The 8-Bit Folk Music Revival

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


The 8-Bit Folk Music Revival is a blog dedicated to bringing attention to the growing sub-genre of music known as 8-Bit Folk.

What is 8-bit music?

8-bit music is a style of synthesized electronic music used in classic video games and computers. The term refers to the 8-bit CPU hardware of early personal computers and gaming consoles, which was capable of producing only a few basic sounds. 8-bit music often features simple melodies and chord progressions, with a limited number of instruments playing at once. However, some 8-bit tracks are complex and multi-layered, with dozens of different parts playing simultaneously.

8-bit music has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years, thanks to the rise of chiptune and retro gaming culture. Many modern musicians have embraced the 8-bit sound, using it to create catchy, nostalgic tunes that evoke the golden era of video gaming.

The history of 8-bit music

8-bit music, also known as chiptune or tracker music, is a style of music that originated in the early 1980s with the advent of home computers and video game consoles. This style of music is still popular today, and has been influenced by a variety of genres, including folk music. In this article, we’ll take a look at the history of 8-bit music and how it has evolved over the years.

The early days of video game music

The earliest video games date back to the early 1950s, when academics began designing simple games, simulations, and diversions as part of their computer science research. One of the first was a tennis game designed by Willy Higginbotham on an oscilloscope. Others followed, including Spacewar! (1962), the first digital multiplayer video game.

The commercial release of Space Invaders in 1978 marked the beginning of the golden age of arcade video games. During this time, arcade games like Pac-Man (1980), Donkey Kong (1981), and Ms. Pac-Man (1981) became cultural icons and generated millions of dollars in quarters for their developers.

The advent of home consoles like the Atari 2600 (1977) and Commodore 64 (1982) brought video games into people’s homes and opened up a new era of gaming. Some of the earliest home console games were simple ports of popular arcade titles, but others were original designs built specifically for playing on a television screen. Pitfall! (1982), one of the first commercially successful home console games, is considered an early example of an “open world” game design, where the player is free to explore an expansive virtual world at their own pace.

The late 1980s and early 1990s saw the release of some groundbreaking home console games, including The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1991) and Super Mario World (1990). These titles set new standards for graphics, gameplay, and storytelling in video games and laid the foundation for many popular franchises that continue to this day.

One trend that emerged during this period was the use of synthesized music in video games. Early Commodore 64 games likeendintro Lazy Jones (1984) and The Last Ninja endintro(1987) featured catchy melodies composed using only a few sound channels. These chiptune tunes quickly became iconic and helped define an entire generation of gaming.

The 8-bit music scene today

Interestingly, the 8-bit music scene today is being driven largely by independent game developers who are using the style to evoke feelings of nostalgia in players. This has led to a resurgence in popularity for 8-bit music, with a number of producers and composers releasing new tracks in the style on a regular basis.

There are now numerous dedicated 8-bit music festivals being held around the world, where fans can come together to enjoy the sounds of their favorite era. One of the most popular is MAGFest (the Music and Gaming Festival), which takes place annually in the US.

If you’re interested in exploring 8-bit music further, there are plenty of online resources available, including 8bc (an online community for 8-bit musicians), Chip n’ DALE (a database of over 6,000 8-bit songs), and Famitracker (a popular tracker program for creating 8-bit music).

How to make 8-bit music

8-bit music has been making a comeback in recent years, with a new generation of musicians rediscovering the charm of early video game music. It’s a style that’s both retro and modern, and it’s easy to get started with. In this article, we’ll show you how to make 8-bit music of your own.

The tools you need

To make 8-bit music, you’ll need a few things:
-An electronic keyboard or other MIDI input device
-An 8-bit sound chip emulation program like Tetrisphere or famitracker
-A sequencer program to string your melodies together

If you want to get really authentic, you can also use an actual 8-bit sound chip like the ones found in the Nintendo Entertainment System or Commodore 64. But for most people, an emulation will suffice.

Once you have your tools assembled, you’re ready to start making music!

The 8-bit sound

The defining characteristic of 8-bit music is its simplicity. Composers working with early video game sound chips like the NES’s 2A03 or the Commodore 64’s SID had limited resources to work with. In addition to basic waveforms like square waves and sawtooth waves, these chips could generate simple noise (used for percussion) and limitedDigitalAudio. Each voice could only play one note at a time, so chords were impossible. And because storage was so limited, most songs were only a few seconds long.

Despite these limitations, 8-bit composers were able to create catchy, unforgettable tunes that have stood the test of time. The best known examples are the theme songs for Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda, but there are many other great 8-bit tunes out there waiting to be discovered.

If you’re interested in learning more about 8-bit music, there are a few different ways to get started. One is to listen to chiptune albums by contemporary artists who are inspired by the sound of early video games. You can also find digitized versions of old video game soundtracks online, or even track down some of the original video games themselves and play them with an emulator.

8-bit music in the mainstream

8-bit music, also known as chiptune, has been around since the early days of video gaming. In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in this type of music, with artists such as Anamanaguchi and YMCK gaining mainstream attention. This article will explore the 8-bit music revival and its impact on the music industry.

8-bit music in advertising

8-bit music has been appearing in advertising more and more over the past few years. Its simple, catchy melodies and lo-fi aesthetic have proven to be a perfect fit for many brands looking to appeal to a younger, hip audience. A few notable examples of 8-bit music in advertising include:

-Nike’s “Just Do It” commercial featuring an 8-bit remix of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage”
-Gap’s “Dress Normal” campaign, which featured an 8-bit version of R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”
-Old Spice’s 2010 “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” commercial, which featured an 8-bit remix of Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend”

With its increasing popularity, it’s likely that we’ll be hearing a lot more 8-bit music in advertising in the years to come.

8-bit music in movies and TV

In recent years, 8-bit music has made its way into mainstream pop culture. It can be heard in movies, TV shows, and video games. The 8-bit sound is often used to add a sense of nostalgia or quirkiness to a scene.

One of the most famous examples of 8-bit music in pop culture is the theme song for the TV show Stranger Things. The show’s creators used an 8-bit version of the song to set the tone for the show, which is set in the 1980s.

8-bit music has also been used in a number of movies. In the 2016 movie Guardianes de la Galaxia (Guardians of the Galaxy), one of the characters, Peter Quill, listens to an 8-bit version of “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Swede while he’s flying through space. In Ready Player One (2018), an 8-bit version of “Pure Imagination” from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory can be heard during a pivotal scene.

Video games have also helped to popularize 8-bit music. One of the earliest and most influential examples is Super Mario Bros., which was released in 1985. The game’s soundtrack, composed by Koji Kondō, is one of the most recognizable pieces of video game music of all time. Other popular examples include Mega Man 2 (1988) and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1991).

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