Tag Archives: 8static

Originals: “A Promise”

This track premiered at 8static 36’s Open Mic on June 8th at PhilaMOCA in Philadelphia, PA.  It was written in Famitracker v. 0.4.2 using 2a03+VRC6 and numerous drum samples programmed through the DPCM channel.  Please enjoy!

Some background on the piece while you listen:

  • The title for this track was decided long after it was finished.  The track was written specifically for June’s 8static with the intent of showing off all the new techniques I learned while working on my Chiptunes = WIN submission (which was accepted, by the way) without playing my ChipWIN submission live.  At first, I wanted to call it something like “My Promise” or “Promises” or “It Will Continue”- something that showed that the work done here was not the end of my own personal growth.  I figured that “My Promise” was too pretentious.  There’s not really a pretentious vibe to the song.  I eventually settled on “A Promise”.  “A Promise” can be from me to you, from you to me, from anyone and anything, as long as it’s kept.  I figured I’ll leave that interpretation up to you, the listener.
  • Construction:
    • My original goal was find a way to create “heavy metal” using NES audio.  I spent a lot of time developing sounds and tweaking instruments to get a nasty, almost grungy sound.  I was pretty happy with it.
    • From there, I constructed the beat.  8static IS a dance party, I know people play chip music and stuff there, but it’s fundamentally a dance party.  I spend time messing with various ideas until I settled on the beat your hear above.
    • I overlayed the original bass line (which was far less busy) and then wrote a simple melody.  I usually start with a very “quarter note-y” version of everything just to hear the harmonies and the direction.  I adjusted the shapes of the melodies to be more interesting, cut some “holes” for silence, and then spliced the original part to the grunge part.  I then cloned the beginning, changed the bassline and feel, and tweaked everything so that it flowed.
  • Things I’d do differently:
    • After almost getting rejected from the ChipWIN comp for bad volume levels on my instruments, I think I’ve finally learned that I cannot crank every instrument up to the highest volume setting.  I LOVE the sound it creates.  It’s like… garbage noise.  It distorts and spreads.  It’s a useful tool but I don’t think I can use it all the time.  I definitely could go back and change the volume levels on this guy too.  It would probably sound even better.
    • I need to follow my instincts a bit more when composing.  My ChipWIN submission took about 15-16 hours to write and this took 25+.  At the last minute, I found myself reverting parts of the piece back to the originals ideas.  Lesson here is:

Hope you enjoyed the track!  More to come as usual.  Thanks again!

Covering a Tune: “What Happens When You Take The Wrong Bus” Remix 1

Hey guys!

It’s been exactly 3 months since I first performed at 8static.  Wow.  Time flies.  Since then, I’ve been working diligently on new chiptune works and trying my best to continue to explore the limitations of NES audio.

One of the cool things about working with Famitracker and actually composing music IN the original 2a03 is that it gives me MUCH greater insight into how the original composers used the chip.  My perspectives on old soundtracks have changed greatly since I’ve begun composing as Ap0c.  I believe the difficulties I encountered working with the chip and the limitations of the output of sound really steel my original opinions on retro game audio and bgm.  But more on that later!

Since Ap0c is fundamentally a performance experiment, I’m still not sure what Ap0c’s voice is.  Is it gothic-classical-Castlevania inspired dance music?  Happy chiptune ska?  Mega serious and brooding classical works?  I guess so far it’s been all of the above.  There’s really no sense in labeling what I do… still, it would be nice to have a cohesive idea behind all the tracks, especially if I’m planning on releasing an EP.

In the stuggle to find the voice for this project, I’ve decided to remix some of my older tracks.  I believe the answer to my question lies really in my own interpretation of my own work.  For this ongoing experiment, I’ve chosen “What Happens When You Take The Wrong Bus”.  I will make a new cover of this song every 3 months and use the recordings to measure my progress.  The key thing I’ll be looking at is style.  Why did I write it the way I did in the first place?  Does that work?  Does it fit in with what Ap0c’s become?  All of these questions will need to be answered as I go.

This piece was first performed (IE Famitracker’d off a laptop… lame!) on February 8th, 2013 for 8static 32.  Here’s my write-up on that performance in case you’re wondering.

Okay, so here’s the original work.  I’m not reposting this to soundcloud so listen from Chipmusic.org.

The original work accomplishes much of what it set out to do.  My goal was to write a traditional RPG town theme and then basically go crazy with noises and sound effects to create perhaps FEAR or something along those lines.  I believe the original is effective AS IS in many ways.

Still, there’s a lot that can change.  One of the things that I’m not terribly proud about is the beat.  A certain chiptune musician who I often send my unfinished works to for review would say that it lacks “treble” in the drums.  I would agree.  I changed the drums a LOT in the new version.

The way I programmed this was completely stupid.  I created ONLY 2 instruments.  Yes.  There’s only a generic VRC6 instrument and a 2a03 instrument, assigned to play indefinitely.  I programmed EVERYTHING outside the instrument editor.  Since I’ve actually learned how to make instruments that are varied and interesting, I decided to add my regular slew of instruments to the new version.

Lastly, I was really unhappy with the original solo I wrote around 2:14.  It’s effective but it could be so much more.  A lot of my newer pieces have rockin’ guitar-esque solos.  Why not this piece as well?

The finished product is on my SoundCloud right now and can be viewed below.  I hope you guys enjoy it and I’ll see you back in 3 months to see how much my style has changed.  Rock on!

What Happens When You Take The Wrong Bus [May Mix]

Also, I’m down for ANY feedback you guys can provide between the two mixes.  So please let me know what you think!  Thanks again!

Originals: “Last Minute Research Paper”

February’s 8static really got me inspired to assemble some originals to perform in the future.  Naturally, as a newcomer to the chiptune scene, I need to see what the scene… well… is!  I’ve been listening to everything and anything, trying to absorb every sound and style in the chiptune genre.  There’s so much out there!  I’m actually impressed with the overall quality I’m finding.  Mostly, you can tell that people put an incredible amount of time and effort into each track.  For a great example of quality and craftsmanship, I would check Chipocrite’s new album:  8bit Lebowski:  100% Electronic.  And it’s not just this album- there’s tens of thousands of albums out there to explore.  It’s really awesome.

Either way, performing as “Steve L” is only going to get me so far as it would appear that everyone has a stage name.  I didn’t want to be presumptuous and assume it was okay to just make up a stage name, having very little experience and what not…. but I ended up doing so anyhow.  I’ll be performing under “Ap0c” from here on out, as a homage to the Relic Scythe from Final Fantasy XI.

Nerdy inspiration for a name… but a bad-ass scythe.

For the past month, I’ve been working on pieces for Beta Test Music as well.  We will be performing our very first NYC show this weekend, in fact.  Details here.  It will feature 2 works for the band+20a3/VRC6 that I’ve arranged.  Our drummer is busy this weekend… so I just whipped up some NES audio to go with Pokemon to cover for him.  I’m also tweaking my arrangement of music from Castlevania III because I’ve learned SOOO MUCH about sound creation since the original performance that I feel like the work was a bit amateurish and could easily be fixed to make a lot more sense.

Anyhow, “Last Minute Research Paper” is supposed to invoke that feeling of a race to the finish.  I imagine sitting down at 9 PM, attemping to finish a paper that is due at 8 AM the next morning.  The music goes through ups and downs, progress and lack of progress, and should have a push and pull kind of feel.  Ultimately, the paper is finished but at what cost?  Too dramatic?  Too bad.

Below you’ll find the live performance of this piece at 8static 33:

One thing instantly noticeable is my snares are kind of out of control at times.  On my headphones, it didn’t sound nearly as crashy and crazy.  It’s really just at the beginning.  It would appear I dropped an “F” in Famitracker for the noise channel and forgot to remove it.  You can hear it activate at around :11.  I think it stays up at the volume for a while before receiving another command not to be so loud.  Most of my volume controls are built into the instruments so it probably took a long time before I put another command in.  Oh well.  I need to remember to just put in “analog” controls more often.  It will also help when I have a full rig so I can mix stuff more on the fly.

Anyhow, I hope you enjoyed it!  I have some other cool things I’m working on too so I’ll put them up here when they are complete.  It’s my Spring Break (yep, a perk of being a college professor) so I’m going to try to aim to clean up some half-completed posts, including Virus, Part 2 of Dr. Mario, and some other interesting Research in Game Music topics.  Happy Monday!

Originals: “What Happens When You Take the Wrong Bus”

So I’ve been working on new pieces and what not.  I recently performed (or rather, just played the piece- I don’t have an adequate rig to “perform” the piece yet) “What Happens When You Take the Wrong Bus” at Philadelphia’s 8static, a freakin’ awesome chiptune party that happens once a month.  I’m so lucky to be in Philly.  The artists there were amazing and really inspiring.

Best of all, though, everyone there was really supportive.  I’ve been a performing musician, professionally (I guess professionally) since I was about 13.  Over the years, I’ve arranged many pieces to play for Beta Test Music and other groups.  But, in the last 17 years, I’ve NEVER played ANY of my original material live.  Not a single piece!  I’ve been working on compositions since I can remember… but I’ve never had a piece PERFORMED.  This sounds crazy but it’s true.  My 8static performance was my first ever presentation of any of my material to a general audience.  Scary.

Anyhow, here’s the live performance of the piece.  A little of the beginning got cut off.  I promise you it’s cute and sounds like a little 8bit town theme.  This is composed for Famitracker v4.1 with 2a03+VRC6.  The samples for the DPCM are from Castlevania III.  This is being played off my laptop right now… but I intend on setting up a PowerPak and emulating VRC6 soon.  More on that later.

Enjoy my first ever live performance and please leave me feedback!  Thanks to everyone who reads this blog and to all you supportive people out there- this was kind of a dream of mine and it came true.  🙂