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An Introduction to Writing Chipmusic, including ulterior motives!

OK so people said they might want to see me write things based on chiptune stuff.  Here you go.  Hope it's not too haphazard etc.

Hello, I'm RushJet1, and I write chipmusic.  I've been writing NES stuff for about 10 years now, and have dabbled in Master System, Game Boy, C64, Spectrum, and Amiga music during that time a bit, but usually the focus is more on NES/Famicom music.  

The NES has 5 main channels for audio, each of which can be doing one thing at a time at any given time.  The first 2 channels are square waves, which have the same functionality as each other.  These usually are used for melody and harmony in most games.  The third channel is the triangle, which is usually used for bass.  Fourth channel is the noise channel, which plays white noise and is usually used for sound effects and percussion, and the fifth channel is the DPCM, which is 1-bit sample playback.  The DPCM channel is not used in a lot of games due to its higher memory use for the sample storage.  Here's a good visual/audio explanation of these channels: 

If you're into chip stuff and are just learning about it, watch Explod2a03's other chiptune explanation videos.

The fact that there are 3 channels that can output actual melodic tones means that only 3 notes will be playing at any given time, which means either you can base your composition around that, or you can use tricks to accommodate your composition and simulate more channels.

The main tools I've used are MCK and PPMCK (which are text-based and use a language called MML), and FamiTracker.

MCK/PPMCK are pretty user-unfriendly, and even for a person like me who got really good at it, it was pretty limiting and took too long to write really complex music.  The most effects-heavy thing I did in MML actually took a lot of work because of how the music is written out, and trying to make sure all the different channels stayed in sync.  

[edit: ok apparently all tags and font sizes in this thing work in the preview, but not in the published blog.  gg]


A o5 MP9 q6 @vr17 @@r22 @@21 SD1 c<b>c8<g8a-8>c<b>c8d8<g8>c<b>c8d8<fga-gb- q8 SM v7 @1 a-48 b-48 a-48 @v31 q6 SMOF @@21 gf v3 SM q8 gf @v31 SMOF q6 @vr16 >gf+g8c8e-8gf+g8a8d8gf+g8a8cd SDOF  e-4 SD1 dc<b-8>e-de-8<g8a-8>
A fe-f8<a8b-8>gfg8<b8>c8de- SDOF f4. SD1 e-dc<b-a-g
A l8 f>a-gfe-de-f<b>cd<b>cg16f+16gd SDOF q8 e-8 < PS o4 g+16 > v3 e-8 < PS g+16 > @v31 q6  SD1
A l16 e8 f8 fef8 c8 q8 SDOF d8 PS<g> v3 d8 PS<g> SD1 @v31 q6 d8 e-8 e-de-8<b-8>c8 e-de-8 f8 <b-8> e-de-8 f8 <a-b-> SDOF c4 SD1 < b-a-
A ge-fga-b->c d e- d c d e- f g a b-< f g a- b- >c d e f e- d e- f g a b >c8<bagfe-d    c<g>e-<g>d<g>c<g>


This is just the melody track from 1:14 to 1:39 in that link above - and this is with the added PPMCK shortcuts that drastically cut down on how much you've got to type.  Without PPMCK this would easily be 4 times longer.  This is partly why I switched over to FamiTracker.   The other main reason I did that was because a lot of group projects from other artists were being made in FamiTracker.  If you still want to look into PPMCK, go to mmlshare, where people upload their PPMCK music as text files and the site converts it to NSF format.  Some great things are on there.

If you were to want to start writing chipmusic, It's usually easiest to go with FamiTracker.  Danooct1 made a pretty good Famitracker tutorial that can get you started.  Basically since everything is visually represented, you don't have to worry about note lengths and different channels lining up.  I also have a video of me writing a short 2-frame song that was kind of meant as a "show people famitracker" thing more than a tutorial, but you can check it out anyway to see how I write music.  It's definitely not my best composition but it's OK for being written on the spot, I think.. maybe I'll do more of these in the future.

Oh, and I released another Mega Man cover playthrough thing.  It didn't get posted here yet so Bandcamp Link and youtube:

I also plan on doing a bloopers video because there are a lot of absolutely stupid bloopers, not limited to: falling through the googly-eyed platform enemies to my death, jumping between two platforms for 30 seconds trying to make a jump, countless bottomless pit deaths 2 seconds after a couple stages started... there are a bunch of dumb moments that I need to compile :X
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About RushJet1one of us since 9:40 PM on 02.26.2012


OK so I figured I should expand on this. I write NES music mostly but occasionally other chiptunes. I also live in Georgia, have 2 jobs (one of which is an IT job that causes crazy amounts of stress and the other is a boring but predictable work-on-your-own-time job) and I have a black lab who is a serious attention whore.

She tries so hard