Keyboard Hero – Kings of the Keys : A Design Concept for the Guitar Hero Franchise

Keyboard Hero Cover Design - A concept for the Guitar Hero Series by Activision
Keyboard Hero Cover Design - A concept for the Guitar Hero Series by Activision
Keyboard Hero Cover Design – A concept for the Guitar Hero Series by N.Hayter


The phenomenon that is Guitar Hero has taken the world by storm. Since first released in 2005, the franchise has sold over 25 million copies worldwide. Amateur air guitarists have been able to unleash their inner rock gods within the comfort of their own homes. The game expanded to include bass guitar, drums and singing through a microphone.

It’s time for Activision to take it to the next level by introducing a more complex instrument and one that has its roots in classical music. Enter the Piano.

Keyboard Hero Technical Aspects
A typical Piano has 88 keys. I can’t imagine fitting that many options on a musical score sheet on screen, let alone differianting between that many key colours. A scaled down piano would be needed, with enough keys to make it difficult and few enough to have noticable differences in the colour spectrum used for the keys. The sharp keys are 50/50 divided colours of the keys to the immediate left and right of it.

There would be two sets of octaves, covering the ranges of C to B using Octave 1 and Octave 4 (incorporating Middle C). This would allow deeper chords to be played with the left hand simultaneously with the melody on the right hand. So in essence, this is a piano that has been chopped up and conjoined, because Octaves 2 and 3 are missing.

From beginner to expert
The easier modes of play would involve less keys, chords and exclude the sharp notes. The Hard and Expert modes would have difficult chord progressions and two handed playing.

Why a Keyboard and not a Piano?
The instrument of a keyboard was chosen over a piano purely for its marketing appeal. Using a keyboard also takes away the added complexity needed of Piano foot pedals. Keyboards have the benefit of being able to emulate piano sounds as well as other synthesized ranges. This allows for a wider range of songs to form the catalogue.

Keyboard Hero Song Playlist
I’ve put together a list of songs I believe have some of the best piano/keyboard/synth riffs in music. It’s a mix of contemporary songs as well as some classical artists. Well known pianists such as Elton John and Billy Joel feature several times and have enough material to create their own spin off versions as was done with Aerosmith, Metallica, Van Halen (Guitar Hero franchise) and The Beatles, AC/DC (RockBand franchise). However, it remains to be seen whether such artists would have market viability given the target demographics.

Obviously not an exhaustive list, as there can be up to 85 songs on a Guitar Hero game.

Listed alphabetically by song name:

100 Years Five for Fighting
A Thousand Miles Vanessa Carlton
A Whiter Shade Of Pale Procol Harum
Angel Sarah McLachlan
Baba O’Reily (Teenage Wasteland) The Who
Bat Out of Hell Meatloaf
Bennie And The Jets Elton John
Bohemian Rapsody Queen
Boogie Woogie Liberace
Chopsticks Chopin
Clair de lune Debussy
Clocks Coldplay
Do Ya Think I’m Sexy? Rod Stewart
Don’t Stop Believing Journey
Earth Song Michael Jackson
Great Balls of Fire Jerry Lee Lewis
Honky Cat Elton John
House of the Rising Sun The Animals
How to Save a Life The Fray
I Don’t Like Mondays Boomtown Rats
Imagine John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band
Iris Goo Goo Dolls
Jump Van Halen
L.A. Woman The Doors
Lady Madonna The Beatles
Lean on Me Bill Withers
Let It Be The Beatles
Light my Fire The Doors
Mandy Barry Manilow
Moonlight Sonata No. 14 Beethoven
My Immortal Evanescence
No One Alicia Keys
November Rain Guns N Roses
Piano Man Billy Joel
Planet Claire The B-52’s
Poker Face (piano version) Lady Gaga
Scar Missy Higgins
Scenes from an Italian Restaurant Billy Joel
She’s A Rainbow The Rolling Stones
Stairway To Heaven Led Zepplin
Sunburn Muse
Take Five Dave Brubeck Quartet
The End of the Innocence Don Henley
The Entertainer (rag time) Scott Joplin
The Final Countdown Europe
The Way It Is Bruce Hornsby and the Range
This Woman’s Work Kate Bush
Tiny Dancer Elton John
Walking in Memphis Marc Cohn
Werewolves of London Warren Zevon
You Are the Sunshine of my Life Stevie Wonder

What do you think of the sample song list? What songs would you like to see included?

A bit about the game cover design

Keyboard Hero Cover Design - A concept for the Guitar Hero Series by Activision
Keyboard Hero Cover Design by N.Hayter

This was created in Photoshop using standard dimensions of a Wii game case. The font is a Guitar Hero imitation called Nightmare, available for free at dafont.

The font was given a similar grey inner glow effect and black drop shadow. The subtitle ‘Kings of the Keys’ had a subtle gradient overlay applied to it. The background (sourced from was resized to fit dimensions. The keyboard ( was cropped out and then the key colours were hand paint brushed in.

Finally, the Activision and Wii Logo were added as well as the ratings classification tag, for credibility.

The cover was made using my new birthday gift, a Wacom Bamboo graphics tablet. But more about that in another post.

1 Comment

  1. Peter says:

    There is no songs from Nightwish??
    I think that one song from them could come on the game 🙂 they have a lot of keyboard in their songs….and they are also pretty big in Europe and south america

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