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Friday, November 11, 2016

Programs I Used When Composing On OPL FM Synth Soundcards

Jason wrote with the following inquiry:
There is a community dedicated to composing on OPL soundcards and we were wondering about your Doom and in general DOS music compositions. First, what program you composed with and are the FM patches available. I imagine they were GM patch banks defaulted by the midi composition, but some folks were asking.
In the early days of the OPL soundcards, the "gold standard" sequencing software was Sequencer Plus Gold ("SPG") by Voyetra. The reason for this was it had an OPL instrument/instrument bank editor. It is still available as an "as is" download. It will run in DOSBOX though getting it to interface to MIDI devices is something I've never had time to work on. I've used it to save a few native SPG files as General MIDI files.

Here's a post I put up back in 2013 that should help you some: Voyetra Sequencer Plus Visited Again

To rough out compositions, I used Cakewalk ("CW"). I had been using it for several years already and had it all set up to use the analog boxes for sound output. Having "real" sounds from those boxes helped me visualize (audiolize?) what I wanted musically. I would save the CW files in *.mid format and load them into SPG to create the OPL instrument for each track. I built different instrument banks for the different genres of music.

As I said in the post linked above, I have no idea what I did with the CW and SPG native and *.mid files I created. I also have no idea about the instrument bank files. They may be on some old magneto optical disks, ZIP disks or floppies, and "one of these days" I may get the time to go through those.

This information may help, too. It looks like it could possibly be used to recreate the instrument files by reading the data flow to the virtual OPL FM synth in DOSBOX: Blog post on DOSBOX-VST

I haven't had time to check any of this out myself.

The early 1990's files I created were not GM files and did not use GM patches. The *.mid files that were generated later was me taking the original non-GM files and choosing GM instruments to replace the OPL instruments. Sometimes it was a bit shocking to me how close the instruments I had created for OPL play sounded like the similar GM patches. While the GM 1.0 standard came out in 1991, it really had no used for me in the video game music until years later.

If there are any specific questions that you may have, feel free to comment on this post and I'll try to answer them.


  1. Thank you for the great response. You should check out the Adlib Tracker II base if you don't keep up with that already. :)

    Best regards Mr. Prince.

  2. Hi Bobby,

    Went down a rabbit hole of sound effects Googling around and eventually found your site.

    I was wondering if you could do a post about how you created some of the sound effects for the '90's game "Abuse?"

    Specifically I'm curious as to how you came up with the great sound effect of the screaming creatures attacking. The sound I'm talking about occurs in this YouTube gameplay video at 2:01:

    Your expertise is appreciated!

  3. I keep seeing comments about how you originally composed this soundtrack with / for the Roland Sound Canvas, but you say here you were using "analog boxes." To clarify, do you mean you did your demos with analog synths and then create FM sound-alike patches in SP Gold? Do you remember what synths you originally did those demos with?

  4. Thanks for the article Mr Prince!

    If anybody wants to extract the instruments from Doom or other games supporting OPL2:

    1) DOSBox can output .DRO files, which are a dump of raw register writes to the OPL. So you can fire up a game, start recording with ctrl-alt-f7, then extract instruments and notes using DRO2MID by malvineous: https://github.com/Malvineous/dro2midi/commits/master

    2) There are a bunch of tools to decode legacy game file formats, for example Camoto (see also the great wiki!) http://www.shikadi.net/camoto