Pd running MIDI to an ArduinoBoy controlling a Game Boy running trash80’s mGB software to generate triumphant RPG music in real time.
This simple(-ish) Pure Data patch generates four channels of MIDI, corresponding with the four channels of the Game Boy’s sound: two pulse waves (channels 1&2), a triangle wave (channel 3), and noise (channel 4).
The arpeggio on pulse channel 2 is just a simple sequencer, with some “echos” created with [pipe] objects. The “drums” are created by a sequencer triggering random notes on a sequence too.
The remaining channels are slightly more sophisticated. First, we select a rhythm for each measure, then trigger notes on pulse channel 1 at that rhythm. There are only five notes (from a hemitonic pentatonic scale), and each note has two or three possible harmony notes, to be played by the triangle channel.
Since the winter break, I’ve been tinkering around with somechiptuneprojects, and I’ve got quite caught up in the simultaneous progressive and regressive sound design of composing with chips of the 1980s and 90s. Perhaps its a stretch, but I believe this kind of cultural re-appropriation as directly akin to drawing influences from outside Western Music.
Philosophy aside for the moment, as my first gaming system was the original Game Boy, I’m particularly interested in the circuit-bending and customization artists are doing with these old devices, so I’ve been getting my hands dirty for the last couple of months customizing these two Game Boys that I picked up on Craigslist.
While a lot of the work was purely cosmetic, I did a “Pro Sound” mod on both of them, which basically is just bypassing the internal (noisy) headphone amplifier and putting in some RCA jacks. On the Game Boy Color here, I also bypassed the existing audio output capacitors with some bigger ones, which supposedly gives a bass boost. While I hope to do some more experimenting in the future, most of what I did to these two units was a matter of just following instructions.
I’m calling the original Game Boy “MIKAN.” Customizations:
Orange screen backlight
“Pro Sound” RCA Mod
Custom buttons, ON/OFF switch, screen lens, link cover, orange LED, and battery cover
The Game Boy Color, “BUDO,” has:
Original (broken) speaker replaced with Nintendo DS speaker
“Pro Sound” with bass boost capacitors to RCA outs
“Anti-noise” decoupling capacitor
They both have their own peculiarities in terms of sound. BUDO has some sub-audio in its output (perhaps a result of the bass boost), and MIKAN, without a decoupling capacitor, sometimes has “clicks” at the start of sounds (perhaps related to the DC power somehow). I’ll post some sound samples as I keep working on my current project.
I have to say it’s really fun and rewarding to do these customizations. While I’m working on a piece now that uses these “instruments,” I’m also trolling Craigslist for another cheap Game Boy so I can do the customizations again (and try some new things).
For my latest “chiptune” project, I’ve put in some RCA jacks on my Super Game Boy.
Of course the Super Nintendo already has the possibility of a component out (via RCA jacks), but, since the Super Game Boy basically contains all the circuitry of the Game Boy, this mod bypasses the Super Nintendo altogether.
If you’re interested in trying this yourself, check out this instructable for step-by-step instructions.
So… Does it sound better? I don’t really know, and I don’t really have the time to set up a comparison, but this mod sure makes it easier to get sound to my mixer.
Here are a couple quick recordings of games I had lying around:
The thing I have to be careful of, though, is that the clock speed of the Super Game Boy (4.295 MHz) is 2.4% faster than the Game Boy (4.194 MHz). A minor change, certainly, but a significant one if I’m trying to keep my music in tune between different devices, and I’m switching between the SNES and a Game Boy.
…like the time I brought my NOPera to Germany, forgetting that Europeans don’t tune to A440.