So it’s a new year, and that means a new installment of ‘What Should I Use!‘ This time, we’re going to be taking a look at arguably one of the most popular trackers out there, Famitracker!
Famitracker is a program that emulates the soundchip of the NES and Famicom systems, as well as a variety of expansion chips such as FDS and Namco 163. The two most common module configurations (at least from what I’ve seen) are 2A03 and VRC6, which is exactly what the Famicom has (the NES only has 2A03). It’s all around a great system to try out with considering how it’s a free and easy way to get into producing chiptune and to get used to programming music with command lines instead of plopping down midi notes (though it does take midi input).
On top of this, there is a different version of Famitracker that (in my opinion) makes the base program even better; HertzDevil’s 0cc Famitracker. 0cc (from personal experience gives you better workflow, fixes bugs not addressed in the official Famitracker release and generally runs better than the base program. Truth be told, it baffles me why some people don’t use it (I’M LOOKIN’ AT YOU GLENN DUBOIS).
The only tradeoff to all of this is that both versions are currently only available for windows, though you can wineskin it for Linux and Mac OS (with varying success).
Famitracker is made up of 2 primary sections. The instrument editor and the tracker itself.
Its format is very similar to that of other trackers, with a basic layout of 5 channels (by default using 2A03, though expansion chips can be added via the module properties). Here, your channels are broken up into columns of empty data. Each column in each channel is distinctly separated by small spaces.
The first 3 characters in the channel (reading right to left) are the note and octave value, and directly after is 2 character spaces for the instrument number (in hexadecimal). Following that column is a 1 character space for volume (with your standard hexadecimal range of 1 to F). The last 1 to 4 sets of 3 character columns is for effects, which I won’t go
too in-depth into, as there’s a great section on the Famitracker Wiki that goes in depth into what each one does.
Outside of the actual tracker portion on the top left is a pattern editor, which essentially lets you position how and where you want to place them throughout your song. Nothing of major importance otherwise is there. Directly to the right is the project info area, where you can edit BPM, name, and copyright info.
The instrument screen is that big ol’ empty box in the top-right of the main window. Here, you can create, delete, and clone instruments that will be used to place down in the tracker itself. Within instruments, you can change parameters in a small pop-up editor that lets you change envelope, pitch, arpeggio, hi-pitch, and duty cycle.
DPCM instruments are treated differently, however, as their screen is for importing .WAV samples and converting them to DPCM (which can be a pain depending on how you create your samples). For instance, EQing a kick drum can mean the difference between a hard pounding 808 and a very quiet tom-like drum.
HOW IT SOUNDS
Now, you can’t really judge a tracker fully until you know what it sounds like. So, I’ve linked some of my favorite 2A03 tracks, and even added in a few tracks of mine! CHECK IT!!
Overall, I really enjoyed using this program, and it’s one of the first programs I used for making chiptune (other than Sunvox, which I will never speak of again). It’s free, and while it’s not officially available for my OS of choice, it’s still a great system to work with. I will look forward to working on future projects with it.
And speaking of… in just 3 days, my new Famitracker EP titled Paradise comes out on Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify, and the other usual suspects! So check it out! You might find something you like! Hooray for shameless self-promotion!
– Nanode OUT!!