SEGA Genesis FM MIDI Tracker

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sinesaysoooOOO
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SEGA Genesis FM MIDI Tracker

#1 Post by sinesaysoooOOO »

Simultaneously learning basic music theory, composition, sound design and the ins and outs of Ableton Live is very difficult. It is the hardest thing I have ever chosen to do and likely the most effort I have ever expended on a creative endeavor. After a series of demoralizing production sessions late last year, I stumbled upon this stellar Deflemask FM synthesis guide from debuglive and it blew my brain wide open.



I've always loved the Mega Drive / DX7 chiptune sound but never had any clue how the whole thing worked (despite having used FM synthesis extensively in Serum), so I was surprised to discover that this onerous, dizzying style of songwriting made much more intuitive sense to me than Ableton's vast Session/Arrangement deal. Having a very limited number of channels, instruments and samples added a much-needed level of creative constraint that forced me to look past "the sound" and focus on "the music."

It completely changed my attitude and approach towards songwriting! Whenever I bang my head against Ableton without having any fun too many times in a row, I put myself in "Deflemask purgatory" for a few days and it always does the trick.

Here are a couple of short tracks I made in Deflemask:





I should also point out that Deflemask fucking owns. There is a vibrant and supportive community of fellow chiptune nerds eager to share information and feedback, including the Deflemask developer himself - he gave me a wealth of invaluable info in a short, casual conversation.

I'm solidly "intermediate" as a producer now and I've begun cultivating "my sound," but I am always on the lookout for tools and exercises that can challenge my skills and force me to see things differently. What creative constraints help you when you're stuck?
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uhpkkim
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#2 Post by uhpkkim »

Woah! :woah: These tracks are rad as heck dude! I especially love all the clicky textures on FLICKED and the loose modular-esque melodic structuring on both! They are quite pleasing to the ear :glad:

As someone who barely messes with softsynths and who uses a DAW from the late 2000s, I don't really know anything about Ableton. But I would suggest if you're ever feeling stuck/overwhelmed by the vastness of the digital workspace, trying moving to analog for a bit. Mess around on some real tactile instruments that aren't plugged into a computer. Maybe with a loop pedal if you want to layer/arrange.

One limitation I've tried recently that has been very successful: I'm working on an album right now where most of the songs all have the same, very specific, short song length. I typically can keep building on a song forever and keep adding a million parts to it. This let me cut out all of that and focus on really honing in on creating really concise concepts. This was inspired by both The Residents and Tierra Whack (although I expanded the 1:00 to 1:40 aka 100 seconds, to give me a little more room to breathe)


Diving fully into chiptune trackers (mostly Gameboy) has been in the back of my head for some time now. There's also a nice bevy of SNES soundfonts (since the SNES was fully sample-based, rather than synth based) available on this website (that I discovered thanks to SNES (chip?)tune artist Maxo) although I don't really understand how to use soundfonts because I don't do softsynth or midi. So I just export them into my Korg Microsampler :blank:

(I sort of started out making music under a faux chiptune umbrella - back in 2006 me and my internet friend thought we invented the concept of making original music that sounded like video-game music when we started messing around in pxtone, the program Pixel made to make music for Cave Story, then we learned about chiptune and felt silly)

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sinesaysoooOOO
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#3 Post by sinesaysoooOOO »

i'll have to check out The Residents, but i know for certain that Tierra Whack is a genius - Whackworld was my AOTY of 2018! that is a really cool and deceptively simple concept that can go in many directions, i'm into it. not nearly as intentional/disciplined as your idea but but hell, i could just bundle my dozens and dozens of promising unfinished 1.5 minute songs together and say i made an album :tongue:

As i understand it, Deflemask is multisystem
Systems supported so far: Genesis, SMS, GB, PCE, NES, C64, Arcade, NeoGeo


so you could totally use it to bypass the whole command line/soundfont/etc situation and cook up your own fresh bleeps. if the soundfont is just a deconstructed "sample pack" from the same oscillators as [whatever system], you could easily bounce wavs from Def to the Microsampler/whatever and have even more control. what DAW do u use?
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uhpkkim
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#4 Post by uhpkkim »

sinesaysoooOOO wrote: Sat Dec 18, 2021 1:30 pm if the soundfont is just a deconstructed "sample pack" from the same oscillators as [whatever system]
So to my understanding (I might be wrong), as opposed to the NES, GB, Genesis, etc, instead of using a waveform / FM synthesizer soundchip, the SNES pretty much fully used recorded samples. The sounds/music you hear on a SNES game are mostly real-world sounds that the composers recorded in, which were then compressed to hell in order to fit on the chip. Often, it seems, these samples came from whatever modern keyboards and synths the composers owned (which is why it's possible for people to make "restored" uncompressed versions of SNES songs if they know the original keyboard/patches the composer sampled). Here's a short video explaining it, including breaking down how David Wise absolutely broke the system completely apart in order to make the amazing DKC soundtracks.

So, the soundfonts I linked are actually the individual compressed samples that composers used - along with the parameters/effects available on the SNES. That's how Maxo's music sounds like it's from a SNES game, not because it's using a chip or a tracker, but because it's using the same straight-up little audio samples from old SNES games. My main thing is I don't know how to use FL Studio, or MIDI, to use the soundfont files as they're actually intended. The best I've done is get one note out of a soundfont through FL, then drop that single note into my sampler or pxtone, which is how I got a SNES Bomberman string sample I used in the bridge of Slam & Wallace's Hand Hold (1:12)

sinesaysoooOOO wrote: Sat Dec 18, 2021 1:30 pm what DAW do u use?
I currently use MAGIX (formerly SONY) Acid Pro 7.0 from 201...3? I had to bootleg an old download file and buy an ancient serial number off some dude on ebay to get it to work. I've been using Acid since 09 and refuse to change and refuse to use newer versions :glad: but I'd be curious to check out this program for sure

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#5 Post by uhpkkim »

I just learned a lot more about the history of trackers on home computers (specifically the Amiga) from this good and detailed documentary because I don't actually know much about pre-PC computers (my earliest interaction with computer music was Windows 95 MIDI stuff). And I didn't realize there were sample-based trackers on home computers before the SNES, so I may have been misunderstanding some things about trackers and chiptune oops :wink: basically don't listen to me

That video also features this neat timeline of computer music systems
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