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Summary:

Chiptunes are everywhere, and if you’ve been intrigued by them, this article will help you create your very own out of just about any song. Chiptunes are traditionally created using sound chips from old computer systems and game consoles. Some of the best examples of chip […]

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Chiptunes are everywhere, and if you’ve been intrigued by them, this article will help you create your very own out of just about any song.

Chiptunes are traditionally created using sound chips from old computer systems and game consoles. Some of the best examples of chip music can be made using Commodore 64s, GameBoys and the original NES. Since these pieces of hardware could only generate sounds and tones over a few channels, there is difficulty in creating complex songs. Along with the fact that this kind of circuit bending is not for a novice like myself and the learning curve tends to be very high. I wanted to find a way to accomplish this without spending days learning and researching software or hardware.

I am not trying to devalue chiptunes in any way, it definitely is an art form. I just want to present an alternative for those that are curious in creating their own masterpiece. So if we’re not going to need hardware and complicated software, what are we going to use? Using GarageBand ’09, a plugin and a MIDI file, you can convert a song you already know and love into a chiptune.

First thing is to find a MIDI version of a song you want to create. I just went to Google and searched for “Muse midi” and quickly found a Muse song that would work. Save the MIDI file on your computer for later. Now we need to download the Magical 8-bit Plugin from the YMCK website and put the magical8bitPlug.component file in the /Libraries/Audio/Plug-ins/Component folder.

  1. Startup GarageBand and start new project by selecting the Piano. This will create a single track project that we can import our MIDI file into.
  2. Now drag your MIDI file into GarageBand and you will see it create new tracks for each voice in the MIDI file.
  3. Double-click a track to change the instrument from the Piano to our chiptune instrument.
  4. Click the Edit tab and then click the drop-down where it says “Piano” and select “Magical8bitPlug”
  5. Now if you want to tweak that tracks sound, click the Plugin logo and play around with the settings.

  6. This needs to be setup for every track except the drums. Use your creativity and change the track sounds to match the instrument they’re representing. The drum track needs some special attention and since the plugin won’t work for this, I did the following.
  7. Change the drum track sound to the Hip Hop drum Kit.
  8. Add a new effect to this track. Use the Bitcrusher effect and select whatever settings sound good to you. I used Wave Deconstruction.

Now you may have to tweak the volume levels on each track to your liking but for the most part, you are done. Export an MP3 and amaze your friends! Well maybe not if they read this article too, but with this knowledge you could create your own music and use the chiptune sounds as your instruments. I know this is not as hardcore as true circuit bending, so don’t send me angry emails. It’s more of a fun little project to please your creative side. Share your own creations with us through the comments and check out my final results in the audio clip below.


  1. Excellent fun! great find.

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    1. Thanks, nice name btw ;)

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  2. Looks like a great project to get into! I’m definately going to try this out soon!

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    1. It’s really easy if you use a midi track to get a feel for the possibilities.

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  3. Hmmmm

    I’ve been wanting to ‘get’ GarageBand since I got my first Mac in the summer – I might give this a try!

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  4. This is awesome! Thanks!

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  5. I want to try this out, but when I set it to Magical 8-bit Plugin, it just makes a loud ear-piercing screech that doesn’t stop until I quit Garageband entirely. I got it from the same link you put up. Do you have any idea what’s wrong?

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  6. Great find. Many thanks

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  7. How-To: Create a Chiptune in GarageBand http://t.co/ZXoZLweL

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