I just started a wiki about Soundchip Hacking at 8bc. Hopefully this can become a resource to get a quick explanation of different tricks that have developed over the years, and when it was made. So please help to contribute. Alles ist gut, as we say in Sweden.
Archive for the ‘soundhacking’ Category
Check Handheld Heroes for little-scale‘s new release: Nothing Has Been Left Unspoken. As usual it is a delicate mixture of melancholy, spacious harmonies, crispy 8-bits, hardware hacking and FM and PSG. Being a multi-instrumentalist, this time he uses Sega Mega Drive, Atari 2600 and Commodore 64. For the last few years, little-scale from Australia has shown great new approaches to chipmusic by merging hardware hacking, programming and music. Little-scale is a good example of how hardcore technology appropriation/appreciation goes hand in hand with composition. He has transgressed many soundchips, but his music is good regardless (I think).
For example, take Molecules from his last release. I’m just guessing, but perhaps he’s using the Atari2600 for which he’s made several hacks. In this song, he’s doing something apparently basic: playing samples and slightly detuning a pulsewave melody over time. Thing is, this hasn’t been done on the Atari2600 before because its timbre & tuning is quite odd. But also, this kind of detuning is rare to hear in chipmusic in general. Most chipmusic is fixed to chromatic scales, and it is surprisingly rare that music moves outside of this. I think it’s wonderful how the detuning makes me feel a bit uncomfortable+happy. With little-scale, music and interface goes hand in hand into the data sunset. Oink!
update: oh, he just did 30 songs in 30 days too!
tlr made C64-demos in 1986 (!) and coded the Vic20-tracker VIC-tracker and Over5 for Amiga. Among other things, he now works with the VICE-emulators and it seems that he figured out a new trick with the oscillators of the 6560-chip inside Vic20. This music sounds cleaner and more perfected than other Vic20-music. Whereas other music uses the built-in 7-bit scale, which gives it the characteristic slightly-out-of-tune feeling, this uses 9-bit frequency resolution with fancy vibrato. The player also offers 6-bit pulse width modulation, and it all adds up sounding more like new Atari ST-music than Vic20, if it wasn’t for the noise-channel uses. Get mp3, prg, and info at this denial-forumpost.
Meanwhile, also in Stockholm, TBC has been developing a similar improvement of the frequency resolution for his new Vic20-game, which you can read about here. My favourite Vic20-soundhack is Viznut’s “speech synthesis” that take soundchip-hacking towards destabilizing aesthetics rather than perfection. Robotic Liberation gives me satisfaction.
The Norwegian composer Geir Tjelta has introduced a new trick for the SID-chip: realtime delay. The output of the third channel of the SID can be recorded, and by delaying the playback of the sample on the “virtual” fourth channel, you get a subtle echo. This routine doesn’t use much CPU-time either. A nice and elegant trick. Get the exe and mp3 here. It needs to run on the old 6581 chip, since this technique for playing samples relies on a bug that was almost fixed with the new 8580 chip.
Another modern way of making automatic echoes is Neil Baldwin‘s routine for his new NES music editor, Nijuu. Instead of sampling sounds, it detects free spaces in the tracks and triggers notes with decreasing volumes. It uses more CPU but sounds more obvious than Tjelta’s echoes. Listen to the MP3.
As a sidenote – Geir and Neil are both chipmusicians from the 1980s having recently returned with a boom. Geir also programs an editor together with GRG, Sid Duzz It, which according to the rumours will include this echo effect along with extensive MIDI support in the next version.
Edit Oct 01: Geir says it will not be included in the new SDI.