Tag Archives: chiptunemusic

Life As A Freelance Musician Part 11: The Secret Art Of Composing Melodies

Melodies are what drive a song, especially in the case of classic video game songs. When you only have 3-4 channels, each note has to count. However, coming up with melodies that are unique and interesting is probably one of the hardest parts of composing. This article talks about some tricks for finding melody that don’t involve classical training or worrying too much about scales and things like that. These methods work great (especially for orchestral music) but since not everyone has that training and we’re focusing on video game music here, these are a few methods I’ve found handy for squeezing the best melody out of an idea.


Repeating Theme With Changing Bass Line

This is pretty much what most pop songs are and it works great for getting started in a video game song too. Come up with a simple melody that’s only a measure or two long. Set your DAWs to just loop it over and over. Then with a keyboard, try different bass notes along with the sample. You’ll quickly notice how the combination of bass note and melody change the feeling of the same notes playing repeatedly. Once you settle on a pattern you like, record (or put down MIDI notes) the bass part and then start modifying your lead to highlight the differences in the bass.


The highlighted section just repeats over and over again while the changing bass line modifies the feeling.
The highlighted section just repeats over and over again while the changing bass line modifies the feeling.

Here’s an example that started with just 13 little notes played over the course of 2 bars. The last two bars feature changes to break up the repetition and highlight the difference in the bass but at the beginning the highlighted notes played over and over with the entire bass line.




What Comes Next In Your Brain?


This is probably my favorite little technique. We listen to so much music that sometimes we sort of subconsciously know what “should” come next. It’s not always the most original thing, but if you are stuck, this trick can help you get back on track. If you have a song done up to a point but can’t seem to decide what should come next, set your DAWs to play it and then go into some empty space. At that moment, think what you expect to hear next. Don’t try to play it on a keyboard or a guitar, just let your brain tell you what comes next.


Arpeggios Lead To Ideas

Remember those 80s keyboards Radio Shack always had(has?) on display that has all those cheesy bosa nova presets where you press one key and it starts making a whole song? Well, this isn’t a bad way to stumble onto interesting chord progressions. I like to use arpeggio setups for this technique. Set up a arpeggio with lots of notes and just move around your keyboard and see where it takes you. Here’s a scratch track from an upcoming game where I built an arpeggio and started moving around the keyboard before settling on this progression that had chord changes I’d never have come up with just playing my keyboard.


Instant Inspiration


The most elusive of them all; sometimes you just get hit with a whole song all at once. This happens to me only about once every 3 projects, but its usually the best song in the whole project. Be ready to record ideas at any time. Most modern smart phones have voice memos. My wife gets a kick out of going through mine and hearing me going ‘duh duh da –daaaaaah’ when you can hear cars or a restaurant in the background, but you have to record when inspiration strikes. Often times, its when you aren’t doing anything that ideas appear. I was going to post one of my ‘da da daa’ tracks and a final version of it to show the difference but its just too embarrassing. I have heard more than one professional, respected songwriter/musician say that they have lost great song ideas because they didn’t have a pen or thought they could remember it later.


Subconscious Composition


I am not one of these people, but I know at least three who say they’re subconscious writes better songs than they do. They literally DREAM songs or have ideas in the moments before they drift off to sleep. Again, being ready to record and forcing yourself awake in these moments is the key. I can’t say this has ever happened to me and it seems like it’d require the most self control not to just fall back to sleep, but whatever works!


Work With Others


Nothing helps you get inspired more than working with other musicians. Have a friend write the melody or a rhythm track. Know someone who plays a rare instrument? Have them record a part. When I used to play in a band when I was younger, a combination of my friend’s ideas plus the “What Comes Next In Your Brain?” method applied by someone else to the same song lead to our group’s most dynamic and interesting songs. Two heads are better than one.


Got any techniques of your own? Any questions? Please share them.


Screen Shot 2013-05-03 at 2.36.44 PMBeatscribe is a full time indie composer, musician and writer. By day he creates soundtracks and sfx for various mobile gaming companies, by night creates megaman-inspired chiptunes, in the afternoons he drinks tea. Check out his latest releases, tutorials and retro ruminations at www.beatscribe.com.

Life As A Freelance Musician Part 10: My Biggest Mistakes as a New Freelancer

Like anything in life, when you look back, you wish you had your current level of knowledge back at the start of a new endeavor. Here’s a few common mistakes that either I’ve made or seen others make when starting a career as a feelancer musician.

Buying Too Much Gear

Sure, we'd all love to have this in our basement, but is it the best use of money when you're just starting out? Do you really need all this to make music?
Sure, we’d all love to have this in our basement, but is it the best use of money when you’re just starting out? Do you really need all this to make music?

Probably the biggest thing I see all over the net is people who become total gear nuts. I hate to write this because I LOVE analog gear, I love battling to get some old synth to work with my system and having wires and knobs all around, but the problem is for many, this becomes too important.

I see folks who have every piece of equipment you could ever imagine and are surrounded by wires and modules. However, you listen to their songs and what’s missing is dedication to their craft or songwriting skills. The things they’re creating with their massive amounts of hardware only sound marginally better than tunes that could be created with more modern software-based methods.

Sure, a hardware oscilloscope looks cool with its little waves appearing as you play your song, but is that really money better spent than good headphones, good monitors or software solutions that do the same thing and then some? If you are just starting out, you might not even have the expertise or knowledge to fully utilize a lot of pro gear. It’d be better to spend your money on lessons or some other appropriate means of learning.

The companies that make gear are always telling you you need more. Remember that you really don’t need a more than a few pieces of hardware and a few programs to make decent music. There’s a level where buying gear and fiddling with it becomes a distraction from actually completing songs and producing something. Here’s a great article to start with from earlier in this series if you’re not sure what the most important things to buy are.

Not Backing Up Data

Now, a lesson from my own bank of failures. This is the most catastrophic thing that has happened to me thus far in my career as a freelancer. I had four large projects going at once, I had been working on them in tandem for about three months, so many things were close to done but not quite there. One day after a very long session, I delivered final drafts and a few completed things to most of these clients. To this day, I don’t know what happened, but the next day, ALL my music was gone. All my project files. I only had a backup from about 5 months earlier on a USB hard drive.

If this had happened ONE DAY earlier, I would have been unable to recover from the loss. I had just completed about 18 hours of work finishing 3 of the 4 projects. I still had to pull an all-nighter and remake the final projects songs for mastering. It could have been so much worse so it made me realize I better backup every day.

I don’t recommend Carbonite, since they exclude WAV files and a lot of others with their free plan. Also, have fun completely removing it from your system. Idrive.com is a much better solution that is simple and automatic just in case catastrophe strikes. Your money is better spent on a backup system than most other things you could buy when starting out.

Taking Criticism Personally

Early on, I lost some jobs and contests I entered. I felt my entry to the contest was the strongest of the many that I heard. The one they picked as a winner confused and disappointed me. I spent a lot of time and I thought their song was boring. Now, almost a year and a half later, when I listen back to mine, I hear glaring mastering and mixing problems. Although I still don’t think the winner’s track was more interesting, it was definitely professionally mixed and mastered whereas mine was a bit more amateur.

You can’t win them all. I still lose jobs. As mentioned before, you can’t always beat someone else’s prices or turn around time. And there is always someone more talented out there. I would imagine that even big-name Hollywood score composers don’t get every job they’d want. Take it with a grain of salt and glean any positive constructive criticism you can.

Worrying Too Much

When I first started, I worried constantly while away from my computer. I thought I might miss an important email or someone else would quote back a client before I could and get the job. I obsessively checked after sending auditions in. You don’t want your emotional state to be all about work in any kind of job. I’ve learned not to sweat it so much. What happens happens.

My articles have been a little inconsistent lately since I’m in the middle of a huge project right now. I’m saving up that melody one for when I have time to make it really good. Stay tuned, I am not disappearing.

Next up:
-The Secret Arts of Coming Up With Melodies
-Beginner’s Guide to Compression


Screen Shot 2013-05-03 at 2.36.44 PMBeatscribe is a full time indie composer, musician and writer. By day he creates soundtracks and sfx for various mobile gaming companies, by night creates megaman-inspired chiptunes, in the afternoons he drinks tea. Check out his latest releases, tutorials and retro ruminations at www.beatscribe.com.

Of Atoms and Stardust (Remix) by Auxcide ~ A Lost in the Music Review


Compilation albums rock. Through them, you gain exposure to other musicians and genre’s that you may not have heard of. OCReMix is wonderful at that as I have discovered several different genres and artist through them. It is because of OCReMix I have discovered my love for rock game covers, as well as classical piano work. Another example of a great compilation album is the remix version of one of Auxcide’s earlier albums, Of Atoms and Stardust, which I will be looking at today.

Before getting into the review itself, I would like to first commend Auxcide in using a Gameboy while making the album. Using a 20 some odd year old console to make music, and make it sound good is quite a talent, and this isn’t just limited to Auxcide. There are plenty of artists out there who use the Gameboy as an instrument which gives the old brick a new lease on life. I commend these artists for utilizing an important piece of gaming history in new ways.

Reading up on Of Atoms and Stardust, I can appreciate the love and kindness that went into these remixes. The performers here didn’t just remix the songs for fun, they did it to show appreciation to Auxcide’s first album, which is an example of how close knit the indie music scene can be.

So how is this album? It is a solid remix project. The artists keep it safe which can be a mixed blessing. They keep the music simple, but it lacks innovation. I do believe they didn’t try to innovate because they wouldn’t want to overshadow Auxcide’s original album, while commendable, does in the end make it sound somewhat average. Don’t get em wrong, the album is great, but it is also sadly predictable.

I never had a chance to listen to the original Of Atoms and Stardust as I came across Auxcide through word of mouth, but listening to this remix album makes me want to listen to the original. Also, it is because of this remix album that I would like to listen to the other chiptune artists on this album and check out their work.

Should you purchase this album? Even though they played it safe, I would still say yes as the album exposes you to new chip artists. These guys are good, and if they start experimenting more, then they could be great.

You can find Of Atoms and Stardust (Remix) on Auxcide’s Bandcamp page.

This is Daimo Mac and I am lost in the music.

Tutorial: Recreating the Megaman II’s Quick Man Song With Plogue Chipsounds

Chipsounds Audio Unit
Chipsounds Audio Unit

Plogue Chipsounds is one of the most comprehensive and powerful sound modules for creating classic game console chip sounds. However, if it’s interface might not be the most obvious and intuitive when you first start to use it.

Why would you want to use an Audio Unit/VST instead of the actual hardware or a tracker? Well, for adding some quick chip sounds to an existing song or remixing a classic song, it’s super useful to have everything happening in MIDI. You can speed things up, transpose them and make changes without having to spend time outside of your main DAWS. Whenever I want some Nintendo triangle bass, I go straight to chipsounds!

The Quick man track is one of the most amazing classic NES songs ever. It’s just buzzing with electrical goodness and really makes the intense Quickman level even more amazing. In just a few minutes, you can create a pretty accurate sound in Chipsounds.

Continue reading Tutorial: Recreating the Megaman II’s Quick Man Song With Plogue Chipsounds