I'm a musician/programmer and I'm looking to begin creating video games. In terms of sound production I'm lost. I want to make sounds reminiscent of SNES mario games/zelda Closer to the super meat boy sound track than a true 8 or 16 bit sound feed.

My question is would a DAW like FL studio be the right tool for someone like me to start using to create both sound effects and music. Also I'm proficient at reading and writing music notation, are there tools like Sibelius that would let me write out music and then give me fine grain control over a digital sound?

My background in actual sound production is very minimal and I would appreciate any experience the community can offer.

  • 1
    are you asking for a way to create music/score or sound effects? this is a sound design site, so music production is slightly off topic. can you expand on the sound design aspects of your question? Jul 17, 2014 at 10:16
  • @ArnoudTraa The method one chooses to produce music with is part of the design. If I were trying to design a movie set in rural Africa the method of sound production would be quite different than a video game with throwbacks to old classics. I'm looking for design tools that will help me create the ideas in my head.
    – Tommy DDD
    Jul 17, 2014 at 23:56
  • Ok, but this sounds like a music project not a sound project. We don't like to make a hard distinction between things, but this is first and foremost a sound design site. I see that you got a good answer, do we'll leave it like this. Jul 18, 2014 at 7:38

4 Answers 4


The DAW is not that important (FL is ok to start). Since you are getting started and you will find difficult to design the sounds, you need a good set of VSTi plugins that emulate the video game consoles' soundchips. The good news is that there are loads of these plugins to make chiptunes (most of them free)... just take a look...

Chipmusic Plugins
9 of the best chiptune VST plug-ins

Google for "chiptune vst" and you'll get more. Installing them in your DAW is easy peasy.

  • Awesome this looks great, my understanding is these plugins will emulate old audio sound cards to get the chirpy sound of an NES. I like it!
    – Tommy DDD
    Jul 18, 2014 at 3:36
  • 1
    Correct. They are ports of the original hardware to software. You just load them in your arrangement and start playing/recording notes with the keyboard... Additionally you can use FL synths: youtube.com/watch?v=3H36O5lgpWE
    – sdude
    Jul 18, 2014 at 3:45

To make chip music sounding 'nostalgic' you will also need to recreate the techniques used in the old days where sound channel is limited. Like you can have only 2 square waves channel. (that was NES's limitation, 2 Squares , 1 Triangle , 1 Noise and (delta modulation) sample channel)

So, in order to form a chord you would use a very fast arpeggio to create an impression of 3 notes chord. Other techniques including changing duty cycle of pulse wave back and forth to create 'swelling strings' sounds often heard in games like Zelda, or "how to produce kick drum sound?" one way of doing it is using pulse wave with pitch going down quickly.


I'd try several DAWs before settling down, most have free trials. Once you've committed to a platform and started investing in specific resources for it, inertia makes it difficult for you to switch, so take your time. I'm an Ableton fan, in part because creating your own macro/automated setups for effects chains is incredibly addictive and easy... and also because the freeze/resampling workflow suits me very nicely when I have to iterate and push audio clips around.

Plogue Chipsounds makes it very, VERY easy: http://www.plogue.com/products/chipsounds/ and also check out their Chipcrusher plugin for authentic old speaker sounds.

Chipsounds is a crafted-with-love encyclopedia of a lot of, well, chipsounds. Versatile, easy to use, and many of the presets will make you smile because they're based on/inspired by iconic chip sounds. I should add it has myriad controls for that "fine grain control" you seek. It has a trial too.


Ya.....I think FL studio would be the right tool for you to start.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.