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So what's different between a tracker and a DAW?
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robkramble
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#1
4th March 2012
Old 4th March 2012
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So what's different between a tracker and a DAW?

I've heard about trackers in passing and know that they were big in the 90s I guess (I'm assuming they were the software on those Atari computers?) but have no idea what makes them different from a standard DAW.
#2
5th March 2012
Old 5th March 2012
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the main difference is the way they display audio data.

trackers move vertically whereas daws move horizontally.

the basic idea is that the tracker triggers your bit of audio based on where on the grid you enter your command. and that trigger can trigger playback anywhere from the start of your audio sample to the end.

alot of the commands are typed in and altho this might sound like a pain, once you get familiar with it, it can be incredibly fast, especially for stuff like dubstep, jungle, dnb, hip hop and anything that is based around a grid really.

so instead of slicing up a piece of audio graphically, and physically moving it to where you want it, you simply go to the point that you want your kick drum, for example,to be and enter in a command to trigger the kick drum sample.

Renoise is one of the nicer ones out there at the moment, they have a demo and some videos on the site that are well worth checking out.
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5th March 2012
Old 5th March 2012
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I disagree with ysmgj's definintion of a DAW. The way DAW is typically used, is it refers to all encompassing music/audio production software (hence, digital audio workstation) although some people still use the more traditional defintion which includes the computer hardware as well.

A "tracker" would be a specialized type of DAW software which, at least back in the 90's, were based around samples and pattern sequences. And they would display the sequence in a vertical, scrolling fashion. Modern trackers can use samples, VSTs, etc, much the same way other DAW software works. The difference is mainly in the sequencer.
#4
5th March 2012
Old 5th March 2012
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my apologies,... probably should have made it clearer,...

tracker interfaces move vertically, whereas traditional DAW interfaces move horizontally. but dont let my use of the word traditional throw you off,... trackers existed way way before DAWs did.

and shponglefan's correct, quite a few can load vst's including vsti's and both send and receive midi.... they've even got round the "playing audio back from any point issue" they used to have,... it used to be that if you had a long sample, you'd have to go back to the trigger point to play it back, but not anymore.
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5th March 2012
Old 5th March 2012
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For a tracker download the renoise demo...Home | Renoise

If you've never used a DAW grab reaper.

It'll make more sense than reading about it...
#6
5th March 2012
Old 5th March 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robkramble View Post
I've heard about trackers in passing and know that they were big in the 90s I guess (I'm assuming they were the software on those Atari computers?) but have no idea what makes them different from a standard DAW.
Tracker started , or properly they were created by demo groups. Few decades ago graphic technologies were driven by young hackers that excelled at creating impressing graphics using their deep knowledge of code. In order to expose those graphics to the general public they created demos, small animations that evolved around a theme. Those animations were proceduraly created meaning they did not use graphic files or video files just pure code.

Those coders quickly realized that their demos would look and feel much cooler with music to accompany them. Problem was that many of those coders were not musicians and certainly not keyboard players. So they did what seemed natural to them , created their own software to create music. That software called tracker implemented a very similar interface to programming by entering through keyboard music commands corresponding to midi notes with the addition of code for volume and some basic audio effects.

Tracker quickly took the world by storm because unlike music software of the time could be used for making complete tracks. Tracker were extremely efficient in handling resources , cpu and memory.

Ironically enough it was not the interface that made trackers so extremely famous , it was not even the songs, it was the sound libraries . A tracker has its own format which is self contained, that means that contains both the midi messages and the audio data. Tracker at the time were strictly sample based , because of limitation of the hardware , its was common to see 8khz 8bit mono samples with amazing sound textures. Those coders could squeeze even the last 1% out of your cpu and ram. And an entire tracker file could be no bigger than a few kbs. So people went into a craze of exchange of samples through tracker files , to such extend that many different sounding songs were created with exact same sound libraries, because tracker musicians took sampling manipulation to extreme even with tracker's limited features. This movement became so massive even though it start with low fi electronic music quickly moved to all genres of music, lation, heavy metal, even classical. It was a huge explosion, in a time that DAW was not even known as a term. And of course anyone could use a tracker, it was simple, fun, extremely low in resources demand , 100% free , even open source.

But times changed as always they do and the technology evolved so much that after 2000 when the big explosotion in CPU and RAM took place it made DAWs a reality many of those tracker musicians moved to DAWs since , as CPU and RAM were no longer a big issue.

These days , modern trackers exist that combine both DAW and tracker facilities. The one thing that makes tracker still popular is the fact that they are much simpler than daws to learn. You can learn making a song in few hours, learning the software inside out should not take you more than 2 weeks and of course mastering a tracker is still way easier than mastering a DAW. Another is that their sound libraries are still sounding very good and now with no real limitation of CPU and especially ram they sound 1000 time better than ever before.

It might be strange to average user that a 8khz 8bit mono sample could take the music community by storm, but for an older romplers of any sort that is the rule and not an exception and tracker musician utilised the same art of producing the best sound using the least powerful hardware.

Till this day, no DAW can squeeze as much as a tracker can out of your hardware and trackers like Renoise combine old trackers techniques with new ones and DAW features like VST and AU support, massive mixers and professional on board audio effects.

In the end choosing to work with a tracker has to do with the way your mind works, tracker follow a code wise approach, modern DAWs follow a linear way of approach. The good news however is that tracker remains the best way to learn music making by far.

Why ?

because each song is self contained , it allows you to deeply reverse engineer it . Obviously a modern DAW like REASON utilise this approach, and most modern daws offer now self contained formats, still however you will never find the amount of examples you can study as the ones contained in the archives of modarchive.

The Mod Archive v4.0a - A distinctive collection of modules

Till this day, trackers take "Less is More" Mantra to the extreme and they remain the mecca of minimalism. And they grow more popular in platforms like ipad , ipod and android devices because of their low demands.

In my ipad I have tons of fun with Sunvox.

WarmPlace.Ru. SunVox synthesizer

and it still amaze me how much audio quality I can squeeze out of this Tasmanian Devil.
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#7
6th March 2012
Old 6th March 2012
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Why everybody mentions Renoise, when speaking about trackers? There's a free Jeskola Buzz (even though it's in beta for almost 14 years). It's got a huge library of native plugins, and it's modular structure is very cool.
Though, I'm using mostly Ableton Live right now

PS: Here's the download page for Jeskola Buzz http://www.jeskola.net/buzz/\
no fancy screenshots

Last edited by Loki Fuego; 6th March 2012 at 02:22 PM.. Reason: Added the link
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6th March 2012
Old 6th March 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Loki Fuego View Post
Why everybody mentions Renoise, when speaking about trackers?
Because Renoise is an incredible piece of software.
#9
6th March 2012
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#10
6th March 2012
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I love trackers. I dabbled with Octalyzer when I had Amiga 500. I've just downloaded freeware MilkyTracker for Windows. So far it's great, especially for my TR707 samples.

Pattern sequencing is very fast and intuitive, probably only Roland TR user interfaces can beat it.
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6th March 2012
Old 6th March 2012
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The tracker is a SAMPLER!!!!!!!! not a audio tape deck like modern daws are.

Every piece of audio you record has to be turned into an instrument that you can then trigger and play like a sampler. I used renoise a lot now, wrote 90% of my new lp with it.

I love how it sounds and its pattern based interface. I can work so fast with renoise, can get drums going way faster with better production fast.
#12
7th March 2012
Old 7th March 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Disease Factory View Post
The tracker is a SAMPLER!!!!!!!! not a audio tape deck like modern daws are.
traditional trackers, yes,.... but renoise, as of 2.8 i think, acts like a DAW where you can play back from anywhere not just entered command. it also does MIDI for vsti's or outboard so not just a sampler anymore.
#13
10th January 2013
Old 10th January 2013
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Polygon Cube is offline
Darn, this an old thread...but ill try my luck: Does Renoise come with VTS's? or just sound files/samples?

I got the demo (was amazed how fast it loaded even with my crappy connection, about 28 Mb) and i see various options for instruments, but none of them feel like VST's, unless im being a complete idiot and not seeing them...

Quote:
but renoise, as of 2.8 i think, acts like a DAW where you can play back from anywhere not just entered command. it also does MIDI for vsti's or outboard so not just a sampler anymore.
Can it do multi-tracking? or does it work different with implementing audio from an outboard instrument or VST?
#14
10th January 2013
Old 10th January 2013
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ahhhhh...maybe i'll these tracker's a try...
#15
10th January 2013
Old 10th January 2013
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Tracker was made by GEO, DAW is not. Sorry, couldnt help myself
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