Music Level FAQ by mastersuperfan
Version: 1.25 | Updated: 10/19/15
Table of Contents
This is a short but detailed FAQ designed to answer common questions that creators have when trying to make music levels. I mainly make music levels in Super Mario Maker and am very proud of the work that I do. I see many people on the forums who are asking for help or have music levels that could use a bit of improvement, and I hope this FAQ will serve as a helpful and accessible resource for all those people.
If you want to check out the levels that I have made, you can find them below. I strongly recommend downloading them to use as examples for reference. (order is newest to oldest)
07FF-0000-007D-CB63 - Frappe Snowland (Mario Kart 64)
3BB8-0000-006A-28F7 - Pursuit ~ Cornered Var. (PW: AA)
12E8-0000-0062-5139 - 600 AD (Chrono Trigger)
B967-0000-004C-FF33 - Objection! 2001 (PW: AA)
C54E-0000-0033-ABF0 - Save Point (Kirby Super Star)
Unfortunately, I'm currently very busy and out of SMM at the moment, so I likely won't be making any more music levels for a little while. Even so, this guide should still be helpful for all who read it!
How do I make music in SMM?
Music is made by using the Music Block, which is obtained by shaking the Note Block. It looks like an orange or pink Note Block, depending on the theme. It can also be identified by having an eighth note instead of a quarter note on the block.
How hard is it to make music levels?
It takes a fair amount of time, likely quite a few hours, to make a high-quality music level. It can take a lot of work to try and fit in harmony due to space limitations. I strongly suggest that if you do not know basic music theory already, then you should learn some before trying to make music levels, such as how to read music on a staff, different types of intervals, time signature, key signature, and the like.
How complex can these music levels be?
Music with different polyrhythms, such as with triples and sixteenths, will usually not work very well, unless you want the theme to be very slow with a very short length.
Space restrictions and enemy/item limits prevent a lot of things from being replicated exactly as they are.
How do I determine the pitch of the Music Blocks?
The pitch of the Music Blocks is determined by the height at which it is placed. For every block it goes up, the pitch goes up by a half step. I strongly recommend having a piano in order to determine notes in a faster way than just to count up from the bottom. The following pitches can be used for easy reference:
-The very bottom is a C.
-The line in the editor separating the two vertical sections of height is located between C# and D.
-The very top note is a D.
If you do not have a piano or another instrument, then using a virtual piano is also a good idea. The most user-friendly one and best overall that I found is here:
It has a small range, helping users not to get easily confused. The names of the notes are written right onto the keyboard to provide further help to beginners. The keyboard can also be activated by using the keyboard in the form of a piano, with the white keys being the middle row from the A key to the ' and " key and the black keys in the top row in the same formation of the piano. Experimenting with this will help you understand it.
Additionally, it also lets you conveniently play multiple notes at once to test out intervals and chords quickly and conveniently. You can enter Chord Mode, select a couple of notes, and click Play Chord. Once you understand the program fully, you can also use the keyboard to play multiple notes at once, akin to playing an actual piano.
How do I determine the instrument that plays from the Music Block?
This depends on the object that lands on the Music Block. Note that the entire vertical screen is always loaded where you are, so height is not an issue in loading the sounds. Also note that some objects transpose the pitch, and others may play two pitches at once. A table of all the objects on their effects on the timbre and pitch of the sound can be found in the next section of the guide.
How do I determine the rhythm of the music?
The game will load objects that are up to three blocks offscreen horizontally. Upon starting the music level, none of the Music Blocks should be loaded. However, the player should be moving at a constant rate, loading the music blocks at the same speed. Some ways of doing this include:
- Autoscroll (my personal preference)
- Conveyors or a blue Skull Raft
- Telling the player to hold right
The Music Blocks should be spaced apart by blocks to create the rhythm. For example, at a certain speed, every block might be an eighth note long. Thus, if two notes were a half note apart, you would put the next Music Block four blocks away from the previous.
Each option results in a different tempo. They are as follows:
- Slow Autoscroll: 112 BPM per block
- Medium Autoscroll/Conveyor: 224 BPM per block
- Walking right: 340 BPM per block
- Fast Autoscroll/Fast Conveyor: 448 BPM per block
- Blue Skull Raft: 560 BPM per block
- Running right: 680 BPM per block
You can mix together walking and running speeds with Conveyors, so you could make a theme with 904 BPM per block if they were running on a Conveyor of normal speed.
Use of a metronome is a good idea to determine the tempo of the theme that you want to recreate. Of course, just fooling around until you find an optimal tempo is fine as well. The metronome I always use when I arrange or compose is:
Of course, there won't be themes that have more than 250 BPM (beats per minute) at all, really, but the speeds are per every horizontal unit. Determine the smallest note value you have in your theme (eighth note, sixteenth note, etc.) and base your theme with having that as the speed per block. For example, I used a blue Skull Raft for my Pursuit ~ Cornered Var. (PW: AA) level, which had sixteenth notes in it. Thus, the tempo was 560 BPM if a sixteenth note was a beat, equating to the BPM of a quarter note being 140.
This is where troubles start arising for themes with different polyrhythms, requiring the arranger to find a common denominator between the tuplet values. This greatly limits the speed of the theme and is why I do not recommend trying to arrange themes like this. You can fool around with putting items at different elevations to drop longer or things like that to change the rhythm around, but you will likely not get a precise rhythm.
If you are having trouble understanding this, then you can simply ignore it and find the right tempo on your own. This is meant to be a handy tool for those who know how to use it, though, by finding the most accurate tempo for their arrangement.
How do I stop the objects from bouncing on the Music Blocks repeatedly?
Trap the items and enemies after they have bounced. The best way to do this is using Cloud Blocks (Donut Blocks also work). A diagram is below that shows the most efficient way for each type of enemy or object. The quality is bad, but I got it from my Miiverse post, so if you want to complain, go to Nintendo.
The top left shows how to deal with static enemies and objects.
The top middle shows how to deal with most moving enemies and items.
The top right and the bottom right show how to deal with enemies that move but stay on the platform--including red Koopa Troopas, Dry Bones, and Wigglers. Either way works, but when using the one shown on the bottom, be sure to adjust the position of the Cloud Block if there are blocks above the Koopa Troopa that may stop it from reaching the Cloud Block as it is.
The bottom left shows how to deal with Sledge Bros, Bowser, and other enemies that are two blocks wide. It will only work if the front half is on a Music Block! Not only that, but they must be moved one block to the right to play at the correct time. You can also put the Cloud Block on the right side instead of the left if you so wish.
Where should the player be during the level?
Generally, I prefer keeping them out of the way at the very top or bottom. However, in some cases with very high or very low notes, this may not be possible. In that case, you have to build some sort of workaround to that. In the old version of my level 600 AD (Chrono Trigger), there was one Music Block at the very top of the screen, and I made the player to go down and climb back up. In the updated version, there is a better fix to that.
Should I make my music level be an auto-level, or should I put in some platforming as well?
It is honestly your preference; however, I prefer it to have little or no obstacles because concentration will cause players to pay less attention to the music, and the extra noise will make it even more distracting. Adding in gameplay will also give you less space to work with your music. That being said, some of my levels have a secret path that may require some skills to make it through.
How do I mute the background music when playing the level?
Go into SFX. Take the blue heart and shake it; then attach it to Mario.
Can I mute the background music when editing the level?
Nope. I know, it is annoying. You just have to deal with it.
Can the same note be played by two different instruments at the same time?
Yes, if one instrument is an item and the other is an enemy. You can fit them both on the Music Block at once.
The enemy/item/length limit is preventing me from finishing my level!
These really hurt in the creation of music levels, but you will have to deal with them. What I do is I usually split it up into two parts with a Warp Pipe in between. Even so, I have to cut the length of themes down significantly.
I am trying to do a second interval, but the blocks are too close together!
This is one of the restrictions of making music levels in SMM. Your best bet is to use a transposing instrument and place it in a different position. If that does not work, you may just have to leave it out.
Sometimes, a second interval may actually work. However, this is unlikely and may still not work quite as intended. For example, in my Pursuit ~ Cornered Var. (PW: AA) level, putting Super Mushrooms on a Music Block under a Hammer Bro on another one functions without the object hitting the Music Block more than once. However, a consequence of this is that the Super Mushroom plays slightly earlier than intended, but it is generally not noticeable unless you are specifically listening to the Super Mushrooms. This seems to be more of a result of the Hammer Bro being on the upper note. Testing of other objects will be done as well.
Additionally, using tracks on the Music Blocks may also work in some cases. A few examples can also be found in the aforementioned level. However, oftentimes the result is that the Music Block does not play at all.
I have two different Music Blocks at the same horizontal position, but one of them plays later than the other!
Different objects take different times to fall and hit the Music Block. This can happen in some cases if you have multiple instruments playing an interval or a chord. The most prominent example is that Piranha Plants and Fire Piranha Plants generally hit the Music Blocks before any other objects, causing massive inconveniences as their instruments would be extremely useful otherwise.
I am shaking the Note Block, but all it is doing is putting them everywhere!
Place one Note Block, pick it up, and then shake it.
Since there are many different objects in Super Mario Maker that can be used to activate Music Blocks, they are all given different effects. Below is a list of all of them, in the order that they appear in the menu.
For obvious reasons, Cape Feathers, Super Leaves, Propeller Mushrooms, Lakitus, Bloopers, Cheep Cheeps, Lava Bubbles, Rocky Wrenches, Boos, and Fish Bones cannot trigger Music Blocks.
Note that objects labeled "unpitched" will still sound higher if the Music Block is placed higher. However, they still lack definitive pitch.
Key to Important Notes for Use:
- Impractical: Pretty much impossible to use well. The reason why is listed.
- SFX: Sound effects, which may or may not come into effect depending on the speed of the piece.
- Sustained: Is held out until the next note played by the same instrument. Thus, using multiple notes of a sustained instrument at the same time only plays one note.
- 2 Blocks: Is 2 blocks wide. The first half must be placed on a Music Block for it to play. Additionally, the blocks must be placed one extra block to the right to play on time.
|Object||Instrument||# of Sounds||Transposition||Important Notes for Use|
|Mario||steel drums||2||octave up, none||difficult to time|
|Coin||jingle bell||1||none||can only be activated by Bill Blasters, POW Blocks, or Lakitus,|
lasts for a short time and then fades away
|Springboard (upright)||crash cymbals||1||unpitched||-----|
|Koopa Troopa (green)||xylophone||1||none||-----|
|Koopa Troopa (red)||vibraphone||1||none||-----|
|Piranha Plant||pizzicato strings||1||none||impractical (plays earlier than all other instruments)|
|Fire Piranha Plant||cello||1||octave down||impractical (plays earlier than all other instruments)|
|Mystery Mushroom||church organ||2||octave down, none||-----|
|Fire Flower||flute||1||octave up||cannot be used as lower note in major third|
|Super Star||music box||1||octave up||-----|
|1-Up Mushroom||percussive organ||2||perfect fifth up, octave down||-----|
|Bill Blaster||timpani||1||two octaves down||blocks should be placed adjacent to prevent SFX|
|Hammer Bro||distortion guitar||1||none||sustained, sometimes can be used as higher note in major|
|Sledge Bro||slap bass||1||two octaves down||-----|
|Buzzy Beetle||gamelan bell||2||major third down, none||-----|
|Thwomp||taiko drum||1||unpitched||SFX, 2 blocks wide, can destroy blocks below|
|Bowser||distortion guitar||1||two octaves down||limited to 3 per area including Bowser Jr.'s, 2 blocks wide|
|Bowser Jr.||saxophone||1||octave down||limited to 3 per area including Bowsers|
|Monty Mole||banjo||1||octave down||-----|
|POW Block||bass drum||1||unpitched||-----|
|Spike Top||harpsichord||1||octave down||-----|
|Dry Bones||flute||1||octave up||sustained|
|Magikoopa||synthetic choir||1||none||SFX, enemy should be placed on top to prevent teleportation|
|P Switch||snare drum||1||unpitched||-----|
|Muncher||jazz guitar||1||octave down||-----|
|Shoe Goomba||bass accordion||2||octave down, two octaves down||-----|
|Stiletto Goomba||accordion||2||octave down, none||-----|
|Shoe/Stiletto (empty)||wood block||1||unpitched||impractical (requires Goomba to be killed)|
|Yoshi Egg||cowbell||1||major second down||SFX, hatches after one bounce|
|Yoshi||shehnai||1||non||impractical (requires Yoshi Egg to hatch)|
|Koopa Clown Car||synthesizer||4||major 7th chord; Music Block is root||SFX, 2 blocks wide|
|Chain Chomp||electric piano||1||octave down||should be shaken to take off stake|
|Chain Chomp's stake||Chinese wood block||1||unpitched||impractical (Chain Chomp interferes)|
- Me, mastersuperfan, for being the writer.
- GameFAQs, for hosting the site and being a wonderful place to communicate with fellow gamers.
- Nintendo, for having developed the Super Mario series, as well as this game.
- Usabell (GameFAQs username) for providing almost every single instrument in the table of objects. MAJOR kudos.
- You, the reader! Without you, this guide would be pointless!
If there is any incorrect information or something that you think should be added in the guide, feel free to let me know. You can PM me on GameFAQs or contact me at email@example.com.
Thank you for taking the time to read my Music Level FAQ for Super Mario Maker!