How to make 8-bit Music – Stage 1 (The Basics)


Hey guys this is EliteFerrex. Today I was just gonna go through a very basic tutorial on how to make some 8-bit music in FL Studio. I’m gonna be talking about one particular plug-in today, and that plug-in is “magical8-bit.” It’s a plug-in that you can find online very easily. I believe it’s still free, but this is basically it. This is magical8-bit. It’s a very simple to use plug-in. So, it’s got a few different settings as far as sounds go. You can start off with the square synth, which is your basic, you know, kind of *boop* sound. Next option is your triangle. This is traditionally used for bass in a lot of NES games, particularly in Mega Man games. It sounds kind of the same as the square at higher levels, but when you get down to lower tones, you can actually hear it makes better bass noises. So that’s our second option. The third option is the noise option, which by itself will just sound awful… …but the noise is what we’re gonna be using to make percussion. So, percussion we’ll use for our things that are supposed to sound like hats and cymbals and other drums, crash noises, things like that. So, I won’t go too much into the noise right away. The next option is the 25% pulse which is a good lead sound very good for making leads, and is used frequently, again, in Mega Man tracks. So there’s that one, and then there’s the 12.5% pulse which is kind of similar, but this one is relatively diverse; you can use it for bass sounds you can use it for a lead if done properly and it also makes very good for background sound kind of like “strings” almost, like a background melody. So if you put them together We can put those together and get kind of that string effect. That’s usually better for high notes, there. Anyway, so that’s just kind of the basics. So we’ve got our five settings: the square, the triangle, the noise, the 25, and the 12.5. So those are our basic settings as far as what kind of sound we’re going to start with. So, I’m going to start with the square. So now, I’m going to get into some of the other features that magical8-bit has to offer. If you look at some of these other settings, particularly here, you will see the volume setting I usually don’t adjust that one because I can adjust the volume using FL Studio’s setting right up here, but the attack is an important one. So, for those of you who are familiar with audio I’m sure you’ll already know what the function of attack is, but this essentially determines how long it takes for the note to reach its maximum volume. So, you’ll see if I start off with no attack, it starts off at full volume right away. But if I bring the attack up, you’ll notice now it starts to take time for it to reach that maximum volume. Now, we can use that, because just a little bit of attack very quickly can be used to make give us some softer sounds… …as opposed to the full volume… …which allows us to make a little bit of modulation there. So, that’s the attack. The next setting is the decay. This is how long it takes for the note to drop to its sustain level, which is this middle dial here. This is our sustain level, and this is our decay. So what we can do is use those two in conjunction to make it sound different. For example if I bring the sustain level way down to, let’s say only about 30%, I can then bring the decay up just a little and say, “It’s going to take it a fifth of a second to come down to about 30% volume,” which you’ll notice drastically changes the sound. Now we’ve got kind of a “BOom BOom” Instead of a very constant kind of a “beep” noise. Now we can actually make this even shorter on the decay to give it kind of a “plinking” sound. So that’s the purpose of the decay and the sustain, to adjust that. Now, if you want a note that will, for example, slowly fade out, we can bring the sustain level down very low and then greatly lengthen our decay and this will give us a nice, long, fading out note. So, there’s one option there. So, that’s the decay and the sustain. The next one is our release, and this is how long the note fades out AFTER we release the key or release the note when it is playing. So, you’ll notice if I bring the release up to about two seconds here, you’ll be able to hear it easily. So, that’s our release. Now, for for most things… you will not use the release anywhere near that long. That was just only maybe if you needed a very soft note, for example, to be the ending of a particular section before you fade out into something else. But normally, if I even use the release at all, I personally will have it way down here. That will just give us a very short fade out. The bend range here is another sound or another feature that I have not really used much, and I’ve been using this plug-in for a long time, but admittedly, I have not been able to really get it to do much. But these other two, “sweep switch” and “sweep time,” the switch here and the time here, are the last two important features because these are what you will use to make kicks if you pair this with a triangle, and you can also use this to make your noise synths have better percussion sounds. Primarily use this for percussion. So for example, I’ll switch this to the triangle now, because I’m gonna make a kick sound. So, the sweep switch, this one here, has three settings: “Off” which does nothing, (duh) “Negative,” which causes our notes to bend downwards, and then “Positive,” which causes them to bend upwards. So if I put it to negative, you can hear how our note moves downward and our positive makes it move upwards. Now, the reason those are important is because we can use that in combination with the “sweep time” to determine how quickly that note bends upward or bends downward. So if I start off with a high sweep time it moves slowly, but let’s say– If I switch this back to negative so I don’t deafen you– If I switch this to a quicker sweep time, let’s say much shorter… I now have a *beew* that goes much quicker. If I make it VERY short… …we can use it for a kind of a kick effect with the triangle. You can also do this with the square although it sounds much louder, and so normally you’ll want to reduce the volume before you do. So, that’s one option there, a purpose for the sweep time and the sweep switch. As I mentioned, it’s also good for the “noise” so that we can make different sound effects. So if I bring the sweep time down, we have this kind of quick sort of downward bend, but we can actually bring the sweep time back up with a negative, and create kind of a long sort of “fading out,” like a crash almost. So if I go in here, we get this long sort of fade out crash sound, and again, I can reduce the sweep time to have it move down quicker. That’s normally a little higher than you will actually place the note because it has to run through those initial points, so this is probably a little bit more accurate. And if you’ve listened to much of my 8-bit music, you’ll notice that that’s one of the sounds I frequently use. The opposite of this, of course, is to use the positive function on the sweep switch with a noise note that starts out very low, so that we can hear it bend upwards instead and get a rising sort of a rough noise, to be able to build up to a different sound. So we can use those in combination with one another. Oh, we would need a second track for that. So let’s take this one, we’ll switch it to negative, then we will put in our other notes up here. So now you’ll hear kind of this “up and down” together as you look at the pattern here. Anyway, those are just very basics of the things we can do using the plug-in itself, but as opposed to just making sounds, let’s talk a little bit about the actual melodies that the 8-bit music would use. Let’s just start within an 8-bit track that most people are fairly familiar with, so I’m gonna go and try and set up some notes here from a song from Mega Man 2, so we’ll use the Dr. Wily theme, because most people are familiar with that one, so I’m going to drop that in here. That song has a BPM of about 180. I’m gonna slow it down just a little so that we can hear the notes a little better as we put them in. So first, I’m gonna start off with the the lead which for that track is a 25% pulse. We have no sweeps so there, so we’ll reset those, no attack, but we will need a little bit of decay. So again, remember the decay and the sustain level allows us to change how loud the note is and where it remains. So now we’re gonna have something that sounds a little bit more like this. Even that’s a little too long. That’s better. Alright, so let’s lay some notes down here. So, now this should hopefully sound a little familiar. There’s the beginning part. Now, of course, this is actually a dual-layered melody. There’s a set of second notes in there. Alright now you can tell those notes are actually a little short from the original song, so we’ll lengthen those out a little. And so, you’ll notice if I bring the tempo up a bit, you can actually hear it should sound pretty close to the original. So there’s just our basics there. So the 25s, I find, are good for a lead sound as it was used, like I said, frequently in Mega Man games. So we’ve got that there, just as kind of a basic starting point. The second one I’ll bring up here is the triangle, and this is again used primarily for bass in my experience. We’re going to switch those back, no attack. So let’s lay out some bass notes. Now the original melody is a little bit higher in the bass, so I’ll just go with that for similarity. Alright, so there we go. There’s kind of our basic bass from that song. All right, so now we’ve got that laid out there. Again, we have kind of our basic lead melody here. Now the original song does not have that sort of thing in there, so… …we’ll put these back. So now we’ve got kind of the basics in there. We’ve got the original melody, and we’ve got the bass, but we’re missing percussion, and so the song sounds very empty right now, so let’s talk about adding some percussion in here. For our first part let’s open up the–another magical 8-bit channel here. This time, we’re gonna use noise. So we’re gonna need kind of some quick sort of high sounds for the percussion, so this is again when we’re gonna use the decay and the sustain level, so that we can get some quick noise sounds–Oops. I’m gonna rename this to the noise, and we’ll call this “noise short”. So this is the channel we’ll use for all of our noise effects that are very short, very quick percussion and stuff like that. So there’s just some very basic, VERY basic percussion there. Well, clearly we’ve got kind of sort of that, the basic part of it there, but we need some some higher ones to kind of bring the melody along a little as we move forward, so… we’re gonna drop these. *brain spends several seconds in “Wait, what am I doing?” mode* Sorry for the kind of rough noise, there. The noise can be a little bit, uh… Oh, I just realized I named it “noice.” Noice! Let’s fix that. There we are! So this is still gonna sound a little rough, but it’s it’s certainly better than what we had. These could actually be shortened. So that, because you can tell they’re a little bit long. Now again, they have kind of a rough sound there, so what we can do is create a second of these short noise channels, drag these notes over to it, and because those notes are so harsh, we can add just the tiniest bit of attack to them to make them a little softer. There we go that’s the smallest amount we can use. Maybe bring the volume down just a smidge, so we’ll see if that sounds a little bit better with what we have so far. These are good. I think we could bring the volume up on the regular ones a little bit. Let’s try that now. Now we’re getting much closer to sounding like the original. Alright. So just to kind of go again over what I did with the noise here, is my first channel, my first noise channel, again we’ve got no sweep and we’ve got no sweep time, because we’re not using the sweep. If the sweep switch is off, this sweep time will have no effect, obviously. But so our first noise effect here, all we did to make these is we started off with a very short note and we make it short in length, and then we use the decay function so that the noise starts off at full volume, but drops down to this sustain volume (which is very low) at a very rapid rate. And that’s what gives us this effect that we had. Because otherwise it would be like that long noise effect that we started with, which is just that full, loud, kind of messy noise. So we don’t want that, we want the the short one that we can actually make use of, so that’s why we use the decay and the sustain to bring it down. So again, the decay makes it decrease in volume very quickly and the sustain is the level TO WHICH it is falling. So we have it falling very quickly with the decay to a very LOW volume level that we determine with the sustain. And for this one here, actually, I didn’t change any of the other settings except for this attack just to soften the beginning of it, so it doesn’t have that harsh kind of “cut” noise that it first plays that can be hard on the ears of the listener, so softening that up makes the music a little bit easier on the ears. So again, we’ve got this so far, so we can extend our melody out up a little bit more now. Alright, so let’s try that. Alright. So not bad, fairly close, not perfect, but good enough for what we need to work with. So we can go ahead and give a listen to what we put together here so far and it should sound pretty close to the original now. So, pretty good. Not bad. There is one other thing that the original melody features that we have NOT done here, and that is toward this end section of the melody, right around here, we have some echo that comes in. So this is one trick that I will go over in more detail in the next video I make that talks about ways you can use a note’s placement and everything to simulate other effects such as reverb and delay. But, I’ll just go ahead and do the very quick part of it here. So what we need to do is, we’re gonna need a second 25% channel, and this one we’re going to have to add some decay so that the note doesn’t stay loud for too long. Somewhere around there perhaps, and we’ll need to bring the sustain down quite a bit, maybe you’re right around here. So this is gonna create shorter notes that are a little quieter, and what we’re gonna do with this we’re also probably need to decrease the volume, so we’re going to take these notes and create an artificial delay effect by copying them to the second track and shifting them over one spot. Now that section does not apply to these here, so we will shorten that. Alright now, let’s give this a listen and see if that sounds better. There that sounds much closer to the original. So that’s one little trick we can use to help give us a delay effect that otherwise we would need to add like, you know, for example in FL Studio using the actual fruity delay or one of those. But instead, if we just shift the notes a little later, decrease their volume and such, we can create our own delay effect without having to use it. Anyway, that’s all I’m going to show for our first tutorial here, but I hope that kind of gives you the basics as far as how to get your different sounds in there and how you can modulate them. In the next video, I’m going to go over some more advanced strategies such as using the left and right channels to help clarify your audio and also such as combining different notes together on different instruments to help you come up with some different sounds. But, I hope you found this educational and that it helps you in making your music. Bye for now!