How Oldschool Sound/Music worked

How Oldschool Sound/Music worked


David: Hello, this is David from The 8-Bit Guy, and today I’ve got a special guest star with me, Rob from The Obsolete Geek. Rob: Today, we’re going to talk about how “old school” music works. Part 1: Beeper Speaker David: In the early days of home computers, most of them just had a simple “beeper speaker”. Examples would be the IBM PC and the Apple II. These speakers were controlled directly by the computer’s CPU. The speaker could make clicking noises and the CPU would have to time the clicking noises exactly right in order to produce certain tones. If a programmer wanted to spend the time, some very advanced sound of music could be produced this way, But, the trouble was it would require all of the CPU’s run time to accomplish that, leaving nothing leftover for the computer to do anything else. (Noid Laugh) Part 2: FM Synthesizer David: So, by the early 1980s, most computers and game consoles had dedicated sound chips to take this load away from the CPU. Each system at that time had a very characteristic sound along with its unique style of graphics, which helped to give each system its own personality. OK. So, the first thing you need to understand is that different systems had different numbers of voices or “Channels”. To better explain how that works, let me show you this old musical keyboard. It only has a single voice, and as you can see, it cannot play more than one note at a time. In order to do that, you will need to have at least two voices. Now, this keyboard here, is considerably more advanced than the other one. And it has a total of 4 voices, that means you can play up to 4 notes at the same time. So, having multiple voices is great, but those voices also need to be flexible as in able to create different types of waveforms. For example, this keyboard can change the waveform of it’s voice to produce different types of sound. OK, so let’s have a look at two of the more popular systems from the 1980s in order to see two different approaches to creating music. The Nintendo Entertainment System had five voices, And the Commodore 64 had 3 voices. Now, you might immediately assume that Nintendo was better, but actually it wasn’t. Here’s why. The voices used in the NES, was in the most part stuck making one type of sound. The first two voices can only produce
square waves that sound like this. The third voice can only produce a
triangle and is typically used for the low bass notes The fourth voice can only
produce noise. And the fifth voice is for PCM sampled sounds, which was rarely used. But a good example would be Super Mario Brothers 3. You can clearly hear the steel drum
sounds being used. Because the way Nintendo music worked, all
game music sounded pretty much exactly the same. The tune might be different, but it was
like they used the same instrument so to speak. The Commodore 64 had three voices, it
could produce four different types of waveforms Square, Triangle, Sawtooth, and Noise. Or
any combination of those. In the early days most programmers would just assign
a certain sound to a particular voice and just leave it that way throughout the
entire song. That was the simplest thing to do. Here’s an example from the game M.U.L.E. But not long after some clever
programmers realized that it was possible to dynamically reassign the voices to
other wave forms on the fly. This gave the illusion of having more
than three voices. Take this example from Commando. In order to better understand what’s
going on here, try listening to one voice at a time. A few years later the IBM PC finally got
a decent sound upgrade in the form of the AdLib card which used the Yamaha YM 3812
sound chip. Shortly after the market share was lost,
in favor of the SoundBlaster card which also used the same YM 3812 sound chip. So this chip was basically the
foundation of computer music in the IBM PC world for the next 10 years. The YM
3812 had nine voices and much like the Commodore 64 the voices were
independently programmable. Incidentally this chip was also used in several
Yamaha keyboard such as this one. Take a look inside and you’ll see the YM
3812 sound chip. It’s almost as if you could take a SoundBlaster card and attach keys and speakers to it and you could play it
like an instrument. So take a listen to this little sample
of music from the game Ultima 6. And now listen as I recreate that same
sound on this keyboard. Alright so let’s talk about sampling for
a moment. Now one of the neat things about this keyboard that I haven’t shown you
yet, this this came out on 1985 and has four voices, but one of the things that
makes it interesting is it’s a sampling keyboard, and let me show you exactly
what that means. “8-Bit Guy!” So this was not the only
device to come out in 1985 that featured a four voice sampling system. The
other was the Commodore Amiga. The Commodore Amiga was the first affordable
home computer that featured a four voice stereo sampling sound system. And with it came a new type of computer
music known as the Modtracker. These were music files that contains samples of
different sounds and then the associated music information. The original mod tracker used a four
track system designed around the Amiga sound chip, but later versions
eventually added many more tracks for more sophisticated sound cards. This type of format is still in use
today as a method for composing new music. The Mod Tracker format is not used
quite so often anymore with the abundance of storage and memory on
modern machines, they pretty much just forego all of that type of music
synthesis in favor of just using one gigantic sample usually in the form of
like an mp3 file or something like that. All right, well that about wraps that up
I hope you found that interesting, maybe learn something you maybe didn’t already
know It also may have come to your attention
that I have changed the name of my channel The reason is, it’s been pointed out to
me on several occasions that I haven’t made real videos about Apple iBooks in
quite some time so I changed the name from the iBook Guy to the 8-Bit Guy
because it’s a little bit more representative of what I actually do
here. Also I want to take a moment to thank
Rob for being on my show, and why don’t you tell us a little bit about your
channel for a moment. Thank you for having me on your show, I’m
a big fan of your channel and one of the things I like to talk about on my
channel are a little bit more obscure, a little more unusual hardware as it
relates to video games. Like this Sharp x68000 computer from Japan, One of my
all-time favorite systems. And if you want to see a little bit more about this
piece of obscure equipment, there’s a link down in the description
field that you can click to take you over to his channel, and he’s got a lot of other
really obscure stuff in his collection that you can have a look at. Alright,
well also don’t forget to visit me on Facebook and I’ll see you a next time!

100 comments

  1. @7:15…Amazingly enough, a new game coming out called Ion Fury (previously Ion Maiden) has an amazing Mod Tracker soundtrack. The game is built on a new version of the old Build Engine game engine (used for Duke3D, Shadow Warrior, etc…). It really fits well with the game's style.

  2. for all of y’all wondering what the music for 6:20 is it’s Blood Money link below |
    V
    https://youtu.be/Cimu6LpnwmQ

  3. Just "discovered" 8-bit Bach, Mozart, et al, on YouTube. As a classical Cellist, I love the sounds produced in 8-bit!! Great video to you both, and thank you for the education (I sorely lacked!).

  4. BS Computer Science ‘84. MS Software Engineering ‘89. I never knew, learned or thought about how computers actually produced music. Great explanations thank you!

  5. The soundblaster pro was indeed popular for a long time, and didn't fall out of favor until the late 1990s, when motherboard providers began onboarding sound chips to do the job without an expansion card, albeit a little worse. With the profits and savings, the onboard mobo chips eventually grew to be competitive with the old soundblasters, and, eventually, outmatch them.

  6. x68000は無名じゃないだろ
    って思ったけど海外じゃそれほどだったんかなぁ
    名機だったなー

  7. When i hear 8 bit music im transported back to the 90's when i had a NES, Gameboy, Game Gear and a mk2 Mastersystem.

  8. I have mario bros 3 and when I move Mario on the map or take a coin et cetera, one channel stop playing and I think that happens because The NES can't produce all the 4 (or 5) voices at the same time so for do the "Moving Mario's sound" it have to stop a channel right? Is that true?

  9. Talk about jogging memories, my sister had that crappy 1 voice Casio keyboard. I totally forgot about it until I saw it in this video. Of course we took it over, she had a real piano anyway.

  10. Would loved to have heard how the original 48k ZX Spectrum simulated
    multi-channel sound. There's absolutely nothing about this on Youtube,
    or Google.

  11. Interesting note about the Amiga:
    I put a 44.1 kHz 16 bit sample into Audacity. It sounds great
    I re sampled it to 8272 Hz 16 bit. It sounds terrible due to the high frequencies being chopped off.
    I export it as an 8 bit unsigned Wav at 8272 Hz (The same sample and bit rate of Amiga samples) and import it into OpenMPT .MOD format.
    HOW ON EARTH DOES IT SOUND ABOUT AS GOOD AS THE 44.1 kHz 16 BIT SAMPLE?

  12. Heard the M.U.L.E. song as a background submenu music in the EA/Maxis game Spore! Until now I didn't know it was from another game. Nice easter egg!

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  14. 北米版NESと違い、日本のファミコンは拡張性からディスクシステムで音源を増やし、ROMカートリッジにFM音源を無理やり搭載したりしてたんですが、一度聞いてみて欲しいものです。

  15. Pk j'ai le titre de la videos en français ?? Marre que YouTube traduit les titre en français car après on pense que la vidéo est française….

  16. Yamaha made a better wave IC than the YM3812. It was the awesome YM2151, used in every Williams pinball machine since Pinbot and used by Atari arcade games as well. Although it had fewer voices, the sound quality for instrument sampling was second to none at the time.

  17. I don't know why, but that Ultima VI theme makes me feel something I can only identify as nostalgia – nostalgia for something that I have literally never experienced. It's so simple and yet there's a hauntingly indescribable beauty to it. My most sincere praise to whomever composed that piece.

  18. Great never came across the mod tracker when I bought an amiga was that one of the first music sequencers perhaps?

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