Plogue Chipsounds Wave Table Explained

Plogue Chipsounds works great with its presets. But that wave table can really throw you off if you’re new to the tool. This should will help you learn how to use it to create classic sounds and also show you some great examples along the way.

Wave Sequencer Settings

fade-inSync – This determines if the steps that happen in your wave table are in time with your MIDI tempo or the tempo specified in the BPM.

BPM – Set’s the internal BPM of the controller. It can be overridden by clicking Sync.

Vel – Check this if you want the notes playing to respond to the velocity (how hard you hit it) of your keyboard or midi notes. If you uncheck this, notes play at full volume. Usually you want to uncheck this for realistic NES sounds.

Loop start – Once the entire wave table plays through, this tells it where to start looping (if at all).

Rel Start – If you don’t want to start at the first command the first time through, put the step value in here that you wish to start on.

We will cover Sequence settings in a future tutorial.

The Table

Let’s start by looking at what each feature is for and the options under each one.

T – The T column is for tempo. This controls the length of each sequence of commands and notes that you play. For example, if you make two wave table items with T = ¼, when you play the note, the commands will execute starting from when the midi event (or keyboard hit) is detected and then the second command will kick of ¼ of a note later. Check the Sync checkbox to have it get it’s tempo from the MIDI environment (aka your song’s tempo). You can also put T=0 which means you want to change something about the upcoming note but not actually have it count time for this command. We’ll see how this works in the examples later on.

Type – The type column explains what each step will actually do. They are defined of the following:

Null – Nothing happens, use this to leave a gap or a delay of a certain time before the next command executes.
CC – Control Channel – You use this to change things like the vibrato, expression (volume level), filter cutoff ect.
NoteOn / NoteOff – These do what you’d think, they tell the note to play or not to play. You can use this to make gaps, echoes and arpeggios.
Pitch – This will take the note up or down the amount you specify in the Evt1 column. It is used for making arpeggios.
KS – Keyswitch controls which of the channels of the default chip you are using, you use this to change from pulse1 to pulse2 to triangle, to noise. This can create some interesting effects that would be hard to do in a real tracker but not impossible for the chip to play.
Evt1 Column – The settings here depend on the type you’ve selected. For CC it’s the selection of the note property you wish to change. It will give you a drop-down of valid choices based on your type. For pitch, it is the amount of up or down steps you wish to go.

Evt2 Column – This column is usually the value of the change For example, if you select Type CC and Evt1 = 1 (which is Pitch LFO Depth aka Vibrato) Evt2 tells the system how much vibrato you want to be added to the note at this point.

Some examples will explain it best. We will explain what happens at each step in the process.

Echo

echo
0 – The note plays for 1/64 of a whole note.
1 – The note is turned off for 1/48th of a whole note.
2 – The note is turned back on but at a lower volume (evt2=61)
3 – The note it turned off again.
4 – The note is turned on again at a much lower volume (evt2=20)

The 64th and 48th notes give it the offbeat echo effect that we commonly hear in music.

Looping Staccato Arpeggio

arp-loop0 – The note is turned on and plays for 1/64th.
1 – The note is muted for 1/64th.
2 – The pitch is stepped up 5 half-steps. Since T=0, this is done before the next note plays.
3 – The next 5 half-step higher note plays for 1/64th.
4 – The note is turned off for 1/64th.
5 – The pitch is changed to +12, since T=0 it’s done before the next note plays (no time passes)
6 – The note is played an octave above the original for 1/64th.
7 – the note is muted again.

Loop start = 2 – the sequence goes back to step 2 until the user lets go of the keyboard or the MIDI note ends.

Increasing Vibrato

vibrato-fade0 – The volume (CC=11) is set to 127 (evt2=127)
1 – The vibrato (CC=1) is set to 0. No time has passed, nor has a note played.
2 – The note begins to play for ¼, each time a key is pressed, steps 0 and 1 execute with no time pass before this step.
3,4,5 – After 1/8 the vibrato (CC=11) is increased slightly.
6 – The volume (CC=11) is decreased slightly.
7 – The vibrato reaches its maximum of 8 here.

Make sense? It’s really about setting up a series of steps that happen in a finite space of time. Do it right and you can really get some sweet sounds of out this unit.

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Tutorial: Emulating the SNES Sound In Your Favorite DAWS

The SNES Definitely has its share of memorable songs...

The SNES Definitely has its share of memorable songs…

The SNES definitely has a lot of memorable tunes. Amazing compositions in games like Legend of Zelda,  Secret of Mana, Donkey Kong Country, Final Fantasy 6, Chrono Trigger and many others have left 16-bit tunes running through our heads for years. This is where video game music started to take a turn toward the epic orchestral sounds we’re so used to today. However, you might have noticed that a lot more people are making NES, Genesis and Gameboy chiptunes and not SNES tunes. Why?

Well, the overall quality of SNES music isn’t really that great. It’s all samples. Many people will say it’s hardly any better than your standard MIDI. It is true that it doesn’t have as much character as 8-bit synths. However, there is some charm to be found in these degraded 16-bit samples of strings, flutes and guitars. I mean, the amazing, lush songs on some of the SNES’ RPGs just couldnt happen on the NES or Gameboy. I really love the snappy compressed drums in Secret of Mana too. Today, we’ll look at how to get these samples loaded up in your DAWs and also emulate the SNES’ classic reverb with a basic tape delay controller.

Loading The Samples

Every game had its own set of musical instrument samples unique to what the game needed. Most games have one sample per “instrument” that just gets pitch-bent up or down to match the key of the note being played. There are also some games that have a ‘kit’, which has a unique sample for each note on the piano roll.

Some of the best sets of instruments come from games with orchestral soundtracks like Final Fantasy 6 and Chrono Trigger. Fortunately, since your basic sampler that comes with every DAWS has this kind of functionality, you can get SNES samples in SoundFont format and load them up in no time.

You can download the SF2 files for some of the most popular games here from William Kage’s site. Zelda, Chrono Trigger and FF6 have some of the most memorable SNES sounds. I’m hoping he’ll finish his Metroid SF2 soon too!

Every DAWS has different ways to load SF2 files. So you’re on your own for that, but just Google it and you’ll figure it out quickly. If your DAWS doesn’t have a default player that handles SF2’s download this great little VST called sfz.

Obeying The Rules of the SNES Sound Chip

The SNES sound chip can do most things that a standard MIDI can do. You can change the Attack, Sustain, Decay, Release, Stereo Panning, Pitch bending and automating these things.

The SNES could also only play 8 notes at once. They can be chords of the same instrument (composed of the sample playing several times) or 8 individual instruments. Of course, your DAWS is not going to stop you from playing 100 notes at once, so you kind of have to impose these rules on yourself if you want it to sound authentic. There is also one special effect which sets the SNES apart, it’s distinctive reverb.

The FIR Filter aka SNES Reverb

One of the most recognizable things about the SNES is its huge use of an echoing effect that is usually just called “SNES Reverb”. Technically, it’s done with a FIR Filter which is sort of like a echo effect that has a filter cutting it off as it echoes.

For those of you using VSTs, you can use this handy little VST effect to emulate the sound. It’s not perfect but it comes pretty close. For those using Logic Pro (no VSTs), you can use the tape delay to come up with the same kind of sound. See the video for an example of how modify the default settings of the Tape Delay effect that comes with Logic Pro to emulate the FIR filter.

Tutorial: Recreating the Quick Man Song With Plogue Chipsounds

I love watching waves...

I love watching waves…

Plogue Chipsounds is one of the most comprehensive and powerful sound modules for creating classic game console chip sounds. However, if it’s interface might not be the most obvious and intuitive when you first start to use it.

Why would you want to use an Audio Unit/VST instead of the actual hardware or a tracker? Well, for adding some quick chip sounds to an existing song or remixing a classic song, it’s super useful to have everything happening in MIDI. You can speed things up, transpose them and make changes without having to spend time outside of your main DAWS. Whenever I want some Nintendo triangle bass, I go straight to chipsounds!

The Quick man track is one of the most amazing classic NES songs ever. It’s just buzzing with electrical goodness and really makes the intense Quickman level even more amazing. In just a few minutes, you can create a pretty accurate sound in Chipsounds.

I have to say that I really love the respect that the author of Chipsounds has for the classic chips. Chipsounds conforms to what the chip its emulating could actually do and won’t let you play ten notes on the NES chip. This helps keep things accurate. The tool is definitely worth the cost and I’ll be covering some of the other features in later tutorials. I also love their statement about “preserving endangered chip species”; there are some amazing sounding chips from obscure systems which create some amazing classic sounds. Definitely worth looking into to expand your sound repertoire.

In the tutorial, I use some DMC samples from the original Nintendo which you can download here. Thanks to 8bitpeoples and Null Sleep for the DMC samples.