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samsonlonghair
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Re: The Sega Master System Sounds Horrible !

by samsonlonghair Tue Jan 14, 2020 9:52 am

Ziggy587 wrote:
marurun wrote:There are some composers that managed to do some good stuff with it, but that's more on the artistry of the composers than any capabilities of the chip itself.


So, I guess since everyone agrees, it might be fun to all make suggestions...

What are some good sounding (non-FM) Master System games?

Since I'm still very new to the console, I only know of one so far. Master of Darkness (as mentioned in the first post). But I'm very interested to learn of more.


I'm not an expert in video game music composition, but I can try to come up with what sounds good.

I mentioned Double Dragon earlier. Let me stop and think about what makes the PSG music in Double Dragon sound good... It has a quick tempo, and it's polyphonic. You can hear multiple "voices" simultaneously. There is a bass line playing underneath the melody. A SMS game with poor music like Alex Kidd in Miracle World plays music in a slow tempo with only a single monophonic "voice" for music. Alex Kidd simply plays one note at a time - a simple melody with no harmony. I guess the other sound channels must have been reserved for sound effects. The slow tempo just accentuates the poor quality of the monophonic sound by giving your ears the time to soak in every note.

So, if I try to think of SMS music which is polyphonic with a quick tempo... I have to think of R-Type. That's got to be my favorite music on SMS.

Other SMS games with a quick tempo and multiple "voice" channels:
Astro Warrior
Wonder Boy III The Dragons Trap


SMS games with multiple "voice" channels that work even with a slow tempo
Golvellius
Zillion
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Re: The Sega Master System Sounds Horrible !

by PresidentLeever Tue Jan 14, 2020 10:50 am

samsonlonghair wrote:
Ziggy587 wrote:
marurun wrote:There are some composers that managed to do some good stuff with it, but that's more on the artistry of the composers than any capabilities of the chip itself.


A SMS game with poor music like Alex Kidd in Miracle World plays music in a slow tempo with only a single monophonic "voice" for music. Alex Kidd simply plays one note at a time - a simple melody with no harmony. I guess the other sound channels must have been reserved for sound effects. The slow tempo just accentuates the poor quality of the monophonic sound by giving your ears the time to soak in every note.


Except that's all wrong: It's all polyphonic, the leads are double harmony at times such as on the title screen, in the main theme, in the underwater theme and in the bike theme, and some tracks like the main theme are faster than the level 1 theme and title theme in Double Dragon (can't give you the exact bpm off the top of my head but should be obvious if you just drum along to these tracks).

I'd say both of those are somewhat above average but do nothing special in terms of tracking techniques. The DD lvl 1 theme does have a pretty neat solo with some variation in the instrument envelope so that's something in its favour, but on the other hand its kick drum sounds more like a hi-hat.

Why Alien 3 sounds so good: Periodic noise bass goes lower than psg bass, combined psg and noise for thicker drums, echo and chorus effects on leads, fast arpeggios for chords. Besides good composition.
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Re: The Sega Master System Sounds Horrible !

by samsonlonghair Tue Jan 14, 2020 11:02 am

PresidentLeever wrote:Except that's all wrong: It's all polyphonic, the leads are double harmony at times such as on the title screen, in the main theme, in the underwater theme and in the bike theme, and some tracks like the main theme are faster than the level 1 theme and title theme in Double Dragon (can't give you the exact bpm off the top of my head but should be obvious if you just drum along to these tracks).

Look man, I told you straight up that I'm not an expert in video game music composition. Since I'm not an expert like you are, tell me this: what's worse, monophonic music, or supposedly polyphonic music that sounds monophonic? :wink:
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Re: The Sega Master System Sounds Horrible !

by PresidentLeever Tue Jan 14, 2020 11:13 am

What makes you think it sounds monophonic? What is your definition of monophonic? I'm just a bit baffled by that.

It is polyphonic, there's no "supposedly". Load the vgms in a sms music tracker or vgm player and you can check this if you don't believe it and can't rely on your ears.
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Re: The Sega Master System Sounds Horrible !

by samsonlonghair Tue Jan 14, 2020 11:16 am

I don't doubt you're right. I believe you when you say that it's polyphonic. I'm saying that it does absolutely nothing to take advantage of multiple voices.

To draw an analogy, it's like a stereo recording with the exact same audio in the left and right channels. What a waste of the format!

Edit: I guess a closer analogy would be a midi keyboard. Imagine a musician buys a really nice midi keyboard with a million simultaneous voices, and then he just plays one finger. That's what Alex Kidd in Miracle World sounds like to me. It reminds me of a child playing one finger keyboard. If you say that it's polyphonic, then I believe you because you have no reason to lie about it. It darn sure doesn't sound polyphonic just like that keyboard player playing one finger.
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Re: The Sega Master System Sounds Horrible !

by PresidentLeever Tue Jan 14, 2020 11:30 am

Drums, basslines and double harmony leads would be some examples of how it takes advantage of it. Really, DD is so similar sound design wise that if the Alex Kidd composer ported those tracks into Alex Kidd, they would sound pretty much identical besides the pitch of the kick and snare drums.

I think your preference has to do with the compositions, or perhaps because of sfx cutting out important parts of the songs during gameplay and it being more of an issue in Alex Kidd? Idk

That would sound just like a mono recording, in effect removing the stereo, while AK makes clear use of polyphony, so it doesn't quite work. If every channel played the same notes and there were no drums in AK's songs it would be a decent analogy.

Edit: Well, I could demonstrate it but I doubt it would make you think they sound about as good so I don't feel like it's worth it.
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Re: The Sega Master System Sounds Horrible !

by samsonlonghair Tue Jan 14, 2020 11:39 am

PresidentLeever wrote:That would sound just like a mono recording, in effect removing the stereo,

Bingo! :wink:
PresidentLeever wrote:while AK makes clear use of polyphony

Nah. If I can't hear multiple simultaneous voices, then the use of polyphony is inherently not clear.

Anyway, since you're the big expert here, why don't you tell us what attributes make PSG music sound good?
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Re: The Sega Master System Sounds Horrible !

by PresidentLeever Tue Jan 14, 2020 11:48 am

To you, sure. :) I think if you just listened to one or two tracks from each again it would be clear, it's hard to miss the drums even if you have hearing issues (which I'm not saying you do).

I wouldn't say I am but I do have experience with making chiptunes and music in general. And I did, see the part about why I think Alien 3 sounds so good in the post where I first corrected you earlier.
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Re: The Sega Master System Sounds Horrible !

by samsonlonghair Tue Jan 14, 2020 11:59 am

Yes Maestro Leever, I do have hearing issues, but I ain't deaf yet. :wink: Those drums you mention just sound like a single syncopated snare crunch to me. Maybe it's just my busted old cartridge, or my busted old ears, but I can't hear the drums when any other sound is being played. I bet a chip tune wizard such as yourself could recreate that whole song as monophonic with hardly any changes to the output.

PresidentLeever wrote:Why Alien 3 sounds so good: Periodic noise bass goes lower than psg bass, combined psg and noise for thicker drums, echo and chorus effects on leads, fast arpeggios for chords. Besides good composition.


So which other PSG soundtracks on SMS utilize these attributes?
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Re: The Sega Master System Sounds Horrible !

by PresidentLeever Tue Jan 14, 2020 12:27 pm

And now you're mad? I wasn't being rude man.
No the drums don't cut out anything by themselves since they're on a separate channel and the fact that you have drums+melody in a song means it's polyphonic - which is just the most obvious example besides the bass and double harmony lead that you also can't hear somehow, except in Double Dragon and other games? :P
The in-game sfx temporarily cut out the second harmony or bass, and sometimes the drums such as when punching a block or enemy, or firing the ring, but DD and other games have the same issue.

I linked to a detailed page I made a while back in my first post in this thread. Besides the periodic noise bass, most of the other ones in the top 10 use all of those techniques.
There are other games that use periodic noise bass, can't remember them all but Sega Chess, Back to the Future 3, Trivial Pursuit and FIFA are some.
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