Making the Fix Fix Bang Bang Soundtrack #2

In this part I’m going to talk about all of the music and let you have a listen to it in the order that it came about.

“Level Music 1” <- Click to open

This music is accompanies the first two stages of the game. It wasn’t actually originally written for Fix Fix Bang Bang, but was my first attempt at using the VRC6 extension of in FamiTracker, and I consider it the first piece I wrote where I felt really comfortable with the software.

The original melody popped into my head from nowhere, but in my mind it was sort of a jaunty little jazzy tune, bopping along. By the time I’d put it into FamiTracker it was sounding more like some sort of prog-rock tune. From there it settles into a more Capcom-ish style. For Fix Fix Bang Bang I expanded the piece from the original I made, making it about twice as long.

Fun fact: the NES chip doesn’t support echo or reverb, so to create the effect on an instrument, you need to copy all the notes, and put them in the next track along, played slightly later and at a quieter volume. Capcom tunes do this all the time.

“Credits” <- Click to open

Come to think of it, a few of the tunes were not written with Fix Fix Bang Bang in mind, but came to be absorbed into it. This is another one of those. It was written as end game music, credits rolling sort of music, but just for fun. It’s also one of my favourite chiptunes that I’ve written, so I was happy to get the chance to actually use it in something.

I wrote it at a time that I felt my tunes were stagnating a little, getting a bit formulaic, so I wanted to write something more whimsical, upbeat and with more chord variety.

“Cutscene Music” <- Click to open

This is the last music that wasn’t written particularly for the game. It was written as a sample bit of music for someone’s game project that they started, but we fell out of contact. I needed a military sounding, slower paced theme for FFBB cutscenes and all my attempts hadn’t come out quite right, but this was perfect. I reached out to the person it was originally for to see if he minded if I took this music back as the project wasn’t going anywhere, and having got no response I decided it would be fine.

I had the idea for this piece of music on the train on the way in to work, and had nothing to record it on. Luckily I got in early and I keep a copy of FamiTracker on my work computer for just such situations. I spend 15 minutes making a rough sketch of the idea and then carried on working on it at home. There have been times when I’ve had ideas which I’ve liked that I haven’t been able to keep in my head long enough to get down, but if I’ve learned anything it’s that there are always more ideas.

“Boss Music 1” <- Click to open

Okay, I lied slightly when I said that the last piece was the final one not written for the game specifically. But we liked this panicky tune from March of the Rorgers so much that we thought it’d be fun to bring it back for Fix Fix Bang Bang. I spent some time beefing it up a little (mainly expanding it with simulated echoes and meatier bass using the extra VRC6 tracks) but aside from that it’s the same tune as the one I wrote on the day Surprised Man was formed.

“Level Music 2” <- Click to open

Okay, this one was made specifically for Fix Fix Bang Bang, I promise. I wanted an alternate piece of music for stages 3 and 4 of the game, and fortunately this one came to me on the train home from work, so as soon as I got in I was able to get it down on the computer.

The following day, the tune was rattling around in my head, mutating and developing as the day wore on, and that’s how I got the idea of how to cap off the piece, with those long, high pitched harmonising notes and the solo at the end which came more or less fully formed, as if it had been there all along. I’m particularly proud of the second half of this piece.

The dirty, fuzzy backing synths were achieved thanks to a peculiar quirk of the VRC6 sound chip which I’ll use to take the opportunity to explain some more about synthesising sounds in FamiTracker:

A square wave is simply a waveform that looks like this, which doesn’t look all that versatile, but in fact you can do quite a lot with it. To put it simply, just by changing the relative length of when the wave is ‘up’ and when it’s ‘down’ you can change the quality of the sound quite significantly. This is known as the Duty/Noise ratio. By default on the NES you can set this to 4 different states, but the VRC6 version has 8 different states.

One of the things you can do to shape an instrument in FamiTracker is to set its volume envelope over time (for example you could get it to start off loud and then fade off very quickly for a percussive effect). Another is change the Duty/Noise ratio as the note continues playing. I discovered that smoothly cycling through all the 8 different Duty/Noise ratios supported by the VRC6 module produces that cool fuzzy sound.

“Title Music” <- Click to open

This could have been level music had it been longer and a little more developed, but what I was going for was something with the epic feel of the level music, with a bit more of a mechanised, robotic backing track. A little fix, to go with your bang, if you will. And you must.

As for why the second half turns a little bit odd, and sounds like perhaps there should be a gangsta rapper freestyling over it, I don’t know, and I don’t have to explain myself to you even if that is the stated intention of this blog entry.

“Doctor Charles Mandibles” <- Click to open

I started writing this purely off the idea for the little 8 second intro, which in the end had little to do with what makes the piece so fun. It was going to be level music, but something about the funky bass line and weird, strangely off-sounding chord changes instead made me start associating it with the major adversary of the game, Doctor Charles Mandibles.

In the end the bass line took over the whole thing, but it’s a good’un, and will only be around for a short segment of the game, so I hope it doesn’t outstay its welcome. Somewhere towards end of the tune it goes all dance club for a moment. This was owing to a copy/paste error, but I liked it enough that I decided to leave it in.

“Secret Boss Music” <- Click to open

Let’s be honest, we don’t expect that people will be playing Fix Fix Bang Bang music for the story, but just in case you are sensitive to spoilers, let’s just say this music is for an important battle late in the game. I went through a few different iterations of this music before finally settling on making a remix of the cutscene music, at a faster more exciting pace and with some excitable drums and bass to accompany.

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