- SiGnAlS -
Issue I Volume I
July 17, 1993
"Dedicated to all the coderz and their insane delusions..."
Executive Editor: Necrs, The PsYcHiC MoNkS
I: Introduction ---------------
Welcome to the first issue of our underground newsletter, SiGnAlS. Our aim is to encourage the musical development of the MOD format, and to help all the coders who may need a little introduction to the latest scene. To subscribe to our newsletter, simply e-mail email@example.com. Please note that some subsequent issues will be by subscription ONLY. Well, on to the fun stuff.
II: Basix ------------
First off, for those of you that don't know, the MOD format is a format designed to standardize the creation of music that uses digital instrument files. This format usually supports four to thirty-two tracks of samples, with each sample having 64K max of data. It is very similar to the MIDI or CMF format for music, but enjoys a much clearer and more realistic sound, due to the inclusion of digital waveforms.
Why use MODs? For those of you who program the other formats, MOD programming may seem like a waste of time. This is untrue. The module format is far superior to either MIDI or CMF for the following reasons:
1) All instruments are sampled, thus resulting in a much more realistic sound.
2) All of the traditional MIDI and CMF effects are available, plus some extra which MIDI and CMF do not support.
3) Unlike MIDI, you do not need an external keyboard or rack synth to produce high-quality sound.
It does have a few drawbacks, however, but these are small:
1) MOD format (usually) only supports 4 tracks, as opposed to 8-12 on MIDI or CMF.
2) Samples can only be played over a three octave range.
3) Designing your own instruments is harder that modifying, for example, a CMF instrument file.
4) Playback takes a large amount of processor time.
Using a few tricks, though, can get you past most of the above drawbacks. If you haven't noticed, all of the new assembly demos (esp. those out of Europe) use the MOD format. Using a MOD in your demo or game can significantly enhance the sound quality of your product. It is also possible to overlay digital sound effect tracks over the music itself, thus resulting in a very professional sound.
Enough of the sales pitch. (I'm not making any money here.)
More basics about mods in the next issue.
III: Tricks and Tips w/ Necrs
T&T is for the intermediate to advanced .MOD programmer, and contains all of the tricks I've found during my coding days. (Well, maybe not ALL of them. I have to keep something up my sleeve for the demos, you know….)
First off, a few notes about the peculiarity of the MOD format. MOD tracks contain 64 beats, with each beat containing a note, efx data, or nothing. This is somewhat biased to programming a 4/4 mod, since 4 beats per measure fills out the 64 beats nicely. However, it is possible to code a mod in a different time signature, like 6/8 or even 5/4! To do this, you need to use the –D00 (end pattern) effect. To show an example, let us pretend we're trying to write a mod in 6/8. We've entered the pattern data, and it ends right before beat 48. What we have to do is force the mod to go to the next track here, or else there will be an extra blank beat after each measure. Simply enter a –D00 effect on the last beat of your pattern, and the mod will skip to the next track. (Warning: make sure you put the effect on the beat with the last of your pattern data, not the blank beat after.) This will create a pattern of 48 beats (beats 0-47), which works out to either 6/8 or 3/4.
Another peculiarity of MODs: Different trackers interpret some effects differently. One of the most notorious wrong implementations is the pitch slide. On early versions of TrakBlaster and other mod players, the pitch slides are off by as much as a factor of 2.4!!! To remedy this, try to use effect –3XX (pitch slide to note) instead of –1XX or -2XX (pitch slide up/down). To use –3XX, simply specify the effect on the second note of your glissando. For example, if we wanted to slide from C2 to G2 by 3 step increments, we would enter this:
01 C-2 01000 (using sample 1) 02 --- 00000 03 --- 00000 04 --- 00000 05 G-2 01303 06 --- 00303 07 --- 00303 08 --- 00303 . . . etc.
This will play a C2 on beat 1, and start the slide to the G on beat 5. The slide continues on beats 6, 7, and 8 until the slide is finished. Be careful to include a large enough step value to make sure the slide finishes. Usually the best value is determined by experimentation. If the slide keeps coming up short, raise the step value or make the slide longer.
One more short trick:
If you have a sound which is louder than most of the other sounds in your MOD (a thunderous gunshot, maybe…), you don't have to keep sticking CXX (volume set) on each beat where you play the sound. Just use the sample volume setting in your tracker (most good ones have this). Once it's set to a good level, keep it there. As long as you don't put any volume info in the beat, the sample will play at the volume you set instead of the default 64 volume. You can still manually set the volume with the CXX switch if you want. ;)
IV: Visualizations ------------------
Before you can write a really good mod, it is necessary to be able to write really good music first. I have heard enough C-F-G mods, lame dance rips, strung-together-sample MODS, and Nintendo-sounding mods to make me puke five or six times over. Please try something different every once in a while. Don't stick to the lame voicings perpetrated by every bad demo group out there. Next time you want to write a C chord with a C bass, try a Csus2 with an E bass. Try weird sample efx. Add voice sample at inopportune spots. In short, don't be afraid to experiment. Sorry I sound a bit hostile today ;) , but as a person who downloads way too much, I am sick and tired of spending hours downloading mods, only to find that I have downloaded a 40 second sample of a Ministry song. To all of you who do write extremely good stuff, my respect: Future Crew, Cascada, Skull (not!), the guys at DENS, and all you others. If you want to hear any of my stuff, my archives (PsychicModsX.lzh) are available on wuarchive.wustl.edu in /pub/msdos_uploads/mods. Out for now.
V: Conclusions ----------------
Well guys, that's our first issue. I know it's not much, but there will be a new one every couple of days, depending on submissions. If you have any contributions (a neat new effect, where to find good samples, etc..), please send them to our address:
turtle-express: Necrs re: Signals The PsYcHiC MoNkS 7958 State Route 69 Oriskany, NY 13424
peace and let the cyberspace fly