23 March 2011

Episode 21: Jeff van Dyck

Brent and Rob conduct an interview with acclaimed video game music composer Jeff van Dyck.  He gives a fascinating look into composing 16-bit tunes as well as an explanation of the Genesis and SNES hardware.  This interview also features some of Jeff's greatest hits during the 16-bit era.  NOTE: Yes, The Legacy Music Hour is aware that they neglected to ask about the basketball games Jeff worked on.  ANOTHER NOTE: The Legacy Music Hour did not play a track from NHL 96, because it was later discovered that Jeff only composed music for the PC version, and not the Genesis or SNES versions.  Full track listing below.


Game - Composer - Song - Company - Console - Year (the version we played was released)

FIFA International Soccer - Jeff van Dyck - Title - Electronic Arts - SNES - 1993

NBA Live 96 - Traz Damji - Title - Electonic Arts - Genesis - 1995

Skitchin' - Jeff van Dyck - Silken Liver Slipper - Electronic Arts - Genesis - 1993

Skitchin' - Jeff van Dyck - Cheese Grater - Electronic Arts - Genesis - 1993

FIFA Soccer 95 - Jeff van Dyck - Menu 3 - Electronic Arts - Genesis - 1994

FIFA International Soccer - Jeff van Dyck - Menu 3 - Electronic Arts - SNES - 1993

FIFA International Soccer - Jeff van Dyck - BGM 4 - Electronic Arts - Genesis - 1993

FIFA International Soccer - Jeff van Dyck - Menu 2 - Electronic Arts - SNES - 1993

FIFA Soccer 95 - Jeff van Dyck - Menu 4 - Electronic Arts - Genesis - 1994

FIFA Soccer 95 - Jeff van Dyck - Menu 5 - Electronic Arts - Genesis - 1994

Coach K College Basketball - Jeff van Dyck - Victory - Electronic Arts - Genesis - 1995


  1. More info on the technical side of game music:

    The Genesis uses two sound chips, the YM2612 (Fm Synth) and the SN76489 (PSG). Often, the PSG would play part of the drums on the bass/noise track. The sampler is called the DAC, it's part of the YM2612.

    The SNES uses the SPC700, manufactured by Sony. This means it's similar to the PlayStation 1 sound.

  2. Hello. Its a great podcast you do. Is there any chance you could upload the mp3 of the pieces? thanks

  3. Hi Jose,

    Unfortunately we don't upload the individual MP3's. You can score all the tracks yourself and convert them to MP3. Get tracks @ zophar.net and project2612.org. Remember, you will need a program to play the files. Google Audio Overload.

  4. Also, for SNES tracks:


    And a better program than Audio Overload, is Game Music Box:


  5. Wow! It got into very technical stuff. I couldn't quite follow as I'm not familiar with hardware in this sort of capacity, but the information was interesting, and this episode is worth multiple hearings.

  6. Just going back and listening to this one a 2nd time(or is it the 3rd?). What a great episode! It was interesting to listen to Jeff's tracks and hear how he progressed as time went on, for both the Genesis and the SNES....and also how the programming for the Genesis sound got better as time went on. The samples, while not great, were a lot better quality in the later works.

    The one thought I'm left with at the end of this episode is how a lot of western Genesis composers leaned too heavily on the Genesis's DAC, which was just one part of the whole Genesis sound array(and the weakest). The comparison of Skitchin to Puyo Puyo tsu to Revenge of Shinobi was especially telling: The majority of the song in Skitchin comes entirely out of the DAC. While it was cool to see how EA's programmers squeezed a lot more out of the Genesis audio later on, it's also a bit disappointing that they did so at the expense of really learning how to utilize the FM Synth and the PSG more. I think it had a lot to do with the era, in which samplers were gaining popularity. Western composers led the movement away from synth-pop compositions and toward rock/grunge. Sorry, Rob, I love Genesis music but for the most part, I couldn't get with the western composers because their style emphasized the weakest parts of the Genesis.

    L. Rob Hubbard? Stay in the Cupboard! Yuzo Koshiro's MY Genesis hero!

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  8. I was also interested in your discussion regarding Western vs. Eastern game compositional styles. This is a little bit of an oversimplification, but to me the biggest difference is that Eastern composers of that era tended to have a Jpop/rock influence whereas Western composers tended to have a Western pop/rock influence.

    More specifically, western games tended to be rhythm-centric and loop-based, leading with the drum loop or the bass line, and adding layers one at a time. Because of this, there didn't tend to be as many chord changes or changes in emotional tone throughout a track. The melody line, if there was one, tended to sit in the typical male baritone register.

    Japanese game music of that era were almost always melody-centric. The track would start with the melody line, or if not, within the first few measures. The melody would course throughout the whole song, and change voices from one line to the next. The melody usually tended to sit an octave higher than its western counterpart, usually in the range of a typical Japanese female pop-star's voice.

    Obviously, this is a generalization and is most accurate comparing American composers to Japanese composers. But the majority of game tracks from the 8-bit and especially 16-bit era tend to follow this pattern. Even games composed in styles other than pop/rock tend to fit into this stereotype. The FIFA track Rob picked is an awesome song, it also happens to be a good example of what I mean.

  9. Hey guys! This is the best explanation I've heard yet about how the chips in the different systems worked. I thought you might be interested in this little program called "Famitracker". Here's a link to their page and a screen shot: http://famitracker.com/index.php#

    This is the closest thing (as I've heard) to the actual composing tool that NES composers dealt with. I've used it, and it's not intuitive or easy to make tunes on.

    Here's a Youtube of how to use it if you're interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwNElW5IEo0

    He shows you how to make the "Kraid's Theme" BGM step by step. Enjoy!

  10. Long-time listener, but I'd taken a long break. Now I'm listening to one episode per day, starting with the first. Today, I'm on episode 21.