[Mcjack123] has been getting into chiptunes lately and realized that his original interest started in 2018 when he used an Arduino to turn a TI-84 calculator into a sound machine. His latest iteration is a custom-designed soundboard and he takes us through the design and construction of it in a recent post.
The work models classic sound generators like the 2A03 or the Commodore 64 SID. You have a bunch of simple waveform generators along with filters and modulators to make various effects. These boards eventually gave way to FM synthesis devices like the Yamaha OPL2 and OPL3 chips. All of these cards accepted commands and generated audio on their own. More modern boards are more likely to simply convert digital data from the computer into audio.
Continue reading “Sound Generation Board Makes The Tunes”
Frequenters of arcades back in the golden age of video games will likely recall the mix of sounds coming from a properly full arcade, the kind where you stacked your quarters on a machine to stake your claim on being next in line to play. They were raucous places, filled with the simple but compelling sounds that accompanied the phosphor and silicon magic unfolding all around.
The days of such simple soundtracks may be gone, but they’re certainly not forgotten, with this chiptunes generator built into an RCA plug being both an homage to the genre and a wonderful example of optimization and miniaturization. It’s the work of [girst] and it came to life as an attempt to implement [Rob Miles]’ Bitshift Variations in C Minor algorithmically generated chiptunes composition in hardware. For the first attempt, [girst] chose an ATtiny4 as the microcontroller, put it and the SMD components needed for a low-pass filter on a flex PCB, and wrapped the whole thing around a button cell battery. Stuffed into the shell of an RCA plug, the generator detects when it has been inserted into an audio input jack and starts the 16-minute piece. [girst] built a second version, too, using the Padauk PSM150c “Three-Cent Microcontroller” chip.
This is quite an achievement in chiptunes minimization. We’ve seen chiptunes in 32 bytes, Altoids tin chiptunes, and an EP on a postage-stamp-sized PCB, but this one might beat them all on size alone.
Continue reading “RCA Plug Plays Sixteen-Minute Chiptune Piece, All By Itself”
The Gameboy is one of the biggest platforms in the chiptune scene. While it’s possible to play a show with a single handheld, many artists choose to use two or even more to fatten their sound and rock the crowd. To ease the workflow of creating songs for such a setup, [tommitytom] created Retroplug and you can see him walk through the features in the demo video after the break.
Retroplug is a VST wrapper for the Sameboy Gameboy emulator. This makes it possible to run multiple emulated Gameboy instances within digital audio software like Ableton or Fruityloops. Rather than having to juggle multiple 30-year old Gameboys and the associated batteries and link cables, instead, it can all be done within a hosted VST window.
Presently, the software works only with 64-bit Windows and VST2, however source is available for those eager to peek under the hood. It fully implements MIDI support for mGB, and works well with LSDJ and Arduinoboy setups.
*.sav files are created for each emulated instance too, so when you’re done composing, you can throw your songs onto real hardware when you go out and perform!
We see no shortage of fresh projects, from Genesis chiptune players to MIDI control for Gameboys. As its adherents always say, chiptune will never die. We’d love to see a similar project done with a C64 emulator, NES, or even the Genesis. If you happen to put it goether, drop us a line!
Continue reading “RetroPlug Syncs Gameboy Emulators With Your DAW For Chiptunes Overload”
In the world of chiptune music there are many platforms to choose from, each with their own special flavour tot heir sound. The Game Boy has a particular following, but it differs from some of its contemporary platforms in having a custom sound chip built into the same silicon as its processor. You can’t crank open a Game Boy and lift out the sound chip for your own synth project, instead you must talk to it through the Game Boy’s Z80 processor. This is something [Adil Soubki] knows well, as he’s completed a project that turns the handheld console into a MIDI synthesiser.
A Game Boy was designed to play games and not as a developer’s toy, so it doesn’t exactly roll out the red carpet for the hacker. He’s got under the console’s skin by mapping a section of its memory address map to the pins on a Teensy microcontroller board, and running some Game Boy code that reads the vaues there and uses them to configure the sound hardware. The Teensy handles the translation between MIDI and these byte values, turning the whole into a MIDI synthesiser. It’s a succesful technique, as can be seen in the video below the break. Best of all, the code is available, so you can have a go for yourself.
We’ve featured Game Boy synths before here at Hackaday, but usually they have been of the more conventional variety.
Continue reading “The Game Boy As A Midi Synthesiser”
[Robson Couto] started to get interested in musical projects and as a side effect created downloadable code with simple notation for a good variety of themes, songs, and melodies. They are all for the Arduino and use only the built-in
tone() function, but don’t let that distract you. If you look past that, you’ll see that each sketch is a melody that consists of single notes and durations; easily adapted to other purposes or simply used as-is. After all, [Robson] wanted the source of each tune to be easily understood, easily modified, and to have no external dependencies.
All that may sound a bit like MIDI, but MIDI has much more in common with hardware events than music notation because it includes (among other things) note starts and note ends as separate elements. Converting MIDI into a more usable format was a big part of a project that fed Bach music to a neural network and got surprisingly good results.
When doing music projects, sometimes having a recognizable melody represented very simply as notes and durations with only one note at a time can be an awfully handy resource, and you can find them on GitHub. There’s a brief video of the Tetris theme (actual name: Korobeiniki) being played after the break.
Continue reading “Need Hackable Melodies? Here’s The TETRIS Theme And More”
Back in the ’80s, home computers weren’t capable of much in terms of audio or multimedia as a whole. Arguably, it wasn’t until the advent of 16-bit computers such as the Amiga that musicians could make soundtrack-quality music without having to plug actual studio gear up to their machines. [Michael Wessel] is trying to bring some of that and many more features to the Amstrad CPC with his ambitious LambdaSpeak 3 project, an expansion card built completely up from scratch and jam-packed with features.
First, and likely giving it its name, is the speech synthesizer. [Michael] has made an emulation mode where his card can act just like the original SSA-1 expansion, being able to be controlled by the same software as back then. By default, the card offers this mode with an Epson S1V30120 daughterboard (which is based on DECTalk synthesis), however for further authenticity you also have the option of fitting it with an SP0256-AL2 chip, the same one used in the original Amstrad hardware in 1985.
As for the more musical part of the project, the board supports 4-channel PCM playback, much like the Amiga’s sound offering. This can be used for a drum machine sequencer program, and it has an Amdrum mode, emulating another expansion from the original Amstrad days. Sample playback can also be used alongside the speech synthesis as shown here, with random allophone beats that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Kraftwerk recording. Finally, by using the UART interface included on the LambdaSpeak, you can also turn the CPC itself into a synth by giving it MIDI in/out and interfacing a controller in real time with the computer’s AY-3-8912 sound chip.
If you like modern expansions giving old computers new life, did you know that you can get just about any retro computer online, perhaps a TRS-80, an Amiga and even a Psion Organizer? And if you’re interested in just using old systems’ sound chips with modern USB MIDI controllers, it’s easy to make a microcontroller do all the heavy lifting.
Continue reading “Giving The Amstrad CPC A Voice And A Drum Kit”
There are many venerable soundchips in the chiptune pantheon, of which the AY-3-8910 is perhaps one of the lesser known. Having not served on active duty for Nintendo or Commodore it’s somewhat unloved in the USA, but it made its name in a variety of arcade and pinball machines and has quite a European following due to its appearance in machines bearing the Amstrad and Sinclair names. [TheSpodShed] decided to whip up a USB MIDI interface for the chip, with the help of the Arduino Pro Micro.
The Arduino Pro Micro is a Sparkfun creation, using the ATmega32U4 microcontroller. Its USB MIDI functionality makes it a perfect candidate for such a build, and it also packs enough digital IO to run the AY-3-8910, with 13 lines required to get things going. [TheSpodShed] whipped up the project on protoboard, with only a few passives needed along with the sound chip and Arduino.
The Arduino code was written with an eye to making the most of the chip’s limited polyphony. The synth prioritises the most recent received notes, while also aiming to keep the highest and lowest of the currently requested notes still playing where possible. This gives the synth the best chance of keeping the expected bass and melody intact when playing a wide variety of MIDI content.
It’s a tidy build, and one that shows some love for a soundchip some have forgotten. Of course, it’s not the only option – we’ve also seen the SAM2695 and YM2612 given the same treatment. Video after the break.
Continue reading “Chiptunes Via USB MIDI With The AY-3-8910”