What up, son! Sit your butt down and prepare for:
So, you’ve got your Game Boy. You’ve got your copy of Little Sound DJ flashed onto a cartridge. Put the cart in the Game Boy, dummy! See the wonderfully pixelated Nintendo logo scroll down to the center. Hear the “buh-ding!” Now you’re ready to make some chiptune goodness.
Getting Started With LSDJ
Little Sound DJ will start up and land you on a screen that looks like this:
This is your SONG PAGE. Before we get down to anything too in-depth, let’s identify the important elements on the song page.
- Those Weird Numbers on the Left Side
These are indicative of your place in the song. Moving from top down, you will set a sequence of chains (more on those later) which will play and either loop or stop depending of how you program them. These numbers are listed in hexadecimal, which is a base-16 number system. It’s not hard to get used to. Don’t let it intimidate you.
- That Wacky Center Part With All the Dashes
This is where you set all your chains. The headings up top (PU1, PU2, WAV, NOI) indicate which channel you’re placing the chains on. PU1 = Pulse 1, PU2 = Pulse 2, WAV = Wave, NOI = Noise.
- That Upper Right Corner Stuff
PU1, as you may have guessed, means that you are currently editing the Pulse 1 track. The little music note with “128″ next to it indicates your tempo (in beats per minute). 1, 2, W, and N show what’s currently going on in the PU1, PU2, WAV, and NOI channels. Once you’ve got something playing, you’ll see.
- The Bottom Right Part With All the Letters
This is your page map. You can move through the map by holding SELECT and pressing the direction you want to shift. Here’s a handy diagram for what pages are what in the map:
We’ll explain the pages as we get to them.
Speaking of which, let’s get down to it, shall we? Use the D-pad to move over to the wave channel and press A. “00″ will appear. While that is highlighted, hold Select and press Right to get to the CHAIN PAGE.
Now that you’re on the chain page, take a quick look around. For the most part, everything is the same. This is where you’ll be setting phrases in your chain. The column on the right (with the heading TSP) is your transpose. You’re not likely to use this too often, unless you’re looking to change keys mid-song. Go ahead and press A once again (setting phrase “00″ in the first spot in chain “00″), then hold Select and press Right once more to head on to the PHRASE PAGE.
Welcome to the phrase page. This is where all the magic happens, where you’ll actually be laying down all the notes, beats, and noises which will eventually fill out your 4 tracks of chiptune goodness. You have 3 columns for input: NOTE is the note (or drum/noise element) you’re placing. INSTR is the instrument you’re using, and CMD is for custom commands to be added to the note or beat (more on these in a future edition).
Press Right on your D-Pad to select the instrument column at position 0. Now press and hold the A button and tap Up on the D-Pad twice so that the instrument is set to “20.”
Now let’s head to the INSTRUMENT PAGE and set this instrument up as a drum kit. Hold Select and press Right on the D-Pad.
Here is the instrument page, where you will set up each of the instruments to use in your song. In each song, instruments are counted up to 3F (or 64, if you’re not totally down with hexadecimal yet), and instrument 40 (or 65 in regular numbers) is reserved for speech synthesis. The reason you have set the instrument to 20 is simply to help you organize yourself. I tend to keep instruments 00-0F reserved for Pulse 1, 10-1F for Pulse 2, 20-2F for Wave, and 30-3F for Noise, but that’s all up to you.
Now, to set up our drums, we’re going to select the Type option, and using A+Right, change it to “Kit.” Using the same technique, change your two kits to TR-808 and TR-909. For each Kit instrument, you can select up to 2 kits from their list, for use separately or simultaneously. Afterward, you may want to name your instrument (by selecting the Name option and pressing A). I’ve called mine “Drums.”
What are the options you didn’t use? What do they do? A quick explanation:
- Volume = Overall volume of your instrument
- Output = Output in stereo channels (L is left, R is right, LR is both)
- Pitch = Pitch of your instrument (relative to its native pitch)
- Offset = Offset the start of a sample on either kit.
- Len = Length of the sample (AUT means the sample will play in full)
- Loop = Loop of the sample (OFF = no loop, ON = loop from offset, ATK = loop from beginning)
- Speed = Speed of the sample playback (full or 1/2)
- Dist = The algorithm used for blending the two kits together. This one is best understood by playing around with it.
- Vib. Type = Affects the slide, pitch bend, and vibrato commands (explained later)
- Automate = Automate the instrument’s table (explained later)
- Table = Which table is affecting your instrument (explained later)
Now that you’re all set up, let’s head back to the phrase page by holding Select and pressing Left on the D-Pad.
Now that you’re back, start setting your drums in the phrase! The A button will set a drum in the phrase (it will default to instrument “20″), and holding A and pressing Right or Left on the D-Pad will change which drum in the kit is triggered. To erase something you placed, hold B and press A. Also, you’ll notice that there are two columns in which to set things down. These are representative of your two kits (set up on the instrument page). So play around with it. I laid down a pretty simple little dance beat (feel free to copy it or create your own):
If you press Start at any time during your editing, the phrase will play and repeat indefinitely. Enjoy your creation for a little bit and kick back a chocolate milk to celebrate.
Now sit up straight. You’re in the home stretch for this part of the tutorial. Let’s head back to the chain page (Select+Left) and let’s fill the chain out just a bit.
Back on the chain page, select the first empty position in the chain and press A. This will place phrase “00″ into the chain. Press down to select the next empty position and repeat the process, placing the phrase again. And one more time.
Now that positions 0-2 are occupied by phrase “00,” select position 3 and hold A and press Right on the D-Pad to change the phrase to “01.” Your chain is now:
With chain position 3 selected, Select+Right to head into the phrase page for phrase “01.” We’re going to make a little fill to finish out our chain.
Now you’re in phrase “01.” Blank and sad. Feel free to play around a make a fill, or if you’d like to save yourself a little time, you can copy and paste phrase “00″ into phrase “01″ and just edit it a bit. Press Up on the D-Pad to go back to phrase “00.”
Move to the top-left of the page. Hold select and press B, then release and move around. You’ll now see multiple positions getting selected. Move all the way down to the bottom-right to select everything.
Press B again. You’ve now copied everything to the clipboard. Head back into phrase “01.” In the top-left position of the phrase, hold Select and press A. Now you’ve pasted the clipboard into the phrase. Now let’s do a quick edit, and have a little fun with the re-trig command. If you’re using my example, go ahead and erase everything in row E by selecting the “OHH” and pressing B+A, then doing the same for the instrument number in the same row. Now select the empty space under CMD in row C. Hold A and press Right on the D-Pad a few times until it says R. Now move over to the right and adjust the numerical parameter to “02.” This will make that last snare drum repeat rapidly (drum roll). Feel free to experiment adjusting the parameter (the higher the number, the slower the re-trig).
For now, here’s how it looks:
Move back to the song page and press start. Your beat will play and repeat over and over. You are now making chiptune history. Let’s save this puppy so that you can go to bed.
From the song page, press Select+Up to reach the PROJECT PAGE. Scroll down to Load/Save Song and press A. Select “Save,” press A twice, enter a name, and save your project. I named my project with 3 lightning bolts, so I know it’s awesome. Each save will automatically add a digit at the end to indicate what instance of the save it is. So each time you save overtop of the same file, the digit will rise. Too rad.
Now before we conclude, let’s take one more quick look at the project page. Back out of the save page with B and take a look. In this page, you can adjust the tempo of your project (in bpm), the master transpose of the song (if you decide to change the key of the whole thing), syncing with another Game Boy and instance of LSDJ (if you have a link cable), the cloning type (more on this later), the color/shade scheme of the program (options will differ depending on what type of Game Boy or emulator you’re running), delay/repeat speed of key entry, energy saving options, prelisten (whether you want the notes/noises to play as you’re entering them in a phrase), view help data, and clean out song and instrument data in the program. You also have a handy timer for how long you’ve been working on the project.
And now you can take a breather. Your lesson is complete. You can now program LSDJ’s drum kits!
Go outside for a while. You have earned it. Just don’t get lost in the yard. Once you’re back, head on over to part 3 of the series.