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One of the earliest and most influential electronic music genres, chiptune (sometimes called chip music) is mostly used for the background music of old-school games. Chip music uses the sound card found in these vintage gaming consoles, as well as personal computers of the time. Emulation is another option with the advancements of technology.
Chiptune can best be described as the background music for classic games. The most commonly recognized sounds of chip music include the "beep", or "bleep" (waveforms) and the "pssh" (percussion). It's typically produced using simple waveforms, such as the square and triangle waves. Once fed through specific envelopes, static sounds (white noise) can make up the percussion.
Another key specification of chip music is the extremely fast string of notes that are common with this type of music. These notes create the individual sounds of a chord. In this sense, they are a type of "broken chord", otherwise known as an arpeggio. This, as a result, emulates the sound of a chord. Because of these reasons, chip music can easily be distinguished from other music forms.
Later genres, such as techno and house music would eventually draw influences from this type of sound. In that sense, it can be argued that it greatly helped to create these genres. Similarities can also be found in synthpop and trance as well.
The first computers able to make music were shown to the public in 1951. After that, 24 years later, one of the first games to have chip music qualities emerged. The tune was only present in the opening of the game, however. This was in 1975. In 1978, one of the earliest known albums was created using computer technology (Personal Computing event in Philadelphia) and published in 1979.
At around the end of the 1980s, chip music started losing its popularity. By the mid-1990s, it would be hard to find, whether for sale or being performed live. However, during the mid-2000s, chip music would start growing in popularity once again. Western and Japanese pop artists started using this form of music in their work.
As of recent developments, chip music is being used in music all over the world, expanding from Japan since the late 1970s, where it originated. It's been said that chip music is becoming a part of mainstream music, and continues to influence other genres.
Average Beats Per Minute: 120-150
Where It Originated: Japan
Stylistically Similar To: Synthpop, Techno, House
Year Developed: Late 1970s
Below is an incomplete list of the many sub-genres that make up chiptune (in alphabetical order). You are on the "General Chiptune" page right now, clicking it will return you here.
General Chiptune - Back to the overview of chiptune.
Bitpop - Breaking away from chiptune, but sticking to the sound chip roots.
Demoscene - A genre focused not only on music, but artistic and visual skills as well.
Game Boy Music - Music created using Nintendo's line of Game Boy systems.
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