assures us. "No capos are needed to play the game." ... Baker says you don't need to be in tune to play the game.


"The Rock Band 3 Squier Stratocaster uses technology built into the neck and fingerboard of the guitar to track finger positions in real time," explains Baker. As a player holds down a particular fret and string, the onscreen display will show that note and string, giving players feedback on correct finger placement even before the note is picked.

What all this means is the game tracks where your fingers are and when you pluck, not the sound the guitar makes.

It's theoretically possible that an accessory could be made to play the game using only the sounds made by a guitar, but doing this is notoriously difficult (and impossible in truly real-time - see this page and @Jeffrey's comment below), and would likely be very inaccurate and frustrating.

I've looked all over for the converter mentioned by @jblaske in the comments above, but can't find anything. He is probably thinking of the Rock Band 3 MIDI Pro Adapter, used to play Rock Band 3 with midi-keyboards and midi-guitars (not the same as electric guitars!).

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    There is a major technical hurdle that has to be overcome for anything to detect the "sound" of the strings - the low frequency of sound wavelengths. Middle C has a wavelength around 250 Hz. Therefore, it will take at least .04 seconds to simply register for a full cycle read. Other notes will take even longer - up to a few tenths of a second. In addition to increased levels of lag, notes that were played together will not be fully recognized at the same time. It may be accomplished one day, but this is a very hard problem to solve, and I imagine very unlikely to just come out with RockBand 3
    – Jeffrey
    Aug 31, 2010 at 15:18
  • @BlueRaja / @Jeffrey: Well, this is the kind of thing I was sort of expecting...except wouldn't a Midi type guitar have the same kinds of issues? How is that handled?
    – Beska
    Aug 31, 2010 at 19:55
  • @BlueRaja: "They've stated that the guitar has sensors in the neck": I remember something about this...but I'm wondering if that's how Midi guitars generally work, since this is supposedly a Midi guitar...blah. Guess this is a lot of speculation.
    – Beska
    Aug 31, 2010 at 19:59
  • @Beska I'm not exactly sure how a "Midi guitar" works, but I imagine that it since "MIDI" is a digital format, it has an electronic way to transmit the data (any sound it produces is simply an effect for the player) from the controller to the end-device. Totally talking out of my rump, though.
    – Jeffrey
    Aug 31, 2010 at 20:32
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    @BlueRaja: Oh, I knew that! I suspected that when I wrote the original question, but wasn't sure...and since then they've announced that the guitar outputs MIDI. I guess I didn't make that clear. I meant more "is there a subset of MIDI electric guitars that will work with the game", rather than "will the average electric guitar work with the game." The recent modification to your answer is perfect. Thanks!
    – Beska
    Dec 2, 2010 at 21:24

Extremely unlikely, unless your guitar has a MIDI port, which means one of 2 things: your guitar is an electronic (not electric) guitar, which is almost universally synonymous with cheap and crappy, or it's an electric guitar with a MIDI port, which usually means it's really, really, expensive. Guitar synth covers both types. Some members of the former were quite good, but also quite expensive, but the opposite also applied to the latter.

To the best of my knowledge, straight up electric guitars will not work with RB3. However the guitar controller for RB3 is one of the best affordable electronic guitars ever made.

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    "However the guitar controller for RB3 is one of the best affordable electronic guitars ever made." - How do you know that? Sep 2, 2010 at 19:51
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    Honestly, I heard it in a press demo from one of Harmonix's people, so take with the requisite amount of salt. Madcatz, who are making all (or at least most) of the official peripherals, do a pretty good job to begin with, though.
    – MBraedley
    Sep 8, 2010 at 0:45

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