Help me retro-fy my music
August 17, 2009 1:20 AM   Subscribe

Help me write retro-styled video game music! I've finally found a system that works for me, but its supported music formats are OGG - which is nice, but too heavyweight for the kind of retro feel I want - and MOD/XM, which has definite potential...

I'm trying to go for a sort of classic 16-bit feel, and tracked audio formats seem like the obvious way to go here (since they're basically what the SNES used). The thing about MODs and XM files is that they depend on instrument samples, and I've been scouring the net looking for sources. Is there any good source for reliable low-fi instrument samples that sound appropriately video-gamey? I've seen soundfonts taken from various games, but I feel a bit odd using an existing game's instrument set, and the other soundfonts I've seen are these high-end professional-type things that are similarly no good for my purposes. What I really want is just a set of about 20-30 different basic instrument noises, all free to use - generic brass, generic strings, a bass, a flute, a handful of percussion noises, things like that, in WAV format if possible (or at least some form where I won't need a special soundfont librarian program to get at them). But where would I find such a thing?
posted by wanderingmind to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You're slightly confusing two things here. At least, .ogg is a music container, but has no relevance (beyond its compression) to how the music it contains sounds. MODs are a music definition format, which have slightly more bearing on the sound of the music performed, but again, only tangentially.

You want: a) sound sources which sound reasonably gamey, b) a way of arranging those sounds into music (which may or may not be a MOD-based tracker, but could just as easily be a fully fledged DAW like Reaper ( and c) a final, distribution format, which could well be .ogg, or .mod files (though that leaves the listener to find the sounds themselves), or any other.

For sources, have a look at QuadraSID (, which is a softsynth that would work in any VSTi compatible host (such as the aforementioned Repear, amongst others) and is based on the SID chip in the Commodore 64 - you can't get much more gamey than that!

Otherwise, samples can be sequenced in a tracker, or in a DAW. Or you can layer samples, lines from the SID and other analog synth VSTis to produce your music.

After that, you'll mix-down/render the music into a distributable file. If it sounded 16-bit and gamey before the mix-down, it will do so afterwards too, even if you mixdown to .ogg, or you choose .mp3s, or whatever.

posted by benzo8 at 1:29 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

A good source for opensourced samples is freesound. There is tons of material to wade through, but you may be able to find some retro samples you will like.
posted by sundri at 2:35 AM on August 17, 2009

Have a look at the sample used by chiptunes and SIDs, such as those found in Aminet or HVSC.
posted by XiBe at 3:20 AM on August 17, 2009

Ah! You have chosen a righteous path to bit-wise enlightenment, young apprentice!

Download the original Soundtracker ST-disks from Aminet. These contain the original samples used by an eternal armada of tracker musicians, in music disks, demos and computer games during the eons of 16 bit dynasty rule.

Each disks contain perhaps as much as 1.44 megabytes of deliciously noisy, grainy 8 bit samples. Beats, drums, percussion, synths, bass, chords, even a few guitar and orchestra stabs for the lucky explorer. The lower the ST number, the more famous the sounds.

You might need to tune them individually or globally towards the nazi regime of modern production frequencies, but such was indeed the true challenge of the ninja trackster.

Now go!
posted by gmm at 4:46 AM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

its supported music formats are OGG - which is nice, but too heavyweight for the kind of retro feel I want

An audio track's encoding doesn't affect the sound or feel of what is in it; it is the samples, synthesizers, production, and so on, that you put into the track that do. If you put 8-bit samples into a high-fidelity format, it will sound exactly like what you put into it (which I take as an advantage).
posted by advil at 7:20 AM on August 17, 2009

Thanks for the quick answers - I think I've found something that'll work. I'll put the results up on MeFi Music later on, once I've got a song.
posted by wanderingmind at 9:35 AM on August 17, 2009

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