3rd of Blaugust – Alphabet Free Sunday – How I Write My Music

So now we get to the part where I get to write about whatever the hell I want, unless I break the rules and make it that way that is. So I thought I’d give you all a story about some of the music I have written, how make it and how I perform it whenever I play. If you don’t quite know what I a talking about then I implore you to listen to this.

This is what is known as a chiptune or, as I prefer to call it, chipmusic. It’s something I stumbled across originally on YouTube where I hear many an 8-bit cover of different songs. The ones I really liked were the ones that used real hardware, which is the whole point of chip music. I decided in 2011 to make the plunge and start writing my own chip music using the Nintendo Gameboy.

Something I’m constantly asked when I perform is “So how do you make that music and get it onto a Gameboy?” The answer is that I actually write it on the the Gameboy itself using a homebrew program called Little Sound DJ. After donating $5 US to the creators of this great piece of software you download a rom which you could either use in an emulator or get it running on a Gameboy cartridge. The cart that I use is called the GB usb smart card made by EMS. It’s a cartridge where you can stick any GB or GBC rom on there and it will work. You could use it as a piracy device if you really wanted to. You can load two roms on it, but only one rom works with the battery-backed memory which you need for save files.

From there you just write your music. LSDJ is a tracker, so if you’re used to regular notation then there will be a bit of a learning curve with that. This post isn’t a tutorial as to how to use LSDJ, as there are already a large amount of them around. My personal suggestion is this video guide by cTrix.

Once you’ve made your amazing chiptune you probably want to either perform or record your track. The problem is that the Gameboys don’t have a great internal amplifier in them so they produce an unacceptable humming sound. To counteract this, someone discovered a way to bypass the internal amplifier to get a clean line output. This is what is known as the Pro Sound Mod. It works for most of the Gameboy models as well as the Super Gameboy! My personal preference is the original brick, known as the DMG-001, due to the better bottom end sound as well as the ability to install a backlight to your screen and having more space to install different mods than the Gameboy Pocket or Gameboy Colour. The Pocket and Colour models are also a bitch to solder on as well. Nobody seriously even bothers with the GBA models either.

So now when people ask me how I write my music I can just redirect them to this post rather than try to explain myself over and over. Tomorrow I get back to my Alphabetical journey continuing with the letter C.