OBS: THIS IS A WIP. IT'LL BE UPDATED PERIODICALLY.
This is tSR's Famitracker tutorial, made by Gors. With this, I hope to get people interested in chiptunes, composing and music in general. tSR could use with more musicians, so what's better than teaching others how to make music?
I've been writing this txt document for a whole year(?) roughly and I am going to convert it into a decent tutorial, with actual images of tracking. Still, if you want to have a sneak peek at the file, check the attachment in this post. I'll be also posting instrument text strings and instument files, as well as DPCM samples to make this tutorial a nice, friendly learning to the newcomers.
tl;dr, it'll be the same text found in the .txt, but with better structure, given actual images and more helpful tips.
tSR'S FAMITRACKER TUTORIAL
Version 7.0 (Started in 01.21.2011)
Updated in 12.12.2012.
This tutorial shows you the basics of making music in Famitracker. A lot of people ask me how to make songs with it and wants me to teach them, so I thought ‘why not making a tutorial for those people?’. So here it is. I hope you read it, understand it and start making 8-bit music (or at least, understand how it works).
This will need you to have read Famitracker's help file first, as it covers all the starter knowledge (scattered with a bunch of boring technical info). This tutorial will cover the details behind them.
Hi! I'm FT-chan, and I'll be giving other tips that weren't included in the original .txt! be sure to read them, and have fun tracking!
Purpose & Author's comments
The purpose of this tutorial isn't to explain each niggle the NES has. I'm more interested in explaining what the program does, and how you can use the sounds in a clever way.
For example, I will not talk about NTSC/PAL or how many Kilohertz a DPCM sample can have or shit. I want just to teach how to produce sounds and use them to make music. It wouldn't be interesting for me anyway since I don't have a clue about what they do or change in the music.
Also, since music is a type of art, you got to have the inclination for this. This isn't a 2-sec job MIDI conversion, but notes written the hard way by your own hands. Bear in mind that I've been using this program for three years, and I still learn a different thing every day; I am not a professional, but rather someone interested to share the wonders of this nice program. My intention on writing this tutorial is to shorten the time of the learning curve for you. Also sorry for any mistakes on typing.
Thanks for reading,
"What is Famitracker?", you might be wondering. Famitracker, as the name suggests, is a music tracker made by JSF that reproduces the Famicom (aka NES)'s sound capabilities. A music tracker program works by writing lines with notes and effects to be played. You can compose music with it, save it in Famitracker Module files and even export it in WAV, NSF and NES files.
The possibility of saving your songs as a NSF/NES file proves that this tracker makes genuine NES 8-bit; this means that any song made with this program could well be played in a real NES game. This is an important point, since this doesn't use soundfonts, samples, VST or plug-ins. What you get here is the real deal.
Composing with Famitracker
Famitracker window has those sections:
Menu is pretty straightforward; you can create a new file, instruments, change module properties and whatnot.
Toolbar is a bar just below Menu, and it sports several useful icons, such as new file, creating patterns, copying and pasting, playing, pausing etc. They're pretty simple to use.
Frame Viewer allows you to manage frames. NES songs are made with several frames with a lot of lines in each. You can change frames by using + and - in the numeric pad.
Song Settings allows you to change the tempo, speed and number of lines in a frame. Those modifications are universal.
Edit Settings is a small, straightforward section. You can change the numbers of steps done when writing a note and if you want to repeat keys when pressing for a long time.
You can add author data in Song Information. Those info will appear when the NSF is played in an NSF player.
Songs is a drop-down menu where you can change the current song in a FTM. FTM files can have more than one song in it, and you can see them here.
Instrument List is... well, an instrument list. Here, you can see all your instruments and name, edit, delete, copy, save and load premade files.
Lastly, Pattern Field is where you write the notes and effects.
Clicking the oscilloscope (just above the Songs menu) will change its design!
How to compose with Famitracker?
The composition is made mostly in the main window, the Pattern Field. The Pattern Field is a huge block divided in 5 columns with a bunch of hyphens (---) where you can write notes and codes. Notice that it uses hexadecimal method to number the lines, and lines multiple of 4 are differently colored. They help you follow the tempo of the song correctly.
<-This is a line. Channels are made up of several those, forming long columns.
Note: instrument's note. Place the cursor here to write a note.
Instrument: labels the instrument used.
Volume: place a hexadecimal value here to change volume; 0 is lowest, F is highest.
Effect: you can write effect codes here.
Clicking anywhere in it will move a gray cursor to the place you clicked. You can also move it with the arrow keys. You might have tried to write anything by now, but you noticed you can't write anything. That's because the EDIT button isn't toggled on. Toggle it by clicking the red ball icon in the Toolbar
, or alternatively, press the spacebar. You'll notice that the blue line on the cursor and the channel names turned into red. You can now write in this mode.
But even then, writing a note doesn't give you a sound. Why? Because you haven't assigned an instrument yet; notice the red 00's after the note.
The instrument number will be red if there is no instrument with the same number value.
To create an instrument, Go to Menu
>Instrument>New. You'll notice that the 00's got green and a small line saying '2A03 00-New instrument' appeared on the Instrument list. You have now sucessfully assigned an instrument (00) to your notes.
You can change its name by clicking on the white bar below the Instrument List!
You can create more instruments by repeating the process, and you can use them by selecting the instrument in the Instrument list first. Try writing notes on other columns, and notice the sound difference between them.
Cool, but what exactly are those columns?
Those 5 columns are called Channels, and those are the default channels the NES can use. It is comprised of two identical Square waves, one Triangle wave, one Noise channel and a DPCM channel. I suggest writing something on each channel while reading this.