How to make Gameboy

chiptune

About me

  • Dave DeGraw
  • Web developer
  • Father of two
  • Owner/operator of
    Catskull Electronics
  • First time at MAGFest(!)
  • involved in chipmusic for a decade

About this talk

  • What is (Gameboy) "chiptune"?
  • How is it made?
  • How should I get started?
  • Additional resources

What is Chiptune?

Chiptune, also known as chip music or 8-bit music, is a style of synthesized electronic music made using the PSG sound chips in vintage arcade machines, computers and video game consoles. The term is commonly used to refer to tracker format music which intentionally sounds similar to older PSG-created music (this is the original meaning of the term), as well as music that combines PSG sounds with modern musical styles.

- Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiptune)

In other words...

Music made on old video game consoles and computers
OR
music that sounds like it was made on old video game consoles and computers

It's more than just "8-bit" music!

vs

It's about making things do things they aren't supposed to!

Why use the Gameboy?

  • 4 voices
  • 2 square waves
  • 1 free form wave
  • 1 noise generator
  • stereo output

Arguably the most interesting stock audio hardware of any 8-bit console:

LSDJ Demo

Why use the Gameboy?

  • original Game Boy (DMG)
  • Game Boy Pocket
  • Game Boy Color
  • Game Boy Advance (SP)
  • Super Game Boy
  • Game Boy Player
  • Good emulators

Common (cheap) hardware:

Why use the Gameboy?

It's a really good console!

  • Portable
  • Great battery life
  • Lots of accessories
  • Replacement parts
    still in production

Great! How do I make Gameboy Chipmusic?

LSDJ
nanoloop(s)
GB <-> MIDI

"external" solutions

LSDJ

little sound DJ

  • tracker style interface
  • powerful composition ability
  • less intuitive if you've never used a tracker
  • buy the ROM, bring your own flash cart
  • probably most popular

LSDJ

example

Closed System Blues by Bit Shifter

bit-shifter.bandcamp.com

Nanoloop

sequencer

  • sequencer interface
  • compositions sound unique compared to LSDJ
  • interface is a little more confusing but you'll be making good music faster
  • available at nanoloop.com for ~$50

Nanoloop

example

One Point Seven by Triac

triac8bit.bandcamp.com

Nanoloop Mono

analog synthesizer cart

  • does not use native gameboy sound hardware
  • I don't think this counts as "gameboy chipmusic"?
  • still really interesting and cool (especially if you like nanoloop a lot)
  • nanoloop.com for ~$80

Nanoloop Mono

example

Nanoloop 2

nanoloop for GBA

  • like nanoloop 1 but more!
  • uses GBA sound hardware, so more channels and complex sound
  • great option for a portable sequencer
  • available at nanoloop.com for ~$56

Nanoloop 2

example

Winds of Null by boaconstructor

boaconstructor.bandcamp.com

mGB

midi for your gameboy

  • exposes the 4 voices as 4 midi channels
  • can do 3 voice polyphony
  • can be controlled with midi CC's
  • less advanced instrument creation compared to LSDJ
  • must be used with an external interface
  • great if you already have a DAW

mGB

demo

pushpin

...midi for your gameboy

  • basically less intuitive but more advanced mGB
  • external interface required
  • stock only runs on GBC and above, but there is a version that will work with a DMG/Pocket
  • not very widely used

GBA MIDI Synth

midi for GBA

  • the interface contains the rom (GBA remote boot)
  • uses GBA sound hardware so less limitations
  • intuitive yet powerful interface
  • available at catskullelectronics.com for $55

GBA MIDI Synth

example

deflemask

multi-system Chiptune Tracker

  • PC cross platform tracker
  • can target many consoles
  • export songs as ROMs to play on real hardware
  • fairly steep learning curve
  • once you learn it, you can make chiptunes for lots of systems
  • not widely used for Gameboy

deflemask

example

Paragon5

gameboy tracker

  • create music on a computer, then export it to be used in games
  • Jake Kaufman used it to make Shantae
  • almost completely unused today

Paragon5

example

Carillon Editor

  • console based tracker
  • PC application to convert songs to be used in games
  • used in demos and homebrew
  • should be more popular than it is
  • great option if you're nordloef

Carillon Editor

How do I get started?

What gear?

Choose your Gameboy

or emulator?

Choose your flash cart

GB USB 64M
$50

InsideGadgets 2MB
$27

MIDI?

Teensyboy Pro Bundle

$60

GBA MIDI Synth
$55

catskullelectonics.com

What should you do?

Use the equipment you have!

Further Reading

.org

chiptuneswin.com

come to chip space!

chip rave tomorrow @ midnight

Thank You

facebook.com/catskullelectronics

twitter.com/catskullelec

slides and links at catskull.net

How to make Gameboy Chiptune

By David DeGraw

How to make Gameboy Chiptune

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