Understanding The Sound

This is for all of you young trackers nosing endlessly the most intimate bends of the internet to find the perfect sound for your tune and arguing about the quality of this or that sample…

Back to the time of the Amiga Scene.

I was a real young tracker, scanning every chunk of freezed memory, every floppy, every magazine… for “new samples”… looking for “new sounds” to load into my Protracker and to compose with. It was a real hard job.

And then I step into this intro… at that time, you might remember, every major release had a pirate-intro. That’s where the scene (and we all ) come from.

Well this intro starts to play some music… and I’m totally amazed.
Bloody hell! What’s that wonderfull sound? a trance-like groove with an electronic attitude… and a weird electric-piano-like remarking every now and then with an elegant but catchy melody. That sound! so simple yet so vibrating, deep, regular and with a sublime tripletted-delay…

I had to get to those samples! Those were by far the best samples I had encountered in my life. Suddenly I had a clear vision of me, composing with those great sound, finally finding out some really cool new stuff…

It wasn’t hard to freeze memory and suck the module out and on disk…
hard was, instead, to believe what my eyes were staring at.
The module itself wasn’t larger than about 25 Kb.
Once I loaded it into my protracker, in utter amazement, I witnessed that those wonderfull sound was actually a chip-sample.

If you fail understanding what a Chip-Sample is, I will say that a lot of time ago, with disk-space being the most valuable resource you had, you couldn’t afford large music files… expecially when most of the space on disk was intended to contain the usefull programs. So music was reduced to the minimum. One way to create sound from just a couple of bytes was to load “something” very light into the sampler and then loop it. Some sort of primitive oscillator.

I couldn’t believe that sound was just a chip-sound… playing it alone it was just another chip-sample with nothing special. I was totally like :blink:

What the hell happened then?
It was just the way that musician composed. He gave the right “paste” to the whole module. Bass and bassdrum where fine toghether… the chip-sample turned out to lean out of the pattern only in certain positions, using only certain “free spaces”…

I had to learn one of the most usefull lessons in my musical life:
it’s not the sound, it’s the way you use it.

I somehow have come to put this fact apart, during the years.
Ok, one thinks, it’s the way I use it… but still, there are new sounds that must be explorated… and sound quality is certainly not something I despite!

So one day, a couple of years ago, I went to studio to record this singing session for Graziano Pegoraro: an old-time and quite famous italian producer in commercial dance. After recording we started discussing about sound… I knew I could learn so much from someone like him that I started to ask more and more and he, as the friendly person he is, was glad to reply… sometime with just a couple of words while typing something on his pc… sometime with an entire, passionate discussion.

I noticed a wall all covered with every AKAI or CD sound library you can ever imagine… and jokingly asked if I could take a couple of hundreds of those… and for the second time I had to stand the ice-shower.

“Ah… those… yeah sure… I really don’t use em this much…”
“No? You got something better?”
“better?..” he turned on his office-chair with amused eyes “…you still think it’s a matter of sound?” then going back to the screen “It’s a matter of EQ and compression. You think there is a preset for every f****ing bassdrum you heard on radio recently? Nah… there is a base set of… say… 4, 5 bassdrums I use… and everybody else uses in radio, in discos.
You should never listen to a single Bassdrum track or to a single bass track… you should check the Bassdrum + Bass Paste…
except the basic sound EQ and compression… it’s not the sound, it’s the way you tweak it, the way you put em toghether…”

So, one of the biggest italian producers and for sure one of the wisest, alive despite his venerable age, still kicking asses and getting money from his music… was placing with total indifference a piece to the puzzle that I couldn’t help but linking to that remote day when I ripped that module from memory, in the beginning of my scenish life.

Of course it’s good to have sound quality… but you should always mind if your production is “hiding” behind the good quality of your samples.

I have never borrowed any sound library from him that day… nor any other day for that matters.

sounds familiar

It takes some time to understand that its not one or two things you are doing wrong. Sooner or later you find out that its just something of everything.

You can create a complete song with chipsamples. It is even possible to create percussion with those very simple basic waveforms.

I’ve done that in Protracker, FastTracker and Impulse Tracker and in Renoise this should work even easier.

In Impulse Tracker i have made a chipsong with only ONE chipsample.
This is the beauty behind using the instrument envelopes in a correct way.
The song was i believe 25KB zipped.

Chipsounds are pure and don’t distort when being changed from very low frequencies to very high frequencies. They never sound out-of-tune what makes them ideal for leads and bases.

Nevertheless:They sound pale, empty and lonely and they will always remain that way. Sounds from the void and hard to make them really wide and part of a recognisable community where the sounds come from.

I only use chipsounds if i want to express lonelyness or emptyness at those spaces.

Problem is that you cannot make such small songs in Renoise that way (using only one sample) since the Renoise instrument structure is not based upon using one pool of samples to link to from within instruments.

(This is also why imported IT files can turn out bigger because multiple copies of certain samples are being made to maintain an existing instrument)

Chipsounds are actually just like an oscillator in a synth/VSTi. With some simple tricks like adding filters, envelopes, reverb, delay, chorus and so on any chipsound will sound very far from pale and empty.

It was cooler in the days of Protracker when songs could be 5k uncompressed :)

Currently yes, but if you take the basic waveform, it sounds pale and empty, any enhancement and waveshaping you do with it, means you turn it back into a sample :D

I was speaking in terms of not using samples but the pure sound of chip using as less modifications as possible.

Hmmz, nah, i never liked protracker chiptunes… the way effects could be applied on samples were ways to less. Composer that thought their chip-mods sounded thousand times better than this c64-crap while most Commodore 64 songs still sound far superiour to those Amiga chipmods today. At least i never heard any Amiga chip-tune that sounded better than most european C64 songs. (Well, okay almost all Compute Gazette songs sound a lot crappier, but i don’t consider that true musical art)

What i did found nice around on Amiga at that time where wavegenerators like FM-Synth and i believer next to OctaMED, there was a tracker that introduced automated generated basic waveforms or use of…
I don’t remember the name of that tracker anymore.

The first tracker on PC that actually had decent analogue FM support was Screamtracker 3, the only downside was that not a lot of ppl had a soundcard with a true Yamaha OPL-2 chip.
I made a couple of OPL songs in screamtracker.
If you combine two or three tracks, you’ld be amazed what kind of instruments you can produce with three different OPL-2 FM instruments :D

The GUS had some sort of OPL-2 emulator but this emulator was far from correct quality, specially when OPL multiple instruments where designed to play a required effect across more channels to sound just as one instrument.

I still like JCH’s Edlib, this has always been one of the more serious OPL editors around.

Anyone else got oldskool memories about basic FM synthesis?

Musicline editor perhaps?

That’s because the C64 had a synth and the amiga a sample player. The only thing that was more limited on the 64 when it comes to chip tunes was the mere 3 channels.

Nopes, it was something like synth-tracker or synth-edit or something.

The mere 3 channels limit, was “THE” challenge of making music that way that this limit wasn’t noticable.
And a lot of composers did a hell of a job in that!

btw:C64 also had one digi track and in there multitrack samples were used to make it sound like two or more digi tracks were used.
But there were not that many C64 composers that were also nifty with digi’s.

Old songs, sometimes someone mentions me the names of the Focus demo(-part) where songs of mine were used in. (When i have the rare moment to attend a party)
Actually, I gave TDJ most of my C64 music i did in this Dutch USA “tracker” but that was mostly before i used Heathcliff’s (Rene) Tass routine.
By the time Visual Delight became popular, i was already long time busy on Amiga and had left behind the C64 as a composer :D. I never experienced the impact of the music i made on C64, had on others.
The last thing i made was Global Conquest and i did that on a C64 emulator on PC :D

I have Heathcliff’s routine somewhere still, i was busy creating a PC tracker around it, but for this i have to emulate a Turbo-Assembler environment and i have to translate tracker notes into turbo assembler labels and values.
It’s not hard, but a looooot of work.

I will visit X-2004 in the Netherlands, i’ve seen a lot of famous names on the attendee-list:

Even Drax comes all the way down from Denmark… Well, i don’t know if it is for the weed, the booze or the women or just seeing old friends…

Yeah whole Maniacs of Noise is listed (Drax, Laxity and Wave (Jeroen Tel)).

And there’s an international karate 3 competition :D AND free beer :D :D

:lol: funny this was mainly aimed at new/unexperienced users and the “Sound Quality” point… but it ended up as a completely different chat about Synth, Chip Tunes, Amiga, C64, the 'ol good times… Not that I dislike any of the mentioned topics :P but this definitely fit the “offtopic” forum :)

PS: You know what? I had a look to Nectarine radio… and find out they played at least one of my -very old- chipmodules in their broadcast! :yeah:
Oh… ok… I’m feeding the off-topic :P

maybe u noticed but Renoise demo song “on my mind” is also made with chip samples :)

chip tunes for ever :yeah:

which reminds me, i should update that one for renoise 1.5 final!

Good idea, always cool to have a new song or version of a previous song in the package!

On the sound, totally agree! It’s all about how you use them, two different bassdrums are mostly just two differently EQ’ed versions of one single sample!

Have to admit, I hardly ever do that… :unsure: I just hold Ctrl + alt and surf up and down on the bassdrum-file of mine…




and so on…

I guess I’m just lazy. :rolleyes:

Ah yes, the old amiga and the lovely Paula chip. Anyone remember the demo disk “Jesus on E”?, that was excellent, especially the muppet show bit :D