Chiptune Heaven


Chiptune artist, Dot.AY

Recently in a special Game Masters Intermix event, a packed audience of 4-bit enthusiasts, myself included, took part in a Chiptune Workshop facilitated by the very talented Alex Yabsley and Nathan Antony, or as they are more commonly known, Dot.AY and Derris Kharlan.

Dot.AY and Derris Kharlan are are known for their prowess in this genre of music. Known as Chiptune, it holds a special place in musical/computing history as well as the hearts of many gamers.

Derris Kharlan

Derris Kharlan on stage

To further your Chiptune education and give you an idea of what’s possible, I’ve included some tracks by our teachers. Ceratopian Society by Dot.AY:

And Theme for a Jump Goat by Derris Kharlan:

Under the guidance of our 4-bit mentors, we undertook the rather unusual task of composing music using only a Nintendo Game Boy.

The humble Game Boy

The humble Game Boy

According to Mores Law, computing technology doubles itself every two years, so when the Game Boy came out in 1989 computers were 2,048 times less powerful then today. As a result Game Boy engineers didn’t have much memory to play with so they only assigned 4 bits of memory to sound!  You might think that would limit one’s creativity, but learning from Alex and Nathan that’s not the case at all.

Spending the day learning what is capable musically with Game Boys, I have a new found appreciation for this humble device.

After a brief introduction that covered the history and diverse culture of Chiptune music worldwide, we were handed some Game Boys preloaded with Little Sound Dj, a type of music tracker software, and started laying down our own tracks.

We learned about bars, phrasing, filters, arpeggios and the fact that Game Boys crash really, really often! For a few hours work and with absolutely no experience, I think we all did amazingly well.

As the end of the workshop drew near, it was time to present our work to the rest of the class… we were all pleasantly surprised!  There was some real talent displayed and I’m looking forward to hearing more from everyone as they continue to work on their tunes. Practice makes perfect, right?

Laying down some tunes

Laying down some tunes

Working out where to put those beats

Working out where to put those beats

I wouldn’t be surprised to find the participants scouring the garage sales of many a Fitzroy hipster for some time to come, searching for a vintage Game Boy to continue their Chiptune education.

– Tim Bright, ACMI Screen Events Coordinator

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