Finding musical inspiration

For me, music is difficult to come up with as I have no training in music and can only use compose using my imagination with whatever tune might be stuck in my head at the time.

For my job, I spend some time driving by myself. I quite often will listen to the radio and I constantly flip between radio stations. I almost always have my phone with me as well. My phone does include a voice recorder.

So what I do, if I just happen to come up with a tune that I might think maybe catchy at the time, I will record myself trying to whistle or hum loudly and record myself. Sometimes, I come up with something decent, most of the time I don’t.

Now I found that obviously that you can only come up with one sound at a time, which is why whistling can be effective for coming up with a basic tune.

Now everyone has their different taste in music, but for inspiration, there are a good number of catchy tunes that you can use for inspiration or start off as a base. However, you may notice that there are some tunes catchier than others, ones that stick in your head an won’t go away. That’s called an earbug or earworm and that is great music for an arcade game. The interesting part about earworm is they are notoriously difficult to write.

Some interesting things to know about writing an earworm. First, they are almost always simple melodies. Think of “Twinkle, Twinkle, little star”, I bet that song can be recalled at any time during your life, a short simple melody you can notice anywhere at any time. The ABC song uses the same melody, way because it is easy to remember and recall any time. Try to say your ABS’s without having that song come into mind, pretty difficult. The second thing to notice about earworm is that they usually have short, quick notes during the majority of the song. Earworms are almost always upbeat, light and happy. The last thing I will point out is that a good earworm often repeats itself.

Here are some perfect earworms that you may consider when writing a tune. Hamster Dance also known as Whistlestop, Shorting Bread or just about any childhood melody, “It’s a Small World”, “Yellow Submarine”. The melodies are simple, quick notes and repetitive.

Another quick tip is to listen to an arcade game song, there are quite a few that might provide inspiration for your own tune.

Another method that you can use is also available on the internet. There is an amazing little composing tool called Beepbox. It’s available at https://www.beepbox.co/ there is an offline version available for all your composing needs without the internet. Alternatively, there is an alternative modified version available at https://theepicosity.github.io/beepbox-modded

First things first, make a tune using beepbox. This is the only creative part you need to worry about. Beepbox makes it a bit easier to make up a tune.

Here’s a sample tune I created, kinda sounds like a police siren going off at first.

Beepbox is rather intuitive to use if not there are a ton of samples out there. Be sure that we are not using more than 3 channels though, as our player will not handle more than that.

Our channels look like.

I am using 3 channels as our player can handle up to 3 channels, the last channel shown is a drum sound, but I am not including that in the channel list as there is not a note that can be played, just a drum sound.

Now be creative, however, keep your tune simple and short. Music is a nice thing to have in your menu, but the more music we integrate, the less space we will have for our game.

Saving your song is simple, capture the URL and save it in notepad. The URL is the notes themselves.

And queue music…

Now that you have created your special tune, its now time to export it to MIDI.

Now go to Export – MIDI.

Your file will download to your download directory. Move the file to a place where you can find it. We’ll look into what to do with MIDI’s in another article.

If you are beyond all hope musically, there are a few auto music generators out there, my favorite is CGMusic, available at
http://codeminion.com/blogs/maciek/2008/05/cgmusic-computers-create-music/

Our interface is rather self-explanatory, the two music styles I like are Boogie Woogie and Disco. Once you have come up with your amazing tune, don’t forget to Export to Midi, available on the right side.

Now, at this point, we should have a decent MIDI of our music.

In my next article, I will show you what you can do with that MIDI.

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Author: andydansby

I'm a hobbyist coder working with the ZX Spectrum. Living in New York state near the Syracuse area. I grew up in Virgina. The first computer my parents bought for me was a Timex Sinclair 2068.

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