History of The Single Voice Echo?

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neilbaldwin
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History of The Single Voice Echo?

Post by neilbaldwin » Mon Jul 13, 2009 12:07 pm

I read an interview today on 1-UP with Hidenori Maezawa. In the text it's suggested that he "invented" the single-voice-echo technique. From what I can gather they're talking about his NES music for Contra back in 1988.

It made me think. I wasn't aware of his music back when I started out on the NES and I wasn't aware of anyone else using this technique back when I did Magician in 1989.

Unless anyone can tell me different, I'm claiming half of that crown. :P

(Tongue firmly in cheek, sincerely hoping for some insight)

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Eightbit Allstar
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Post by Eightbit Allstar » Mon Jul 13, 2009 12:47 pm

He was earlier than you. :P

But it is still fascinating for me how people (like you) came up with such techniques. :) I hope this milds your wounds. :lol:

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Post by neilbaldwin » Mon Jul 13, 2009 1:01 pm

Eightbit Allstar wrote:He was earlier than you. :P

But it is still fascinating for me how people (like you) came up with such techniques. :) I hope this milds your wounds. :lol:
:lol:

But he had a geographical advantage seeing as Japan is many hours ahead of the UK.

I literally invented it 7 hours after he did. ;)

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Post by ccovell » Mon Jul 13, 2009 4:27 pm

I've got a feeling that systems like the C-64 and ZX Spectrum had musicians implement single-voice echo before it was, erm, co-invented on the NES. I've got no proof, just a gut feeling, but considering the Spectrum had one voice anyway (the buzzer) I'm sure some musicians like Tim Follin did some fantastic tricks on it.

Anyone have any examples?

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Post by Dwedit » Mon Jul 13, 2009 5:44 pm

Can't really do echo on the ZX's buzzer, just tons of timed writes to play full music, like in Dizzy.
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Post by Banshaku » Mon Jul 13, 2009 7:15 pm

I guess what he meant is at the time there was no such thing. Music was quite crude during that era. And it's not like composers were talking to each others about their tricks.

Everyone had their own style. What he meant is that he figured out how to make single echo while working at Konami and no other composer there had that.

Just speculating but my impression.

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Post by RushJet1 » Mon Jul 13, 2009 7:43 pm

Well with NES music, you hear a distinct change around 1987... from 1983-1986 games tend to sound very plain, the only good sounds come from compositional harmony (mario 1, metroid, gyromite). Actually Metroid is a rare example of a very smooth soundtrack in the case of Brinstar Depths. From 1987-1988 you get people who figured out that dual-channel echo sounds nice, and volume effects are a good thing. 1988... BAM, Konami games start having single-channel echo and delay effects, and other games follow suit around 1989-1990. 1988-1991 is probably the era i like most from NES music. Then you get into 1992-1993, where styles go every which way-- from Capcom's "we'll keep doing it the same as we've always done it" mentality to Konami's super-prog-wankery to taito's cutesy blips to Kirby's minimalist reverse bass (square=bass triangle=...effects & harmony). From what I've heard, I can't say that I've heard any single-channel echo before 1988 or so, on any system. Then again I'm not really well-versed in anything but the NES... but all the games that DO use it that I've heard on the C64 are made in 1990-1993.

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Post by tepples » Mon Jul 13, 2009 9:26 pm

RushJet1 wrote:Kirby's minimalist reverse bass (square=bass triangle=...effects & harmony).
I think that's an attempt to mimic the Game Boy sound, which by the time of Kirby's Dream Land usually had a more square- or sawtooth-like waveform loaded into channel 3 instead of the triangle-ish waves that the launch titles such as Tetris and SML used.

Kirby's Adventure wasn't the first to "abuse" the triangle in this way; check out "Technotris" from BPS Tetris or Vs. Boss from SMB3 or BGM 2 and 3 from Pipe Dream. I myself have tried my hand at "reverse bass" in NT2 a couple times:
  • Butterfly, an attempt to show that the poor arrangements in DDR GB were Konami's fault, not Nintendo's.
  • Troika, track 10 of OpenTris. Listen in at 1:04, which combines single-voice and double-voice echo to ape "Sappy" from Tetrisphere.

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Post by neilbaldwin » Tue Jul 14, 2009 12:17 am

Please don't take me too seriously, I'm being deliberately controversial :)

I was around during the C64's golden years and I can't remember ever hearing anyone do the single-voice-echo trick on that platform back then. I never had a Spectrum so I've no experience.

There was certainly no instance of me hearing a single-voice-echo on any game music and making a deliberate attempt to mimic it. Double-voice, yes., many times.

In actual fact, in Magician, I accidentally made the sound by having a software envelope that reduced rapidly from full volume to very low, say, an amplitude of 15 down to 2 so you had a sound with a very sharp attack but a quiet sustained portion that lasted until the next note. So I wasn't even playing two notes but that was what started it for me. I noticed the cool effect it made and then sought to exploit it by way of then placing a lower volume note after a loud note in the way we all now know.

In later titles I even worked out on paper how to have single-voice echo where the echo occurred not straight after the note but a couple of notes later. It was an utter bastard to edit though.

Now, in Nijuu, it's actually programmed into the engine so it's now utterly simple to achieve the effect and you can get a much wider range of echo effects by manipulating a couple of parameters.

I've got a simple demo that repeats a (well known) melody while changing the echo parameters which I can stick up on the website if anyone is curious.

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Post by RushJet1 » Tue Jul 14, 2009 12:47 am

tepples wrote:I myself have tried my hand at "reverse bass" in NT2 a couple times:
  • Butterfly, an attempt to show that the poor arrangements in DDR GB were Konami's fault, not Nintendo's.
Hah I remember this from the SMSPower boards. They were trying to get a rendition that Maxim (i think) had done of Butterfly for the SMS to sound good, and had linked that thread. They kind of concluded that the SMS's chip might not be good enough to do it but I felt like being stubborn anyway.

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Post by MetalSlime » Tue Jul 14, 2009 1:31 am

neilbaldwin wrote: Now, in Nijuu, it's actually programmed into the engine so it's now utterly simple to achieve the effect and you can get a much wider range of echo effects by manipulating a couple of parameters.

I've got a simple demo that repeats a (well known) melody while changing the echo parameters which I can stick up on the website if anyone is curious.

I'm curious!

Also, what was your approach to building single-channel delay into your sound engine?
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Post by Bregalad » Tue Jul 14, 2009 2:29 am

Just a correction... the C64 SID audio chip doesn't allow you to adjust the volume on a single channel (*), only global volume and ADSR enveloppe is parametrable... so that probably means no single channel echo is possible.

*unless you do weird tricks such as rapid cycle-timed key-ons and key-offs, which are undoccumented and were probably discovered long after the release of Contra and Magician.

And yeah, editing single-channel echo music data sounds like a major pain... That's probably for the game I'm writing I just keep 2 channel echo or chrous effects (also it's sometimes hard to come with 4 voices all the time when composing music, somteimes 2 voices + noise percussion make the cut).
Like MetalSlime I'd wonder if there is an approach to do such echo effects. One approach that would come in my mind is to support more sound channel than the hardware does, and automatically map a low priority channel if a high priority channel has a "gap".
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Post by neilbaldwin » Tue Jul 14, 2009 3:22 am

There is a solution to single-voice-echo - I've done it in Nijuu.

It involves quite a bit of RAM as it uses a circular buffer for each voice (A, B & D), captures the audio on those voices, processes them and slots the processed output into "gaps" in the track. Also, on A & B, you can alter the duty of the echo feedback which gives quite a different effect. For example, using a 25% duty but modifying the echo duty to 50% gives a softer echo sound. Using 50% duty for the voice and 25% for the echo makes the echo sound "thinner". And so on. That's optional though, default mode is to capture all the nuances of the original voice (so real-time pitch changes, duty changes and amplitude changes), modify the amplitude and squirt the output back into the same voice.

I'll put that little demo onto the website when I get five minutes.

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Post by ccovell » Tue Jul 14, 2009 7:09 pm

This probably isn't single-voice echo, but if you want to hear some games on the NES/Famicom that use echoes as their main "thing", check out many Kemco games (Bugs Bunny, Shadowgate, Uninvited, Deja Vu...) as well as Xexyz & many compositions by Masuko "Macco" Tsukasa (one of my favourite composers on the PC-Engine), like Bio Senshi Dan, Rockin' Kats, and Megami Tensei II.

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Post by neilbaldwin » Wed Jul 15, 2009 1:20 am

ccovell wrote:This probably isn't single-voice echo, but if you want to hear some games on the NES/Famicom that use echoes as their main "thing", check out many Kemco games (Bugs Bunny, Shadowgate, Uninvited, Deja Vu...) as well as Xexyz & many compositions by Masuko "Macco" Tsukasa (one of my favourite composers on the PC-Engine), like Bio Senshi Dan, Rockin' Kats, and Megami Tensei II.
Cool, I'll try to track those down. If only because "Rockin' Kats" sounds like the best game in the world. :D

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