Press Play On Nostalgia How To Make Chiptune Music That Will Take You Back To The Future

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Welcome to the world of chiptune music! If you’ve ever played classic video games from the 80s and 90s, chances are you’ve heard chiptune music before. The retro sound of gameplay consoles like the Nintendo Entertainment System and Game Boy has kept this style of music alive, and now more than ever, people are looking to create their own chiptunes. In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of making chiptune music, from understanding the basics to using the right tools to produce your own tracks.

Are you looking to add a touch of nostalgia to your music? Perhaps you’re a video game enthusiast looking to create your own soundtrack? Whatever your goal may be, by the end of this article, you’ll be well-equipped to make your own chiptune music. You’ll learn about the different styles of chiptune music and what makes them unique. We’ll also provide you with valuable tips and techniques to make your tracks stand out and sound great.

With the rise of indie game developers and retro game enthusiasts, chiptune music is becoming more popular than ever. In fact, many artists have found success by incorporating chiptune elements into their music. By following our step-by-step guide, you’ll have the knowledge and tools to create your own chiptunes and even use them in your personal projects. So, let’s get started!

Getting Started with Chiptune Music Production

Chiptune music, or 8-bit music, is a genre that is gaining popularity in the music world. It involves creating music using sound chips that are found in vintage video game consoles or other electronic devices. Chiptune music has a unique sound that can be attributed to the limitations of these sound chips, which make it a popular choice for creating music that is nostalgia-inducing yet modern.

If you’re interested in producing chiptune music, then this beginner’s guide will help you get started.

1. Understand the Basics of Chiptune Music

Understanding the basics of chiptune music is the essential first step for any beginner. It involves knowing the tools you require for producing chiptune music, the right software, and hardware to use.

  • Tools: Chiptune artists typically use a combination of hardware and software tools to make music. These tools include sound chips, synthesizers, and trackers (programs that allow you to create chiptune music). Sound chips like the SID 6581 and YM2149 are popular in the chiptune community.
  • Software: There are several software options available for making chiptune music, including Famitracker, LSDJ (Little Sound DJ), and Milkytracker. These programs allow you to create and manipulate sounds while also letting you customize tracks to your liking.
  • Hardware: The hardware needed for chiptune production is relatively low budget, and you can create chiptune music using just a computer. However, if you want to use vintage sound chips, you will need to invest in some hardware such as a MIDI interface or loopback adapter for your computer.

2. Learn the Terminology

As with any area of music production, chiptune music has its own set of technical terms. Learning these terms will make it easier for you to understand and communicate within the chiptune community. Here are some key terms to start with:

  • Arcade Game: An electronic video game that is played in a public location
  • Lo-Fi: Audio that is purposely of low quality
  • Pulse Width Modulation (PWM): A type of digital signal that is used to create the sound in chiptune music
  • Square Wave: A waveform with equal amplitude in its upper and lower states
  • Tracker: A program used to create chiptune music that uses a vertical timeline to organize sounds
  • Waveform: The shape of an audio signal as it oscillates over time

3. Study the Masters of Chiptune Music

Studying the work of other chiptune artists can help you understand the nuances of the genre better. Listen to and analyze the work of some of the masters of chiptune music, such as:

  • Jake Kaufman, who composed the music for the Shantae series of games
  • Rob Hubbard, who is known for his music in games like Monty on the Run
  • Noriyuki Iwadare, known for his work on games like Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

4. Practice and Experiment

Like any art form, chiptune music takes practice and experimentation to master. Take the time to experiment with different sounds, styles, and techniques to find what works best for you. Don’t be afraid to take risks and try new things!

5. Attend Chiptune Music Events and Gatherings

Attending chiptune music events and gatherings is a great way to meet other chiptune artists, learn from them, and get inspired. You can also get valuable feedback on your work and meet potential collaborators. Some popular events include MAGFest, Blip Festival, and Chipocrasy.

Pros of Chiptune Music Cons of Chiptune Music Comparisons
Has a unique sound that is nostalgic The genre has limited mainstream popularity Chiptune vs. other electronic genres, such as house or techno
Relatively low-budget hardware requirements Limitations of vintage sound chips create a unique set of challenges Chiptune vs. other genres of video game music
Opportunities to network with other chiptune artists Can be difficult to create a high-quality sound Chiptune vs. other genres of niche music (e.g., vaporwave)
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In conclusion, chiptune music is a unique and exciting genre that can be accessible to anyone with a computer and some basic tools. With practice and experimentation, you can create music that is nostalgic, modern, and wholly your own.

Choosing the Right Software for Creating Chiptune Music

Creating chiptune music requires specialized software that can simulate the sound of retro video game consoles. There are various options on the market to choose from, each with its pros and cons. This guide will help you choose the right software for your needs.

Free vs. Paid Software

The first thing to consider when choosing software for chiptune music production is whether you want to use free or paid software. While free software might seem like the best option for beginners, it might not offer the same quality and features as paid software.

Free chiptune music software often has limitations, such as fewer instruments and sound effects to choose from or fewer editing options. Paid software, on the other hand, tends to be more robust and feature-rich, with plenty of predefined sounds and easy customization options. However, paid software can be more expensive and might pose an issue for some budget-strapped individuals.

Therefore, before choosing software, you must consider your budget and the features you require. Here are the pros and cons of free and paid software options:

  1. Free Software
    • Pros
      • No cost involved
      • Suitable for beginners
      • Can be used in conjunction with other software to expand your capabilities
      • Good for experimentation
      • Can produce acceptable-quality music on a budget
    • Cons
      • Often limited functionality
      • Limited support options
      • Limited customization options
      • May not offer the same quality of sound effects
      • Can be challenging to learn and master
  2. Paid Software
    • Pros
      • More advanced features and customization options
      • Generally offer superior audio quality
      • Comprehensive support options
      • Easy to learn and use
      • Updates available regularly to maintain the latest features
    • Cons
      • Expensive compared to free software
      • Can be overwhelming for new users
      • Requires powerful hardware to run smoothly

Popular Chiptune Music Software

There are numerous options for chiptune music software, but some are more popular than others. Here are the most popular chiptune music software:

  1. Famitracker
    • Pros
      • Free
      • Has a variety of features for chiptune production
      • Offers a simple interface
      • Easy to learn
      • Good support options
    • Cons
      • Limited support for advanced chiptune production
      • Only compatible with Windows
  2. Little Sound Dj
    • Pros
      • Highly customizable
      • Offers features for advanced chiptune production
      • An active user community that provides a lot of help and resources
      • Compatible with Gameboy consoles and emulators
    • Cons
      • Only compatible with Gameboy consoles and emulators
      • Can be challenging for beginners
  3. Deflemask
    • Pros
      • Supports multiple platforms, including Windows, Mac OS, and Linux
      • Large selection of instruments
      • Can save files in various formats
      • Active user community that provides assistance
    • Cons
      • Challenging to master
      • Can be overwhelming for some users
  4. OpenMPT
    • Pros
      • Compatible with Windows
      • Renders exceptional audio quality
      • Easy to use
      • Updated regularly
    • Cons
      • Limited support for chiptune production
      • Can be difficult to customize sounds


Choosing the right software is crucial when it comes to creating chiptune music. It is essential to consider your budget and the features you require before making a decision. Additionally, it is also important to consider the compatibility of the software with your hardware to ensure you have a smooth music-making experience. Following the tips presented here, you can now confidently choose the right software for your chiptune music production needs, whether it is free or paid software.

Mastering the Basics of Programming Sound Chips for Chipmusic

Chipmusic, also known as chiptune, is a genre of electronic music that utilizes sound chips from old video game consoles or computers. It has gained popularity in recent years, particularly in the gaming and hacker communities. To create your own chipmusic, you need to master the basics of programming sound chips. This subsection will guide you through the essential steps of programming sound chips for chipmusic.

1. Choosing the Right Sound Chip

Choosing the right sound chip is critical to creating quality chipmusic. Sound chips from classic game consoles, such as Nintendo’s NES or Game Boy, are popular choices for creating chipmusic. You should also make sure that you have access to the necessary documentation that lists the command codes and instructions for the chip you choose to work with.

Here is a table that compares some of the most popular sound chips used in chipmusic:

Sound Chip Popular Use Command Codes Pros Cons
YM2149 Atari ST, Amiga, ZX Spectrum AY-3-8910 3 channels, 8-bit sound quality Complicated command codes
NES APU Nintendo Entertainment System 2A03 Distinctive 8-bit sound, 4 channels Limited frequencies, low sound quality
Game Boy Nintendo Game Boy LR35902 4 channels, includes built-in samples Limited frequencies, no volume control

2. Understanding Sound Chip Programming Language

Sound chip programming language is a set of command codes and instructions that are used to control the sound chip. Each sound chip has its own unique programming language. Some of the most widely used sound chip programming languages are:

  • Music Macro Language (MML): a text-based language that allows for precise control over sound chips.
  • LittleGPTracker: a visual programming language that lets you create music in real-time.
  • Deflemask: a software program that allows for the creation of music on various sound chips.

To master sound chip programming language, you need to study the documentation of the sound chip you’re working with and practice coding in the chosen language.

3. Creating Chiptune Music with a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)

Using a DAW is one of the most popular ways to create chiptune music. A DAW allows you to produce and edit music on a computer. Here are the essential steps to creating chiptune music with a DAW:

  1. Creating a MIDI Track: Start by creating a new MIDI track in your DAW.
  2. Choosing the Right Sound: Next, you need to choose the right sound for your chiptune. Select a plugin that emulates the sound of the sound chip you’re working with.
  3. Programming the Music: Once you’ve selected the sound, you can begin programming the music using the sound chip programming language. Remember to experiment with different sounds, rhythms, and tempos to create a unique sound.
  4. Layering Sounds: To create complexity and depth in your chiptune, you can layer different sounds on top of each other. This can include using samples, drum hits, or even other sound chips.
  5. Mixing and Mastering: After you’ve completed the composition, you need to mix and master the track. This includes adjusting the levels, panning, and EQ to create a cohesive sound.

Using a DAW provides a lot of flexibility and control over your chiptune music. It allows for precise editing and mixing of different sounds and notes to create professional-quality music.

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In conclusion, mastering the basics of programming sound chips for chipmusic is essential to creating quality chiptune music. By choosing the right sound chip, mastering sound chip programming language, and using a DAW, you can create unique and memorable chiptune compositions.

Experimenting with Synthesizers and Effects to Enhance Your Chiptune Music

Chiptune music is a genre that revolves around using sound chips from older video game consoles and arcade machines to create sounds. With the advancements in technology, the chiptune genre has evolved to include a wide array of hardware and software synthesizers, as well as effects processors. In this section, we will take a look at how experimenting with synthesizers and effects can enhance your chiptune music.

1. Discovering New Synthesizers

One of the main ways to enhance your chiptune music is to discover new synthesizers. There are a variety of hardware and software synthesizers available that are designed specifically for chiptune music. Some of the most popular software synths include Famisynth, SidTracker 64, and NES VST. Hardware options include the Korg Volca series and the Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator series.

It’s important to take time to research and experiment with different synthesizers to find the one that meets your needs. When experimenting with a new synthesizer, it’s best to start with the presets and then tweak the settings to create your desired sound.

2. Modifying Sound with Effects Processors

Effects processors can alter the sound of your chiptune music in endless ways. The most common effects processors used in chiptune music include distortion, reverb, delay, and chorus. These effects can add depth and dimension to your chiptune sound.

When using effects processors, it’s important to consider the order in which you apply them. For example, reverb should be applied after distortion to avoid drowning out the distortion effect. Experimenting with different orders can lead to unique and interesting sounds.

3. Sound Design Techniques to Experiment with

Experimenting with different sound design techniques can create unique sounds for your chiptune music. Some popular techniques include:

  • Arpeggiators: These are great for creating fast, repetitive patterns in your chiptune music.
  • Sample Rate Reduction: This technique involves reducing the bit depth and sampling rate of your sound to create a more lo-fi sound.
  • Gating: Gating involves chopping up your sound to create a stuttering effect.

Using these techniques will help you produce sounds that stand out and make your chiptune music more interesting.

4. Chiptune Music Software and Devices

Chiptune music software and devices are specifically designed to create chiptune sounds. These devices can be used to create a unique chiptune sound that is not possible with other music software. Some popular chiptune music options include:

  1. Little Sound Dj: This is a popular chiptune music software designed for the Game Boy Advance. It allows you to create music directly on the device.
  2. Nanoloop: This is another chiptune software that can be run on a Game Boy Advance. It offers a variety of features such as drum machines and synthesizers.
  3. Atari Punk Console: This is a DIY kit that allows you to build a simple chiptune synth with a unique sound.

Experimenting with chiptune music software and devices allows for unlimited creative possibilities and a unique sound that is specific to the chiptune genre. However, it is important to note that these options may require some technical knowledge and experience to use.

Option Pros Cons
Little Sound Dj Allows for direct music creation on Game Boy Advance, versatile sound creation options May require technical knowledge and experience to use
Nanoloop Offers a variety of features such as drum machines and synthesizers May require technical knowledge and experience to use
Atari Punk Console DIY kit that allows for unique sound creation Requires building and technical knowledge to use


Experimenting with synthesizers and effects can enhance your chiptune music and make it more interesting. Discovering new synthesizers, modifying sound with effects processors, experimenting with different sound design techniques, and using chiptune music software and devices are all great ways to achieve this. By taking the time to experiment with these options and find what works best for you, you can create unique sounds and stand out in the chiptune genre.

Promoting Your Chiptune Music: Tips for Getting Noticed in the Chipmusic Community

As with any form of art or music, getting noticed in the chipmusic community can be a difficult task. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to increase your chances of standing out and making an impact. In this section, we will explore a few key tips for promoting your chiptune music and getting noticed by the right people.

1. Build a Strong Online Presence

In today’s digital age, having a strong online presence is crucial for anyone looking to promote their music. This is especially true for chiptune artists, who often rely on online communities to connect with fans and other artists. Here are a few ways to build a strong online presence:

  • Create a website or blog: Having a dedicated website or blog where you can showcase your music and interact with fans is a great way to establish yourself online.
  • Use social media: Platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook can be valuable tools for promoting your music and connecting with potential fans and collaborators. Make sure to post regularly and engage with your followers.
  • Participate in online communities: There are several online forums and communities dedicated to chiptune music. Participating in these communities can help you connect with other artists and fans and increase your visibility.

2. Collaborate with Other Artists

Collaborating with other artists is a great way to expand your reach and get noticed by more people. Here are a few tips for collaborating with other chiptune artists:

  • Connect with other artists online: Use social media and online communities to connect with other chiptune artists. Once you’ve established a relationship, you can explore the possibility of working together.
  • Participate in chiptune events: Attending and participating in chiptune events and festivals can be a great way to meet other artists and potentially collaborate with them.
  • Be open to new ideas: Collaboration is all about being open to new ideas and working together to create something unique. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things.

3. Perform Live

Performing live is an excellent way to promote your music and get noticed by fans and other artists. Here are a few tips for performing live:

  • Play at chiptune events: Look for chiptune events and festivals in your area and see if you can book a slot to perform.
  • Network with other artists: Use your live performances as an opportunity to network with other artists and potentially collaborate with them in the future.
  • Be prepared: Make sure you have everything you need for your live performance, including your equipment and any promotional materials you want to distribute.
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4. Submit Your Music to Blogs and Podcasts

Submitting your music to blogs and podcasts is a great way to get your music in front of a wider audience. Here are a few tips for submitting your music:

  • Research blogs and podcasts that cover chiptune music: Look for blogs and podcasts that focus on chiptune music and see if they accept submissions.
  • Follow submission guidelines: Make sure you follow the submission guidelines provided by the blog or podcast. This will increase your chances of getting your music accepted.
  • Include a short bio and promotional materials: When submitting your music, be sure to include a short bio and any promotional materials you want to share with potential listeners.

5. Use Online Advertising and Promotion

Finally, using online advertising and promotion can be an effective way to get your music noticed by a wider audience. Here are a few options to consider:

  • Social media advertising: Platforms like Facebook and Instagram offer advertising options that can help you target your music to specific audiences.
  • Google AdWords: Google AdWords is another option to consider, as it allows you to create targeted ads that appear in search results.
  • Email marketing: Building an email list of fans and potential fans can be a valuable tool for promoting your music and keeping people informed about your latest releases and performances.
Option Pros Cons
Social media advertising
  • Can target specific audiences
  • Relatively inexpensive compared to traditional advertising
  • Offers detailed analytics and reporting
  • Can be time-consuming to set up and manage
  • May not be effective if targeting is not done correctly
Google AdWords
  • Can reach a large audience quickly
  • Provides detailed analytics and reporting
  • Can be relatively inexpensive compared to traditional advertising
  • Can be complicated to set up and manage
  • May not be effective if targeting is not done correctly
Email marketing
  • Allows for direct communication with fans and potential fans
  • Can be personalized and targeted to specific audiences
  • Offers detailed analytics and reporting
  • Requires building an email list, which can be time-consuming
  • May be viewed as spam by some recipients

By following these tips and utilizing online tools, you can effectively promote your chiptune music and increase your visibility within the chipmusic community. With dedication and hard work, you can establish yourself as a recognizable and respected name within the industry.

FAQs: How to Make Chiptune Music

What is chiptune music?

Chiptune, also known as 8-bit music or chip music, is a genre of electronic music performed using sound chips from vintage computers, arcade machines, or game consoles.

What software do I need to make chiptune music?

You can use various software, such as MilkyTracker, Famitracker, LSDJ, or Nanoloop, to make chiptune music. Each software has its strengths and weaknesses, features, and limitations, so you might want to experiment with different options to find what suits you best.

How do I create a melody in chiptune music?

You can create melodies in your chiptune music by using arpeggios, square waves, or pulse waves, and experimenting with note lengths, volumes, and effects such as tremolo or vibrato.

What are some tips for making chiptune music?

Some tips for making chiptune music include listening to other chiptune artists for inspiration, experimenting with different sounds, practicing pattern and song arrangement, and mastering the basics of your software.

Can I make chiptune music with real instruments?

While chiptune music is typically made with sound chips, you can also create chiptune music with real instruments by using software such as 8bitbandit or chip32.

What are some classic sound chips used in chiptune music?

Some classic sound chips used in chiptune music include the Commodore 64’s SID chip, the Nintendo Entertainment System’s 2A03 chip, and the Atari POKEY chip.

Can I use samples in chiptune music?

You can use samples in chiptune music, but they need to be in the same format and quality as the sound chips you’re using. Otherwise, they may sound out of place or distorted.

How do I make drums in chiptune music?

You can make drums in chiptune music by using noise channels or pulse channels, and adjusting the volume, speed, and length of the notes to create a rhythmic pattern.

What are some common effects used in chiptune music?

Some common effects used in chiptune music include vibrato, slide, arpeggio, tremolo, delay, and reverb.

Can I make chiptune music on a mobile device?

Yes, you can make chiptune music on a mobile device by using apps such as Nanoloop, LSDJ, or Gadget.


Making chiptune music can be a fun and rewarding experience, whether you’re a seasoned musician or a beginner. We’ve covered some basic concepts and tips on how to make chiptune music, including the software you can use, how to create melodies, drums, and effects, and how to experiment with different sounds and instruments. After reading this article, you may want to practice making simple patterns or songs, listening to other chiptune artists, and joining communities or events to showcase your work. Thank you for reading, and happy chiptuning!