Trackers - what's your story?


Yes! FT2. Me and a friend started using Fasttracker2, early-mid 90s somewhere. God I made sooo many XMs, and sooo many were tragically lost in a HDD failure. Enter mucho floppydisks! Most tracks were terrible though so…

I do wish that I still had all those XMs around, or at least in Mp3 format. But back then you obviously didn’t think that far ahead. Most stuff I made in the 90s is gone. But maybe that’s for the better. I made so much stuff in FT2 though, I wish I still had that creativity (or whatever you wanna call it), these days I can literally just stare at whatever boxes I have infront of me, and be completely empty up there “- fuq it, i’ll come back tomorrow.”. :slight_smile:


Weird and wonderful is a great way to describe it. It opened my eyes to so many different ideas but also to spending hours trying to figure out why a song file has randomly started crashing the app… I remember getting a strange sense of pride when I saw the first Andreas Tilliander records in stores because I remembered him from the Buzz mailing list… he’d probably stopped using it but it didn’t stop me getting a weird (and unjustified) sense of justification for my ham-fisted efforts.


They were my favourite too… I think it was the combination of the music and the visuals were just spot on. I liked that their demos felt more like music videos rather than simply just showing off a few whizz-bang effects… It always me years later watching the demo on a decent computer (like a Pentium or some such) that the rotating red fractal mountain could actually rise up and rotate and not give up the ghost a few inches from the bottom of the screen… ahhhh… memories.


I knew a number of associates using Buzz in the early 2000s. Needless to say, crashes mid playback were common, normally on stage in front of an audience. I could never get into it for this reason and I went back to hardware.


Definitely wise… I was never brave enough to use Buzz live. I used to render stems down to MiniDisk and then play back a couple of those along with a couple of other bits and pieces. A first gen ER-1 and Micromodular. Writing drone was great for avoiding the complications of syncing stuff up…


That sounds like a versatile and fun setup you had.


I found some live recordings from circa 2001/2002 a few years ago… was probably more fun for me than the audience.


Great story Ess! I’ve definitely associated Elektron gear with trackers, pretty much ever since I got the Monomachine. Its architecture actually reminds me a little of Buzz.

Yep! The August 1996 issue of PC Format magazine was where it all started for me; I was 12. The coverdisc had a copy of FT2, as well as a bunch of demoscene music (including some by people who I’m still inspired by to this day, like Fleshbrain and Elwood). As soon as I learned how to do more than just play Nibbles, I started ripping off NIN, early Prodigy etc immediately :joy:

In early 2000 I discovered Buzz, which is an open-source, hybrid semi-modular/tracker environment with a lot of flexibility, including individual patterns per track, something I haven’t seen in any other trackers (except maybe Renoise’s phrases, but that’s a little different), which allows for different length patterns to be playing at the same time, much like on recent Elektron gear, except even more flexible; for example, a pattern on one track can be 512 steps long, and play while another track runs through a sequence of shorter patterns. In addition to this, both the modular nature of the effects chains and the quick pattern editing features made Buzz an ideal environment for live experimentation, and as such I played a lot of shows where I started with something basic and built up from there.

In 2012 I switched to Renoise, which I ended up using mostly for my prog synthwave/metal tracks, as by that point I’d started picking up a few pieces of hardware and using those to make my more experimental tracks. That said, I’ve used it for everything from popmash/parody breakcore to skweee :smiley:

I tried LSDJ for a while but it didn’t inspire me as much as when using a keyboard. I can definitely understand why people like it though, and have a ton of respect for those who can make highly original music with it (some of those people being cTrix, They/Them, Calavera and Aquellex).

Anyway, it’s been almost 23 years for me (holy shit!) but I’ll probably love trackers forever :beers: Nothing compares to the precision achieved using channel effect commands!

Ha, I’m actually tempted to try using it like that now. No effects, just 8 sample channels maxed out with sample locks :thinking: if only it were possible to disable interpolation… or link SRR with sample pitch :joy:

Usually people just go for the original DMG, but many prefer using the Color with prosound/bass mod due to the faster CPU. The aforementioned Aquellex apparently makes tracks so complex that they’ll crash a DMG, which I can believe :smiley:

Ha! I’ve actually found that using hex really makes sense for making music. It took me so long to get used to using base 10 for pattern position; I’m still not even 100% confident with it, haha.

Haha, I think I had these, ripped from a track that used them, I used them to make so much terrible acid in the late 90s :laughing:

I love the Unreal / UT / Deus Ex soundtracks so much. Definitely my favourite game soundtracks of all time. I often include little “quotes” from them in my music. Lately I’m obsessed with the somewhat strange chord progressions the composers used, and have been trying to replicate them in some of my own compositions.

Ha, I definitely had this happen. Actually, once it was so bad that I couldn’t even get any sound out of it at all, even after a restart. Had to play MP3s from Winamp :stuck_out_tongue: (which was actually surprisingly common in the Australian electronic scene in the early 2000s; not many of us had PCs powerful enough to render audio realtime without issues).


Anybody care to comment on how close a Digitakt, Machinedrum UW or Octatrack comes to a traditional tracker? Differences? Pros / Cons?

I used these specific Elektron machines because they can sample and it seems that’s a main component of trackers.


I think the Octatrack is probably closest to a traditional sample based tracker out of those three, but Digitakt is pretty close behind… I’ll write some things about OT vs say, FT2, just to keep it a bit more general. If anyone else wants to pitch in, feel free!

OT pros:

  • Effects and all that comes with them
  • Live sampling
  • Multiple outs and ins
  • Time stretching
  • Trig conditions
  • Scenes
  • One of the greatest electronic instruments ever created (imo)

OT cons:

  • 64 steps max pattern length
  • Sample pitch up range is limited without resampling
  • Interpolation by default makes lower pitched samples sound muffled
  • Limited to 8 tracks

FT2 pros:

  • Long patterns possible
  • Simplified song editor, basically just a list of patterns
  • Sample editor is very useful, even if limited by today’s standards
  • Channel commands allow for control of micro-timing, playback position (ie. jump to anywhere in a pattern, or a different pattern altogether), tempo (the one thing I miss with Elektron gear!) etc on a per-step basis
  • Lovely, gritty aliasing if you want it, for spicing up all of your lo-fi Amiga samples
  • Complex amplitude envelopes, with loopable points
  • Samples can be played back with much more pitch range than the OT, making it a breeze to work with single cycle waveforms
  • Nibbles!

FT2 cons:

  • No effects*, apart from what you can build in the pattern editor. For example, if you want a delay you need to use a second channel, offset by a few steps, with the volume on each note reduced. Pitch bend/vibrato/tremolo work via channel commands. You can get a basic chorus by doubling a track and applying vibrato. I actually don’t mind this though.
  • No LFO apart from vibrato/tremolo
  • All tracks in a pattern must be same length^
  • Changes to patterns not possible while playing, apart from recording live playing^
  • Only one “effect” command per channel*^. Though, the volume column in each track allows for some basic pitch and volume based commands in addition to the main effect column.
  • No slicing*. There is a sample start position command, but it works on absolute position, rather than relative/percentage based like on the OT.
  • No trig conditions/probability*. Having said that, you don’t really need the X:X trig conditions in a tracker, as you can make patterns almost as long as you want.
  • No timestretching, but you can use sample start commands to simulate it

* - Available in Renoise
^ - Available in Buzz


Hey cut it out, most of us are gettin on some years around here… :grin:
And don’t worry about it, I’m a good chunk older than you and I’m only just starting to realize what I’ve been doing with my life… :joy:


i was a massive fan of the C64 and Amiga 500/1200 in the late 80s/early 90s.

I messed around with OctaMed and FastTracker into my teens but was pulled in too many directions to focus on it. Fairlight and Future Crew were some of my favs from the demo scene and i would often boot up some games just to listen to the music.

I’ve wasted a lot of time/effort on other pursuits over the years. I recently decided to scratch the itch that was buried deep inside since those early days.

This thread (and forum) makes me feel like i found my people :grin:


The most con on the digitrack is the missing glide/portamento…this is a keyfeature in every tracker i know. Sure you can fake it with the lfo, but thats not really the same. Analog four is definetly the better tracker interface with arp, slide etc…more a synth tracker like on c64 or spectrum…


Ah yes! How could I forget, no arp/portamento on samples! One of the most important things about my favourite tracker music haha


Did you ever look at any amiga .mods?
Portamento: Portamento is used for ‘sliding’ the frequency of the sample.
----------- If portamento is in use, the information contained in the
the info byte will be added to (or subtracted from) the period
of the note playing in each of the five passes.

Example: D#2 3208 Slides down $08
— 0208 Slides down $08
— 0108 Slides up $08
— 0210 Slides down $10 (=16)


Yeah! I definitely studied those PC Format coverdisc MODs.

I guess the OT could be used in a similar way, using LFO to pitch instead of using a native portamento, almost like a portamento command haha


Not to mention slide trigs :wink:


I never remember to use slide trigs :stuck_out_tongue:


I used the hell out of LSDJ too.
Just came across a bunch of that stuff, I may put it up somewhere at some point.


I went down the rabbit hole last night watching videos about trackers and the demoscene including modern demos… Informative good times for sure and I experienced some incredible art… :thup: :thup: