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A chiptune (or chip music) is music written in sound formats where many of the sound textures are synthesized or sequenced in real time by a computer or video game console sound chip, sometimes including sample-based synthesis and low bit sample playback. Many chip music devices featured synthesizers in tandem with low rate sample playback. The "golden age" of chiptunes was the mid-1980s to early 1990s, when such sound chips were the most common method for creating music on computers. Chiptunes are closely related to video game music, which often featured chiptunes out of necessity.

Early computer sound chips had only simple tone and noise generators with few channels, imposing limits on both the complexity of the sounds they could produce and the number of notes that could be played at once. In their desire to create a more complex arrangement than what the medium apparently allowed, composers developed creative approaches when developing their own electronic sounds and scores, employing a diversity of both methods of sound synthesis, such as pulse-width modulation and wavetable synthesis, and careful use of compositional techniques, such as a liberal use of arpeggiation.[dubious ]

The term Chip Music has been applied to more recent compositions that attempt to recreate the chiptune sound, albeit with more complex technology. Currently, chip music composers use modern computers to aid them in either composition, recording, or execution of the art form. Modern computers are also used for networking throughout the global chip music "scene." The evolution of the Internet has helped chip musicians connect with each other, share ideas, and create public events. The recent popularity of Creative Commons over Copyright in the chip music scene has also helped many musicians learn and develop their craft through an open source environment. Emulation of the original sound chips has become more prevalent and accepted because of the increasing rarity and fragility of the original "IC chips." Module files can use small, looped samples to emulate the sound of classic sound chips.


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