Getting started as a Remixer

You want to remix C64 tunes yourself?


TutorialBe aware that there are now over 1,000 remixes out there. 25% of them cover music from the following games:

  • Arkanoid
  • Auf Wiedersehen Monty
  • Comic Bakery
  • Commando
  • Cybernoid II
  • Delta
  • Giana Sisters
  • Hawkeye
  • Human Race
  • International Karate
  • The Last Ninja
  • Last Ninja 2
  • Last Ninja 3
  • Lightforce
  • Myth
  • Parallax
  • Sanxion
  • Wizball

Therefore unless you've got a really new idea, it's probably best to concentrate on something less established, because the Commodore 64 remix audience is quite accustomed to high quality remixes on a regular basis. Releasing your first tune is quite disheartening when the response is a collective shrug. And frankly, unless you're being really weird, the chances are there's a mix just like yours already existing: so do something different! There's over 30,000 SIDs in the High Voltage SID Collection (HVSC), so it shouldn't be too hard to find something that inspires you.

Now, let's assume you've found a tune to concentrate on:

What's the Next Step?


Well, it's not find a sequencer, it's make sure you know why you're doing this. Have you got something to say with the original SID? Is it lacking something only you can provide? Has no one touched it before? Is it one of your favourite tunes, and can only flourish in your hands?

If the answer to the above was YES, then you have that all-important thing which will make people respond to your music: an IDEA! Without that, all you're doing is technical naval-gazing. Kernkraft 400 by Zombie Nation (a cover of David Whittaker's Lazy Jones, though simplistic, had an idea), and it was very successful. No one is terribly impressed by taking a generic loop and sticking it on a SID recording. It doesn't matter if you use free softsynths or thousands of pounds worth of hardware: lack of ideas shows through instantly. The days are long gone when people applauded any C64 cover.

Assuming you've made it this far without being depressed, it gets more exciting. The main challenge in remixing is to master the original tune: a common mistake is to plough all your energy into recreating the original tune in another format, and then having no creative energy left over to do anything else. Yes, it's an achievement to recreate a C64 piece, exactly, but it's only the beginning of the process, not the end.

How DO you recreate a C64 piece?


Well, I've already said: get to know the original. Load up SIDPlay and listen to the tune. Record individual tracks if you have a SIDplayer that allows it... then if you're still lost, use a tool like SID2MIDI (which converts SID music to a MIDI file, but again should only be used as a starting point). Ear2MIDI is also very popular! ;-)

Which sequencer do you use?


Well, frankly, any that you feel comfortable with. Remixers on Remix64 have used:

and others. Try the demo versions, find one you feel comfortable with, and use it. The sequencers generally fall into MIDI sequencers (which require external MIDI hardware and/or softsynths), and Trackers, which take a more sample based approach. Though of course these days the crossover is huge!

Needless to say, planning is important in your remix. How does the tune change over time (or not), what is being added to interest the listener, how do your new tracks combine with the old ones.

If you want to include SID in your remixes, you have many choices:
  1. SIDPlay for Windows will save a SID as a WAV: though it will be an emulated WAV, and thus imperfect

  2. A VST Plugin called "QuadraSID" is perfect for many users: it's inexpensive and allows many SIDs to be emulated: it also has a special Galway percussion module! Buy it from http://www.refx.net

  3. HardSID card (http://www.hardsid.com). This card will allow you both to record SID music, and use the card as a MIDI device. It's brilliant.

  4. Sidstation: now almost out of stock, this is a MIDI hardware synthesiser with a cool user interface. Expensive though.

  5. Midibox - a DIY midi board with a SIDchip on. The schematics are free, and the firmware is updated regularly: Sid playing has now been added to its charms.

  6. Catweasel - a multi-function card for the Amiga and PC which amongst other things allows you to play SIDs through a real SID chip.

  7. (and not least) recording from your original C64! (taking the sound out of the video port).
Real SID is mostly welcome in a remix, especially if treated with FX and used imaginatively. Some fans live for this kind of sound! :-)

A note from the Legal Side


What if you want to use your remix commercially?

Well, many of the original pieces are now registered with MCPS/PRS/STIM/GEMA, whatever. So permission to cover them (but NOT to sample the SID) is already granted, subject to the normal royalties charged by these organisations (which deal with all music). You're advised to contact me (Chris Abbott) if you want to commercially exploit this stuff. We want to make it easy for you to have a hit, but we're not going to let the composers be ripped off.

Equally, contact us if you want to use C64 music in a film or TV Programme.

It's easier than you may think, and we'd be delighted to help out.


Relevant Links


HVSC - High Voltage SID Collection

Sidplay 2 - A multi platform SID tune player

SID2MIDI - Helps you recreating SID melodies in MIDI

Tutorials...