How to make an 8-bit video game FX sound

31st Jul 2009 | 10:39

How to make an 8-bit video game FX sound
Getting started

Step 1: When it comes to lo-fi, it’s pretty hard to beat the squeaky, creaky sound of the Commodore 64’s built-in SID chip. We can create a similar tone with Basic 64, a free PC VST synth that you can download here. Grab a copy and fire it up. The default patch should take you right back to the arcades.

How to make an 8-bit video game FX sound
Oscillator adjustment

Step 2: Our mission? To create a special effects sound for a retro video game. Start by loading the factory preset Blank. It’s not very exciting, but let’s keep things simple. Turn the third oscillator’s volume (Vol) down.

How to make an 8-bit video game FX sound
Changing the waveform

Step 3: Currently, the second oscillator is generating a triangle wave. Let’s change that to a pulse wave for its added harmonics. While you’re at it, set the Pulse Width knob to around 4.10. It’s still not terribly interesting as yet.

How to make an 8-bit video game FX sound
ADSR tweaks

Step 4: Turn to the first oscillator’s envelope generator. Increase the Decay time to about half way and reduce the Sustain to around 2.9. Finally, increase the Release to about 1200 or so. You can hear how the first oscillator’s volume changes in relationship to the second. Have some fun with the second oscillator’s envelope, too, and hear what happens to the patch.

How to make an 8-bit video game FX sound
Filters and arpeggiation

Step 5: Next, click the Filter buttons for both of the oscillators we’ve been tweaking. Currently, the filter is wide open. Reduce the Cutoff to 6.9 and boost the Res to 5.0. Activate the arpeggiator at a setting of 1/6 for the total arcade effect.

How to make an 8-bit video game FX sound
Finishing off

Step 6: That sounds good, but it’s not weird enough for our tastes. Crank up the Pitch knob and set the envelope’s ADSR to low (but not zero) positions. Click the 1 button next to the envelope. Now, send our two oscillators to the Ring Mod. Done! You can listen to the final sound below.

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