The Making of Mike Tyson's Punch Out Medley

Do any video games remind you of a time when life was simpler?

I remember zoning out for hours on games like Contra, Bubble Bobble, Mega Man, Altered Beast, Operation Wolf, and Golden Axe. Recently, I was thinking about how awesome the soundtracks to Nintendo games were and got lured into the YouTube rabbit hole for hours getting lost in nostalgia. During this time, fellow 80’s kids @seanbassett , @ianbassett, and I were putting the Music Joynt forum together as a place for people to talk and have fun learning about music. I thought, How sweet would this be to do a collaborative community project recreating one of the classic soundtracks of the 80’s, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out. So we did!

If you want to jump straight to the video, see below.

If you want to read about how we worked on the project, read on!

What We Did

Idea Development

As many guitarists know, turning Nintendo into metal is rad. For this project, I didn’t want us to do a cover but instead follow the round sequence and sounds from the game itself. I thought this might evoke more memories of playing the game. Sounds like the punches, the dodges, getting knocked down, and rising victorious at the end. We chose to do a medley.

Planning

With our idea in hand, we worked through details like:

  • What instruments were we going to play?
  • What key is the song in?
  • How fast should we play it?
  • How are we going to share files?
  • Who’s the producer?
  • Who’s the video editor?

Most of these were determined by what gear we had and by where our musical strengths are. @ianbassett led the way on lead guitar and making the video match the vision, @seanbassett ensured our foundations were solid on rhythm and bass guitar, and @rpekrul focused on getting it through audio production and programming and playing :smirk: the drums.

The project was in the key of Am at a tempo of 185bpm. We ended up using Google Drive to share files. Because we used different DAWs this was still a pretty manual process. Check out our post where we discussed some ideas that would make cross-DAW collaboration easier.

Recording & Arranging

As a producer, I had Sean and Ian individually record and export (i.e bounce) their audio clips to .mp3 using their DAW of choice. We made sure we were on time by agreeing upon the tempo mentioned earlier and setting our metronomes. I arranged the clips in an FL Studio project and added thematic elements like video game sounds, synthesizers, crescendos, etc. At this point, we cycled through at least 10 iterations of the song until we felt it was capturing the original idea. Sean even flew out to collaborate on the ending synth and mixing the guitars. When we were remote this process was mostly text strings, video calls, and passing around links to files.

NOTE: I should mention that when consolidating individually recorded guitar clips, they should be largely FX-free (distortion being an exception). This can be important to provide more control to the producer during the mixing and mastering process.

Mixing & Mastering

On this project, the mix wasn’t too complex. This is partly a result of me being a beginner and because we wanted to keep the project simple and not spend a million hours on it. Here’s what it looked like to me in FL Studio.

We had 10 individual tracks including the master mostly using the stock FL Studio plugins — I have the version of FL Studio with all plugins. The plugins not included in FL Studio were: Superior Drummer, Serum, and a trial version of a mastering plugin from IzoTope called Ozone 9. Most of the track’s FX slots just had a parametric EQ to boost or cut different frequency ranges and simple reverb. Notable adjustments included making room for the bass guitar in the low-frequency registers by adding highpass filters and boosting the bass guitar signal to make it a little more punchy. In terms of mastering Ozone pretty much did the job for me. It was insightful to dig into the nuances of mastering but I have a long way yet to go. I’ll be posting more on this type of stuff as we do more projects so be on the lookout!

Video Production

Ian pretty much made the idea come to life. We all recorded ourselves playing our assigned parts after agreeing on how we wanted to act in the video and shipped them off to him for editing. Video editing is hard but he knocked it out quickly and made it look easy.

We will be looking to add more video content to this post visually walking through some of the details to get more of a behind-the-scenes understanding.

Distribution

When everything was ready to go we had to figure out how the world would see it. Our main online presence is this forum but we also use YouTube as our main video storage. Ian scheduled it on YouTube, I made this post, and we linked it all together in posts on our social media channels in hopes that more collaborators would join in on the Music Joynt fun.

That’s it for now! I hope you enjoyed the post and we’ll soon be releasing another video game-themed classic, but in a different genre. Stay Tuned!

If you’d like to collaborate on a song, or send us some collaboration inspiration let us know here in the topic.

Great post @rpekrul!

For me, the games for which I have the most nostalgia are probably Megaman 3, Castlevania, Ninja Gaiden II, Double Dragon, and Mario 3. As you can see, the original NES greatly influenced my childhood! As Ian mentioned in his Castlevania II post, I also think the busy counterpoint soundtracks influences my musical tastes later on.

As far as the Punch Out recording and video was concerned, what a blast! Glad you and I were lucky enough to have a day together when I visited Texas. It was very enlightening to see your approach to mixing and it helped me articulate my thoughts. I remember we talked a ton about balance - in the highs and lows, amongst the instrument layers, in the drum sound, etc. We should definitely post about that the more we do these mixes!

1 Like

Great post @rpekrul !

I’ll add to what you had there: in my mind, this project formed as we were doing it. We had preconceived notions on which direction to take it (I think @rpekrul was thinking electronica, @seanbassett was thinking punk/early metal, I was thinking Marty Friedman) and we actually did deliberate quite a bit to land on something that matched our three different views. We did multiple mixes. We challenged each other. We celebrated each others victories.
We broke each others hearts. But ultimately, we chose what was right for the song and ended up with something all three of us enjoyed.

Case in point: the entire middle section into the solo. That was not how we originally did it! There was a different rhythm, different solo, and near the end of the project I heard Russ shifting away from the prior plan. Rather than argue, I encouraged it and recorded some new parts last minute. It’s actually a delightful break from the original pacing of what we set up. It also gave Sean and I a chance to “ham it up” in the video as it sounds like the near-defeat before the rise of the champion.

Collaborating is hard, but luckily for us we’ve been friends for awhile so it wasn’t hard for us. I would also like to stress that in this particular project, so much of it was the mix. How loud each part was etc. I think the end result is a totally frenetic and insane version of Punch Out’s themes!

The Video

I am going to credit my new computer on this one. I would say easily - this was the most editing I have ever done on a video. With the pacing of the song and the general tone, I wanted it to feel crazy. My new computer (iMac 2021) can handle the amount of information flowing through it, so I finally could do edits “in real time.” As you might notice, there are a lot more cuts to the beat than say, a standard Bassett Bros. video (with the exception of our latest Brahms recording, also done on the new computer). And effects. Let’s talk effects.

I went nuts. I downloaded a playthrough of punch out and knew I wanted to cut it in. But how? That’s when I discovered how effective changing the opacity would be to get the desired crazy result. It gave a lot of scenes the immersive feeling of we were playing along with or in the game. The other effect I used a lot was the “shake” as I call it. Essentially, I would make a lot of tiny edits to the motion control to give a quick shake to the camera for certain parts. It culminates in the solo where it shakes the whole time with the double bass.

Is it over edited? I don’t think so. I think it fits the vibe of the song. You be the judge!

1 Like