Chiptune is a style of music created purely by sound chips that was used primarily for game consoles, computers and also arcade machines. The sound chips could be tiny samples of a sound, either artificially created, or recordings of a real life sound. Tracker format music is a newer type of music that attempts to replicate the sounds of the old Chiptune music. Chiptune arose at the end of the 1970’s, due to the influx of technology, such as personal computers.
In order to create Chiptune music, a waveform generator was crucial, as every musical sound ultimately derives from sound waves. There are different shaped waves, all geometrical shapes such as V shapes or even square shapes. These waves can then be altered to create different sounds, as you can change both the pitch and the timbre of the waves. Throughout the 80’s, technology was developed that produced all the wave forms and allowed you to switch between the wave forms and subsequently alter them to create different sound forms.
To further enhance the sounds created from the chips and thus create something resembling music, synthesizers were very important. Due to the fact that synthesizers themselves were essentially using waves made to create artificial sounds, anyone could therefore use them to create music. Synthesizers also typically have a sequencer feature enabling people to create patterns of sound, e.g using the synthetic notes and going down up by a certain number of semitones, thus simulating a basic and repetitive melody. Equally, synthesizers had artificial sounds of instruments programmed onto them, such as strings and horns etc, which therefore gave the capacity for richer textures of music and more interesting sounds. To many, the sounds of these emulated instruments were very crude and obviously fake sounding, but for game sounds, this was fine. People were aware they were entering a completely made up world, and with only fairly basic graphics at the time too, it would almost have been odd to have coupled this with wonderfully cinematic music as we see in some of today’s games such as Skyrim for example, or the Assassin’s Creed series. Thus, Chiptune was perfect. It was a wonderfully automated sound, a completely man-made sound, displaying digital music, technology at its best, and that was exactly right for the gaming scene.
Chiptune is not around as much today, as many games are much more complicated and have almost entirely realistic graphics, and as such, have complimentary music. However, some games opt for the original arcade style was more deliberately more simplistic graphics, and thus pair this with Chiptune-esque music; for example, Minecraft does this perfectly. This new but old style of music and gaming seems to have won the hearts of many who crave nostalgia and a simpler style of gaming. Overall, despite its apparent simplicity, Chiptune generally receives respect, due to the sheer level of skill required to take something as basic as a sine wave and build it up to actually create a piece of music.