Build the Controller
1. Start deconstructing the gamepad by unscrewing all the screws in the back. They almost always
hide a screw under a sticker, so take off all stickers,
warnings, and cautionary tales.
them all in the same direction. Being consistent will
help later if you need to troubleshoot or want to
transplant the electronics into a new controller.
6. For the gamepad’s Start button, follow the same
procedure: follow its 2 traces to their solder points,
2. Open the back (Figure A, next page) and unscrew and wire them to your momentary switch.
any screws that hold the PCB (printed circuit
board) in place. Carefully pull the board out of the
housing, along with all other parts. This board will
be your best friend and your worst enemy during
3. Let’s get to work. Find the contact area for
each button on the board, and follow its printed
traces back to the button’s leads (soldered contact
points). Each button has 2 contact points. Draw
a map or write down the locations of each pair
7. Next let’s solder our potentiometers (Figure C).
Each has 3 connections: 2 sides and a wiper, which
is usually in the middle. Notice the orientation of
the potentiometers in the controller, and follow the
same order for the solder points on your potentiometers. You can test the leads with a multimeter
measuring ohms or by plugging the controller into
a computer and running a Max test patch available
at makezine.com/15/gamepad, but do not solder
the controller while it’s plugged in.
4. Now we’ll replace each button with a switch by
connecting it to the button’s contact points. Cut
5" lengths of hookup wire, strip and tin the ends,
and use the soldering iron to tack them down to
the button contacts on the board. Applying solder
directly to the board will probably cause a mess.
The contact points are small, so it helps to have a
fine tip on your soldering iron.
5. Connect the switches to the wires (Figure C).
I used 3-pin (double-throw) toggle switches, soldering one wire to the middle pin and the other to
either of the outside pins, but 2-pin (single-throw)
switches work just as well. Either way, it helps to
solder all the switches at the same time and orient
8. Wire the LEDs. My WingMan gamepad had 3
LEDs, 1 constantly on when powered, and the other
2 switched back and forth by the controller’s Select
button. These are not necessary for your music
controller’s functionality, but they look cool and will
help when you’re playing a live gig and the light is
low. I substituted my own LEDs, connecting them
in the same manner as the switches: trace, test,
and then solder. Again, tin the wires first and hot-tack them down rather than applying solder to the
9. You now have new appendages on the old brain,
so plug the controller into a computer and test the
new switches and pots to make sure everything still
works. Also confirm that the connections are solid.