Trackers - what's your story?


No MadTrackers here? 13 year old me never could get that damn FastTracker to work with my shitty sound card. So, it was MadTracker for me. Joined a tracker channel on mIRC in an attempt to learn the program, and got some really helpful information from a guy who actually called me and guided me through the basics. Thanks stranger!!!


I came at it from reverse, started with hardware in the late 80’s, when x0x machines were still available for peanuts, I had a 606, 303, 202, 101, electric mistress flanger, watkins copycat tape echo, Yamaha VSS-200 sampler and a Amstrad Studio100, I was really happy with that little setup.

Then eventually I sold it off due to wanting money to party etc.

In the few years in between I had various setups and access to studios, and was fortunate enough to enjoy a moderate amount of success.

Then a few years later in the mid 90’s got a Amiga 600 and Octamed sound studio, this was my first real experience of trackers, I loved the per step parameter control but missed having some synths, so I started buying a few more bits of gear, the old x0x stuff by this time had skyrocketed in price, so I made do with things like a TX-81z, Roland MV-30 and a few other bits.

Then the internet became available in the late 90’s, I found out about a gameboy cart for making music called nanoloop and bought it, it was pretty capable but a bit cryptic to use I thought.

I eventually happened upon a new Swedish company who were building a synth based on the Sid chip, I got in contact and made arrangements with Daniel to buy one of the first available public batches, I ended up doing some presets for it, and some of my patches used the table function like a mini 3 track sequencer, Daniel really liked the idea and my patches were even mentioned favourably in the Sound on Sound review.
I had some quite nice email exchanges with Daniel, and when the Machinedrum came out I was really excited to see such a great and impressive machine being made by this small company.
I was not in a position to buy one because I had recently become a father, but I always intended to as soon as I was able.

Well, right around the time I had got the money together for the MD the Monomachine SFX-6 was in development, I immediately fell in love with the look and concept of it, I bought one of the very first units and became a beta tester and again contributed presets and ideas for features, I can’t remember all of them which were implemented but definitely the step mode was one.
The Monomachine was a game changer for me, combining as it did multiple synthesis types, with a configurable almost modular setup, and of course per step parameter locks, and the joystick. It only made me want a MD even more, the UW model was announced and again I didn’t have the money, so I waited for a while to get the money together, eventually the mkII came out and finally I got one!

Obviously ever since then I have bought most of the Elektron machines, and did beta testing on the Octatrack and Analog 4.

I think that @ess nailed it when saying that Elektron machines are like trackers, and I also think that they are like playing a video game too.

I also have a collection of gameboys with various nanoloop carts, LSDJ etc. which I have collected in recent years, I’m tempted to try out renoise because of my fondness for the tracker interface, but I don’t think it is a good idea for my productivity as I already have far too much gear and far too many projects on the go,

So for me the Octatrack is my tracker, but with the advantage of no hexadecimal and lots of nice realtime control, the best of both worlds. I often think it is probably the greatest electronic musical instrument ever made, certainly one of them.

I’d love to see Elektron take the tracker idiom further though, I’m certain that there are interesting concepts as yet unimagined, I have some great ideas for a new Elektron product which kind of ties all of this together, but maybe it is a tad ambitious and possibly a tad too niche :rofl:


A lot of parallels there with my history (some differences of course). I also had some great exchanges with Daniel.


Yes he was an absolutely awesome guy wasn’t he?


Megaman 2 surely? :wink:


I started with Octamed in the 90s, and things went quiet until I picked my up a guitar again a few years ago. Now I’m combining guitar with Octatrack, and I’m as obsessed as a teenager with the music I’m making. What an incredible machine it is.


It was OctaMED on the Amiga for me. I was fortunate enough to have the sampling hardware attachment so I used to make lots of music out of things I’d recorded off the TV. Usually with a breakbeat added.

I asked for an electronic keyboard for Christmas one year after using Yamaha keyboards in school music lessons. I got a Yamaha PSS-790 which was waaay fancier than I expected, and (along with a joystick - “vector synthesis”!) it was able to live record and overdub multiple parts/instruments. That was the first time I got into making songs or “tracks” that could be played back, though it wasn’t really a sequencer. The Amiga came several years later - I probably got it a bit late relative to when it was new/current. I bought it off a schoolfriend who was kind of done with it.

I knew about STs and Akai samplers and so on but the latter in particular seemed like completely unattainable “professional” equipment and there no way I could have afforded one as a teenager.

Anyway, yeah, I think I started using trackers early enough that I didn’t really think of it as an unusual way of making music. I was decent enough with computers (my grandfather had bought me a ZX Spectrum when I was 5) so it made sense. It was just kind of thrilling to me that you could get those sorts of sounds out of a home computer to be honest. Getting a copy of some crazy demo scene floppy at school and loading it up, not knowing anything about it… and then having your mind blown by infinite sprite routines and so on.

Had fun with stuff like Nanoloop later on but didn’t really get as deep into anything else until I bought a Monomachine. Totally get the connection between trackers and the Elektron sequencer.


Funny that. Just due purely to dumb luck and timing, I never played Megaman 2 when it came out. It was way later in emulation. I played the hell out of Megaman 1 at a friend’s house. I had a C64, with 1541, 1702 monitor, etc. so my parents wouldn’t didn’t make it easy to get a Nintendo. (later I picked up an SMS, but…) Also just out of luck, I happened to be hanging out with another friend a lot when Megaman 3 came out, so we played that one into the ground. I just pretty much missed out on 2, and while it’s likely on equal footing, in my mind 1 and 3 will always stand out as THE Megaman games. (then the first X version on the SNES due to a similar scenario later)


Crashmans stage music was so so good


Started with a tracker on an Amiga 500 when I was about 6 years old. Just bought a NerdSeq. Need to spend more time with it, but I like it!


I used lots (fasttracker2 the most) but my favourite was edlib by vibrants, because a) Adlib synth was great, b) each track had an arbitrary length and c) they included libraries you could compile into your own projects to play the songs you made <3

I can still clearly remember the sounds of the demo tracks!


Great thread! Trackers are a huge part of my musical upbringing. I got into when I was 17 and had left home for Uni but couldn’t get into any pubs or clubs because I didn’t have ID so when everyone was out partying I was back at halls trying to write music using ScreamTracker 3 that I got from a shareware disk I wrote off for having read an advert in the back of MicroMart - no internet in those days. Thing was, I had no idea or musical upbringing before that and in fact my 386SX40 PC didn’t even have a soundcard. So, I had to write songs and then save them to disk and then after Uni I’d go round to a mate’s house who had an Amiga so I could listen back to what I created via Octamed. Obviously it was a shambles and it was pretty much case of harvesting MOD files for samples and then hoping to get something working.

Anyway, I got a summer job after 1st year, saved up for a soundcard (£220 for a Soundblaster AWE32… that was an expensive mistake) and then started to use Fast Tracker 2. Joined a shonky industrial band where I did all the beats in FT2 and my mate did all the melodies etc in some MIDI sequencer and we’d haul our beige PCs with CRT monitors onstage with us where we’d sync things by pressing play at the same time.

After that fell apart I stuck to amusing myself and making slow progress… but then through the wonders of this new internet thing I found out that Jeskola Buzz had just been released and I started playing about with that which started to turn me onto the ideas of synthesis and creating my own sounds which ultimately led to getting some decent bits of hardware after I graduated and could earn some money… the Micromodular (still going strong) and FS1r (sold last year finally) were the first piece. But I then took a lengthy software detour, primarily with Reaktor and then Ableton.

I think it took until about 2008 for me to finally take the plunge with Elektron when I got my MNM. So, to take this full circle and to agree with what others have said but the thing that really struck me about the Elektron sequencing approach was how much of a kindred it felt for my tracking youth. And still to this day, I tend to think of song structure in terms of patterns and how they are built into bigger compositions… maybe the patterns are all overlapping or generative but nevertheless, at the core it’s all about combining those elemental components.

Wow… so, that was more of a ramble than i expected.


I loved Edlib! I forgot to mention it!


No experience with trackers but love this thread.


I was using Reaper to make electronic music with lots of samples that I trimmed and placed “by hand”.

Then I tried Renoise. It was fascinatingly inscrutable. I learnt all about hardware by using Renoise, in a way - and it made me want to get hardware with similar features. So here I am.


Did this backwards - had been making music with DAWs for ages but not getting anything finished… Started playing with chiptune vsts and then got a gameboy (which DOES sound incredible - that’s so not weird!) found the restrictions/workflow of LSDJ really interesting. Now have LSDJ, Houston Tracker, and little piggy tracker on a psp. Plus midibox SID and Plogue Chipsounds which both share the “wavetable” part of a tracker… I guess I rarely write something completely in a tracker, but I quite often start the basic groove in one of these before porting it to Digitakt.


For us nauts that haven’t experienced using trackers, anyone have any good video recommendations that show how they’re used and the music they make so we can see what y’all are talkin about?


I was about 10 when I first got introduced to the demoscene in 89-90 when I got my Atari ST.
I was using cracked games and usually cracking groups used to put a little demo before the start of the game, and some of them were real artwork.

Then I moved to PC and discovered more of the scene and demogroups. My favorite was Future Crew and their main musician was called Purple Motion, he probably influenced me a lot since I think I listened to his tracks for dozen of hours:

This made me want to try the programs used to make these music, I started with ScreamTracker then moved to FastTracker, made a lot of tracks (“modules” as they were called) and sent them to a French computer magazine which were publishing them on their monthly CD-ROM.
Internet came and I got in contact with other like-minded people, we started a soundtracking group called N-Zone and released a few “music disks”.

I then moved to Madtracker which was basically FastTracker on steroids, made a track called Crop Circles which was quite successful on a module charts website called Trax in space were people could vote for their favorite mods.
Then I moved to Reason, rewrote this track, sent it to a few trance labels and got signed on one of them (

I did a few other remixes for this label then basically stopped doing music for a few years.

Started again with Reason a few years ago but found it uninspiring. Tried Maschine, had more fun but couldn’t really finish tracks.
Then I bought a digitakt last year, and I’m having even more fun and now I’m finishing tracks again, thanks Elektron! :slight_smile:

And indeed I can totally see where the p-locks are coming from :wink:


It’s basically writing music on excel.
Tracks are vertical, you set your tempo and pattern length, load your samples, and then write down your notes (“trigs”) for which you can change a few parameters (sample start, portamento, etc…), and it looked like this:


Today I learned that I’m the same age as Simon.
What have I been doing with my life? weeps

At the time Simon was obsessed with his gameboy, I was doodling on the piano and my father’s copy of MakeMusic’s Finale (my first sequencer :sweat_smile:) — I continued along this course until late 07 or 08 at which point I scored(heh) copies of Pro Tools 7 LE and Kontakt.

I didn’t really get into producing “electronic music” until I came upon Reason and Ableton through courses in college. It was a few years later that I decided to allocate a large chunk of my graduation funds towards the acquisition of my first Elektron — a used Rytm MK1. It was every bit as worth it as I’d surmised during repeated viewings of the Sonicstate videos of Cenk and Nick.

I’ve known of Aaron Funk’s predilection toward Renoise for quite sometime and always intended to give it a go at some point — I also find myself rather intrigued by Nerdseq. I’ll offer updates once I spend sometime with either. :slightly_smiling_face:

Still. Next acquisition will likely be an OT (or DN — which leads me back to ”What have I been doing with my life?” :laughing:)