In regards to the melody, we could just leave it as it is, and it’d be accurate in terms of pitch…but we can make it sound much more expressive and lively using some extra tweaks. Namely, making the melody slide into and away from the main notes (via pitch bend), an adding that magical vibration of the note we like to call vibrato (via the mod wheel). Here’s a picture of how some of that looks.
(Click Image to hear sample!)
As you can hear, the melody in this case has a little more life to it, but there’s still a little extra work we can do. One trick I like to do is to create an echo effect, which is fairly easy to do. I simply make a copy of the melody line after I’m done writing it, offset the copy forward by some short interval (in this case, an 1/8th note), and make the copied melody softer. The end result is a fairly nice echo effect that adds some wonderful density to the previously dry sounding line:
(Another clickable picture to hear another sample!)
Now we’re talking! Let’s move on to those drums. Just to give you an idea of how the drum samples that I used sounded on their own, simply click here
. Notice how it sounds extremely empty, especially when soloed on its own, and how dark sounding it seems to be right now? We can fix that with some layering!
What I ended up doing was layering other drum samples (all of which were from the same sample collection I linked to earlier!), as well as using simple white noise (manipulated, of course!) to help give those samples some more impact, clarity, thickness. Let’s take a glance at what that looks like…
(I don’t think I need to explain what you can do here. :D)
The last topic I want to hit on for this segment deals with the ‘chord’ sounds that I came up with to deal with the lack of harmony in the song. I only used it during the chorus of the song, not only to keep the song from getting too busy, but also to help reinforce the structure of the song. Now, these chords are done using the same sound sources as everything else in the song, and furthermore, the tracks are monophonic (which means only one note can be played at a time on each track).
So how did I create something that sounded like sustained chords, with multiple notes being played at once?
Take a look at this picture, and click on it to check the sample of what it sounds like:
Can you figure it out? It may look like a mess of notes that shouldn’t be able to make any sort of sound, but upon closer inspection…
…you can see that I simply have notes moving up and down around the appropriate notes of the harmony, but extremely quickly. This creates the illusion of a sustained chord, using just a monophonic sound.
This is, in fact, in line with a common technique that was used predominantly by Western game composers during the 80’s, especially on platforms like the Commodore 64. I’ll pull out some examples of this down the line, especially if I get some sort of encouragement/recommendations to do so. 😉
With those three techniques examined, this concludes this first (of hopefully many!) installment of Famicom Fridays. Please feel free to leave comments about what you thought of this entry, and what you might want to read/see/hear more about in future installments. Also, if there is a particular 8-bit track that is featured on my blog that you want me to break down and explain in a future Famicom Friday, don’t hesitate to ask.
Have a great weekend folks! This has been Skitch, and I’ll be sure to see you again next Friday!