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Chiptune Basics

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So I've seen some threads on here that sort of skirt this issue, but I'm looking to make a chiptune based on one of my own arrangements so that it can be included in an 8-bit video game of sorts.

I read all these things about trackers, etc - is that really even necessary? Can I just use samples and program it into a DAW like normal music (in which case, is there a good repository of chiptunelike samples)? I would like to experiment, but I don't really feel like learning a whole new area of production with trackers and other programs with which I am not familiar, particularly when I'm still a neophyte in the non-chiptune realm.

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It is my understanding that employers who use chip music in their games will often require trackers because their programs inplement the raw tracker files to work.

I find this particularly frustrating because trackers are overly difficult pieces of crap whose influence is buoyed primarily by elitist cockgobblers unable to process that anything other the most hardcore method of making that music is worth even the slightest acknowledgement.

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I use LSDj because I am more knowledgeable in how it works compared to any VSTs in FL Studio. That said, I can only use 4 channels, one limited to static noise, so there are pluses and minuses. Learning LSDj was a huge experience and it took me a couple years to get how to make something sound okay, but once you learn it, it's pretty good and low maintenance.

edit: FamiTracker is the same deal but has a few different rules.

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I find this particularly frustrating because trackers are overly difficult pieces of crap whose influence is buoyed primarily by elitist cockgobblers unable to process that anything other the most hardcore method of making that music is worth even the slightest acknowledgement.

I kind of got this impression as I was searching the web for how to do chiptunes. I get the nostalgia thing about using antiquated methods to create antiquated music, but I don't use an abacus to solve old math problems.

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When you say it is going to be in an 8-bit game of sorts, do you mean like a NES homebrew? Because if that's the case, better start practicing with Famitracker :P

Otherwise, if it's only supposed to sound 8-bit, you gotta go the fakebit route and impose upon yourself the restrictions of the NES. 2 pulse channels with 12.5% and 25% and basic square wave pulse width, a triangle, a noise channel, and a DPCM. I'm pretty skilled with fakebit sequencing if I do say so myself :P So if you have FL Studio, I can send you .flp files to check out how I emulated fakebit sounds with MIDI sequencing. Otherwise, I can toss some MIDIs of mine your way.

Sequencing it is definitely a skill that takes a little time and practice to acquire.

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Depends on if it's running off of an 8-bit game's engine or not. I'm writing an OST for a game that's all chiptunes, but I'm not into tracking (learned at one point, forgotten it all by now) and his game doesn't require me to. I wrote a fakebit album using nothing but magic 8bit and 3x Osc with custom waveforms sampled directly from the NES, as well as some DPCM drum samples for all the chiptune stuff (though only the first track is 100% NES authentic as far as limitations). The first track emulates the VRC6 chip to spec, and the second very closely does (Ben added a string sample from A Link to the Past, and in some spots it uses 2 noise channels, albeit rarely). It really just depends on how the game is running

If you want those DPCM samples, I'd be happy to send them to you :D

EDIT: Nathan beat me to it, that dangus. Still, the offer for samples stands (and for anyone who wants them)

Also Nathan's description of NES hardware is just the basic 2A03 sound chip, but there are a lot more than that as far as expansions go (check out Xenon Odyssey's album Fountainhead for some good examples of lots of them). Just do a bit of research and figure out what limitations you want to impose on yourself. I personally like VRC6 because I have a bit more breathing room for delay and chorusing (both of which use a full channel because they would need to be hand sequenced if it was in a tracker)

Edited by Phonetic Hero

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I'm not 100% about the game engine. After reading this, I'm going to have to get some more information about the project and get back to you. In the meantime, thanks for the advice and help. I might be taking you up on those sample things. Artistically, I have almost no interest in doing chiptune stuff, but it might be a good skill for me to have.

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Artistically, I have almost no interest in doing chiptune stuff

o:

Does not compute.

buuut yeaaah, just let me know if you need some samples of fakebit writing.

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When you say it is going to be in an 8-bit game of sorts, do you mean like a NES homebrew? Because if that's the case, better start practicing with Famitracker :P

Otherwise, if it's only supposed to sound 8-bit, you gotta go the fakebit route and impose upon yourself the restrictions of the NES. 2 pulse channels with 12.5% and 25% and basic square wave pulse width, a triangle, a noise channel, and a DPCM. I'm pretty skilled with fakebit sequencing if I do say so myself :P So if you have FL Studio, I can send you .flp files to check out how I emulated fakebit sounds with MIDI sequencing. Otherwise, I can toss some MIDIs of mine your way.

Sequencing it is definitely a skill that takes a little time and practice to acquire.

any chance i could score those .flps?

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Unless you're intent on creating authentic chip music compatible with the original hardware, it much more comes down to how you do it rather than what you use. I stick with FLStudio or other DAWs even though I know how to use trackers. Of course, I'd still recommend dabbling in trackers and checking out other works in them to understand the structure of the sequencing, which is much more important to the chiptune style rather than just using raw oscillators.

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any chance i could score those .flps?

Yeeeep. I'll compile some into a .zip later on when I got home. Should be another 5-6 hours.

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I find this particularly frustrating because trackers are overly difficult pieces of crap whose influence is buoyed primarily by elitist cockgobblers unable to process that anything other the most hardcore method of making that music is worth even the slightest acknowledgement.

trackers are actually really simple once you get past the initial intimidation!

that said you can definitely make music with the flavor of chiptunes in whatever DAW you already use. if you aren't actually making a nsf file or whatever you can just emulate the sound through other means like samples or VSTs.

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There's only two good reasons to use trackers: because you want to, or because the product requires it. Tracker files are way smaller than mp3s or oggs, so that's an example for the product reason. There's plenty of single-note modulation options in trackers, which are far from as convenient to pull off in DAWs.

The chippy sound, tho, just comes from simple waveforms and simple but creative processing. Just grab your favorite synth, pick some simple waveforms, turn off/open the filter fully, and start screwing with vibrato, glide, tremolo, and write silly fast arpeggios. Stick to triangle and pulse waves of different width to get something NES-like. Look up the music from other old console and computer chips for what they could do, and do the same.

If what you're after is just the sound, use something that makes sounds. If you need a specific format, you need to use a tracker that uses that format.

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Sometimes it's just easier to use a tracker, believe it or not. Certain effects I feel just lend themselves a bit easier to the tracker format, or at least, the specific tracker used.

Examples:

- Pulse width envelopes. You actually CAN do this with FL's 3xOsc if you layer two of them and cut between them (clever trick that I thought of myself, muahaha), but if you want a note that cycles between 3 different pulse widths or something, that's much easier to do in famitracker than in FL (depends on synth). Of course, you can use something like NES VST, but there's other things, such as:

- Vibrato starting at a specific point in the note. Again, this is possible in something like FL, but I feel like it's just easier in something like famitracker or LSDJ. Also, pitch bends are awesome with FL's built-in 3xOsc, but they don't work like that for most VSTs.

- Sounds that are very specific to the hardware in question. Good luck emulating the LSDJ wave channel synths in FL. There are some good replications out there for like, the NES's noise channel, but I still feel like famitracker is easier to use for this, since you can have a proper pitch/volume/noise freq envelope and everything, and alter it on the fly on whatever row you want. Sure, you could make the sound in famitracker first, and then export it out so you can use it in some non-tracker DAW, but....

That being said, each application has its own advantages and disadvantages. Writing a dual-LSDJ song is really fun and awesome, but takes =forever=...

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Yeeeep. I'll compile some into a .zip later on when I got home. Should be another 5-6 hours.

sweet, thanks! whenever you have time :)

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It's all about the technique and the chip.

For that super popular Ricoh 2A03/SID/Game Boy style: super fast arpeggios instead of chords, simple waveforms, vibrato, gratuitous pitch bends and remember to make use of your ASDR envelopes.

Also c'mon guys, chiptune extends well beyond the NES and Game Boy.

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Oooookkkk, a solid day late on that promise to post some demo .flps, but here I am finally. Can't guarantee how wholly these projects will open, and please forgive the mixing and production value :P Not that they're all that bad, but I've come a long way since all of these were written, I promise, haha. The sequencing is solid, though, and that should get you started on writing fakebit.

And regarding the duty cycling (pulse width modulation) that DDRKirby was talking about earlier, you can automate that with magical8bit's first knobbie. Just avoid the triangle and noise ranges and click all over the place in the square, 12.5% pulse, and 25% pulse ranges to get cool duty cycling. I think I did that in Snow Storm which I included with this .zip.

LINK TO .FLPs

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I would not recommend Magical8bit as a VST solution since it's way too limiting. Nintendo VST lets you edit envelopes similar to Famitracker and lets you switch the duty cycle for the noise, unlike the former plugin.

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I would not recommend Magical8bit as a VST solution since it's way too limiting. Nintendo VST lets you edit envelopes similar to Famitracker and lets you switch the duty cycle for the noise, unlike the former plugin.

Huh. Never heard of this plugin. It looks pretty sweet. Gonna give this one a try. Thanks for the suggestion, man!

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So I've seen some threads on here that sort of skirt this issue, but I'm looking to make a chiptune based on one of my own arrangements so that it can be included in an 8-bit video game of sorts.

I read all these things about trackers, etc - is that really even necessary? Can I just use samples and program it into a DAW like normal music (in which case, is there a good repository of chiptunelike samples)? I would like to experiment, but I don't really feel like learning a whole new area of production with trackers and other programs with which I am not familiar, particularly when I'm still a neophyte in the non-chiptune realm.

Hello, Peach is great and you can write with 0 problems :)

http://tweakbench.com/peach

For drums any drum vst would do the trick with some fx :)

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Bumping this thread for a question:

I've used NES VST and Magical 8 bit some, and they're a heck of a lot easier than Famitracker, but I'm a little anal about my plugins. How much would I gain in getting Plogue Chipsounds over using some of the free plugins out there? Is it worth the cash? Cuz I got cash and a need for excellently sampled chips.

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Bumping this thread for a question:

I've used NES VST and Magical 8 bit some, and they're a heck of a lot easier than Famitracker, but I'm a little anal about my plugins. How much would I gain in getting Plogue Chipsounds over using some of the free plugins out there? Is it worth the cash? Cuz I got cash and a need for excellently sampled chips.

Yeah, it's probably the best VST chip solution, pretty convincing.

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if any of you use Logic Pro, its built in ES1 synth plugin.

end of story.

all chiptune sounds heard in "Timekeeper", my remix of Quartz Quadrant JP for Temporal Duality, were all sounds created using ES1. easy stuff.

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Bumping this thread for a question:

I've used NES VST and Magical 8 bit some, and they're a heck of a lot easier than Famitracker, but I'm a little anal about my plugins. How much would I gain in getting Plogue Chipsounds over using some of the free plugins out there? Is it worth the cash? Cuz I got cash and a need for excellently sampled chips.

I recently got Chipsounds for a game project that I'm working on and I'm loving it. While I do have a Commodore 64, NES, and Gameboy for authentic sounds, the Chipsounds VST handles the job nicely and gives you a wide variety of sounds.

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