This is part 1 in a series of tutorial blog posts about how to compose a SID tune in SID Factory II. It will be about the music editor of choice and an optional tutorial about hexadecimal numbers.
The only prerequisite is that you’re at least acquainted with the SID chip in the Commodore 64. If you have heard many SID tunes and would now love to try making your own, you’ve come to the right place.
SID is short for Sound Interface Device and is the sound chip inside the Commodore 64 – a home computer that was very popular especially in the 80’s.
The SID chip was ahead of its time. Although it only had 3 voices, it offered oscillators of 8 octaves, ADSR, four waveforms, pulse width modulation, multi mode filtering, ring modulation, and hard synchronization. It was like a tiny synthesizer, and you could even make it play digi samples along with the SID voices.
If you’re already familiar with chiptunes, you can think of it as the most advanced of this kind. It can sometimes sound like chiptunes with a little bit of extra effects, at other times surpassing chiptunes with incredible sounds of its own. The limitation of only three voices makes composing for it quite a challenge, but that’s what we SID composers love about it. It’s fun to see how far we can take it.
If you’re new to SID music and would love to listen to a few of these, I recommend visiting my site DeepSID. When you’re there, click the link in the top named RECOMMENDED to see a list of composers, then click one of them. Now click one of the rows in the left side to start listening.
But whether you know what SID music is or you’re new to it, I will try my best to guide you through how to make SID music. There are many music editors for composing SID. Some run directly on the Commodore 64 itself (or at least in a C64 emulator) while others run on your modern computer with the aid of a built-in SID emulator that is very faithful to the original sound.
In this tutorial series, I will be using an editor called SID Factory II. Click the link to download it.
I’m kind of biased here since it’s a music editor a team of three is developing, and I just happen to be one of them. But even if I have to be as objective as possible, it’s still a solid music editor with an abundance of features, and it was created by a legendary C64 composer that started in the 80’s. It doesn’t take up a lot of memory or CPU time – in fact, it has been used for several top notch C64 demos.
So what type of editor is SID Factory II? It’s a cross-platform application that runs directly in Windows, Mac or Linux. To produce the SID sound, it makes use of the renowned reSID emulator. It’s the same emulator that has also been used in several other popular music editors, players and C64 emulators.
It may look intimidating, but it’s a great tool for making SID music. Don’t worry, I’m not going to overwhelm you by going through all of its sections first. I will take it easy and only bring up the new areas as you need to know about it. It’s going to be the equivalent of “Hello, World” – and then I will be going into the more advanced features as the parts go by.
That being said, there is one thing you do need to get acquainted with – the hexadecimal numbers. If you’re already used to those, great. Then you can skip right ahead to the next part.
If you’re not, it’s those strange numbers with both numbers and letters in them. Most of the music editors for the SID chip use this number system. It’s possible to find a few that uses normal numbers, but there are many good reasons for utilizing the hexadecimal system instead. For one, it can make it faster and easier to edit the controls of the SID chip directly. It’s also logical when dealing with bits.
I have written a separate tutorial about this: Tutorial: Hexadecimal
You should go read it right now, then come back when you’re ready for the next part.
Part 2: What order lists and sequences are, and how to use them.