With chiptunes, silicon rocks


20 Responses to “With chiptunes, silicon rocks”

  1. bbpen says:

    Thanks for spreading the 8-bit love! Anyone in or near West Philadelphia should come to 8static, a monthly chiptunes show. The next one’s Sat., June 12.
    Doors open 7 pm
    All ages

    Studio 34: Yoga | Healing | Arts
    4522 Baltimore Avenue
    On the #34 trolley line

  2. Wingo says:

    I’ve never fully delved into the whole chiptune scene as much as I probably should, but I do have a Nanoloop cart and a classic Gameboy. You can make some *really* great sounds/beats, but programming it tries my patience. Mostly I just make little riffs and record them into Ableton for arranging. I really want to check out the Chipsounds demo. That sounds killer.

    While I don’t necessarily listen to a lot of chiptune music regularly, I was recently turned on to Anamanaguchi’s Dawn Metropolis, which is incredible. I listened to it straight through the other day, totally captivated. Fantastic songwriting. Highly recommended.

  3. codeman38 says:

    Minor coding glitch in the post – you left off the “href=” on the “hear the result at Music Radar” link regarding “Wayward Son”.

  4. Anonymous says:

    As noted, trackers play back sound files at varying rates to get notes. You can use chiptune sounds, but it isn’t limited to this. It has its roots in the Amiga, which offered 4-channel stereo playback. MOD files used this format, with S3M, IT, etc. files adding on features as sound cards got better.

    If you want to try tracking, Schism Tracker is a modern version of Impulse Tracker that runs on current computers.

  5. Lars says:

    Ooh! Impulse Tracker was my weapon of choice on the pc (started out on SoundTracker on the Amiga) so this takes me back.

    I have moved on to Ableton and bought expensive synths I couldn’t afford back then, but I remember the ease with which you could flesh out ideas in the tracker format.

    Even though I’m all into Ableton these days, I feel the whole tracker chiptunes phase has given me a great headstart for the electronic dance music I make these days.

  6. jikoo says:

    Nice and very interesting article, Rob !
    A free resource for chiptuners/8-bit musicians.

  7. TomXP411 says:

    How interesting that this article comes out just as I’m re-discovering the Module format, one way to easily create chiptunes.

    I’ve checked out a couple of trackers, and I’m enjoying OpenMPT. It’s an extremely lightweight program and it doesn’t require any special hardware; you can even compose easily without a MIDI keyboard.

    I’d also grab a copy of Audigy for creating the actual samples. You can synthesize basic waveforms, then use OpenMPT to actuall turn them into music.

  8. License Farm says:

    It’s a great article, Rob, but I’m kinda surprised you seem to have pointedly avoided discussing 8-Bit Peoples, one of the original & very active cornerstones of the chiptunes scene. I’d say no less than five of the biggest 8-bit musicians put their music out thru them, & they godfather the authoritative salon in NYC, Pulsewave, to say nothing of The Blip Festival. I’m looking to enter the field, & while I may have access that some cannot claim, they’re exactly first on the list of who I sought out for advice. Any article on the topic with just barely a mention seems woefully incomplete.

  9. Anonymous says:

    and no mention of the 8-Bit Operators Kraftwerk tribute on Astralwerks from 2007 either? It was the first (and only?) all chipmusic album to be released on a major label i think and has so many of the greats on it !

  10. Anonymous says:

    http://truechiptilldeath.com , the one and only news source, is not mentioned :/

  11. Anonymous says:

    By the way:
    ” Game nostaliga-centered sites include Amiga Music Preservation and The High Coltage SID Collection. ”
    Those websites are the ones keeping most of the emoscene music archived and available. It;s not about game and certainly NOT about nostalgia.

  12. Broadwing says:

    …you realize that, by the definition you link to, tracker music is not ‘chiptunes’, being very much sample-based.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Amiga Music Preservation and High Voltage SID Collection simply CANNOT be dismissed as “game nostalgia-centered sites”. They contain game music, yes, but most of the material there comes from the demoscene, which represents a continuous 25-year-old tradition of computer creativity. Especially HVSC is an important and comprehensive chip music archive, as it contains tens of thousands of pieces of Commodore 64 music created in the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and 2010s. Chip music made outside of gaming context is definitely not a novelty.

    It is apparent that when looking for prior art, Andy Baio only looked at what 8bitcollective.com was able to provide and managed to completely ignore what was available on the more important archives. Commodore 64 music, for example, has a long history of using various musical styles, and Jazz is not among the rarest of them. Using the simple keyword search for “Jazz” on the HVSC, I am able to find 131 (one hundred and thirty-one) matches, and I dare to believe that quite many of these are covers.

  14. Peaklet says:

    If you’re at all interested, be sure to check out USK. I saw him at a Nullsleep concert in Portland last Saturday and he BLEW EVERYONE AWAY with his intense energy and dance music.

    He also gave me a free copy of his CD and told me to copy it for my friends. A real trooper!

  15. Gilbert Wham says:

    God, I miss tracker software on my Amiga. I get more sleep these days, though.

    (BTW OctaMed fans, 90 base 16 i.e. 9 16s is divisible by lots of numbers, so making your tracker sheets that length makes for fun with time-signatures)

    Fuck it, I’ma look for an emulator. right now

  16. 3lbFlax says:

    Great introductory article!

    On the iPhone, and once you’ve learned your way around the abstract interface, I think the best app to use for all this is Nanoloop.

    Nanoloop was originally (and still is) a GameBoy/GBA cart, often paired with modified GameBoys for genuine chiptune composition.

    The iPhone version has a few differences, but retains the great sound (even if you lose the genuine 8-bit kudos) and eventually intuitive interface. And if you already have an iPhone, the app’s impulse-buy price is a hell of a lot cheaper than a GameBoy and a copy of the Nanoloop cart.

    There are a lot of other options, but that’s my favourite. On the subject of bleep!Box, check out bleep!Box Player – the name is misleading, as it’s a free version of the app with the save function removed and a few parameters removed – an excellent demo.

  17. Rob Beschizza says:

    Most trackers I’ve used would let you draw a waveform a few bytes long and just use those. IT did, I’m quite certain.

    • Broadwing says:

      And you could take the light pen on a Fairlight and draw a sine wave on the screen, then use that as a sample. Does that make the Fairlight an analog synth? :) It’s the same concept – the AY series, SID, etc mostly generated their sounds directly from function generators and PWM, rather than sampling. Technically, it’s a different sound – it’s still really hard to get the filters and such on a SID sounding right in a pure digital domain.

      I realize I’m probably being *really* nitpicky here, but there’s a cultural distinction to be made. In the 80′s, the most vibrant music scene I can remember was SID tunes on the C64. That sort of developed into the Amiga MOD sampling music as people upgraded, then branched out into the tracker/demoscene (mostly) on the PC. The 8-bit Collective, GB-style chiptune scene kinda came later as the tools came out for that hardware. Computer-generated music is a super-rich field, and it’s hard to lump it all under one thing. It’s all great though. :)

  18. Crashproof says:

    “I’m put off by anyone who refers to chiptune as a ‘genre’ because of the diversity you’ll find under that umbrella.”

    This. And it applies to the term “electronic music” which could cover anything from Wendy Carlos to Merzbow. We don’t call rock, pop, and country “guitar music” after all.

  19. Anonymous says:

    The musicradar link for Carry On My Wayward Son is broken (anchor tag missing href), the link is here:


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