View Full Version : Any way to grab and listen to music/background music from DOS games?

04-17-2014, 02:11 PM
Lately, I've been trying to listen to music from certain DOS games, such as Day of the Tentacle, Leisure Suit Larry, Monkey Island, etc... but I noticed that the ones I find on the internet are midi versions. Is it impossible to listen to non midi music from a DOS game? Thanks for reading!

04-19-2014, 08:30 AM
pretty certain that the only difference is that those midi files were being played through a PC piezo buzzer type thing whereas you are now listening to them through a full midi sampler. i could be wrong but it's an idea

04-20-2014, 08:57 PM
Ah ok. I thought they were different files. I didn't know both were midi files.

04-21-2014, 02:55 AM
Sierra and LucasArts (and many other PC devs) did all their music specifically for MIDI sythesizers, and often the Roland MT-32 specifically. If you didn't have a synthesizer (they were quite expensive at the time), the game downgraded the music in order to fit whatever hardware you have... If you played Monkey Island with a SoundBlaster card, you might be surprised to know that the "real" music was actually much higher quality!

The MT-32 (and compatible models like the CM-32L, LAPC-I, etc) was special, in that it allowed you to upload custom samples. This feature was NOT duplicated in later MIDI synths, so those MIDI files you have are probably NOT the "real" music these games used, as they wouldn't include the custom effects. Also, the various MIDI synth makers would later settle on a standard called "General MIDI" (GM for short), which had different instrument arrangements from the MT-32.... so games meant for an MT-32 didn't sound "right" on a General MIDI synth, and games meant for a General MIDI synth didn't sound "right" on an MT-32 (you can load a GM sample set into the MT-32, but it doesn't have enough voices to actually perform as a true GM synth).

If you really want to capture the "real" music from these games, you'd probably have to buy an MT-32 and record the output. Note that there are even some incompatibilities between different versions of the MT-32, so it's really tricky to find the exact hardware that some games require. If you want to get into the really nerdy and quirky bits of this nonsense, I recommend watching this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NUQpAZeAdo). It's three and a half hours long, but it explains ALL the issues involved. (tl;dw version: no single sythesizer does EVERYTHING right, so if you absolutely have to have the best of all worlds, you pretty much need 3 or more synthsizers... if you're not that hardcore and just want one synth, then it depends on what games are your favourite).

All of this shit is a lot of work to set up, and a lot of time/money to acquire... you're probably best off just looking for MP3's that someone else has already recorded. I think all of this music is available on YouTube, though splicing out the audio is another trick entirely.


04-21-2014, 04:20 AM
It depends which versions of the games you mean, the ones you listed also have CD-ROM versions and these usually use enhanced CD quality audio. Several of those CD-ROMs can be played in regular CD players, starting from track 2.

04-21-2014, 11:26 AM
Ah, very interesting. I've heard and seen comparisons between when playing DOS games through a standard Soundblaster versus the Roland MT-32 version. Idk, call me weird but I like some of the sounds of certain games, even if the weren't played through a Roland MT-32. Like for example, I really like this version of Day of the Tentacle: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HaYZsc66Bk. This video blew my mind in the difference though: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZXVqrSo7AA. Thanks for the replies, by the way!

04-21-2014, 05:45 PM
I'm a big fan of the Monkey Island games. The music was always excellent, and I loved it even back when all I had was a SoundBlaster. I was blown away when I eventually got an MT-32 and heard how much better the music actually was. They used a lot of odd instrument choices in the soundtrack to match the carribbean pirate theme, and most sound hardware isn't well suited to them (although LucasArts did well with what they had)... while with the MT-32, they just upload a custom patch set, and boom, it's perfect.

Note that ScummVM can emulate the MT-32 quite well, so you might be able to record the music that way without screwing around with actual hardware.


04-22-2014, 09:20 AM
There are also unofficial versions of DOSBox that can perform the same MT32 emulation.

I would think that somewhere out there is a standalone MIDI player (or Winamp plugin or something) that can do the same without requiring you to mess around with soundfonts, but I've never bothered looking for it.

04-22-2014, 11:35 PM
In theory, the MIDI files that the OP found could be the actual MT-32 music, including the custom patches. It's possible to embed them in the MIDI file I believe (non-MT32 compatible synths would simply ignore those commands and proceed to play the music with incorrect instruments). More commonly, the custom patches are in a separate .syx file that has to be sent to the synth before the MIDI data.

Basically all the MT-32 emulation anywhere (including ScummVM and DOSbox) is done via Munt (http://munt.sourceforge.net/). I'm not really clear on how Munt works on it's own (ScummVM and DOSbox package it all up for you)... instead of a simple program, it seems like it's a driver that hooks into Windows MIDI functionality or something. It might be able to just play these files with full patch sets, or maybe that would require another program that wraps around Munt. I haven't really played with it at all.

For Sierra game music, here's a cool page (http://queststudios.com/sierra/sierra.html) that hosts MIDI (w/ .syx) files for pretty much all their old music. Looks like they also have Ogg Vorbis versions of some of them too.


04-23-2014, 09:13 AM
That is correct. I did find the Roland MT-32 music files for Day of the Tentacle. Sorry if it wasn't too clear before, wasn't clear on how sound files are played. I guess I can rephrase my question now, is there a software I can use or maybe there might be a site that has DOS music files as if they are being played through General MIDI? I love how they sound through a MT-32, but I guess (as mentioned before), there's this uniqueness those games have when their music is being played as Genera MIDI. However, Ze_ro, you mention that I can record the music using ScummVM, how can I do that? Cause I am familiar with that program.

04-23-2014, 07:13 PM
However, Ze_ro, you mention that I can record the music using ScummVM, how can I do that? Cause I am familiar with that program.The same way you record music from any other program, I reckon: set up your Windows Mixer to use the correct recording source (such as "What U Hear" or "Stereo Mix"), start up ScummVM, and hit Record in your favorite recording app.

04-28-2014, 09:50 AM
Ah okay, thanks!

05-22-2014, 08:09 PM
The same way you record music from any other program, I reckon: set up your Windows Mixer to use the correct recording source (such as "What U Hear" or "Stereo Mix"), start up ScummVM, and hit Record in your favorite recording app.

SoundForge is perfect for this. I did this recording music from Amiga games through the Winuae emulator. Then you can use something like DB power amp to convert the .wav file into any format like mp3. I have an older version of SoundForge so not sure if the newer ones let you save in other formats rather than wav.

05-22-2014, 10:05 PM
I use Audacity (free and open source) for mostly everything. It gets the job done nicely.

But really, even the Windows sound recorder will do, provided you don't mind using .wma.