Arcade game sounds

I enjoy the retro arcade computer game sounds. I have been exploring the Bits machine and really love it.
I want to create those fast stepped pitch modulations that is common in these types of sound. I am looking for a little advice as I am fairly new in sound designing when it comes to these chip tune sounds.

So far I have successfully used the LFO with square shape to mod the pitch of the machine and it sounds cool. But I can not really tune it to exact pitches or intervals etc.

Is it possible to somehow use the sequencer as a mod source for pitch? This way I could create those pseudo chord sounds. I don’t want the sequence to trigger notes, rather modulate the pitch parameter when I hold a note.

Any other tips for these types of sounds would be appreciated, I would love to hear ideas, thanks. :joystick:

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This should be achievable with yellow/lock/trigless trigs. Hold down func and enter a trig on the sequencer, this creates a trig that can be used to change parameters without retriggering the note. Just make sure the initial note is long enough for the entire sequence.


Wow, this is great news. I will try this tomorrow, thanks for the help :pray:

Unfortunately, it seems that this will not work as I had hoped. 2 things are stopping me.

  1. The sequencer will only modulate when it playing. I was hoping I could use it like a modulator source and have it modulate pitch when I press a note even when playback is not enabled.
  2. It seems the fastest the sequencer can run is 1/32 notes. To get the arcade sounds it needs to run at 1/64, 1/128 and 1/256 typically. So it is just not fast enough.

I am however getting good results with the LFOs, I just wish I could translate the pitch mod depth to some meaningful value like octaves and semitones etc. If I recall did someone make a conversion chart for this? If anyone knows please tell me where I could find this info.

I would probably suggest trying 2 lfos one as a square wave set to a fixed depth on tune (maybe a 5th) and then use other as a triangle lfo that sweeps the pitch range. If you wanted to go further in detail you could use something similar to the digitakt time stretch trick and make the triangle lfo hold on each trigger and then use the retrig option to get a rapid note roll so you are getting new a lfo position on each retrigger. But yeah 2 lfos should be capable of a lot if arcade style noises. It’s too bad it doesn’t have something like the A4s arp that thing is great for detailed arps.


Thank you. I have been getting fun results with 2 LFOs. Its good to set both to square and one at half the speed of the other, both with different depths set to mod pitch. You get a sort of 3 or 4 note ARP sound.

The problem is I do not know how the values of the depth would relate to pitch values.

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Hmm not sure if the range on pitch mod range is the same across all devices but my guess if you max out the depth it will be some even octave amount up and down from there you should be able to do the math to divide the units into semitones. I could be wrong, but that would be my initial thought for figuring it out.

Yes, the SY BITS machine works pretty nice for making chiptune sounds! I made some examples in this video, where the whole first section is emulating a Commodore 64 SID chip using three BITS machines (one for each physical SID channel).

In that video I am using some different tricks where some are mentioned above - for example using a square LFO to modulate pitch to create arps. The key is to set the depth to half of the semitones you want to jump, and then compensate by setting TUNE to the same amount thereby providing a good base pitch. So, to create an octave arp you could set LFO to 6.00 and TUNE to -6.00 for instance. If TRIG note is set to C5 it will then create an arp on C4 and C5. You could do other intervals, and also combining with the second LFO to create broader arp chords.

Regarding other sounds I wrote a bit about it here: Introducing Syntakt - #838 by ThomasJ

If enough people are interested in these things I might make a tutorial video some day :slight_smile:


I already watched your video, very cool stuff!

Thanks for sharing these tips here especially about the semitones offset. I’ll give it a try. I didn’t realise that the LFO depth was already in semitone values, if that is true it makes things very easy to work out. I didn’t really pay much attention as I figured LFO depth was just 128 MIDI range and had no relevance to semitones. Are you sure they are linked? So setting LFO depth to 6 will give me up and down 6 semitones of modulation?

I read the other post that you linked here. Interesting stuff, thanks for sharing.

I would really love to see you make a video with sound design tips for making these kinds of sounds. Please make it!

EDIT: Just tested and it IS in semitones! how did I miss this, hahaha. I am very pleased about this. Thanks for the help.

…u can dial in relative evens pretty much everywhere…in tunings, in overall speeds as in rhythmical divisons…also when adressing lfo’s…try push and function handlings getting involved…

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Function jumps from min to max, push jumps by steps of 8. Is there a way to jump by steps of 1?

…that’s manually only i’m afraid…at least as much as i know…but someone else might know better…since all elektron boxes got quite some in built hacks u don’t realize sometimes even after years of using them… :wink:

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Thanks! I’ve seen some more requests for this now, so will consider it for some future thing :slight_smile:


Already posted in the Syntakt standalone music thread, but adding here for completeness since it continues on the subject.

I created another ”C64 SID-tune-on-Syntakt”-video, this time going a lot deeper than last time. Involved reverse engineering of the original game’s binary code among other things. Some arcade game music history and explanation of the process used is added to the video as well.


This is awesome! What machines did you use?

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Thanks! Three channels, all using SY BITS only (with lots of parameter and sound locks).


These are SO GOOD! Basically, I wasn’t going to get any more gear, but now I have to have a Syntakt. :slight_smile:

Spellbound is a good Hubbard tune :wink:

And One Man and his Droid.

Oh, and the tune from Delta that sounds like Philip Glass. (Loader maybe?)

Oh, and maybe International Karate. :smiley:

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So I can’t play keyboards or disassemble original C64 SID tunes, so I did the best I could and fired C64 Ocean Loader (Martin Galway) Midi from Ableton to the Syntakt Sy Bits machines…Twas a lot of fun…lol


Thanks! And a good decision! :slight_smile:

Yes - all really good tunes! I have some brief idea about making an automatic “Hubbard-to-Syntakt”-converter some day, we’ll see if that happens…

I actually already made the Delta song (variant of Glass’ Koyaanisqatsi) on another set of Swedish micro synths - available on my YT channel, search and you might find it :slight_smile:


Definitely going to check that out! I have all of those films, as well as Chronos, etc. Big Glass fan, big SID musician fan!

Future Knight and the Dungeon Theme from The Last Ninja are some great Daglish tunes too. I’ve wanted to make my own version of that Dungeon Theme for years. Haven’t done it yet though. :smiley:

Edit: WARHAWK ON TI-82!!! Now THAT is amazing!

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