Project Nayuki


Transcription of Pokémon Game Boy music

A collection of ~50 songs transcribed from the Pokémon series of Game Boy games, with an emphasis on musical accuracy. More details are available below the big table of songs.

Game series Track title Score MIDI Rendered Tempo (BPM) Key (major)
Pokémon RGB Intro movie PDF MIDI 98.3 A
Pokémon RGBY Title screen PDF MIDI 134.0 C
Pokémon RGBY Pallet Town PDF MIDI 120.6 G
Pokémon RGBY Viridian, Pewter, Saffron City PDF MIDI 134.0 E
Pokémon RGBY Cerulean, Fuchsia City PDF MIDI 130.3 E
Pokémon RGBY Vermilion City PDF MIDI 123.6 A
Pokémon RGBY Lavender Town PDF MIDI 126.9 G
Pokémon RGBY Celadon City PDF MIDI 134.0 G
Pokémon RGBY Cinnabar Island PDF MIDI 134.0 G
Pokémon RGBY Viridian Forest PDF MIDI 134.0 N/A
Pokémon RGBY Mt. Moon PDF MIDI 120.6 N/A
Pokémon RGBY Professor Oak’s Laboratory PDF MIDI 137.8 A
Pokémon RGBY Pokémon Center PDF MIDI 134.0 D
Pokémon RGBY Gym PDF MIDI 139.8 F
Pokémon RGBY Pokémon Tower PDF MIDI 126.9 G
Pokémon RGBY Game Corner PDF MIDI 160.8 E
Pokémon RGBY Rocket Hideout PDF MIDI 134.0 N/A
Pokémon RGBY Indigo Plateau PDF MIDI 146.1 F
Pokémon RGBY Route 1 PDF MIDI 126.9 D
Pokémon RGBY Route 3 PDF MIDI 130.3 C
Pokémon RGBY Route 11 PDF MIDI 130.3 E
Pokémon RGBY Route 24 PDF MIDI 126.9 E
Pokémon RGBY Bicycle PDF MIDI 134.0 C
Pokémon RGBY Surfing PDF MIDI 120.6 A
Pokémon RGBY Wild Pokémon battle PDF MIDI 185.5 C
Pokémon RGBY Trainer battle PDF MIDI 172.2 C
Pokémon RGBY Gym leader battle PDF MIDI 185.5 E
Pokémon RGBY Wild Pokémon defeated PDF MIDI 172.2 E/F
Pokémon RGBY Trainer defeated PDF MIDI 172.2 D
Pokémon RGBY Gym leader defeated PDF MIDI 172.2 D
Pokémon GSC New Bark Town PDF MIDI 103.1 D
Pokémon GSC Cherrygrove City, Mahogany Town PDF MIDI 126.9 F
Pokémon GSC Violet, Olivine City PDF MIDI 117.6 B/D
Pokémon GSC Azalea Town, Blackthorn City PDF MIDI 120.6 C♯
Pokémon GSC Goldenrod City PDF MIDI 109.6 C♯
Pokémon GSC Ecruteak, Cianwood City PDF MIDI 98.0 C
Pokémon GSC Pallet Town PDF MIDI 102.6 G
Pokémon GSC Viridian, Pewter, Cerulean, Saffron City; Cinnabar Island PDF MIDI 122.9 D
Pokémon GSC Vermilion City PDF MIDI 109.6 A
Pokémon GSC Celadon, Fuchsia City PDF MIDI 132.2 G
Pokémon GSC Pokémon Center PDF MIDI 126.9 D
Pokémon GSC Gym PDF MIDI 123.7 G
Pokémon GSC Ruins of Alph PDF MIDI 120.6 N/A
Pokémon GSC Route 1 PDF MIDI 104.9 D
Pokémon GSC Route 2 PDF MIDI 127.8 C
Pokémon GSC Route 3 PDF MIDI 120.6 A
Pokémon GSC Route 11 PDF MIDI 130.4 E
Pokémon GSC Route 29 PDF MIDI 132.1 C
Pokémon GSC Route 30 PDF MIDI 134.0 C
Pokémon GSC Route 34 PDF MIDI 134.0 B♭/G
Pokémon GSC Bicycle PDF MIDI 137.8 G
Pokémon Pinball Pokédex PDF MIDI 122.9 G

Various notes

Project history

I have been doing musical transcriptions for a long time, way before this web site came into existence. 6 of the songs here were first transcribed by me in year 2003, 2 songs in 2014 and 2015 combined, and the remaining bulk in late 2016 to early 2017. In late 2016 I decided to unearth my then-small collection of Pokémon Game Boy music transcriptions for publishing. I cleaned up and edited the data, put them on a new page, and continued the transcription journey by adding a ton of new songs.

Musical accuracy

The Game Boy’s sound hardware makes my job of transcribing songs tremendously easier and more accurate than transcribing most other pieces of music. The key feature is that it has 4 monophonic channels of audio, each playing either a single note or silence. By listening to each channel independently via a Game Boy emulator, I was able to transcribe every channel with perfect pitch and no guessing. Comments about specific aspects of musical accuracy:

Pitch

I judge the pitch of each note mainly by eye, but I confirm by ear. When I say by eye, I mean looking at Fourier transform graphs or spectrograms of the audio signal, and finding the frequency with the highest amplitude peak. For the first ~30 songs I transcribed, I relied on a mix of visual and auditory analysis of the original music – I would show the music as a spectrogram in Cool Edit Pro (audio editor), listen to a few seconds of audio, memorize the sequence of pitches, refer to the spectrogram for beat timings, write down the notes, and repeat until done. But this method was cumbersome and relied too much on human memory and interpretation. So I created a tool specifically to assist monophonic audio transcriptions. The program creates a much more helpful spectrogram, where the dominant pitch of each note is labeled in text (e.g. E4) and vertical lines are drawn on each beat. By using this tool, I started doing musical transcriptions almost entirely by eye (covering both the pitch and rhythm), and only listen to the original audio versus the transcribed song at the very end to spot mistakes and confirm accuracy.

A very small number of musical pieces use microtonal features (such as Ruins of Alph), but they were not significant so I just quantized them to the nearest standard pitch. Many pieces use vibrato on long notes, but I ignored this out of simplicity.

A consequence of pitch accuracy is that all chords in the transcribed song are accurate. In a polyphonic music recording, some chords are notoriously hard to pick up by ear. But by analyzing each monophonic channel separately, it is easy to hit all chords correctly by design.

Pitch accuracy comes naturally to me, and ideally I wouldn’t write lots about the topic. But time and time again, I hear other people’s musical transcriptions of various songs (Pokémon and stuff in general) with at least one note pitch wrong. These experiences leave me with doubts about other people’s attention to detail and how seriously they treat musical accuracy.

Octave

Alongside pitch accuracy is octave-accuracy – not only do I identify that a note is C, I also specify unambiguously whether it’s a C3, C4, C5, etc. Identifying octave consistently is not easy by ear, but is a breeze with technical analysis.

Tempo

I listen to one repetition of a song and count the number of bars and beats in it. Using an audio editor, I measure the exact length of one repeat and do some division to calculate the tempo. The tempo is given to one decimal place, e.g. 123.4 BPM. In reality, the Game Boy music itself has an unsteady tempo, possibly due to inconsistent scheduling of the execution of audio subroutines.

Rhythm

All notes are accurately quantized to a quarter note, eighth note, triplet, etc. with no guessing. Additionally, special care is given to the trailing edge of some notes – for example I distinguish between {3.5 beat note + 0.5 beat rest} versus 4.0 beat note.

Volume

Each channel in the original Game Boy music is played at a different volume, and I add dynamic indicators in the sheet music and MIDI sequences to crudely express this fact. This is by no means the pinnacle of accuracy, but it sounds significantly better than if all the channels were played at the same volume. The nuances of intra-note crescendos and decrescendos are lost in the transcription.

Stereo

On the Game Boy, each channel of audio can play on the left, right, or both channels. The Pokémon RGBY games do not use this feature at all, but most of the Pokémon GSC songs do use this. In the MIDI file (but not the PDF score) the stereo pan is encoded accurately. Most songs use a fixed stereo pan for each channel, but some songs do change the stereo pan in the middle of the song.

Consistency

This entire collection of songs was transcribed by one person (yours truly). Compared to other collections elsewhere on the web that are based on contributions from multiple transcriptionists, I maintain tight consistency in terms of how the music is interpreted and how the output is styled. For example, I enforce the policy of transcribing pitch and rhythm with full accuracy and no compromises – I don’t care if the result cannot be played by a two-handed human on a standard piano. (However, some other transcriptions might alter or simplify the melody with the goal in mind of producing a practically playable piece. Even this goal might not be enforced consistently in a large collection with many contributors.) For example I interpret the length of fading notes and the volume of channels with decent consistency.


Comments on groups of songs

Pokémon Red/Green/Blue/Yellow (1st generation)
  • The main melody is usually on channel 2, chorus (chording) on channel 1, and bass line on channel 3.
  • Channel 2 is usually the loudest, channel 1 medium loudness, and channel 3 relatively the softest. The percussion channel (if it is used) is at medium loudness.
  • Many songs use simple repetitions of 2 eighth notes on channel 3, like the pitches C-G-C-G-C-G-C-G in a 4-beat bar. This musical pattern isn’t used in other games.
    Examples can be found in Cerulean/Fuchsia City, Vermilion City, Celadon City, Professor Oak’s Laboratory, Pokémon Center, Gym, wild Pokémon battle, Trainer battle. Some songs use more complex sequences of eighth notes (still on channel 3), such as Game Corner and Bicycle.
  • Every song is in mono, except for Rocket Hideout where the first few notes use stereo.
  • Many songs have no percussion track. By contrast, most songs in GSC do have percussion.
Pokémon Gold/Silver/Crystal (2nd generation)
  • Despite using the same sound hardware, these songs sound noticeably richer than the music collection of RGBY. This is probably due to more independent melodies (instead of simply chording), more runs of sixteenth notes, staccato notes, more octave separation, and more percussion.
  • The main melody is usually on channel 2, but sometimes on channel 3 or 1. Unlike RGBY where each channel has a fixed role throughout each song, in GSC sometimes a channel switches roles during the song and plays logically distinct melodies.
  • All or almost all songs use stereo pan. Usually one channel would only play on the left, one channel would only play on the right, one channel might play on either one side or both, and the percussion channel also varies. Some songs even vary the stereo pan within the song.

Comments on individual songs

Pokémon RGB – Intro movie
  • The real channel 1 includes a few sound effects of the Pokémon jumping in battle, but these sounds are omitted in the transcription
  • About 5 notes in channel 1 were filled in by me, to complete the chords in sensible ways
  • The only non-repeating song in the whole collection
  • Not used in Pokémon Yellow Version because it has a different intro movie
Pokémon RGBY – Title screen
  • The chromatic scale slides near the end of the song in channel 3 are actually micro-tonal with finer steps in the Game Boy audio
  • This song doesn’t really repeat in Pokémon Yellow; it stops a few bars after the repetition and the game intro plays again
Pokémon RGBY – Pallet Town
  • Channel 2, which is the main melody, is quite high-pitched compared the vast majority of other songs
Pokémon RGBY – Viridian, Pewter, Saffron City
  • Longest length (32 bars) among all 7 city theme songs
  • Used in the most number of cities (3, compared to 2 for Cerulean/Fuchsia)
  • The overlapping melodies sound somewhat dissonant
Pokémon RGBY – Cerulean, Fuchsia City
  • Channel 2’s first note is different for the initial playthrough compared to subsequent repetitions
Pokémon RGBY – Vermilion City
  • Rather short length, with only 12 bars per repetition
Pokémon RGBY – Lavender Town
  • Slow-paced and sometimes feels more like half the indicated tempo (i.e. 63 BPM)
  • Channel 2 and percussion channel repeat every bar
  • High-pitched notes at bar 16 in channel 3 evoke a ghostly feel
  • Melody doesn’t seem to fit to a major scale
Pokémon RGBY – Celadon City
  • Nothing special to report
Pokémon RGBY – Cinnabar Island
  • Rather short length, with only 12 bars per repetition
Pokémon RGBY – Viridian Forest
  • Channels 1 and 2 repeat halfway through the song (duration of 28 bars)
  • Percussion channel (i.e. all the separated instrumental tracks) repeats every 2 bars (i.e. 28 times)
  • Melody doesn’t seem to fit to a major scale
  • Also used in Diglett’s Cave, Seafoam Islands, and some other places
  • One of the longest songs in the game, though relatively low in melodic complexity
  • Contains the Team Rocket sequence of notes (e.g. bars 20 to 35 in channel 3)
Pokémon RGBY – Mt. Moon
  • Channels 1 and 2 contain essentially all the melodic content of the song
  • Channel 3 contains only 4 short slides, which is almost negligible
  • Melody doesn’t seem to fit to a major scale
  • Second half of the song is very hard to fit to a clean time signature; my best interpretation switches between 3/4 and 4/4 time at various places
  • Song length contains an extra half beat (eighth note); it does not fit evenly in any quarter-based time signature
  • Contains a ritardando, and is the only song in the whole collection having a tempo change
  • Also used in Rock Tunnel, Victory Road
Pokémon RGBY – Professor Oak’s Laboratory
  • Channels 1 and 2 repeat halfway through the song (duration of 8 bars)
  • Channel 3 is unique throughout (duration of 16 bars)
Pokémon RGBY – Pokémon Center
  • Only 2 accidentals in the entire song
Pokémon RGBY – Gym
  • Only 1 accidental in the entire song
  • The overlapping melodies sound somewhat dissonant
Pokémon RGBY – Pokémon Tower
  • Slow-paced and sometimes feels more like half the indicated tempo (i.e. 63 BPM)
  • Last section has all 3 channels playing high-pitched notes
Pokémon RGBY – Game Corner
  • In last third of the song, channel 2 plays a melody and then channel 1 follows half a bar later with the same melody one octave lower
  • After the battle themes and opponent defeats, this melody has the next fastest tempo
Pokémon RGBY – Rocket Hideout
  • The quintessential Team Rocket theme song, which of course contains the Team Rocket sequence of notes in channel 3
  • Melody doesn’t seem to fit to a major scale
  • Rhythm of bars 23 to 30 can be confusing to a human who is counting beats, because the main melody in channel 2 is offset by half a beat
  • Stereo pans in some channels vary during the song
  • Also used in Power Plant, Bruno’s room, Unknown Dungeon
Pokémon RGBY – Indigo Plateau
  • Channel 1 is chorded with channel 2 in duration, and always a different pitch
  • Channel 3 is almost always identical to channel 2 in pitch, but all the short notes are shorter in duration
Pokémon RGBY – Route 1
  • Channel 1’s rhythm, due to its half beat offset, can lead to misleading beat counting if heard in isolation (without the other channels’ melodies)
  • Percussion channel is simple compared to the other 3 route theme songs
Pokémon RGBY – Route 3
  • Percussion channel is subtly different at end of first bar of first playthrough, compared to subsequent repetitions
  • Used in the most number of routes in the whole game
Pokémon RGBY – Route 11
  • Second half of melody uses numerous triplets
  • Percussion channel’s rhythm seems to be slight superset of channel 3’s rhythm
Pokémon RGBY – Route 24
  • Rather short length, with only 10 bars per repetition
  • Channel 1 uses triplets the majority of the time
  • Percussion channel is quite unique in each bar
  • Song is also used in the opening story
Pokémon RGBY – Bicycle
  • Only 4 accidentals in the entire song
Pokémon RGBY – Surfing
  • Unique time signature of 6/8 (almost all other songs are 4/4)
  • Channel 1’s last note drags an eighth note past the end of each repetition; no other song holds any note down across a repeat
Pokémon RGBY – Wild Pokémon battle
  • Many runs of sixteenth notes, like most other battle themes
  • Lots of chromatic scale slides
  • Channel 2’s first 2 bars are one octave lower in first playthrough, compared to subsequent repetitions
  • Highest tempo out of any song in the game
Pokémon RGBY – Trainer battle
  • Many runs of sixteenth notes, like most other battle themes
  • Lots of chromatic scale slides
  • One of the longest songs in the whole game, with high melodic complexity
  • Second highest tempo out of any song in the game
Pokémon RGBY – Gym leader battle
  • Many runs of sixteenth notes, like most other battle themes
  • Highest tempo out of any song in the game
Pokémon RGBY – Wild Pokémon defeated
  • Channel 1 is chorded with channel 2 in duration, and always a different pitch
  • Key signature changes within the song (one of the few to do so)
  • Second highest tempo out of any song in the game
Pokémon RGBY – Trainer defeated
  • Second highest tempo out of any song in the game
Pokémon RGBY – Gym leader defeated
  • Longer duration than other songs in category – each rep has triple the number of bars (24) compared to trainer or wild Pokémon defeated themes (8 bars)
  • Second highest tempo out of any song in the game
Pokémon GSC – New Bark Town
  • Channels 2 and 3 switch treble/bass roles in second half of the song
Pokémon GSC – Cherrygrove City, Mahogany Town
  • Rather short length, with only 12 bars per repetition
  • Percussion channel repeats every 2 bars
Pokémon GSC – Violet, Olivine City
  • Key signature changes within the song (one of the few to do so)
  • Stereo pans in some channels vary during the song
Pokémon GSC – Azalea Town, Blackthorn City
  • The tons of triplets in channel 1 are for expressing the hold duration of eighth notes more precisely, not for actual tripleting
  • Many grace notes used in channel 2
  • Percussion channel repeats every 2 bars
  • Stereo pans in some channels vary during the song
Pokémon GSC – Goldenrod City
  • Has medium runs of sixteenth notes
  • First 4 bars of channel 1 and percussion channel are muted in first playthrough, but not in to subsequent repetitions
Pokémon GSC – Ecruteak, Cianwood City
  • Has long runs of sixteenth notes in an otherwise slow and calm song
  • Many grace notes used in channel 2, including some multi-note grace sequences
  • A few grace notes used in channel 1 when chording with channel 2
  • Stereo pans in some channels vary during the song
Pokémon GSC – Pallet Town
  • Nothing special to report
Pokémon GSC – Viridian, Pewter, Cerulean, Saffron City; Cinnabar Island
  • Still the longest city theme song at 32 bars per repetition
  • This song is used in the most number of cities (5)
Pokémon GSC – Vermilion City
  • Channels 2 and 3 switch treble/bass roles in second half of the song
  • The lack of percussion channel makes it sound much slower in tempo than the RGBY version
Pokémon GSC – Celadon City
  • Channels 2 and 3 switch treble/bass roles in second half of the song
  • Has short runs of sixteenth notes
Pokémon GSC – Pokémon Center
  • Channels 1 and 2 appear identical to the RGBY version of the song in melody and rhythm (but not exact volume and stereo pan)
  • Percussion channel’s rhythm is a slight superset of channel 3’s rhythm
  • Percussion channel repeats every bar
  • Stereo pans in some channels vary during the song
Pokémon GSC – Gym
  • Sounds much more upbeat and melodically complex than the RGBY version of the song, despite having a lower tempo
Pokémon GSC – Ruins of Alph
  • Contains 1 extra beat (quarter note) of rest; otherwise the entire song has 4/4 time signature
  • Melody doesn’t seem to fit to a major scale
  • Percussion channel repeats every 5 beats if ignoring stereo pan, or every 10 beats when stereo pan is considered (note that the prevailing time signature is 4/4)
  • Repetitions of the percussion channel do not fit into one repetition of the main melody
  • Stereo pans in some channels vary during the song
  • Also used in many caves, such as Union Cave
Pokémon GSC – Route 1
  • The only route theme music that does not have percussion
Pokémon GSC – Route 2
  • Many grace notes used in channel 3
  • Channels 2 and 3 switch treble/bass roles after approximately the first quarter of the song
  • Viridian Forest of RGBY is merged into Route 2 of GSC, hence this melody reflects that of Viridian Forest
Pokémon GSC – Route 3
  • Channel 1 plays runs of sixteenth notes most of the time
  • Percussion channel repeats every bar
  • This song is used in the most number of Kanto region routes
Pokémon GSC – Route 11
  • Has the same key signature, tempo, and number of bars as the RGBY version
  • Channel 2, the main melody, is fairly similar between RGBY and GSC versions
Pokémon GSC – Route 29
  • Percussion channel repeats every 2 bars
  • Repetitions of the percussion channel do not fit into one repetition of the main melody
Pokémon GSC – Route 30
  • Channel 2’s first note is on different octaves for initial playthrough compared to subsequent repetitions
  • This is probably the song used in the most number of Johto region routes
Pokémon GSC – Route 34
  • Key signature changes within the song (one of the few to do so)
  • Stereo pans in some channels vary during the song
Pokémon GSC – Bicycle
  • Melody is a variation on the Goldenrod City theme song
  • Channel 3’s melodic design shows the same principles as the RGBY version
  • Percussion channel repeats every 4 bars
  • Percussion channel is quite similar to RGBY bicycle theme song
  • Stereo pans in some channels vary during the song
Pokémon Pinball – Pokédex
  • Channel 2 effectively plays two separate melodies – a main sparse one plus a soft background one with sixteenth notes
  • Some very high notes are played at bar 7 in channel 3

Game info

Collections at other sites