Instructables

The Ultimate Guide to Creating Chiptunes on the GameBoy!

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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!
 
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Neodjdan2 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!

redtraceur2 months ago

why did you cut the blakc wires ??

BenBurge (author)  redtraceur2 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!

gr3yh4m32 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)  gr3yh4m32 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 O2 months ago

can any of this be done with an SP?

BenBurge (author)  Justin O2 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!

TheKnexDude3 months ago
An LSDJ is not a DJ on LSD.
BenBurge (author)  TheKnexDude3 months ago
If such were the case though- it'd be quite the punny nick-name!
Snip3r954 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)  Snip3r954 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 BenBurge4 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)  Snip3r954 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!
Spencer . D8 months ago
Do I have to use the LTC1799 or could I use a different oscillator?
BenBurge (author)  Spencer . D8 months 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!
Spencer . D8 months ago
what are your thoughts on making a felt case?
i saw a dmg for sale on
BenBurge (author)  Spencer . D8 months 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!
Spencer . D8 months ago
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 . D8 months 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!
mi1ez8 months 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)  mi1ez8 months 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 BenBurge8 months 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)  mi1ez8 months ago
Woah! That's sweet! Is that a putty you used to fill in the unused keys?
mi1ez BenBurge8 months 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)  mi1ez8 months ago
I see- Neat! I'll be looking forward to that instructable! :D
weedoo8 months ago
AMAZING tutorial man, thank you so much
BenBurge (author)  weedoo8 months ago
Thank you! Awesome to hear you liked it!
Nahte278 months 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?
BenBurge (author)  Nahte278 months ago
Not particularly, but Unos are much versatile- power wise, not to mention easier to work with!

I'm working on an external Arduinoboy now that uses an Mini Pro- I'll upload pics once it's a bit more refined!

I've also been working on a design for a shield you could solder right to the Mini Pro, saving A LOT of space- i'll be sure to post more about it once done!

(There was a lot of things i just didn't get to finish because i wanted to meet the deadline of the music contest- expect many updates!)

I'd love to see your DMG too, btw!
Nahte27 BenBurge8 months ago
Thanks for the answer! I had the idea of stuffing an arduinoboy into an NES controller similar to this (http://store.kitsch-bent.com/product/arduinoboy-thursday-customs). I'm thinking a mini-pro might be the key to making this possible!

And I don't want to hijack the comments, but here's a pic of my DMG and keyboard. Instead of using the original headphone jack, I added a mute switch and an LED that illuminates when it's muted for "pro-sound mode."
1069234_605690772798446_76979930_n.jpg970641_610787645622092_455392506_n.jpg59258_604612506239606_1913522950_n.jpg999647_604612812906242_2037841808_n.jpg971880_604612692906254_1768807908_n.jpg
BenBurge (author)  Nahte278 months ago
I think your right with the Pro Mini- it's probably how they did it in the controller too!

Oh, and dude, that's an awesome setup! I love the Kitch case- and the LED looks awesome with the translucent start/select buttons! Thanks for sharing it!!
Nahte27 BenBurge8 months ago
Thanks, I'm glad you like it :D

BTW, I voted! The internet needed an all-in-one list of what's possible with Gameboys ;)
BenBurge (author)  Nahte278 months ago
I take it you convert the keyboard to a Link Cable too?

Thanks so much! That means a lot from a fellow Chiptuner! :D
Nahte27 BenBurge8 months ago
Yeah, I started trying to do a PS/2 port, but I only had an off brand 4 pin cable, so I had to convert that. And the cable and keyboard had non-standard wire colors. Once I finally found the right combination, I just decided to hardwire the cable to the keyboard!
BenBurge (author)  Nahte278 months ago
Well it certainly turned out great! From what i read, it seems like converting can be tough! Awesome job on it!
Nahte27 BenBurge8 months ago
Thanks! :D
"The Ultimate Guide to Creating Chiptunes on the GameBoy " man you choose the perfect title :) i was into chiptunes music and yr tuto is the greatest ive seen all over the web : its huge, and very detailed :) even the Paint job part is great (i destroyed a lot of gameboy case by using bad paint , its cool to preventing people for using oil base paint...ive seen so much gameboy with horrible paintjob on ebay) ; once again man , yr instructables is GREAT, i vote for you !!!
ps : you forget to mention the "gameboy camera dj" in yr software list ...maybe its very cheap , but with pitch and overclock mod it sound cool :) Take care !
BenBurge (author)  WacoRadioWeirdo8 months ago
Lol, thanks so much! I'm really glad you liked it! I'm hoping to add more examples- and videos of my builds in action! I've just not have a chance to compile everything :p

You're right! I totally forgot about the Gameboy Camera! I'll be sure to add it once I get home! Thanks for pointing it out!!

And thanks for the vote! You guys are the best!!!
countspicy8 months ago
I have read that vinyl dye is great for painting plastic surfaces such as controllers and handheld consoles and doesn't leave a sticky finish like paint. You can find it at local auto parts stores.
BenBurge (author)  countspicy8 months ago
I've never heard of that- but i'm going to have to check it out!
Thanks for the tip!
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