Mod music


Mod music (or chiptunes or tracker music) describes the genre of computer music started in the '80s and '90s on C64, Amiga, and other home computers, using their hardware capabilities to create music. Often software] is used to describe which note or sample is played when and how. Today there is a wide variety of different formats, from many different computer systems (old vintage hardware like Spectrum, C64, Amiga, Atari, but also newer systems).

Each computer system comes with its own fascinating music style, often based on limited capabilities of creating sound. For instance, the C64 was only barely capable of playing generic samples. The sound chip SID is able to generate different wave forms and noise with a nice sound characteristic but due to flexible programming interesting music can be generated. The Amiga on the other hand had four independent voices capable of playing generic samples. Those four voices were originally able to play 8 bit samples at up to 28 kHz but with additional software approaches up to 14 bit resolution, higher sampling rates, and more voices were possible. Later, on the PC, more advanced tracker formats have been used but basically the method is always the same.

I like this kind of music art and even if those formats are originating from old computer system, it is possible to play these files on modern hardware. It is of course possible to use emulations of such old hardware, but software players exists too which are able to reproduce the original sound (more or less). In the following, I list the programs which can be used to play specific file formats. Since I prefer free software and free software operating systems, I concentrate on GNU/Linux but often the software runs on other operating systems as well or similar software can be easily found.

List of players

File format Player software Additional information
Mod (mod.* or *.mod) xmp or MikMod Original Amiga tracker format
Med/OctaMed xmp or MikMod OctaMed Amiga tracker software
*.xm xmp or MikMod FastTracker 2
*.s3m xmp or MikMod ScreamTracker 3
*.it xmp or MikMod Impulse Tracker
*.ahx UADE AbyssHighestExperience
*.aon UADE ArtOfNoise
*.bp UADE Sound Monitor
*.cus UADE
*.dw UADE David Whittaker
*.fc3 or *.fc4 UADE Future Composer
*.fred UADE FredMonitor
*.hip UADE
TFMX (mdat.* or *.tfmx) TFMX-Play or UADE The Final Musicsystem eXtended
*.ay Aylet Sinclair ZX Spectrum format
*.sid or *.psid SIDPlay2 C64 SID format
*.sap ASAP Atari SAP format (8-bit systems with POKEY soundchip)
Standalone CLI player can be build with
make asap-sdl
*.ym STYMulator Atari YM format (16-bit systems with Yamaha soundchip)

Further reading