I mentioned FM Composer above. It’s free, and is one of the more friendly and modernized trackers out there. If you download it, and watch the demo song play, you will almost instantly catch on. It’s a tiny program (they always were).
Another anecdote, I don’t know your familiarity with video games, the Amiga system, etc. Basically every game on the Amiga had music that was created in some form of tracker program. You load in samples, have X amount of steps, trigger the sample at a given note frequency, and apply various hecidecimal values to do whatever effects a particular tracker supplied. All of the music in the Unreal games on the PC were tracker based.
Say C1 was the hex value for the effect of a pitch slide up, you’d enter C1 in the effect column, and the adjacent column would contain the value to slide to like 1A or something.
Basically a very raw computer based version of a Digitakt if I may be so bold.
Only vertically oriented instead of horizontal.
I bet there are a billion YouTube videos on trackers. I’d hit some of those if you don’t want to jump right in.
You’d probably get it within the first five minutes (if that).
It’s such a low investment for high output. And fun if you have a computer predisposition.
Thanks… I watched the video @nzk303 posted and it already makes a lot of sense. When I get my computer setup again I’ll check out FM Composer (hopefully soon). Meanwhile I have my IPad and that Sunvox that @konputa posted looks pretty interesting…
It’s (or they are) good rabbit holes to go down temporarily at this point in time. Maybe not permanently as they are partially “had to be there” things, but definitely worth an evening or five to see if some fun is to be had.
Yeah exactly, almost the essence of trackers is finding tricks, ways of getting it to do things it technically can’t do. I mean, Octamed itself was a hacky way of getting eight audio tracks out of the Amiga when the hardware only supported four. We were always going “how did they do that?”. Deconstructing people’s modules was essential, figuring out what was going on in order to get more variation, more sounds, more length, or whatever.
This is a good watch on some of the tricks people do with Protracker:
Not sure if I mentioned it here before, but I produced an 8-bit sample pack for the Amiga in the early 90s. Trackers were pretty popular back then and even though people had to order it by mailing me actual paper money stuffed into an envelope, it sold pretty well. For a while, I shipped stacks of 12 DD Amiga floppies (there was also a PC version on 6 HD floppies available) all over the world.
A few years ago, I archived the original disks and you can now get the pack for free from https://archive.org/details/SampleSource (it’s probably not of any practical use unless you suffer from a severe case of nostalgia. ;))
Here’s the official logo, drawn in dpaint of course:
You can still load the original 8SVX files right into a modern-day tracker such as ReNoise (all instruments are sampled at C3, except for the drum sounds which are sampled at F3 for that slightly higher bitrate). Original documentation (Dutch only, sorry) and example MODs are included.
The download also includes the samples converted to 16-bit WAVs with the base note at 44.1kHz.
The samples in the “Acid” directory are all the same patch at different cutoff frequency values (q1 to q8/q12/q16) and one that also comes at four resonance settings (“Raw”).
The samples in the “Chord” directory were created to work around the 4-channel hardware limitation of the original Amiga by providing the same sound sampled as the base note only (these have a “0” at the end of the name), and as different chords (with “36”, ”37”, “38”, “39”, “47”, “48”, “49” at the end of the name) where the two numbers refer to the distance from the base note to the first and second note in the chord in semitones. Some of these samples also come in different gate lengths which can be recognized by the additional “.1”, “.2”, ”.4”, and “.8” extensions.
Finally, to come full circle, here’s a quick and dirty rave demo I made with these samples on the Octatrack:
Yeah, I loved FT2. Samples I used were awful though and when I listen to the stuff it sounds, well, quite bit reduced…I guess below 8 even . But putting old XM tracks into Renoise and using it to sequence my Elektron boxes is yet another project on my list.
I remember also joining a friend for an Demoparty in Denmark in the end of 90s. Besides the visual challenges they had tracking challenges as well. Was the first time I participated in a challenge…but after hearing what the people were capable of I was mindblown (but motivated).
Elektrons connection to the 90s demo scene (thanks @Ess) is quite eye opening for me. I was not aware of that…might be also the reason why I am so drawn to Elektron sequencers.
What a great subject! Trackers has definitely been my way into electronic music - from ProTracker on the Amiga as a teen (in the early 90s) to the relevation of FT2 on the PC, which I was heavily into from the late 90s and onwards. Living in the subburbs I had no contact with any sort of scene, but started out making small CDR-releases with my stuff (photocopied covers and all), which the legendary record store Baden Baden in central Copenhagen (now long time closed) were so kind to carry and sometime even sell!
I think my first demo must have been in 1997, which means I have been 19 years old then. I really had no idea of electronic music at this point, so the store also provided a convenient education in music - I spent lot of time there listening to stuff, and especially the Cologne-scene proved to be a huge influence (still love the early Mouse on Mars and Lithops!) I had also started a band with some friends from high school, and actually carried my old huge PC along for gigs to provide backing beats and samples for our songs played “live” (with muting and unmuting) in FT2.
Then at some point it became a Mac and the incredible Renoise, which I still love to play around with - usually rendering individual tracks out in ProTools, and messing with them there. I even ended up making a whole album of terrifyingly bad queer/punk pop songs with a friend with all backing tracks made entirely in Renoise. (Proceed with caution! http://boyonboy.bandcamp.com/album/feel-my-wet)
I am relatively late to the party re. Elektron, but the connection to trackers makes perfect sense - and have definitely make the transition to the boxes relatively pain free. Especially the MD, which still is the most intuitive and directly fun drum machine, I have every played with - and indeed very much like a tracker in approach.
Great post @Ess! Nice to see the tracker roots of Elektron get a shout out
I remember being 12 or 13 or so and discovering dance (Euro/trance) music on the radio and being completely obsessed with it… I had no real idea how this stuff was made though, I had a Yamaha or Casio home keyboard but that was a million miles away and I didn’t know how they managed to get those sounds or beats sounding like they did, and we had no internet so I couldn’t really find out.
One month there was a feature about the demoscene in PC Format magazine and the cover CD-ROM included Fast Tracker and a load of XM/MOD files… it completely blew me away, loading up these songs that sounded just like the music I was obsessed with and realising that you could see how they were made and change them and create your own songs using this one piece of software!
So I spent a long time obsessed with FT2, then discovered MadTracker on Windows which IIRC had reverb and delay effects built into it, and then eventually discovered the weird and wonderful world of Buzz. Around this time VSTs were really taking off so I ended up moving to Cubase and later Ableton, but I always missed something about the … simplicity? … of working with trackers… so when I discovered Elektron hardware and its obvious nods to the tracker way of working, but with a hands on interface and incredible sound engines it was like a dream come true!
I loved demos on my Atari ST when I was a nipper. So naturally I wanted to try making some music like the tunes I heard – I think I had Noisetracker and maybe a version of Protracker? But at the time I had basically zero music theory knowledge, so entering note data one line at a time into basically a spreadsheet meant that the results were not quite what I had hoped for, and gave up on it. Later I got a sampler interface and had quite a bit of fun with that and some archaic sample editor software. I can definitely see the tracker lineage in the Elektron sequencer, although the UI is much more intuitive
I got into electronic music-making on my Amiga 1200 (even going so far as to get a 16-bit soundcard when I installed it in a massive tower, at some ungodly expensive price and with the occasional fried IDE interface board along the way) and eventually ended up via MED at OctaMED. I produced an album using that, a Yamaha drum machine and a Kawai K1 (which sold about three copies on cassette in Rough Trade in Soho and a copy is even on sale for a stupid amount on Discogs from a seller in LA of all places, should anyone be so foolish as to pay over the odds for it), fumbling around with MIDI sync and samples played direct from tape into a Tascam 4-track.
OctaMED was terrific, especially hacking the Paula chip to use 8 tracks instead of 4 and getting 14-bit sample resolution too. I’d really like to get my Amiga back up and running one day just to play around with it again (emulators aren’t the same).
This was the last thing I did using OctaMED (subsequently remastered and remixed), with samples from some long-forgotten shared floppy disc and an On-U Sound dub drum loop found on their website back with the dial-up internets they had then:
All the echo FX were created by playing samples at different steps on the tracker as I recall - they were great for making users try out inventive solutions for getting around the restrictions of the Amiga.