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A Beginner's Guide to Writing Touhou-style music

Posted: Mon Jun 11, 2018 3:37 pm
by Drillimation
After weeks of trying to mock ZUN's iconic style used in many of the Touhou Project games, I finally figured out on how to write Touhou-styled music. This post isn't a music theory class but is a breakthrough on how ZUN writes the music for his games.

Part 1: Selecting your chip
ZUN mainly uses the Roland SD-90, which he got in 2001 to compose the soundtracks for Touhou 6, 7, and 8. He still uses it to this very day. Trying to find the actual instrument is quite rare nowadays since Roland discontinued the device. It's expensive, too. It's cheaper if you find a VST plugin for the device.

You can use whatever chip you like. I use the FDS chip when covering songs from Touhou 1 - 3 and the N163 chip for Touhou 4 and 5.

Part 2: Know some of the basic instruments ZUN uses
Perhaps the most well-known instrument is the Romantic Trumpet, otherwise known as the ZUNpet. In 2A03, you would use the V00 command to get a similar-sounding trumpet, the V00 and V01 commands on the VRC6, the Trumpet option for the VRC7. For FDS and N163, you can pick whatever waveform you choose. However, don't use this instrument in every one of your songs, or perhaps use it heavily in a certain song. Use it only when necessary.

Another one, such as a basic flute, which is basically V02 (2A03), V07 (VRC6), and placed on a high octave.

Part 3: Writing a basic melody
To begin writing your song, start with a chord progression. The song would be empty without one. For those wondering what a chord is, it's basically two or three notes played at the same time. For example, in the key of C Major, you would use G-E-C. ZUN writes a lot of his songs in D, E, and A majors, though other keys are used as well. Almost every song that ZUN has written uses this. You may need to put it in an arpeggio.

The baseline in most of his songs is basically a 1-5 style. In C Major, this would basically be C and G.

The most important thing now is to write a medley. A lot of ZUN's songs make heavy use of the Charleston Beat, though other styles are used as well.