What exactly is chiptune music?

What means chiptune? Chip reminds of electronic component while tune brings in mind a simple musical melody. This even now popular genre became known when game developers, back in 80s, needed music and sound effects for their games. First very popular system that had decent music was Commodore 64 which came to markets in 1982. It had a chip called SID (“Sound Interface Device”) that was responsible for producing the sound for this system.

You can find chiptune also on NES (“Nintendo Entertainment System”), that was released in 1983. 16-bit systems that were later released also could produce music that would be categorized as chiptune althought they were of higher quality as systems moved from 8-bit to 16-bit. First very popular console that had sound quality very close to CDs was the first Sony PlayStation. You can argue for hours about which has better sound – vinyl or CD, but we are not going to go there. So chiptune was originally popular in video games from 1980s to, I think, 1995.

Today chiptune is still very popular. You can find artists that have been strongly influenced by this type of music. Usually chiptune is strongly associated with retro games or the games that originally had chiptune as their background music. As retro gaming is popular chiptune is alive even today. Some artists are producing chiptune with modern tools such as software synthesizers that are just basically virtual instruments with some presets and the ability to create various sounds, your own presets, and can run inside any kind of DAW (“Digital Audio Workstation”) you can imagine.

Since I started with this topic I have to write also more about so called tracker music that first made its way to home musicians sometime in 1980s. So tracker is simple application that runs on computer that allows you to make music. Amigas computers were first devices that made this functionality available for music production. Inside tracker you can define your songs tempo, basically just how fast the track is flowing, and add drum sounds and melodies that are created using small digital samples of audio. Trackers are used also today but they are not as powerful as music applications such as FL Studio for example. Some now popular trackers are Renoise, a very good one, Mad Tracker and OpenMPT. Some older ones are Scream Tracker, Fast Tracker and Impulse Tracker. You can find many great trackers and please comment and let us know if you have a suggestion for readers of this blog.

You can listen to some chiptune songs for example here:

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