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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Maitrīx6 hours ago

what is the difference between using internal jack mode or the 1/8 outputs for pro sound mod?
and thanks for that great tutorial

i juat got this im new to it all any tips in how to use slash improve is a gba better then a normal gb to use. i have a itch to make beats

BenBurge (author)  matty.salisbury2 days ago
Well it looks like you've gotten a great start!!

Mod wise, I've seen backlights, prosound, even a few pitchmods for GBAs, but for how to do them..? You're going to have to check wit hthe pros!

This guys has some awesome looking GBAs: I'd check there if you're looking for inspiration!

Happy Chipping!
Perceptiv12 days ago

While doing the backlight, I was peeling the foil, but a lot of foil got stuck on the screen and only the adhesive part came off.. Is there any way to remove the foil without scraping it?
Thanks for the tuto!

CarlForrest26 days ago

You should compile this tutorial into an eBook- I would totally buy it.

BenBurge (author)  CarlForrest26 days ago
Wow, I've never thought about that!
If it ever come to fruition, expect a free copy :p

Hey, I backlit my DMG, but now when I try to load certain cartridges the screen is just blank. Any thoughts on what's causing this?

BenBurge (author)  PatrickIndigoPenumbra2 months ago
Uh oh!

There's a few reasons this could be going down- I'll need some more info to be able to tell for sure..

What kind of backilight? Did it have a built in resistor? Did you put on in if not?

What ground/+5v line did you use?

You can see the Nintendo start up splash right? If so, It sounds to me like your screen is just using up too much power, and when the gameboy goes to load whatever game, it browns out.. (do you notice the screen getting more dim when this happens?)

Hopefully we'll get to the bottom of this!

I used a backlight kit I got from handheld legend. It works great, I'm just having a few minor issues with it. All my carts work, including the one I use for LSDJ, which is good. The main cart I'm having issue with is pokemon red. When the gameboy starts up it works fine except the nintendo logo doesn't appear and I don't hear the bell start up sound. The gameboy and backlight both start up but nothing appears on the screen. I don't think there's anything wrong with the cart since I've tried it with my gamecube GB player and it works fine, it just doesn't work with my DMG since I added the backlight.

As for the resistor, I'm not sure. The backlight works perfectly so it would appear that I installed it correctly. Another thing is that with my carts that DO work I'm getting garbled "nintendo" text at start up way more often. I know that isn't a major problem but I think it shows something funky is going on inside the gameboy.

BenBurge (author)  PatrickIndigoPenumbra2 months ago

Trouble with a pokémon game? Yep. Almost positive that's a power issue! The kit should have come with a 100 ohm resistor to put between the ground cable of the backlight and the ground pin.. Sound familiar? Try this.... Load up a LSDJ save, and hit start. Does the screen dim when the music plays? If so, the backlight's just drawing a bit too much current. It's a common thing, and not normally too big an issue, but pokémon games are notorious for their also high power usage..

Throwing the resistor in should fix any problems with carts! But as for the garbled logo..

This could mean a few other things... It's most likely also a symptom of low power-- Maybe the clock isn't pulsing just right..?

I wouldn't worry about it just yet, fixing the power issue will probs fix this too!

jjpilgrim3 months ago

how to I go about adding a 1/4" prosound?

BenBurge (author)  jjpilgrim3 months ago
Same process as the 1/8" port!

Be careful the plug isn't mono- or at least if it is, know that you'll want to wire both the right and left sound channels across from the ground wire..

You should be able to find a pinout view of your jack though- it'll give you a better idea of which wires go where, because everyone is different!
Nuttfuz5 months 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 Nuttfuz5 months 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)  Nuttfuz5 months 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!
Nuttfuz BenBurge5 months ago

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)  Nuttfuz5 months 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) 5 months ago

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

Check out my eBay Shop here!

mischke.jason5 months ago

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

BenBurge (author)  mischke.jason5 months 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.jason5 months 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 Ninja6 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 Ninja6 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!
Neodjdan11 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!

redtraceur11 months ago

why did you cut the blakc wires ??

BenBurge (author)  redtraceur11 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!

gr3yh4m312 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)  gr3yh4m311 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 O1 year ago

can any of this be done with an SP?

BenBurge (author)  Justin O1 year 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!

An LSDJ is not a DJ on LSD.
BenBurge (author)  TheKnexDude1 year ago
If such were the case though- it'd be quite the punny nick-name!
Snip3r951 year 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)  Snip3r951 year 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? - 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!
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;
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)  Snip3r951 year 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
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