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Can We Talk about Trackers?
Old 22nd April 2016
  #1
Can We Talk about Trackers?

There was a little bit of mention of trackers on another thread where we were getting all nostalgic and thought the topic deserved its own thread. Share your tracker stories!

One of the first pieces of music software I encountered was ModPlug tracker. I spent most of my high school years putting together terrible music with it and hocking CD's for five bucks a pop to my classmates. To this day, I can play a computer keyboard better than I can a real keyboard (if they ever make velocity-sensitive computer keyboards, it's game over I tells ya!) I spent years downloading .mod files and stealing samples and techniques. When I first started acquiring hardware, the MIDI sequencers of the time weren't working for me and I damn near gave up music until I found ZTracker (a clone of Impulse Tracker that uses MIDI instead of audio.) I tried Renoise a few years back but didn't get along with it (perhaps it was just too much?) In the discussions on Trackers in another thread, I got nostalgic and have downloaded OpenMPT (the latest iteration of ModPlug) and I'm harvesting samples to use to see what I can do now that I know what I know, you know?

Your turn; tell me about your tracker experiences!
Old 22nd April 2016
  #2
Gear Addict
 

I never had the honor to use an old school tracker, and the only tracker I managed to get into is Renoise, which has gotten pretty big with the 3.1 update. So far, the only other trackers i have used are Beepola and Boyscout, but there are many more chiptune trackers at Woolys...just need to find the time, I still need to get into them heavily, enough that all I need is a computer and some headphones.
Old 22nd April 2016
  #3
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Forbidden Planet's Avatar
I used some tracker on the Amiga back in the day, but the only name that springs to mind is Fasttracker on my first PC 386. I recently revisited some of those tracks and built a whole song around one of them, which will probably get released soon. In other words, that song took me 20 years to make
Old 22nd April 2016
  #4
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Rogue Ai's Avatar
There's this really cool tracker for chiptune: DefleMask Tracker

Even does Sega Genesis/Megadrive stuff.
Old 22nd April 2016
  #5
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shadowfac's Avatar
 

I used FastTracker II a lot between 1996-2000 when I dabbled a bit in the demoscene. It was the first software with which I had the means to compose and record a full piece of music. I also tried ScreamTracker 3 and ImpulseTracker, but I felt more comfortable with FTII. I got so comfortable with it that it also took me a while to switch to Cakewalk when I started using MIDI gear.

Last time I tried it (a couple years ago) it still worked under DosBox, which I thought was amazing..... being able to listen to my old mods and stuff.
Old 22nd April 2016
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by Derp View Post
There was a little bit of mention of trackers on another thread where we were getting all nostalgic and thought the topic deserved its own thread. Share your tracker stories!
My first encounter with trackers was in the early 1990 at friend's home, on the Amiga 500. It was a software called Noisetracker:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FC9pJ9Bb26o

I was a 13 year old kid and was BLOWN AWAY after seeing and hearing it. I couldn't believe you can play a sampled sound on a computer. Year later i got Amiga 500 and started making music. At that time we also had Soundtracker and of course later the Protracker which when it came out was the most famous.

I still remember seeing that blue code columns wondering what's going on. But it wasn't that hard to figure out and reverse engineer stuff. Today unfortunately i no longer remember all the commands and codes (i never used the arpeggio thing). But i remember the UI was super fast to work with. You could set steps to different jumps (i.e. every 4th for a kick) and key repeat was really really fast so you could just press a key and hold it and it would fill up column with kick drum within a second.

Recently i've printed the manual for Protracker and thought of doing some Amiga related sound design for the sample pack. I actually bought A500 few years ago, along with mint A1200 (this was hard to resist for an ex Amiga owner 1991-1995).

What else can i tell you? I can't. I can't translate those feelings from back then. There's nothing to compare against today that is so advanced that just blows you away instantly.
Old 22nd April 2016
  #7
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DiGi_TaL's Avatar
 

I used to work on Fast Tracker Even made a club-trance album that was sold globally
Still can be found on beatport: https://pro.beatport.com/release/hyper-sound/4228
Old 22nd April 2016
  #8
Gear Addict
 

Talking of freebie's, we can get a few over at woolys -> Woolyss
They have chiptune AND digital trackers! :^D
Good stuff

edit: is this allowed? I am putting up a link to another site, mods, whats my verdict? :^0
Old 22nd April 2016
  #9
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mikefellh's Avatar
For me it was Octamed on the Amiga 1000...not much to say about it except it was one of the most popular ones at the time. I also did midi with DMCS (Deluxe Music Construction Set) and had an audio digitizer for it.
Old 22nd April 2016
  #10
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I used Impulse Tracker pretty much every day from ~95 to ~2005. There was quite a tracker scene at that time. I pretty much only listened to tracker music as well. The stuff I made and listened was pretty experimental stuff, Aphex Twin influenced and IDM.. My mates were even doing some nice money on mp3.com. Unfortunately tracker music is only tracker music and its just that far that you can go with it.. So I tried to move on multiple times, going OTB and tried all new fancy programs.. At some point DAWs picked up and VSTs got better so I was happy again..

But yeah, I've been pondering how much trying to make music with Impulse Tracker has helped me afterwards. My assumption is that it has helped me alot. When you first time realize that there are things like EQs, compressors, reverbs (which the old trackers didnt have) and all that stuff that can do things that you've always struggled to do with trackers.. life gets soo much easier. Since you try to do everything just with samples your ears get to know samples and layers extremely well, even now days when I play samples I pretty much see the waveform how it would look like in Impulse Trackers wave-view. Not to mention that I reconize hundreds of samples by ear.. Funny thing is that I had no glue that most samples I used back then were ripped from hardware, I was pretty blown away when I first discovered that..

Anyway, here's one song from one of my favorite tracker artists: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BT4VkoeAAdg
Old 22nd April 2016
  #11
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My first encounter with trackers was in autumn 1989, I think it was Noisetracker for the Amiga 500 (hello Mr.Solaris!).
I had seen Soundmonitor for the C64 before that but did not use it since I did not understand it (just a little kid back then).

After that I created several tracker programs for the A500 and A1200 and made a lot of crappy music with them :D
Please find attached a track that a good friend of mine made with my last Amiga tracker (more than 20 years ago! the audio was captured from an A1200). 4 channel, 8 bit Paula soundchip goodness :-)

The mid to late 90ies PC trackers (FastTracker, ScreamTracker, ..) (and the GUS/Soundblaster HW) offered much better sound quality (and a lot more channels!) than the Amiga, of course.
@ Teofunk posted a good example of that.


It's always nice to see that there are still people around who use trackers (ZTracker, Renoise, OpenModPlug, ..).

Personally, I prefer trackers to piano rolls by a long shot (great for intricate note/controller programming), although it's not hard to see why piano rolls are preferred by most.

(by the way: I've been working on the "ultimate" MIDI tracker for the past 10 years.. I really should document and release it, even if only ten other people will ever use it )
Attached Files

Tommy-FMDemosong-a1200-Jan1995.mp3 (11.75 MB, 4548 views)

Old 22nd April 2016
  #12
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Old 22nd April 2016
  #13
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BigSteak's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Teofunk View Post
I used Impulse Tracker pretty much every day from ~95 to ~2005. There was quite a tracker scene at that time. I pretty much only listened to tracker music as well. The stuff I made and listened was pretty experimental stuff, Aphex Twin influenced and IDM.. My mates were even doing some nice money on mp3.com. Unfortunately tracker music is only tracker music and its just that far that you can go with it.. So I tried to move on multiple times, going OTB and tried all new fancy programs.. At some point DAWs picked up and VSTs got better so I was happy again..

But yeah, I've been pondering how much trying to make music with Impulse Tracker has helped me afterwards. My assumption is that it has helped me alot. When you first time realize that there are things like EQs, compressors, reverbs (which the old trackers didnt have) and all that stuff that can do things that you've always struggled to do with trackers.. life gets soo much easier. Since you try to do everything just with samples your ears get to know samples and layers extremely well, even now days when I play samples I pretty much see the waveform how it would look like in Impulse Trackers wave-view. Not to mention that I reconize hundreds of samples by ear.. Funny thing is that I had no glue that most samples I used back then were ripped from hardware, I was pretty blown away when I first discovered that..

Anyway, here's one song from one of my favorite tracker artists: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BT4VkoeAAdg
What makes "tracker music" different from any other sequenced electronic music?
Old 22nd April 2016
  #14
I've tried trackers on and off for years, with no real production going down. But I like what their capable of.
Milky, SunVox, Renoise, whatever, they all seem really cool.
Old 22nd April 2016
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogue Ai View Post
There's this really cool tracker for chiptune: DefleMask Tracker

Even does Sega Genesis/Megadrive stuff.
YES
Old 22nd April 2016
  #16
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Always wanted to get back into them. I started on a buggy free tracker for Mac in the 90s. There was a better tracker but it cost money. I forget what they were called but I still have them on my old Mac.

I have one on my DS and tried a bit of Renoise.
Old 22nd April 2016
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigSteak View Post
What makes "tracker music" different from any other sequenced electronic music?
good question. trackers are really limited, its just sequenced sample playback, no effects what-so-ever. those limitations (and 41khz) make the sound of tracker music. but i think the conventions and stylistic things are more important. i personally concider tracker music sort of a genre, but thats just me.

another thing is that tracker music always sounds like s***h, no matter how hard you try..
Old 23rd April 2016
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Teofunk View Post
good question. trackers are really limited, its just sequenced sample playback, no effects what-so-ever. those limitations (and 41khz) make the sound of tracker music. but i think the conventions and stylistic things are more important. i personally concider tracker music sort of a genre, but thats just me.

another thing is that tracker music always sounds like s***h, no matter how hard you try..
Wowwwww.... Now for one thing, you know that a lot of music from this period of time, particularly in the electronic genres, didn't have access to compression, right? Heck, there are a lot of great records that were done with just a sampler and nothing else, which really isn't much different than what a tracker is capable of. If you want to make modern comparisons, even Deadmau5 admits to starting out with Scream Tracker and look at his output. As far as effects, if you're clever enough, there are ways to emulate effects. Retriggering can yield delay and reverb effects. Not to mention that you can always use samples with some built in effects and get a lot of mileage. I'm listening to a lot of tracks in this thread (in particular Digital Karma) that are better than the current bout of mainstream tracks. As for 44.1khz, that's kinda the standard for recorded music there so I really don't understand the complaining. If you think tracker music is going to sound like poopie no matter what, maybe you yourself aren't trying hard enough? I think your generalization is really unfair considering how much of this stuff was commercially released. Yes, there were a lot of amateurs making a bunch of racket, but those amateurs are still making unexciting things in DAWs and with compression, aren't they?
Old 23rd April 2016
  #19
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mikefellh's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Teofunk View Post
good question. trackers are really limited, its just sequenced sample playback, no effects what-so-ever.
No effects??? Guess you weren't a serious user. The commands you can send for each note, including effects (from a mod tracker manual, so this is a bit of a mess):

: Arpeggio
: Portamento Up
: Portamento Down
: Tone-Portamento
: Vibrato
: Tone-Portamento + Volume Slide
: Vibrato + Volume Slide
: Tremolo
: Set Panning
: Set Sample Offset
: Volume Slide
: Position Jump
: Set Volume
: Pattern Break
: Set Speed/Tempo
: Fine Portamento Up
: Fine Portamento Down
: Glissando Control
: Vibrato Control
: Set Finetune
: Pattern Loop
: Tremolo Control
: Retrigger
: Fine Volume Slide Up
: Fine Volume Slide Down
: Quick Note
: Note Delay
: Pattern Delay
: Invert Loop

: Arpeggio
: Portamento Up
: Portamento Down
: Tone-Portamento
: Vibrato
: Volume Slide + Tone-Portamento
: Volume Slide + Vibrato
: Tremolo
: Set Panning
: Set Sample Offset
: Volume Slide
: Position Jump
: Set Volume
: Pattern Break
: Extended MOD Commands
: Fine Portamento Up
: Fine Portamento Down
: Glissando Control
: Vibrato Control
: Set Finetune
: Pattern Delay
: Tremolo Control
: Retrigger
: Fine Volume Slide Up
: Fine Volume Slide Down
: Quick Note
: Note Delay
: Pattern Loop
: Set Macro
: Set Speed/Tempo
: Set Global Volume
: Global Volume Slide
: Key Off
: Set Envelope Position
: Panning Slide
: Retrig
: Tremor
: Panbrello
: Extended XM effects
: Extra Fine Portamento Up
: Extra Fine Portamento Down
: Surround Sound Off
: Surround Sound On
: Reverb Off
: Reverb On
: Center Surround
: Quad Surround
: Global Filter
: Local Filter
: Play Sample Forward
: Play Sample Backward
Old 23rd April 2016
  #20
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robot gigante's Avatar
I got into trackers a little late in the game, but Renoise rocks my world. I use it every day.

I'll even go out on a limb and state the opinion that it is the most powerful software there is for intricate sequencing and many other tasks.
Old 23rd April 2016
  #21
Also if the tracker supports it, (I think ModPlug stole it from Impulse Tracker, but please correct me if I'm wrong here) and you've got enough processing power to handle it regardless of track count, instead of a sound getting cut off by the next note triggered, you can set it to decay, so you've got a basic reverb effect right there.

My favorite emulated effect though is filter movement. By using a sample of a filter sweep and then altering the sample start point at the beginning of the note, you can emulate the filter cutoff being modulated as you go. This was a favorite trick for a lot of goa .mods because generating random filter modulation like an S&H was super easy.
Old 23rd April 2016
  #22
Quote:
Originally Posted by robot gigante View Post
I'll even go out on a limb and state the opinion that it is the most powerful software there is for intricate sequencing and many other tasks.
This is the biggest reason I stick around and have no interest in trying a different interface anymore. Mousing around with a drum loop is uninspiring, but in a tracker interface, you can get crazy with micro edits with minimal effort.

I was showing a friend of mine a couple years back how a tracker works and I whipped out a drum pattern so quick that he thought I had just loaded up a drum loop. When I showed him that it was actually a sequence that I had put together in only a few seconds he was dumbfounded. If you know how the drum part is going to go in advance, you can sequence it out faster than somebody else can even play it.

And my most used trick for years (copying myself from that other thread):
Quote:
One trick I used a lot was one that I stole and made my own by using hardware: Changing sample start points. With an E-Mu ESI-4000, you can map the sample start point to velocity. What made this really impressive is that it distributed the start points evenly through the course of the whole loop. So, if you have a perfect loop, play it back through ZTracker as sixteenth notes, and step through the velocity, each segment would play back perfectly in time as a seamless loop. ZTracker makes it easier by being able to interpolate velocities. Sounds like a lot of work for no good reason since the end result sounds exactly like the original loop, but the fun begins when you start screwing with it. By changing the velocity, different sections of the loop pop in so it can be made to 'glitch', stutter, do a breakcore kinda thing, or just remix it by playing back different sections of the loop. By doubling up the bar length and subsequent velocities, you can play the loop back in half time at the same pitch, or do the opposite by halving the notes to speed it up. Changing the loop's tempo without resorting to time stretching is just a matter of changing up the song's tempo. Nothing more complicated than that, just a simple tempo change. With a different tempo and an altered amp decay, you get this neat little reverb kind of effect. And gating is just a matter of deleting notes.
Old 23rd April 2016
  #23
Impulse Tracker was amazing. I wrote lots of music in that program as a teen. I would sample rebirth and vaz modular in win32 with cool edit and piece them together in IT. Those where the days...
Old 23rd April 2016
  #24
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Rogue Ai's Avatar
Here is an example of work I've done using trackers... created before I found the tracker I linked above.

This track was done using Famitracker.
Attached Files

8-bit Overload.mp3 (7.37 MB, 4269 views)

Old 23rd April 2016
  #25
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robot gigante's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Derp View Post

And my most used trick for years (copying myself from that other thread):
It's a great trick, I use it all the time. It's really easy in Renoise, you just fill in the notes on the bar, use 0Sxx to set the first note to trigger the start of the sample, same deal at the last note to trigger it at the very end, select all notes and hit control-i to interpolate the start point of all the notes in between. Then you can change up the start points, make gaps, reverse, retrigger notes, and whatever else you want and it all works as you explain.

It's also great when you space the notes out a bit more on something like a vocal sample and do the same thing to get that grainy timestretch effect or something even more exaggerated.

MPC also lets you map sample start point to velocity so I do a similar thing sequencing it with a Command Station.
Old 23rd April 2016
  #26
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Trackers have always ruled my world. I started with a piano and manual staff edit with a pencil but ever since I got my first and second personal computer (thanks, dad!) I were hooked to the tracker interface. If you were disk swapping demos and apps it was quite natural that you got to try various music software. The various trackers quickly got hugely popular. ProTracker was the best tracker software for Amiga but for PC there was a time nothing really good was available. There was ScreamTracker 3 which was kind of good - it made my music more musical than ever, since it didn't have a sample editor - but Fast Tracker was the real deal, the best tracker ever until Renoise!

I made quite a lot of tracks with FastTracker II, this one is something I made for a local BBS house competition and it is the only progressive house track I have made. However there was no need to start a blog for it at the time
Attached Files

LOVE.mp3 (5.33 MB, 4397 views)

Old 23rd April 2016
  #27
Quote:
Originally Posted by robot gigante View Post
MPC also lets you map sample start point to velocity so I do a similar thing sequencing it with a Command Station.
QUE!? Which MPC did you find that does this? I'm intimate with an MPC1000 (we're getting married soon!) and have an MPC5000 looking me in the face with it's dirty blue eye right now. I haven't found velocity to start point modulation in either one. If you've found one that does it, PLEASE share with me as I like having MPC's as primary samplers and hate having to buy the ESI over again every few years just to get frustrated with it (I guess I had more patience when it was my one and only?) and selling it on each time.
Old 23rd April 2016
  #28
RiF
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RiF's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Solaris View Post
My first encounter with trackers was in the early 1990 at friend's home, on the Amiga 500. It was a software called Noisetracker:
Quote:
Originally Posted by bsp804 View Post
My first encounter with trackers was in autumn 1989, I think it was Noisetracker for the Amiga 500 (hello Mr.Solaris!).
Nice to see some Noisetracker mentionings. I actually programmed the UFO-Noisetracker from version 1.2 and up (link to some info and the actual disk image here) in 1991 to about 1993.
I've reassembled the original Mahoney & Kaktus version and then continued to enhance it with stuff like further sample editing capabilities and UI-enhancements.

Here's the song that I made on the Noisetracker for the Noisetracker-Intro on the release disk:
Attached Thumbnails
Can We Talk about Trackers?-19909b.png   Can We Talk about Trackers?-19909a.png  
Old 23rd April 2016
  #29
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robot gigante's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Derp View Post
QUE!? Which MPC did you find that does this? I'm intimate with an MPC1000 (we're getting married soon!) and have an MPC5000 looking me in the face with it's dirty blue eye right now. I haven't found velocity to start point modulation in either one. If you've found one that does it, PLEASE share with me as I like having MPC's as primary samplers and hate having to buy the ESI over again every few years just to get frustrated with it (I guess I had more patience when it was my one and only?) and selling it on each time.
MPC 2000/XL do. I am not sure about the others. More advanced MPC's don't have this option?!

Mind, it doesn't distribute the start points evenly throughout the sample like the ESI.
Old 23rd April 2016
  #30
Gear Maniac
 

Cubase and Live were awesome but love the tracker vibe...feels just right...

Here are a couple of e.ps made with Renoise...

https://soundcloud.com/bendish/sets/esemplasy

https://soundcloud.com/bendish/sets/michaelsbed
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