The latest “meme” game to conquer the world is Trombone Champion, a rhythm title over the giant brass whistle holder. The addictive free-form gameplay, in which a mouse is all you need to fully simulate toot-toot, is perfectly balanced with some fun and sometimes even true stories about trombone history. But playing unlicensed trombone music on a mouse lacks a certain authenticity… which is why the most dedicated musicians are turning real trombones into game controllers.
As reported by PCGamer, there are at least a handful of gamers who have sought maximum realism by mapping game controls to real instruments or making Guitar Herostyle approximations for a more authentic glide experience. Twitter user Dan Lew simply hooked up the game’s controller to a PC microphone, playing a real trombone in his room and having the game’s control scheme match the tone and activate when the sound was playing.
Here it looks like the game’s designers sacrificed a bit of realism to play recognizable music. Twitch streamer Kupobucks finds top record of Trombone Championis nearly impossible to get right, as real trombones rarely go more than an octave above middle C, and (jokingly) asks the game’s developers to come up with a “professional mode” to transpose the game’s music more realistically.
Rudeism, a staple name in the highly specific world of wacky custom game controls, also gave it a go. Your version uses an ultrasonic sensor and microphone to map an actual trombone slide and audible notes to game controls, which should eliminate lag and create more consistent motion.
But it’s not ideal, because the system can only use a little less than half of the actual trombone’s total range of motion, and therefore its actual musical range. It’s also worth pointing out that Rudeism is having a very difficult time actually keeping up with the notes the game shoots at the player. This is likely a combination of factors: First, you would need to be a real, skilled trombonist to accurately reproduce the notes the game simulates without going into hypoxia. And two, the music featured in the game is written more in a straightforward melody trumpet style, not the usual tenor-baritone role that real trombones are typically used in orchestra and jazz music.
That doesn’t stop many other players from trying. The ever-popular Arduino is a good place to start: Greig Stewart has created a tiny simulacrum trombone out of a kazoo and only needs a range-sensing camera and a microphone to gain input into the game. As a bonus, the sound of a kazoo is perhaps more thematically appropriate for the ever-present nonsense of Trombone Championstyle of.
Real trombonist (not trombonist) Hung Truong may have solved some of the game’s transposition problems by using a soprano trombone, with a musical key and range closer to a trumpet. He used an ESP32 microcontroller, an air pressure sensor and a distance sensor to put together a system that combines some of the above techniques. The air pressure sensor is actually inside the bell of the trombone!
For a technical breakdown of their process in music and computer science terms, check out the full video above. His technique probably combines the most realism with the most musically accurate scale of all these attempts, but it’s clearly difficult, even for a real musician, to maintain stable pitch control. He is working on a second version with more accurate sensors.
You can replicate pretty much all of the above systems thanks to guides and instructions from these DIY makers like Github repositories for mic input. Of course, buying a $500 instrument and a bunch of custom components to play a meme game might not be the smartest use of your disposable income.