Apr 27th, 2018
This week, we’re talking about the who, what, and why of Chiptunes! A few parts music theory, a few parts video games, and a lot of speculation!
Next week, Nier, far, wherever you are, we know that your heart will be… drifting out in space, ready to take down aliens? We’ll be talking about the Nier series!
History and Origins:
Chiptune (also known as chip music or 8-bit music) is a style of synthesized electronic music which is made for a programmable sound generator (PSG) though the term is also often used for music made in the tracker format, which is intended to sound like PSG-created music. This music is often composed from ‘simple’ wave forms such as pulse waves, square waves, triangle waves, and sawtooth waves.
Although real-time synthesized has been possible since as early as 1951, it wasn’t until the golden age of video arcade games (late 70s and early 80s) that chiptune music began to appear in video games (and by extension, reach the masses). Of particular note, artists such as Yello Magic Orchestra had started sampling video game music in the late 70s which had a major influence on music that would later come in the 8- and 16-bit eras.
Various advances in computing, such as frequency modulation synthesis (FM synthesis), MIDI, and sample-based sound synthesis furthered chiptune music up until the end of the 1980s where chiptune music declined in popularity until a resurgence in interest in the mid-2000s with mainstream music leveraging the artform again (for example, Girl by Beck, or On Top by the Killers).
We could likely have a whole episode on the history of chiptunes…
Interest in Chiptune is probably about the same as the oldest data we have from 2004. As mentioned in the history, the mid-2000s did see an increase in chiptune music, from 2004 until the height of interest in August 2010 (possibly related to Kesha’s best-selling single of 2010, Tik Tok). Since then, interest has been on a slow decline to 2004 levels.
The top 10 countries, by search volume, are as follows: Sweeden, Norway, Finland, Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Denmark, United States, United Kingdom, Japan.
Size of Fandom:
Based on a few data points…
- The chiptune subreddit has over 22 000 subscribers
- Anamanaguchi released their album Endless Fantasy (and then some) on Kickstarter with over 7000 backers and over $250 000 USD
- DJ Cutman has almost 9000 followers on Facebook
- Ben Briggs has over 12 000 subscribers on YouTube
It’s safe to say that there are probably tens of thousands of fans of chiptunes.
There are some terms that are not exactly fan terms, but more generally musical / technical terms:
- Sample: a digital sound file of an instrument, voice, or sound effect
- Note: the frequency a sample is played at, like an instrument (e.g. C, C#, G)
- Track / Channel: a space where a sample is played back at a time. Some hardware limits the number of channels available, and modern trackers often have an unlimited number of channels.
- Pattern: a group of tracks that represents a full section of a song
- Order: part of a sequence of patterns that defines the layout of a song
- Fakebit: Poorly defined, but often referring to music that is written that is possible to be performed on a particular sound chip, but may have been written on modern hardware
- Riptunes: A more extreme version of Fakebit; music that uses chiptune sounds without regard to whether or not the piece could be played on a particular sound chip
Fanac Fast Facts:
Last Episode’s Famous Last Words
Is there an artist who treats different chips like different instruments? Is there a band where someone plays Genesis, NES, etc?
Difference between Chiptunes and EDM fans?
These people who make chiptunes… do they care what version of the chips they use are?
A majority of chiptunes do not use chips.
G is out. You up the bitrate and it sounds like New Order. Imports dance trends. Loves music… but music and nerdy stuff never crossed.
T is in. Contrary to G, has crossed nerdy and music a lot.
Z is out. Enjoys 8-bit music and retrogaming, and music is important to games… but chiptunes doesn’t have the lushness that prog rock has.
This week’s spotlight
GameChops is the record label for video game remixes. We are a group of passionate musicians and gamers who’ve grown up along-side video games.
All GameChops remix albums and singles are sold with a Creative Commons license, allowing you to use our remixes in your streams, youtube videos, podcasts or other projects. Buy a GameChops album on iTunes or, other online music store and it’s yours to use, as long as you credit the remixer and provide a link back to GameChops. Questions? Contact Us.
Famous Last Words
This week’s famous last words around next week’s fandom, Lego fans!
We all know that there are AFOLs, but are there a AFODs (Adult Fans of Duplo)
Is there a large divide between fans of megablocks and fans of LEGO?
How do fans feel about the corn cob guy minifig?
Why do some fans come back to LEGO after their dark age, while others don’t?
Where can you find us online?
We are everywhere! Most notably though, we like to hang out in a few places on social media:
- If you want to be part of our podcast (or just want to check us out), we record our podcast LIVE on twitch.tv every Monday at 20:00 Eastern Time!
- For all the latest updates, check us out on Facebook or Twitter
- To see the latest hijinx from our conventions or even our daily lives and adventures, check us out on Instagram
- For our latest convention updates, Let’s Plays, and other in-real-life video, check out our YouTube channel
- We’re also on iTunes, and Google Play, and would love it if you could leave a review and rating!
- if you want to reach us, and for some reason none of those work for you, try firstname.lastname@example.org
- You can check out our website; that will mostly bring you back to this stuff.
- Everything is
thenickscast, so if you can’t find us, go on your social network and search for that!
What is “Fanthropological”?
How did you read this far without asking this question?!
Fanthropological is an anthropological (ish) podcast where we bring the fan’s-eye view to you! Each week, we take a look at a different fandom, dig up interesting background, trivia, and history, and try to get to why it is that people are a fan. We also try to highlight good causes related to that fandom, and find interesting things that fans have created to share those to the world. Each episode is about an hour. Ish.
Who is “The Nickscast”?
We are the Nickscast! Three products of late-80s / early-90s pop culture who love exploring fandom and everything geek … who also happen to have been best buddies since high school, and all happen to be named Nick. Yes, we are super creative (dare we say, the most creative).
We are Nick Green, Nick Terwoord, and Nick Zacharewicz: We started the Nickscast as a labour of love, and as a place to entertain and to discuss our love of fans and fandom, and all that is shiny and interesting in that realm. It’s what lead us to start our first podcast, our satellite podcasts, Fanthropological, and so much more.
We want to help others learn more about different fandoms, and to create empathy with other fans: We dream of a world where other fans aren’t “those Weird-o’s”, but just folks with different tastes. A world where fandom is full of discourse and analysis, and there are plenty of tools and resources to help. Fans building communities to do good in the world. Because everyone’s a fan.
- Wikipedia - Chiptune
- Wikipedia - Music Tracker
- Google Trends - Chiptunes
- Kickstarter - Anamanaguchi - make ENDLESS FANTASY more than an album!
- Facebook - DjCUTMAN
- YouTube - Ben Briggs
- BeepBox - BeepBox
- Quora - Audio and Acoustical Engineering: Why Are 16-bit Chiptunes so Rare?
- Quora - Why Is Chiptune Music so Appealing?
- Quora - What Is It Like to Compose Chiptunes and How Is It Different from Composing Music Using Traditional Instruments?
- TV Tropes - Chiptune
- Wikipedia - Chiptune
- Youtube - SNES & NES soundtrack on SEGA Genesis sound chip [PART II]
- Kotaku - The chiptunes band that just might break through
- Everynoise - Chiptunes
Music / Sound
- “Chiptune Downtempo Funk Party” by TeknoAXE used under CC BY 4.0
- All other music and sound for this week’s episode were provided by Nick Green!