Like most genres, chiptune music is a little hard to pin down. Some people say that chiptune is easier thought of as an instrument than a genre, in the same way that ‘guitar music’ is such a broad category as to be relatively useless.
So what exactly is chiptune music? Simply put, it’s music created with the synthesized sounds from early sound chips, such as those found on computers and video game consoles like the Nintendo GameBoy. But chiptune music is decidedly different from other forms of synthesized music; it’s not a rearrangement of sounds intended to simulate the nostalgic bleeps and bloops that made up early game music. Chiptune music is made from the actual sound chip technology, itself.
Of course, many modern chiptune artists use emulators or sound files from these original sources—using programs like Little Sound DJ—to enhance their arrangements. But the foundational use of the original technology is still there. With such a basic baseline for music, there’s plenty of diversity in the chiptune music scene. If you’re interested in seeing and hearing exactly what sound chips can do, check out a few of these chiptune music acts.
Anamanaguchi Mixes Up Familiar Electronic Sounds With Pop-Rock Sensibilities
Anamanaguchi is one of the better-known bands to use chiptune music, attracting enough attention to raise over $270,000 on Kickstarter to fund their second album. It’s important to note that Anamanaguchi isn’t purely chiptune music. While they use a GameBoy and NES in their music, they also use more traditional instruments, such as guitar and bass, to round out their tracks. That doesn’t lessen their contribution, as chiptune music is as wide and varied as the people that produce it.
Anamanaguchi has two albums out currently, with a third—which will reportedly not use chiptunes—forthcoming. They’ve also contributed significantly to the gaming scene, providing the soundtracks to Bit.Trip Runner and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game. Check out Anamanaguchi’s “Helix Nebula” and “Meow” for a taste of their unique sound.
8Bit bEtty Turns Beeps and Blops Into Unique 8-bit Tunes
8Bit bEtty sounds a lot more like what you’d expect from chiptune music—as if it came straight out of your favorite childhood video game—but it’s all original in scope and sound. Every song sounds different from the next, and the upbeat nature of the tracks makes it a perfect listen for when you’re struggling through a difficult gaming level.
Featuring album titles like “Too Bleep to Blop” and “Break Out. Out Break. Break Even?” 8Bit bEtty’s music is fun and has totally earned the Bandcamp tag of “cutetronica.” All of 8Bit bEtty’s music is available for listening on Bandcamp, and “Mostly Dead Music” is available in its entirety for free. For a better sense of their sound, check out the cute and dreamy sounding “The Game (Flirting is Hard)” and the long (but wonderful) soundscape that is “Everything Changes (Reprise).”
godinpants Creates a Whole New Chiptunes Music Genre
As if the differences between Anamanaguchi and 8Bit bEtty weren’t enough to show the variations in chiptune music, there’s godinpants, which blends chiptune sounds with punk guitar thrums. There’s less bleeping in godinpants; heavy beats and bass guitar set their style apart from the cheerful tones of many other chiptune acts.
They’ve even proclaimed themselves as progenitors of the WHALECORE genre, including their album “WHALECORE Manifesto.” It’s a noisy frenzy of sound, but that’s what makes it interesting—if their music was in a video game, it would be the theme for a frightening final boss battle. For a good sampling of godinpants, check out “Fins Without Thumbs” and “ANAMANAGETFUCKED,” which may or may not be named after certain other chiptune musicians.
Chipzel’s Game Soundtracks Support an Original Chiptunes Discography
If you’re one of Super Hexagon‘s many fans, you might already be familiar with Chipzel, a chiptune musician whose work comprises the soundtrack of the immensely difficult and addictive game. If you can’t make it long enough to hear the soundtrack in total, Chipzel has your back—the soundtrack is available to own for just over $3, or is free to listen to via the artist’s Bandcamp.
And Chipzel’s work isn’t confined to just the one game. Chipzel will also be creating the soundtrack for the upcoming Spectra, and has several original albums as well. Her music is frequently fast-paced and addictive, encouraging you to nod your head and get into the beat without realizing it. Check out “Child’s Play” and “Spectra” for more of Chipzel’s brilliant sound.
Are there other chiptune artists or tracks you really enjoy?