mikurotoro

What is the easiest VGM to transcribe?

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 I want to remix classic BGM from Nintendo,SEGA,Konami,Capcom,etc but before I can do that I have to learn how to transcribe! Can someone with experience transcribing please provide me with a list of the absolute easiest 8,16-bit & N64 VGM to transcribe? Thanks in advance!

Oh & actual music please no fanfares!

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If you're new to this, I'd start with a slow 8 bit song, for the simple reason that with a slower song the notes are generally easier to follow and 8 bit because you typically only have 3 channels max at the same time and the 'instruments' are clear and easier to follow.

Find a slow 8 bit track that you like and open it up in an audio editor so you can loop a part in an easy way, because you will probably learn to listen to the parts a lot initially. Try to play along while it loops until you found the right notes and tempo. Also, start with the bass part because these are typically simpler to follow but give you a clear foundation. And above all, use your ears; if it sounds good it is good.

Sorry for not giving you specific tracks but a general recipe :)

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Agreeing with Jorito-Dorito here. :P

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In terms of basic skills:

Something useful to know would be to recognize what each type of basic harmony sounds like.

For instance, practice identifying how two notes feel when they are 2 semitones apart (a major second, like C,D), 4 semitones apart (a major third, like C,E), 5 semitones apart (a perfect fourth, like C,F), and 7 semitones apart (a perfect fifth, like C,G). Then, maybe try identifying what a minor second (1 semitone apart, like E,F) and minor third (3 semitones apart, like A,C' or C,D#) sound like.

Once you have those down, you should be able to identify most two-note harmonies, which is going to be a key skill to dissect even the most basic bare-bones VGM. If you can identify a minor third, you should find a major sixth to be similar (differing by the octave of the "root note"). If you can identify a perfect fourth, you should find it similar to a perfect fifth (differing by the octave of the "root note").

Some examples of VGM I think would be reasonable for you to transcribe:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUJCpOZIjdo (try focusing on the left and right channels, and the center-panned material individually, and seeing how that works for you. This is in 4/4.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8j2PT7181c (this has some detectable patterns and repeated melodic motion. The only hard part would be the first arpeggio I think. Once you get that down, that melodic motion pattern repeats a lot and can be copy-pasted and transposed around. This is in 6/8.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lamug9E_5OE (just kidding.)

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To be honest, if you're a total n00b at transcribing, you're unlikely to successfully transcribe even a "simple" song in a short amount of time as your sense of relative pitch is yet weak. If you do successfully do it, it will be because of trial and error and memorization rather than truly developing your sense of pitch.

If any suggestion we could give you were "easy" to transcribe, you would already know it. So I would say focus on scales, harmonies, intervals, listening to lots of music and trying here and there to figure out a melody from a song everyone knows and you're very used to hearing - like Jingle Bells. Eventually, as you become more consciously aware of the intervals as you listen to music, you'll be able to play back most of what you hear without too much effort or uncertainty as long you have a reference pitch and a decent recording. 

Even then, "easy" is very subjective. For example, I consider this song easy to figure out by ear, but another guitar player I know couldn't figure it out because the key changes throw him off. Unlike me though, he was able to figure out this guitar solo on pretty much the first go.  

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15 hours ago, mikurotoro said:

 I want to remix classic BGM from Nintendo,SEGA,Konami,Capcom,etc but before I can do that I have to learn how to transcribe! Can someone with experience transcribing please provide me with a list of the absolute easiest 8,16-bit & N64 VGM to transcribe? Thanks in advance!

Well, If you want to learn how to transcribe VGM...well, start transcribing. However, if you want to Remix VGM , Having a good ear for harmonies, tonality, scales and what-have-you will open up possibilities, but learning the song is a better place to start and for that, get the sheet music or the MIDI and just start learning and once you have the original track down, you can start to modify that parts that fit your vision of what you'd like to create. Knowing even some basic Music Theory will greatly improve your ability to alter the song while staying true to the Remix. If a track is in the Key of G major, well maybe do a solo of your own making in the key of....G major. (while staying true to the remix)

Quote

Oh & actual music please no fanfares!

Don't discount anything, get the muscle memory down pat and then improvise, edit, imagine and reinterpret. 

 

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anything on the gameboy is super easy to transcribe. there's only a few channels, and it's easy to disable all but one and just practice writing down what that one track has.

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1 minute ago, prophetik music said:

anything on the gameboy is super easy to transcribe. there's only a few channels, and it's easy to disable all but one and just practice writing down what that one track has.

Or by that logic, any of the few Atari 2600 games that had actual music.  Moon Patrol, Pitfall 2, Bump 'n' Jump... that's all I can come up with there.

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In all honesty, music from the 8-bit era tends to be a reasonable place to start (save for some exceptions). Search for music that you like from that era, and transcribe it. Liking it is key, though - since you're just starting out (presumably), it's best to start somewhere that inspires you to keep moving forward.

Genesis music can be a bit tricky to start with some games, because a lot of the great music works from manipulating the timbres that the synth can produce. However, there's still music that can easily be transcribed from there, so if you are more of a Sega fan, feel free to give it a shot. SNES, in contrast, is a sample based music system, so it can be easier to parse each channel individually, if that's your thing.

Prophetik has a great suggestion, for starters (silence the channels, work from there), and I suggest that as well. However, I would treat that technique as training wheels. It's not a bad thing, and I do it when I can, but be sure to practice dictating music when all the channels are active, as well - there's plenty of music (like CD based music, such as on the PS1) that you simply cannot break apart like that. You don't want to limit yourself to only being able to dictate music that can be parsed into single lines.

Hopefully some of this helps!

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2 hours ago, Gario said:

In all honesty, music from the 8-bit era tends to be a reasonable place to start (save for some exceptions). Search for music that you like from that era, and transcribe it. Liking it is key, though - since you're just starting out (presumably), it's best to start somewhere that inspires you to keep moving forward.

Genesis music can be a bit tricky to start with some games, because a lot of the great music works from manipulating the timbres that the synth can produce. However, there's still music that can easily be transcribed from there, so if you are more of a Sega fan, feel free to give it a shot. SNES, in contrast, is a sample based music system, so it can be easier to parse each channel individually, if that's your thing.

Prophetik has a great suggestion, for starters (silence the channels, work from there), and I suggest that as well. However, I would treat that technique as training wheels. It's not a bad thing, and I do it when I can, but be sure to practice dictating music when all the channels are active, as well - there's plenty of music (like CD based music, such as on the PS1) that you simply cannot break apart like that. You don't want to limit yourself to only being able to dictate music that can be parsed into single lines.

Hopefully some of this helps!

Thanks but I have a question:how do I "parse" channels? Is that done with a DAW or something else? I'm completely new to this!

Also I am only remixing 8,16-bit,& 32-bit (specifically N64) so I don't think I'd have to worry about CD-based stuff!

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If you use an emulator, there is often the ability to separate the channels, in order to listen to each individual line on its own. It's very nifty, for dictating a source. Generally, it's in whatever sound options the emulator has. I'd give specifics, but I legitimately forgot exactly how the particulars work, since it's been forever since I've last worked with it. It's not difficult, though - find an emulator, get the ROM (if you own the game already, of course), and tinker with the options, and you'll eventually figure it out.

As far as not remixing CD based soundtracks... C'mon, give em' some love, too! There's plenty of great music on that side of gaming that you'd otherwise miss out on, don't limit yourself if you don't need to ;)

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I believe someone from OCR once did a site that had SNES sound files loaded and ready to listen with separate channels and all. Lost the link though...

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Nowadays, it's dead easy to study source tunes for transcription; naturally it comes many years after my wave of experience in it since 1999 :( Since I'm a masochist, however, my return to transcription now involves heavy research into an entire 16-bit game's sound design and number of individual "patches" before I start inputting a single note. For "Contra Overdrive", I had each sound channel isolated and exported to wavs in a Sony Vegas workflow to get it done, then realized even that's not enough for the sake of authenticity. It's fine so far, tho:

You don't have to go through all that. General MIDI has an extremely limited sound set to work with, so it's mostly satsfactory to go with patches that sound close enough to the original song, and with 16 separate channels to work with, you may even combine some patches using the same notes to get what you need. I'm assuming you have basic knowledge of General MIDI and posess sequencing software; if not, you're gonna have to learn a few things.

Foobar and Winamp can play back the chiptune files out there (get most of 'em at OCR by searching the game) using plugins. OCR's own Chipamp will cover most of it in Winamp, but you can aso collect up-to-date plugins separately around the web. The best ones allow you to isolate each sound channel in the song for study, then you can export to wav or mp3 if needed.


The "easiest" tunes to transcribe will not necessarily be the ones with the fewest channels, unless you think "Silver Surfer" would be a breeze to create authentically. They would likely be tunes that don't have any programming stunts done to enhance the sound - anything from pitch bends, vibratos and tremolos to arppeggios - that would require a great many notes to be entered or many CC controllers to be drawn. I chose "Contra Overdrive" mostly because of the challenge - the programming done there is insane! In the case of SNES, sampling may cover the stuff usually programmed in a synth-type chip. Simply listening may be the best way to determine how easy the transcribing job might be. You can also study most of the "simple" music that's likely already been transcribed: open in your sequencer and see how it's done.

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