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= The dark and forgotten art of GENMIDI

Doom's music consists (effectively) of MIDI music files. MIDI is an odd
beast. The General MIDI standard defines a set of 128 common instruments
supported by MIDI playback systems. For example, instrument #10 is
``Glockenspiel''. You can think of them like the instrument presets on
an electronic keyboard. You can find a full list of instruments[on Wikipedia].

Modern synthesizers, keyboards and operating systems with MIDI playback
capability use recorded samples of real musical instruments, so when
the MIDI file specifies ``Glockenspiel'' as the instrument, you hear
notes from a real glockenspiel playing the song. But Doom is from an
older, more primitive age.

Computers in the early '90s (at least, the ones that had sound cards)
often had a SoundBlaster-compatible sound card. As well as the digital
playback functionality that provides the sound effects in Doom, these
cards also had a YM3812 (OPL2) or YMF262 (OPL3) chip that was used for
music playback. These are FM synthesis chips designed and made by Yamaha
for their range of electronic keyboards.

Back then, music playback with samples was difficult (or at least
expensive / CPU intensive), so FM synthesis provided a more primitive
alternative. By generating two waves and modulating one with the other,
it's possible to create noises that at least vaguely resemble real
musical instruments.

The OPL2 could generate 9 simultaneous voices simultaneously. You can
think of each of these voices as being like a noise-making box with a
bunch of knobs on the front to control the sound. Turn the knobs to
one set of settings and the noise that comes out sounds like a
Glockenspiel, change the settings and it sounds like a bass guitar or
a snare drum instead.

These ``knob settings'' are commonly stored in .sbi instrument files.
Looking online you can find huge collections of .sbi files created back
when people still actually used them.

To play back MIDI music using an OPL chip, you need a bank of instrument
data - effectively, instrument data for each instrument in the General
MIDI set. Doom uses an IWAD lump named GENMIDI that contains exactly
this - effectively 175 SBI files merged together (128 main instruments
+ 47 percussion effects).

It turns out that Doom's instrument data is a particularly good set.
Freedoom is using a set of instruments that comes from OpenBSD's kernel,
which isn't so good. So this directory has a script that builds a
GENMIDI lump out of individual SBI files, the idea being that they can
individually be replaced with better ones to improve it.

== Editing instruments

First of all, make sure you follow the same rules as any other Freedoom
submissions. DO NOT USE SBI FILES OFF WEBSITES. Everything has to be
completely original content.

Lots of editors exist for OPL instrument data. Probably the most powerful
one out there is[AdlibTracker2].
AT2 is actually a tracker for making songs, but it has an instrument
editor built-in. I'll give some instructions for how to use this.

First of all, modern computers don't have an OPL chip, so you'll need to
use[DOSbox], which can emulate one. You need to do
this even if you're using Windows. Download a copy of AT2 off the website
and a copy of DOSbox, and get the one running in the other.

Once you've opened up AT2, press Ctrl-I to bring up the instrument
control panel. You should see a list of instruments, which will
currently be empty. It's probably best to start by loading an existing
instrument file and editing it, so press Ctrl-L to load an instrument
into the first slot. Find one of the existing SBI files that you want
to improve and press enter to select it; you should see the instrument
appear next to ``iNS_01'' in the first slot.

To hear what the instrument currently sounds like, you can use the keys
on your keyboard like a piano:

   S D   G H J    2 3   5 6 7
  Z X C V B N M  Q W E R T Y U

To improve the current instrument settings, press tab to bring up the
instrument editor. You'll get a panel with a wide range of different
settings to play with, and you can still use the ``piano keys'' to hear
what effect your changes are having. Press enter to switch between
editing the carrier and the modulator - they both affect the sound in
different ways.

One thing to be aware of when editing instruments is that you should
only use the first four waveform types (Sine, Half-Sine, Abs-Sine,
Pulse-Sine). Do NOT use the last four waveform types (Sine (EPO),
Abs-Sine (EPO), Square, Derived square). The reason is that the full
eight are only supported by the OPL3 chip - the OPL2 only suported
the first four. You will get a warning message later if you use these.

When it comes to saving your changes, press Ctrl-S and type a filename
for your new file. There's a slight catch here in that although AT2 can
load SBI format instrument files, it can only save in its own ``a2i''
instrument format. Fortunately we can convert back into SBI format

== Generating a new GENMIDI

Now you've made your snazzy new instrument, you'll want to hook it into
the GENMIDI lump and try it out in-game. Put your .a2i file into the
lumps/genmidi/instruments directory, then open up in your
favorite text editor.

You'll see two lists of instrument definitions, for the main instruments
and for percussion. There are some instructions at the top of the file
for how to write these definitions, so I won't repeat them here. But if
your file is named eg. snazzy.a2i, you'll want to write something like:


If you're editing a percussion instrument, make sure that you remember
to specify a note you want to play. For example, for 'C#' in Octave -3:

  Instrument("snazzy.a2i", note=On3.Cs)

Once you're done, save your changes and type this to build a new GENMIDI
for testing:

  python mkgenmidi genmidi.lmp

To try it out, get a source port with OPL emulation support (eg. Chocolate
Doom) and add genmidi.lmp on the command line, eg.

  chocolate-doom -file genmidi.lmp

== Converting back to SBI

Once you have your finished instrument, it's probably best if you convert
from the rather ugly .a2i format into the more common .sbi format. More
tools support .sbi and some people might prefer to use other instrument
editors instead of AT2. There's a useful script included that will do
exactly this. Specify the name of the a2i file and the name of the
desired output file, as follows:

  python a2i-to-sbi snazzy.a2i

Don't forget to update to use the .sbi version of the file
instead of the .a2i version!

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