It goes "POOM-poom pa-DUM pa-dum, dum-ba-dum-ba dum". Got that computer?
September 19, 2014 9:25 PM   Subscribe

My brain often composes short melodies that float around my head for a while and then dissolve. Since my inner composer is twelve years old, these melodies tend to sound like the background music to old Nintendo games, early Zelda / Mario Brothers and that kind of thing. What they cry out for is to be put on loop while Link ventures out to boomerang Octorocks. I'd like to make this a reality. Presumably we're talking MIDI. Please suggest (a) software for this purpose, and (b) approaches to learning basic harmonization and instrumentation, especially in the context of some specific answer to (a).

I play jazz so I know musical notation and some music theory, but I know little about how to harmonize a melody and nothing about instrumentation. How can I learn the basics? I'm not looking to become a counterpoint whiz or anything like that, just to flesh out my ditties in the simplest possible way so they're more than just a melody line. What software is out there that has a simple input interface (not necessarily notation-based -- that's probably more complex than I need) and makes it easy to mess around with instrumentation, dynamics, tempo and so on?
posted by hoist with his own pet aardvark to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (4 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I use PXTone for my simple-interface game-music-making needs. It uses a "piano roll" interface format, so you have a series of lines on the screen where the length of the line is the length of the note, and the height of the line is the height of the pitch. Very intuitive for working with melodies, in my experience.

As for chords/harmony, I personally found that the best way to learn that stuff is to examine songs you know and look at their chords, until you develop a generalizable intuition for how the chord changes flow. Hooktheory is fantastic for this - you can look up a song and see the melody and chords side by side, and watch it scroll alongside either the original song (in Youtube video form) or have it play a piano-ized midi version of it (very helpful for picking out the sound more clearly). You can also, in piano mode, click on chords to hear how that specific chord sounds.
posted by NMcCoy at 9:34 PM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'll put Microsoft SongSmith here, partly as a serious suggestion , but mostly just as excuse to link to the fantastically terrible ad.
posted by quinndexter at 10:57 PM on September 19, 2014

Best answer: My chiptune programming friends love Jeskola Buzz.

I won't vouch for how easy it is - but it seems simple enough. They keep going on about how easy it is to learn, but I never seem to have the time to really mess with it.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:00 PM on September 19, 2014

Hi - Late to this, actually came across this because I'm completely overwhelmed with doing anything MORE than the NES-style music production.

Regardless of what software or OS you use, Magical 8 Bit Plug does a great job of recreating those classic NES sounds, and it's simple. If you have a MAC, that works very very well with Garage band.

I also use chiptunes for more complicated things - but it's not cheap. It seems pricey for what it is, I happened to catch it on a good sale. But for NES style, you need nothing more than what I've already mentioned.

I have a hard time for recommendations for the second part - I'm one of those infuriating people to which this comes so naturally I can't explain it well.
posted by MysticMCJ at 2:57 PM on December 26, 2014

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