Instructables

The Ultimate Guide to Creating Chiptunes on the GameBoy!

FeaturedContest Winner
New to the Gameboy 'Chiptune' Scene?  Or maybe your still trying to get to the bottom of what this whole Chiptune thing is?  No matter your situation, by the end of this Instructable, I can promise you'll be a pro!

Relatively new to the 'LSDJ' scene myself, I was baffled when I tried to put together my first DMG- so many options, yet so little troubleshooting guides!  Seeing the need for more structured tutorials, i planned to put my own together- that is, after i could figure everything out!

Fast forward a few months, and here I am!  A bit more experienced in working with the Gameboy, and electronic skills increased, I started working on the group of tutorials within this Instructable to help others conquer the DMG, helping you make an awesome, custom instrument, all of your own!

Now, of course it would help to have a little background in electronics, but for those of you just starting out, have no fear!  I've made sure to document each step, taking plenty of pictures along the way!  I can almost guaranty you'll have no trouble!  (and, of course, if you ever have trouble, just comment!  I'll be sure to help!)

Now follow me, on a journey, as you and I turn our ordinary ol' Gameboys into something truly worth making music on! 


Oh! but before we get started: 
If you like the Instructable, or are following it to build your own DMG- Please consider voting for it as a winner in the Music Instruments Contest!  It's just a quick click- and I'd really Appreciate it!  Thanks!

Thank you guys so much for your votes!  It's because of you i placed in the Musical Instruments Contest- i really 
appreciate it!


Update (9/30): Having finally finished the two main builds featured, i thought i'd come back to add some pics- as well as go more in-depth about my new found friend- the Pocket!
 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up
1-40 of 52Next »
Nuttfuz1 month ago

So can I try LSDJ on an ez flash cart that I have? Also is a GBC just as good as a DMG for chiptunes? I literally only heard about chiptunes because of this instructable, and I think it'd be something fun to try, but not drop a lot of money just to find out I don't like it.

Nuttfuz Nuttfuz1 month ago

Also, I want to paint my gameboy, then design it using paint pens. What would be the best way of doing this? Should I use vinyl dye or just some spray paint?

BenBurge (author)  Nuttfuz28 days ago
If you're going to use paint pens, your best bet is going to be to:
0) CLEAN THE GAMEBOY! maybe even sand it down a bit so that the paint sticks well...
1) paint the GBC white (or w/e base color)
2) use your paint pens to make your designs
3) use a clear coat spray paint to 'seal' in the designs

Step three is crucial, because most paint pens are just acrylic- meaning water can was them off. The clear coat will also smooth out the surface, making it look nice and clean!

Thank you so much! What types of paint would be best? Should I sue vinyl dye or spray paint? Have your gameboys been sticky after paint? I'm planning on painting a gameboy for my fiancees birthday.

BenBurge (author)  Nuttfuz28 days ago
Yeah! As long as you can program to the cart, you should be set!

As for the GBC, the hardware is a little different from the DMG- some say it sounds better! Of course others argue the opposite too.. Either way, it's definitely a great place to start!
BenBurge (author) 1 month ago

For anyone interested I have a couple of builds I've yet to sell!

Check out my eBay Shop here!

So wait.. I'm wiring two grounds to the switch? That doesn't seem right.

BenBurge (author)  mischke.jason1 month ago

Yep that's it!- well, kinda!

All the switch is doing is connecting/disconnecting a ground source to the ground wire of the backlight!

When connected current will flow though the backlight, and when not, the backlight will be off!

Hope this helps!

Thanks for the response. I need a basic wiring course I think. I just look at some line drawings and it seems to make sense. Excellent tutorial by the way. This is the largest collection of DMG modding I have found in one place. I really appreciate it.
BenBurge (author)  mischke.jason1 month ago

Don't sweat it! My writing is most defiantly rushed- one of these days I'll get around to touching this guy up!

Happy to help!

Afro Ninja2 months ago

Thats amazing! A while back i tried to make some chiptunes with a free software called FamiTracker. This software is great, but is a LOT easier if u have a MIDI controller, so I cant really make a decent song with it. Also it isn't genuine chiptunes. But this ible' is... just awesome. I'm seriously considering buying a game-boy now! P.S. whats whats a "rom" and a "GBC" ? Thank u SO much Ben :)

BenBurge (author)  Afro Ninja2 months ago
Thanks for the kind words! So glad you're a fan of the guide!

ROMs are the digital file that holds a Game Boy game (or NES/64/DS/etc games). most ROMs can be flashed onto a cart, and then played on an original system, otherwise they can be used with an emulator.

A GBC is just a Game Boy Color.

Hope this helps!
Neodjdan7 months ago

Hi Ben,

Just a question, I'm about to embark on modding both my Color and my DMG, but before I begin I wanted to make sure that everything you entailed in this guide applies to both the color as well as the DMG models unless specifically noted?

Say, if the circuitry in the color is vastly different from the DMG, would that affect the process of attempting any of the mods?

Also, does it matter the type of solder used when soldering down wires? Is a specific type recommended?

Thanks very much for the help!

redtraceur7 months ago

why did you cut the blakc wires ??

BenBurge (author)  redtraceur7 months ago

The two most left black wires are what normally carries the sound. Because we want the more clear signal, we have to get rid of them, and then solder the better sounding set to where they would go!

gr3yh4m37 months ago

Awesome review, thanks! Quick question though, for the Ps/2 keyboard internal jack mod, will a gameboy colour (with DMG adaptor) cable work? Or do I have to buy an actual DMG link cable? I just have a colour one lying around is all... thanks again :)

BenBurge (author)  gr3yh4m37 months ago

You could mod the color both internally or through it's link cable. If you go though with the link cable, just make sure that you use the correct wires- best to use a multimeter's connection test to figure out what wires is what!

Also, be cautious that the cable might not have a 5v line. You can mod these cables- I know there's a great tutorial out there, but I can't seem to find it right now :c

Good luck!

Justin O7 months ago

can any of this be done with an SP?

BenBurge (author)  Justin O7 months ago

Uhh, well not really... It has been done before, but i've never atempted.. I can tell you that it's very dificult though!

TheKnexDude9 months ago
An LSDJ is not a DJ on LSD.
BenBurge (author)  TheKnexDude9 months ago
If such were the case though- it'd be quite the punny nick-name!
Snip3r9510 months ago
Hey man, awesome tutorial, I'm just finishing up my first DMG. But, could you recommend a different oscillator to use? I'm looking for one that oscillates between 1mhz and around 32mhz (for attachment to a gameboy color). If you can't think of an oscillator like this, could you recommend a supplier or site where I can learn more about oscillators? Again, I am very grateful for the amazing instructable. Thank you so much!
BenBurge (author)  Snip3r9510 months ago
You could really use any crystal! Sparkfun has a pretty great collection, i'd check there!
Are you looking to over clock it? Or keep around it at the same speed?
https://www.sparkfun.com/products/538 - This link is for one that's 8MHz- the speed the gameboy color normal runs at, but Sparkfun had plenty of others if you're looking for a different value!

Thanks so much! Glad this was a help, and that your first build went well! I'd love to check it out if you have pics!
Snip3r95 BenBurge9 months ago
I'm looking to overclock it so I can get through turn based rpgs like pokemon or dragon quest monsters faster, but I want the flexibility of a variable oscillator. I was inspired by this video; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwJQxD8LLNY.
From what I understand, if I remove the resistor from the pitch mod build and connected that to the Game Boy Color, I should be able to reach up to 33mhz with the LTC1799. Correct me if I'm wrong :)

Also, what do you think the risk is of overheating and burning out the CPU in the device? Do you think it would warrant a small fan or heatsink if I was going to leave it overclocked at around 16mhz for extended periods of time? (I might just add the fan anyway, it would look super cool) Also, what is the function of the capacitor in the pitch mod?

Thank you for your quick response, I've never had someone actually respond to a comment like this. xD
BenBurge (author)  Snip3r959 months ago
Aww, I see! I totally agree, a variable oscillator would definitely be what you'd want!

Yep, that's right! I'm not positive how high the Color can go before crashing, but I might consider adding just a little adjustable pot internally where the 10k resistor would normally go- that way you can 'tune' it to it's fastest point, and then not have to worry while adjusting with the main pot!

I wouldn't worry about overheating too much, I myself have never run into such a problem, nor can I say I've see anyone else deal with such.. As cool as a fan would be, I'd worry about size- how would you fit it in there?

The cap in the circuit just connects Vcc to Gnd- it's for stability, by bypassing you can cut down on 'cross takl' between sources using the same voltage supplies.

And of course! I'm happy to help!
Do I have to use the LTC1799 or could I use a different oscillator?
BenBurge (author)  Spencer . D1 year ago
Well it depends on what you want! the LTC1799 is a 'variable oscillator' which means you can change the frequency it oscillates at. You could install any old oscillator in there, but a non-vairable one would act more like the clock mod, in that it would just be a set speed.

If you're asking if you could use another variable oscillator, im sure you could! just check the freq.- you're going to want something with the range of .525MHz - 12.582912MHz, or at least something you can resistor down to that!

See if you can find a link to what you wanted to use, i could give you more info if i knew what it is!
what are your thoughts on making a felt case?
i saw a dmg for sale on
BenBurge (author)  Spencer . D1 year ago
Although i've never tried making one- i think they're flipin' awesome!

I know Kitchbent has a few on his site - http://store.kitsch-bent.com/category/by-brand-vex - all of which were made by vex.

If you're thinking about making one though, i'd go for it! It seems like a relatively simple process- just some hot glue, felt, and patience! And they really do look fantastic when finished!

As with the Pitch Mod- Let me know how it goes! It'd be really sweet to see one from start to finish!

Cheers!
I have 10k 1/2 watt carbon film resistors
a 100 np capacitor 35v
a 100k potentiometer
and the break away male headers, including jumpers

all i need is the adapter and ltc1799 (which wasnt at radioshack, unfortunately)

i dont have much electronics experience. the parts i got are somewhat different. Will these all work together? does 1/4 watt vs. 1/2 watt make a difference?
BenBurge (author)  Spencer . D1 year ago
The difference between a 1/4 watt, and 1/2 watt resistor is simply the amount of power (Amps x Volts) they can take before of heating, and burning out- in this case, where the power is so low, you could use either. I prefer the 1/4 watts for size, but you can definitely get away with using a 1/2!

My main concern would be the cap- If you meant to type "100nF" then you might be alright, although i've never tried with a cap that large, the data sheet for the LTC1799 simply recommends a cap 0.1uF (same thing as 100nF) so you should be alright!

The 100K pot should treat you well- i've tried with both 500K, 200K, and 100K- and 100K has a nice balance of how fast you can go, and how slow- while as the 500K will take you much slower than fast.

I'm interested to see how it all turns out! Please let me know if you need any farther help! We'll get this mod working- i promise!
mi1ez1 year ago
I was under the impression the link cable (DMG-04) didn't carry power and you needed the gamelink hub (DMG-07). I used a DMG-07 on mine.
BenBurge (author)  mi1ez1 year ago
Yep, you're right! Only a DMG-07 cable carries a voltage wire, unlike the '04 series that only carry data. You could still get away with using an ol' DMG-04 though, granted you provide another source of voltage- like a battery!

In the 'Parts List's , the link searches "DMG Link Cable" because often people will sell a DMG-07 cable not knowing it was once part of a set is all.

Hope this clears things up! Oh, and i love to see your keyboard, if you have pics!
mi1ez BenBurge1 year ago
Here you go! I was going to post the image properly but I'll be damned if I figure it out!

https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/-PRwfMxIjgcI6GK0bLCJJtMTjNZETYmyPJy0liipFm0?feat=directlink
BenBurge (author)  mi1ez1 year ago
Woah! That's sweet! Is that a putty you used to fill in the unused keys?
mi1ez BenBurge1 year ago
Cheers, I'm pretty pleased with it.

I snapped the backs off the unused keys and glued them back, then used car bumper filler across the gaps and sanded it down. I was going to make it into an instructable but got carried away and forgot to take photos!
BenBurge (author)  mi1ez1 year ago
I see- Neat! I'll be looking forward to that instructable! :D
weedoo1 year ago
AMAZING tutorial man, thank you so much
BenBurge (author)  weedoo1 year ago
Thank you! Awesome to hear you liked it!
Nahte271 year ago
Great Guide! I wish I had this all-in-one instructable when I built my first chip time DMG last month! I do have one question though. Is there any advantage to using an Arduino UNO over a Mini, if the Arduino is only going to be used as an Arduinoboy?
1-40 of 52Next »