slashbinbash.de / Music Trackers / FamiTracker

FamiTracker is an open source tracker for Windows with which you can create authentic Nintendo Entertainment System music that can be played on the original console. Jake 'virt' Kaufman used FamiTracker to create the soundtrack for the critically acclaimed indie-game title Shovel Knight.

When making music with FamiTracker, you have to consider the limitations of the NES hardware. The 2A03 chip has only 5 channels: two square wave channels (pulse wave with adjustable width), one triangle channel, one noise channel, and a DPCM channel. The DPCM channel basically allows you to play samples in a very low fidelity. You can add additional chips that are usually found on the NES cartriges to extend the number of channels in your song.

What makes FamiTracker different from sample-based trackers like MilkyTracker is that it is state-based. If you change the volume or you use an effect like pitch slide, the tracker will apply the effect until you specifically tell it to stop. This can be a little bit tricky but it allows for some nice effects. Keep in mind that not all of the effects can be applied to all of the channels. There are a few exceptions for the triangle and DPCM channel (see the manual for more details).

One of the best features of FamiTracker is the instrument editor. You can visually manipulate envelopes for volume, pitch and other effects. This helps you to easily create a lot of interesting instruments and sound effects.

The song editor allows you to create individual patterns for each channel and combine them however you like. I personally prefer to use a new pattern for each channel, for every row. Doing it this way, you can easily see which patterns belong together and form a musical idea. This also gives you a better overview of your song structure.

All in all it's a very good tracker if you plan on doing NES type music and you are willing to work with the limitations.

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