While not difficult, it will probably take you about 15 minutes or so to install the Strum Fix Plus. There is also a YouTube video showing the procedure. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
Small Phillips screwdriver - you can use an electric screwdriver/drill, but be very careful when tightening any screws or you could strip the plastic.
Small flat-bladed screwdriver - for tightening the wires to the Strum Fix.
Wire cutters (or scissors) - for cutting the old strummer wires.
Wire strippers (or a knife) - for attaching the wires to the Strum Fix.
Step 1 - Remove back of guitar
Place the guitar on a flat surface, face side down. You may want to put a cushion or pillow underneath it to stabilize it, since the whammy bar sticks out and can get in the way. I recommend keeping the strap attached as it will lessen the chance of losing the strap mounting posts.
Using a Phillips screwdriver (the one with an end shaped like a “X”), carefully unscrew (by turning counter-clockwise) all the screws around the outside edge of the guitar body as well as the 4 screws by the neck (these 4 are pretty long). On most guitars, there are 16 screws, but some guitar models may have only 14, and others have only 10. The screws may be different lengths, so if you remove them from their holes, try to keep track of which screw goes where, although don't worry too much, it's not that big a deal as you can pretty easily figure which screw fits where.
Once all the screws are loose, carefully lift the back cover off the guitar – you may have wiggle it a bit to get all the screws to let go. Typically one or two screws will “hang on” and not let you remove the cover – try using your screwdriver to unscrew each screw a little bit while lifting the back cover, once all the screws are loose, the two halves of the guitar should come apart easily. You should NOT have to use force to get the guitar apart.
NOTE: if you have a newer Rock Band 4 guitar, and are having trouble getting the guitar apart read this:
Newer guitars may have two screws 'hidden' underneath the pick guard which have to be removed before you can separate the two halves of the guitar body. Follow these steps to remove the screws:
- Remove all 11 of the small silver screws on the face of the pick guard.
- Gently lift up on the pick guard (the effects switch prevents you from removing it completely) to expose the 2 screws underneath. Remove these screws and you should now be able to separate the guitar body halves.
You can also refer to the procedure "Mad Catz Rock Band 4 Wireless Fender Strum Bar Replacement" at iFixIt.com for some helpful tips on disassembling the guitar.
WIRELESS GUITARS: If you have a wireless guitar, then there is a wire which goes from the battery compartment on the back cover to a circuit board – be careful not to yank on this wire! You can leave the wire attached and set the back cover down nearby, or detach the wire from the circuit board by pulling gently on the connector where it attaches to the “motherboard”. If you do remove it, note the orientation of the wires. You will need to replace the connector exactly as it was – you may want to take a photo of it before you remove it.
Step 2 - Remove Old Strummer
Before installing the Strum Fix Plus you need to remove the original strummer assembly. There are many variations of Rock Band guitar strummers (at least 4 different versions have been produced, commonly referred to as “generation” 1 thru 4), but the procedure for removing them is the same. Look at the photos below for the one that most closely matches your guitar and remove the screws as shown. Keep the screws – you will need some of them later to install the Strum Fix Plus.
Some guitars may not have all the screws shown in the photos. After the screws are removed, carefully lift the old strummer assembly up out of the guitar – the wires to the old strum switches will still be attached, so just place the old strummer next the hole where it used to be (see photo to the right) as we check-fit the Strum Fix Plus.
Step 3 (Optional) - Check-fit the Strum Fix Plus
Most people can skip this step if they want, but if you have any doubts about whether the Strum Fix Plus is going to fit now's the time to try it out.
Place the Strum Fix Plus in the guitar and make sure that the four holes in the circuit board line up with the four pegs on the guitar body. If everything fits okay, then proceed with the next step. If there are problems, make sure you have removed all of the old strummer assembly – some pieces may be “hot glued” in place and require that you carefully pry them out.
Step 4 - Cut Wires to the Old Switches
This is where we violate the warranty on the guitar! It feels great, doesn't it? You are now a “hacker” (the good kind).
Carefully cut the wires to the old switches – cut them off fairly close to the old switches so the remaining wire is as long as possible. There are many different types of switches that have been used in the Rock Band guitars (see the photo below for an example). Be careful you only cut the wires that go to the switches on the strummer and don't accidentally cut something else!
Once you have cut the wires, you can set the old strummer assembly aside, you don't need it anymore!
Step 5 - Prepare the Wires
Next strip the insulation off the loose ends of the wires you just cut. You need to remove the insulation from approximately the last ¼ inch (or about 5mm). If you don't have wire strippers, use a slightly dull knife to lightly score the insulation and pull it off (you want to cut just the insulation and not the wires). It's a good idea to twist the ends of each wire a little so there are no loose strands of wire sticking out. If you have a soldering iron, it's not a bad idea to lightly solder (called 'tinning') the ends of the wires, but this is definitely NOT required.
Step 6 - Connect wires to the Strum Fix Plus
Connect the wires to the Strum Fix Plus circuit board by inserting the wires into the connectors and secure them by tightening the screws. Do not over tighten the screws on the wire connectors – they just need to be snug, not gorilla-proof! You may need to use a small flat-bladed “jewelers” or “eyeglass” screwdriver, as the screws are small. Make sure that the “UP” wires go the the “UP” connector, and do the same for the “DOWN” (unless you like to play standing on your head, in which case, go ahead and swap them). It doesn't matter which slot you put a wire into on a given connector.
Try pulling gently on the wires to make sure they are securely connected – it's better to find a loose connection now, rather than after it is all installed.
Step 7 - Secure the Strum Fix Plus in Place
Install four screws (one in each corner) of the circuit board. Use the screws you took out in Step 3 (you did keep them, right?). Do NOT over-tighten the screws or you may strip the plastic. It's tempting to use an electric screwdriver, but I really don't recommend it, especially for this step. The screws just need to be snug. On some guitars, the plastic may have already been stripped when the guitar was assembled at the factory, so don't worry too much – as long as at least two of the four screws are holding (one on each end), the strummer should work fine. (I have some guitars that I've been using like this for years). You can usually fix a stripped screw by putting a little plastic glue (super glue works too) on the screw and then inserting it all the way into its hole - you may need to hold it in while the glue sets.
Step 8 - Replace the back cover
Reverse the steps you did when taking the guitar apart. Take your time on this step - there are a lot of screws!
WIRELESS GUITARS - don't forget to re-attach the wires for the batteries (if you disconnected them) before re-assembling the guitar!
- Make sure the guitar strap mounting posts are in place and then carefully realign the back cover on the guitar.
- You may need to wiggle some of the screws to get them to go into their holes. Be patient and don't force anything. When everything is properly aligned the two halves should fit together easily.
- Next, gently tighten the screws, being careful to not strip the plastic. A useful trick is to first turn the screw counter-clockwise about a half turn to get it properly seated, and then go ahead and turn it clockwise to tighten it. I recommend that you DO NOT use an electric screwdriver, as it will strip the plastic very easily!
Step 9 - Rock Out!
Connect the guitar to your game console and rock out! It may take a while for you to get used to the new feel of the strum bar. It takes very little force to activate the switches and you should be able to play with a very light touch on the strum bar. If the strum bar is not working, then there is probably a wire which is not connected properly – remove the back cover and double-check the connections. You may have to strip the ends of the wire a little bit more. If the UP and DOWN are reversed you will need to swap the wires (or you can select the 'left-handed' guitar option in some games to effectively reverse the up and down strum).