This post was published more than a few years ago (on 2009-10-08) and may contain inaccurate technical information, outmoded thoughts, or cringe takes. Proceed at your own risk.

Since we moved house last year, I’ve played a fair amount of Rock Band with the kids, which has kept my occasional urge to compose music at bay; but I haven’t even unpacked my keyboard/controller
in all this time, and I’ve been starting to feel really bad about it. So, I decided, hey, it’s been a couple of years since you upgraded your favorite composing software, Reason. Why don’t you get that up to speed and working on the latest OS and see where that leads?

So, I did, and now I’m in the “read up about everything possible in this area, but don’t actually accomplish anything yet” phase of my quest, focusing on experimenting with the 8-bit chiptunes sound. If you’re not familiar with the “chiptunes” sound, might I recommend a few sites:

To that end, here’s a few links for those of a similar bent:

Fake-n-Bake Chiptunes in Reason — A three-part series on YouTube from Judson “Tettix” Cowan that shows how to get an 8-bit-like sound from Reason, which isn’t quite capable of limiting itself to a real vintage 8-bit sound, but you know what— I’m not sure that’s what I want anyway. Making myself a slave to the limitations of the vintage hardware isn’t what I’m looking to do. There’s no harm in taking that 8-bit baseline as a jumping-off point for further experimentation.

For those who would rather limit themselves to vintage hardware (or reasonable facsimiles thereof), here are a few other options:

  • MIDINES turns your NES console into a MIDI-controllable “rackmount” synth.
  • Little Sound DJ runs on GameBoy and GBC with a sequencer/synth interface. The cartridges are no longer being made, but you can buy the ROM and load it onto a homebrew backup cartridge, or run it in an emulator.
  • Nanoloop is a synthesizer / sequencer cartridge for Game Boy consoles, including a 2nd version that now runs with the more modern GBA cartridges.
  • KORG DS-10
    turns a Nintendo DS into an emulated Korg MS-10 synth, complete with patch cables. I plan to play around with this one as well.

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