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A Tutorial on Cutting Up a Breakbeat Using a Tracker

By conner_bw in Technology
Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 08:15:52 AM EST
Tags: Music (all tags)

The arcane art of tracking takes what I like to think of as a hacker's approach to making music. The interface is primarily numeric, notes are entered via the keyboard, length, parameters, effects are often entered in hexadecimal notation, and code flies across the screen as if you were looking at the opening credits of The Matrix. What's not to like? This article is a tutorial for beginners, more specifically for nerds with no musical training, on how to start making electronic beats using the most sampled break in the history of recorded music.

Tracker is a generic term for a class of music sequencers that derive from Ultimate Soundtracker, the first of its type, written in 1987 by Karsten Obarski for the Commodore Amiga. A column by kuro5hin's reduz further explains the history and concepts behind trackers for anyone who wants to know more.

A breakbeat is a drum pattern chiefly characterized by it's syncopation and polyrhythms. Breakbeat based music traditionally samples drum sections from old funk and jazz records. Cutting one up is chiefly exemplified by the sub-genre of electronic music known as jungle / drum & bass and is the style we will attempt to emulate in this tutorial.

The breakbeat we will be cutting is "Amen, Brother" by the 60's soul band The Winstons. Nate Harrison's audio installation "Can I get an amen?" is an excellent primer on the history of this particular breakbeat and should be considered required viewing for anyone unfamiliar with jungle / drum & bass.

Even if it turns out you don't particularly enjoy this type of music or sequencer, learning to cut a breakbeat in a tracker is an excellent way for nerds to dive into creating music. No musical training is required to, literally, hack this particular breakbeat and you walk away with the fundamentals necessary for further electronic musical exploration. I'm living proof.

Step 1: Choosing a tracker.

As an OS X user my tracker of choice is Renoise. Fully functional demo versions are available for both Windows and Macintosh users but it costs 49.99 EUR to, among other things, avoid nag screens. An open source alternative for Windows is Modplug. *NIX users might want to have a go at Schism which aims to match the look and feel of the classic Impulse Tracker. There are many different trackers available, the aforementioned are but a few. The concepts presented in this tutorial are as program agnostic as possible but I've been using Renoise exclusively for a few years so I can't pretend to know the other apps. With that said, pick a tracker that jives with your platform or politics and read on.

Step 2: Loading the breakbeat into the sample bank.

When you want to compose in a tracker, you need to use an instrument. The instrument table is where all entries to your instruments reside. It consists of two parts: the instrument index and the sample index. In many trackers nowadays, an instrument index can be filled with a MIDI instrument set, a VST instrument plug-in, and samples.

For the purpose of this tutorial we will be using this Amen, Brother sample provided by MTLDNB.COM. Find your instrument table and load the sample into the first slot. In Renoise, this is the box in the upper-right. Loading a sample is accomplished as follows: Select the first slot in the Instrument Table, click the Disk Browser tab at the top-center, select the Sample radio button, browse your way to "Amen, Brother - The Winstons.wav" and double-click.

Step 3: Adjusting the tempo.

Tempo is the pace of a song. This is determined by the speed (or frequency) of the beat to which it's played. This is described by an integer followed by the abbreviation BPM, which means 'beats per minute' eg, 120 BPM is 120 beats per minute or two per second. The 'beat' is the pulse in the rhythm of the song. When you count '1-2-3-4' in time to a song, you count naturally on each beat.

Beats are the basic units of counting in music. They are what you tap your foot to if the music has an infectious rhythm. If you want to find out the tempo of a song, all you need to do is count the number of beats that occur within a minute, it's that simple!

The tempo for the Amen, Brother breakbeat is approximately 136 BPM. The tempo for jungle / drum & bass, however, fluctuates around 175 BPM. So how do we use a beat that is slower than our desired BPM? The answer is by pitching it up. In practical terms, imagine playing a vinyl record at the wrong speed. In tracking, we want to trigger the sample at a higher pitch than the basenote.

A basenote is an offset position upon which the other key-tones relate. In Renoise, the default basenote is C-4. That means if you haven't messed with the octaves you can play the Amen, Brother in unmodified form by pressing "Z" on your QWERTY keyboard. Pressing other keys on the QWERTY keyboard plays the sample at different speeds, sort of like a piano. Pressing "C" plays the sample at E-4, or 175 BPM. Try it.

Down to business. Since our goal is to cut a breakbeat in jungle / drum & bass style, we want to set the tempo of our song to 175 BPM. In Renoise, double click the number on the right side of BPM located in the upper-left of the GUI and type in 175. Set the Speed to 03 for good measure.

Step 4: Programming the sequence.

In a tracker, sequences of notes are programed in the pattern editor. A pattern can be compared to a page of sheet music. It may contain sets of notes for just one instrument, or it may contain sets for more instruments. This depends on the arrangement tastes of the composer. In this Renoise screenshot, the pattern editor is the the "spreadsheet" taking up space in the middle. The columns are known as tracks, the rows are where you type in notes, instrument numbers, and effects. A note is in the form of note-letter and octave-number such as C-4 or A#3. An instrument number identifies which instrument will be triggered from the instrument table. Like a spreadsheet you can navigate the pattern editor using tabs, page up, page down, home, end, and arrow keys. In order to program a sequence we must be in record mode. In Renoise, you toggle in and out of record mode by pressing escape.

Start by moving the cursor to the left-most track, row 0. With record mode on, press "C" in order to get E-4 to appear in the pattern editor. Move the cursor to row 32 (hexadecimal 20) and press "C" again. Turn record mode off and play the pattern. In Renoise, the play button is in the upper-left of the GUI but it's easier to use the spacebar shortcut to toggle in and out of play mode. You've just created a simple beat pattern.

Now let's try an effect, specifically the sample offset effect. By using this effect we can control from where to start a sample. It is a very valuable effect for beat cutting. In Renoise, sample offset is 09xx where xx is a hexadecimal value between sample start 00 and sample end ff.

Move your cursor into the effect column of row 32 (hexadecimal 20) in the left-most track. You are adding an effect to the note you added in the previous paragraphs. Toggle record mode to on and type in an offset value. In Renoise, 09E7 is a good result. Turn record mode off and play the pattern. Keep doing this at various places in the track with various offsets until you are happy with your beat.

Lost? Here's an example file that I made in Renoise. Load it up and play around in case you got stuck somewhere along the way. Obviously, the caliber of what we have now is just a beginning. It lacks layering, effects and mastering to say the least. Furthermore, like with most everything in computers there is more than one way to do what we just did.

For example, smaller samples make it easier and offer more precision for intricate beat slice timing. The larger your sample, the more generic the offset pointers are. Cutting up your large sample into smaller chunks and loading them one by one into the instrument table can yield interesting results.

Like I said, it's a start... don't stop!

If you would like to know more about tracking check out The Mod Archive, Nectarine Radio, and the Renosie Tutorials Wiki. If you would like to know more about jungle / drum & bass check out Drum & Bass Arena, Dogs On Acid, DNBRADIO.COM and MTLDNB.COM. Bleeding edge producers such as Enduser and Venetian Snares (who have recently admitted to using Renoise themselves) have cult followings and are also worth checking out. Insert a shameless mention of myself here, I've been doing this style since 1996.

I'll do my best to answer questions appended to this story. Happy tracking.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
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Related Links
o Kuro5hin
o A column by kuro5hin's reduz
o "Can I get an amen?"
o I'm living proof
o Renoise
o Modplug
o Schism
o Impulse Tracker
o many
o different
o trackers
o available
o VST instrument plug-in
o this Amen, Brother sample
o In Renoise
o Speed
o In this Renoise screenshot
o Here's an example file
o mastering
o The Mod Archive
o Nectarine Radio
o Renosie Tutorials Wiki
o Drum & Bass Arena
o Dogs On Acid
o Enduser
o Venetian Snares
o recently admitted to using Renoise
o Insert a shameless mention of myself here
o Also by conner_bw

Display: Sort:
A Tutorial on Cutting Up a Breakbeat Using a Tracker | 81 comments (73 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
My History with this stuff (3.00 / 2) (#7)
by mberteig on Sun Nov 13, 2005 at 11:33:28 PM EST

I started out with ScreamTracker on DOS on a 486 PC. Moved to FastTracker and used that for quite a long time. Then moved to Buzz, and used that for a long time too. About a year and a half ago, I've made a big change over to Reason. Reason is a very differnt beast. It still holds some similarity to the trackers, but it has caused me to do some very different types of music. I've got a few bits of my music online. The stuff done with Reason is after the single one listed as done with Buzz.

The cool thing about Reason is the high quality of all the machines you get for synthesis, sample playback and effects. However, there aren't alot of machines. If you listen to any of my stuff you'll see that the sounds vary quite a bit so the limited number of machines isn't that big a deal.

Agile Advice - How and Why to Work Agile
Reason (none / 0) (#27)
by AngelKnight on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 05:39:33 PM EST

This would be the "Reason" no longer available from M-Audio yes?

[ Parent ]
As in Propellerheads Reason (none / 0) (#30)
by D Jade on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 07:13:41 PM EST

It's no longer available from M-Audio because it was part of an education bundle. From memory they were offering two microphones, an Ozone audio interface, reason and a few other softwares for use in schools and by students. I don't think they're doing it anymore.

You're a shitty troll, so stop pretending you have more of a life than a cool dude -- HollyHopDrive
[ Parent ]
I know nothing about this subject (none / 1) (#9)
by Lemon Juice on Sun Nov 13, 2005 at 11:37:11 PM EST

but I know that this fucker knows what he is talking about. +1FP

Mindlessly Propagating a Link (none / 1) (#10)
by MichaelCrawford on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 12:12:29 AM EST

micromusic deserves a mention here. It simply has to be seen - and listened to - to be believed.

What's really great is that these people get together over in clubs in Europe and have parties to this stuff. I don't know for sure, but I imagine they even dance.


Live your fucking life. Sue someone on the Internet. Write a fucking music player. Like the great man Michael David Crawford has shown us all: Hard work, a strong will to stalk, and a few fries short of a happy meal goes a long way. -- bride of spidy

+1 FP (nostalgia) (none / 0) (#12)
by Kurisuteru on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 08:03:41 AM EST

We must not forget the arcane magic that is tracking! An art form in and of itself.

Public Service Announcement (2.00 / 2) (#13)
by durdee on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 08:47:41 AM EST

In general, intricate beat slicing & micro-edits don't add up to a hill of beans when it comes to creating a good song.

Besides, the only people that will truly appreciate your efforts are DORKS!
Fact: You have no insight whatsoever into my motivations, personality, or thought process.

But I'm a dork (none / 1) (#15)
by MichaelCrawford on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 09:54:38 AM EST

and I appreciate his effort.


Live your fucking life. Sue someone on the Internet. Write a fucking music player. Like the great man Michael David Crawford has shown us all: Hard work, a strong will to stalk, and a few fries short of a happy meal goes a long way. -- bride of spidy

[ Parent ]

I'm a sucker for a decent breakbeat (none / 1) (#24)
by Kurisuteru on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 02:05:29 PM EST

But they're few and far between. An even more difficult technique (as used a lot by more 'modern' 'musicians' like Moby) is breaksamples! Don't remember the song now... been a few years... [searches scene.org] Ah! This one if I'm not mistaken.

The guitar work on that one is pure art! Cool tune too..

[ Parent ]
Supplemental Screenshot and Free MP3 Files (none / 0) (#14)
by conner_bw on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 09:16:33 AM EST

A screenshot of what your track should look like when you are done this tutorial.

Free MP3 files from my website, experimental jungle / drum & bass, to get a better idea of where I'm coming from.


the problem with jungle... (3.00 / 2) (#16)
by jolt rush soon on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:14:33 AM EST

...is that if you follow this tutorial, add some new breaks, strings take the retriggering to its logical conclusion, you might end up with something like this.

and yes, i'd also recommend buzz if it wasn't for the incompatibilities and thousands of crashes i've experienced. how about someone makes a version that doesn't allow the third-party machines to crash the entire program.
Subosc — free electronic music.

No problems here! (none / 0) (#17)
by conner_bw on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:35:43 AM EST

Killer stuff.

Nice use of the classic jungle pallete. A little dirty production wise but can't really set a standard for distortion, I guess. I still feel the production could have been handled with a bit more finesse (you are blowing the sub on my flat range monitors, that's not supposed to happen, haha) but i'm into this.

Nice one.

[ Parent ]

Download the base set of applications (none / 0) (#28)
by D Jade on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 06:45:33 PM EST

Don't install the third party programs. Just use VST's or another environment to record your loops.

You're a shitty troll, so stop pretending you have more of a life than a cool dude -- HollyHopDrive
[ Parent ]
but... (3.00 / 2) (#29)
by jolt rush soon on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 07:03:02 PM EST

it's the generators and routing that buzz has that really makes it what it is. sure, i could use a bunch of samples but it's not the sample as playing the synths, filtering different copies of the audio into different effects, sampling and holding in real time and all that kind of fun stuff. if i really wanted to just use samples, i'd use renoise.

i do, however, agree with you on the vst point - i've used some and they've been great.
Subosc — free electronic music.
[ Parent ]

Renoise supports VSTi (3.00 / 2) (#31)
by conner_bw on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 07:17:34 PM EST

I dunno when the last time you looked at Renoise was but it supports VSTi which in 2005 is a whole lot of synthesizers, not just samples.

Buzz is still pretty hardcore though, nice one.

[ Parent ]

Buzz is great... but... (none / 1) (#34)
by D Jade on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 07:55:02 PM EST

See, I love Buzz... James Holden got me into Buzz and a guy called Nathan Fake who did all of their work in Buzz. But then a friend of mine introduced me to Reaktor... If you can get your hands on a copy... work it.

You can use pre-built synths, or you can build your own from scratch (yes from scratch!!!). You can create drum machines, custom-made sequencers & effects... Anything you can think of... Check it!

You're a shitty troll, so stop pretending you have more of a life than a cool dude -- HollyHopDrive
[ Parent ]

Nathan Fake uses Buzz? (none / 0) (#54)
by frenetik on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 10:46:06 AM EST

Can you tell me more about that? Any references?

Not putting in doubt what you're saying, just curious...

"The sky was pink", awesome track!

Friends are like plants. They need attention and they need to drink. -- SPYvSPY
[ Parent ]

Actually, I'm wrong (none / 0) (#60)
by D Jade on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 06:06:29 PM EST

Nathan Fake has never used Buzz. It's just James Holden that did. I was sure that the interview said that Nathan Fake did use it. But that was two years ago... Old brain she ain't what she used to be.

The Sky was Pink is awesome. Also another one to check is Dinamo which had Coheed on the B-Side.

You're a shitty troll, so stop pretending you have more of a life than a cool dude -- HollyHopDrive
[ Parent ]

The routing is great. (none / 0) (#43)
by D Jade on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:29:48 PM EST

If that's what you like about it, you should check out NI Reaktor. It's awesome!

It lets you design and build your own instruments, samplers, effects and sound design tools. So not only can you chain effects and generators, you can also design them and also design interfaces to control them, sequence them and so on and so on. The possibilities are only limited by you. The other great thing is that you can build generators and then use them as VSTi's or VSTfx in another software package.

If you like the object oriented approach of Buzz, get a copy of Reaktor now...

You're a shitty troll, so stop pretending you have more of a life than a cool dude -- HollyHopDrive
[ Parent ]

levels of modularity (none / 0) (#80)
by usr on Sun Nov 27, 2005 at 06:02:56 PM EST

reaktor is basically a max/pd clone with a more mouse-oriented interface. the level of modularity in buzz is more like that of a typical vst host, just with that fixed "mixer" paradigm replaced by a more flexible wiring paradigm, i guess it's a bit like 1-button mouse vs n-button mouse. reaktor would only be comparable if you could load other vsts like subpatches. we have started to call that "mid-level modular" over here in the buzz universe. oh, and another thing: reaktor is no tracker - personally i'm not too fond of the tracker interface (haven't found anything that works better for me though, still i don't like it much) but there are people who care a lot (otoh those tend to dislike buzz because of other breaks with tracker traditionalism)

[ Parent ]
FastTrackerII Rules!! (none / 1) (#18)
by andr0meda on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 12:46:00 PM EST

I have quite a history in tracking.  I made 70 tunes and I was a big fan of all the Americans and the French in the tracking scene, Necros, Bashead and of course Dune to name a few..  I never published any of my stuff in any major way, because I thought back then that my music sucked, but in fact when I listen to it today, a lot of it was pretty much before it`s time.  And of course I had a lousy sampleset, and some of the compositions were really very weird.  I think tracking is one of the first lost digital arts.  It`s from a period where mouse interfaces were competing with text interfaces, and when wavelet compression wasn`t even invented. I loved to sweat before a looping screen, trying to wringe out that exact sound, get the balance and the sound layers exactly as thick as necessary.  It was an exercise in persistance and perfectionism that I think many people nowadays can`t even imagine. 2 of my tunes featured in 2 demo`s, one tune featured in a diskmag (another lost art), and many modules were both loved and hated by a range of people.

This music of me will become available soon (in rendered format) on my homepage.

Do not be afraid of the void my friend, is it not merely the logical next step?

Why rendered? (none / 0) (#22)
by Kurisuteru on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 01:52:13 PM EST

Some of the charm is having the actual .xm files... or .s3m for us ScreamTracker folks. Now _that_ was a  superb tracker.

I wonder, does Impulse Tracker run in dosemu? It ran fine on Windows XP with some soundblaster-emu app I can't remember the name of. But I've recently gone all-64bit Gentoo...

[ Parent ]

Yep (none / 0) (#50)
by andr0meda on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:06:32 AM EST

It was.. I think I can still remember a lot of the keycombo's if I'd sit down today behind that vale yellow dos screen again :) I never got anything to work decently with my crappy SB, not ina DOS-EMU. I've been impressed with Rebirth and Reason back when these products were still in their infancy, and since then I have slowly been moving away from the tracker scene. However, I've yet to buy me some decent synth to work in these tools properly, but real-life has sort of taken over my savings account.. Would be nice to actually track again some time, just for old times sake.

Do not be afraid of the void my friend, is it not merely the logical next step?
[ Parent ]
ft2 sucks, long live IT! (none / 0) (#26)
by smyrf1 on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 03:56:51 PM EST

andromeda, weren't you a member of Noise?

Wow I didn't think I'd encounter old sceners here on kuro5hin.. though I must say I've barely come here anymore for the last year or so actually - just created an account now to write this! hah!

And yeah I now use Renoise, which sucks cos I have to get used to the ft2 interface..argh! If only that IT3 project had actually been finished...  

In case you're wondering, I was a co-founder of Cloudnine, which then merged with Onyx to form Blackhole (mostly goa/trance). went by the handle "turrican".

[ Parent ]

Ah the old FT vs IT debate... (none / 0) (#36)
by D Jade on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 08:08:41 PM EST

Some things never change...

You're a shitty troll, so stop pretending you have more of a life than a cool dude -- HollyHopDrive
[ Parent ]
Dreaded nick conflicts (none / 0) (#51)
by andr0meda on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:12:59 AM EST

Well I guess there was A andromeda in Noise at some point, however, I have records at scene.org that prove I was there first.  Back then I was in groups like Aim Higher, Green, Tranceport, Insecabilis and Itsari, most of them pretty much unknown formations.  

I remember you turrican. I loved Cloudnine!  But I must say that from 1998 onwards I haven't been following the music scene as much as the general demoscene.  For some reason I lost interest, probably because there was just too much good stuff to remember all of it, and because a lot of stuff was being rendered to mp3 format, making tracking somewhat a secondary quality approach to making music, which I preferred more than the 'real' general music scene.

I should check out Renoise someday, I hear lots of good thigns about it.  I'm a bit of a Reason convert myself nowadays..

Do not be afraid of the void my friend, is it not merely the logical next step?
[ Parent ]

cloudnine (none / 0) (#52)
by smyrf1 on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 09:19:21 AM EST

Wow, I'm flattered you actually knew me ;) I can't say that I actually released all that much, and wasn't very much in the limelight. I've similarly lost touch with the whole scene for a long time now, but for me it was vice versa - I followed the expanding music scene for quite a while still but drifted apart from the world of demos.. though I do pay the rare visit to eg. pouet.net every now and then, get nostalgic for a few days, then forget all about it again! =)

So you followed c9 then? But I agree about mp3's and previously multitrack trackers leading to the downfall of the art of squeezing great music into few tracks - for me, I prefer to listen to great but maybe not perfectly mixed music than a technically perfect tune with little inspiration. I also miss the magic of the early (demo)scene..

I actually just found out about a week ago that an old track of mine - which I'd sent to an ex group member (Euji Acha, who went on to form Nenfiir-Sadefrex) - was released after all, two years ago! I hadn't heard back from him and assumed he didn't like it enough or something. It's on the Fortitude EP, on http://nenfiir-sadefrex.com/old.html, if you're interested.

Ok... I was just going to ask of your background, went to your site... and realised you're also in Belgium?! haha, de wereld is klein! I'm in Wallonie (though grew up in Australia), but work in Brussels - that is, till about a month ago.

PS, last thing, I vaguely remember Green; was Nexus a member at one stage by any chance? In any case it was someone I knew..

[ Parent ]

More Blatant Shamelessness, I Wrote This Story. (3.00 / 3) (#19)
by conner_bw on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 12:52:25 PM EST

If this kind of musical aesthetic interests you then check out Trotch, an experimental drum & bass label I operate genuinely doing new stuff in this genre, believe the hype! We're strictly underground. We sell at gigs, hand to hand to peers, and mail-order. Collectable oddities for posterity's sake to say the least. When you mail-order you deal directly with me. Your support is appreciated.


question about renoise (none / 1) (#20)
by tylermoody on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 01:21:40 PM EST

I've been playing around with renoise since I read your article, and I can't figure out how to change between the segments of my song. On the vertical frame on the left side of the window I've got sections 0-5, all highlighted so they'll play one after the other, but if I want to work on section 4, I've got to play my song until that section. how do I jump from section to section while editing?

[ Parent ]
Pattern Or Block? (none / 0) (#23)
by conner_bw on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 01:56:03 PM EST

If you want to work on a single pattern in a sequence of patterns look for the toggle loop button. If you want to work on a section of a single pattern look for the toggle blockplay checkmark

More info:
Player Control-Panel
Pattern Sequencer

Good luck.

[ Parent ]

i ordered a cd a while ago (none / 1) (#21)
by Linux or FreeBSD on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 01:37:53 PM EST

it is <3

[ Parent ]
Thanks. (none / 0) (#25)
by conner_bw on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 02:19:11 PM EST


[ Parent ]
I pirated one. (none / 0) (#63)
by bighappyface on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 02:13:43 PM EST


[ Parent ]
If it's the whole album then thanks. (none / 1) (#65)
by conner_bw on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 04:40:19 PM EST

If you're gonna pirate then please do it proper. Those 4 songs linked from the website then ain't the whole thing. Share the context, not the promo and I can get behind that.

[ Parent ]
Rosegarden (none / 0) (#32)
by schrotie on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 07:26:23 PM EST

I'm not into digital music - at least not into making it - rather the good old analog stuff with instruments and the like. Anyway, I occasionally use Rosegarden for composing and testing arrangements before bothering the band. Why is it not mentioned by anybody? It used to be rather unstable but has improved considerably. Is it still considered unworthy or is it simply the wrong tool for the job?

Also, I use Ardour a lot for mixing and adding effects. Shouldn't that be useful for you guys too? Maybe it's just that nobody here is into Linux?

Rosegarden, Ardour... (none / 0) (#39)
by conner_bw on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:10:21 PM EST

You just mentioned them.


[ Parent ]

List of Bad Ideas(TM) (none / 0) (#67)
by der on Thu Nov 17, 2005 at 12:15:54 AM EST

  • Sequencers that depend on KDE

[ Parent ]
My issue with this article (none / 0) (#33)
by D Jade on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 07:42:43 PM EST

Is that you said it was a tutorial, and then basically promoted how good trackers are. You sort of told us how to track a breakbeat, but not really. All you really did was showed us how to load a sample and then you told us to speed it up by pitching it up and how to cut the offset so there's no lag on the sample.

This isn't really a tutorial.

You got some terminology wrong as well. The beat is not a pulse. That pulse is a kick. A beat is a measure of time as decided by the tempo. By your definition, a 170BPM drum and bass track with a kick on the first beat and then on the fifth off-beat would not be 170bpm, it would be 85bpm (as you would know when looking at a BPM counter). The distinction between beat and kick is very important.

It's not that I don't like the article but to call this a tutorial is a pretty big lie, it's a promotion. You haven't mentioned any of the limitations that are apparent in most tracking software. Things like the overcomplexity of tracking software interfaces, difficult automation procedures, limited FX capabilities. I like tracking software but it's not very useful these days in comparison to other visual editors with much stronger features and higher usability that lets you do the same job in in half the time.

I mean, if you're suggesting a package for beginners (even nerds) you'd be better off telling them about FLStudio. It's the easiest software package to start learning on.

And I can't believe that you're using OSx and you don't use decent software...

You're a shitty troll, so stop pretending you have more of a life than a cool dude -- HollyHopDrive

Addendum (none / 0) (#35)
by D Jade on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 07:56:32 PM EST

I'm not bagging out your article, just want to make that clear.

I just wish you had sat on the idea for a little bit longer and developed it further. It's along the same topic that I wanted to write about (home audio production) but in a different sphere. Would have loved a more detailed look at tracking software... that's all I'm saying.

You're a shitty troll, so stop pretending you have more of a life than a cool dude -- HollyHopDrive
[ Parent ]

Addendum, Too (none / 1) (#38)
by conner_bw on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 09:55:31 PM EST

I'm not bagging out your reply, just retaliating with the same level of hostility you chose to write me. Tracking ain't for everyone (i even mention this in the article, did you even read it? haha) but it's a start. You seem to know at thing or two and maybe have even more to prove, so go nuts! Write the intermediate article! I'll vote it up! Good luck.

[ Parent ]
I meant to be blunt, not hostile... (none / 0) (#41)
by D Jade on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:23:50 PM EST


I am taking no offense to your responses. That's why I made an addendum so that you know that it's all in the spirit of debate.

You're a shitty troll, so stop pretending you have more of a life than a cool dude -- HollyHopDrive
[ Parent ]

Thanks. (none / 1) (#44)
by conner_bw on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:33:48 PM EST

Good debate, i'll keep it in the other thread, above this one, from here though.

Nice one.

[ Parent ]

You sound like a prick. (none / 1) (#48)
by Entendre Entendre on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:37:29 AM EST

So what do you expect?

Reduce firearm violence: aim carefully.
[ Parent ]

Haha, amazing. (none / 1) (#37)
by conner_bw on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 09:43:39 PM EST

First off, any promotion I have done is in the comments like this one. Not in the article itself, Read it again.

Secondly, the article shows beginners how to tackle a tracker by cutting a simple breakbeat, That's what it says in the intro and that's what it does. Most people launch a tracker and turn off to use something like Fruity Loops ( *shudder* ). As a person who admits to limitations of music making, you really don't qualify as a beginner now do you? Remember what it was like to BEGIN? Probably not.

Finally, if the article was inadequate it would not have made it through voting. Nerds and coders, know what they are into? The ones like me? The ones that grep shit at the prompt? The ones that still think emacs/vi are fucking awesome text editors? You using Fruit Loops... My guess is no.

In terms of tracker limitations, sure there are some. However, it looks to me like the last time you looked at a tracker was in the mid 90's because, frankly, difficult automation procedures and limited FX capabilities ain't on the list for your contemporary tracker.

Anyway, I hear you. I encourage you to write an article. If mine was lacking... all that can be done is to write a better one. I can't not support that. Good luck!

[ Parent ]

hehe (none / 0) (#40)
by D Jade on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:16:05 PM EST

Like I said in my addendum, I wanted more or less of one or the other.

Last time I used a tracker was last week, and they still suck IMO. I liked the work that you had linked to from here. I downloaded it all and had a listen. Nice beats, but they sound like they've been done on trackers. That's all I'm saying. But this isn't a debate about your article, that's one about our chosen platforms.

FLStudio is a shit package once you know what you're doing, that's not what I was saying though. In terms of ease of use (for nerds or otherwise) it's the best package to start out learning how digital audio works.

The problem with trackers is that I don't think they're really designed for beginners (in this day and age). A nerd with no knowledge of digital audio production is not going to be able to write much with the advice you've given here. Although, you're right, it's a good start. I've started a lot of people down the path of digital audio and they all got lost when I just started explaining the concept of trackers (even the nerds). So I've sat a number of people down in front of FLStudio to help them grasp the basic concepts of digital audio... Interestingly, after they become competent on FLStudio, I can then show them how to use trackers.

I'm not trying to pick on your article, I just wanted to encourage discussion.

As for my article in progress, I wanted to write a piece giving a run-down of the software packages, types of software/hardware/whatever that are being used in digital audio today. I haven't started it yet though because I don't know about every piece and I'm looking for more input. You seem to know more about the areas I know less of so if you're interested in collaborating... I'd be open.

And in terms of software, I had used Logic for my final mixdowns until recently when Ableton Live 5.01 came out... and my life has never been the same since. My girlfriend doesn't recognise me, my parents think I'm dead... Work's still wondering where I've been (ehehehe)... We can debate about any and every software package out there, except Ableton though... If you think anything is better than Ableton... you are wrong, it's that simple :-P

It is the master... Anything you want to do, it does... and then some more...

Not sure if you've used it, but if you haven't I'd really suggest checking it out. You can create dj sets, tracks and arrangements, record audio in on the fly and then play it straight away... oh man, it blows me away. I don't know if you've ever heard of a guy called Phil K, but he's a massive dj and he was telling me about how he uses it the other day - he blew my mind more than Ableton did with possibilities... Like I said, anything you can think of.

You're a shitty troll, so stop pretending you have more of a life than a cool dude -- HollyHopDrive
[ Parent ]

Cool, good discussion! (none / 1) (#42)
by conner_bw on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 10:27:00 PM EST

I have peers who use Fruity Loops, it's a good app. I'm, not really discing it, I was just hitting hard because you came at me saying I use shit apps on OS X. If you ain't into Trackers that's cool but a lot of people are, and enough of them were interested to vote this through, so good for me I guess.

Contemporary Trackers are pretty solid. Long gone are the days of FT2 and Scream-tracker, although I regret nothing from those days. The tutorial is about trackers for beginners, it's definitely their prerogative to switch to another paradigm but on Kuro5hin it's a given that interest in them is there.

My latest album was mastered in Pro Tools. Live is cool, i've used it, but I'm sticking with Renoise. I know what's going on now, I'm not oblivious to what most are using. I just enjoy tracking and making music is about fun so this is the path I chose for me. I saw you drop a progressive house DJ name as a mentor in another reply somewhere in here, all good. Different strokes for different folks. I'm an admin at MTLDNB.COM, check it. On point in terms of breaks culture but not a majority of tracker, for sure. It doesn't mean they are irrelevant. It's just one way. The way this article proposed and addressed.

Your article sounds cool. It might be a tough sell on a site that isn't musicians (trackers ease by because they have oldschool lineage, haha) but I'm interested. Good luck with it!

[ Parent ]

Phil K is breaks man breaks! (none / 0) (#45)
by D Jade on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:29:58 PM EST

He's not really a mentor, just a friend in my local scene. He's fucked in the head, that's all I can say. To quote him, "I make a sound and then I spend a few hours just twisting it man. I'll just fuck it up. It doesn't matter what it is but I won't play anything that's not fucking twisted!" He's a headcase. But don't tell him he plays prog... he'll hit the roof hehe.

You mightn't be dissing fruitys, but I am. I've used it since version one. It's great for making drum loops. But that's about it. The issue with it is that it's very hardware dependent. If you don't have a good soundcard, you won't get an even half decent sound (even after rendering) without a lot of effort. The other problem with it is that it doesn't support overrecord for automation or anything like that. It makes editing your automation really painful... However, for the price, it's acceptable I suppose.

Fruitys is really good for drumloops though and quickly compiling loops or hits to use elsewhere. The other issue that I have with fruitys is that it's really hard to create MIDI assignments for your VSTi plugins unless they have a built in menu to do so. Most other packages I've used have better functions for this kind of thing.

Live is an awesome package. You can write a track from scratch in it and then once you've written all of the parts, record the arrangement live just by pushing buttons. I've only been using it for a few months. I think in the long term, I will use it mainly for live performances.

If you're in it for the fun though I'd definitely check out Ableton. See, what you can do is render loops and parts from all your different tracks and then pull them into live and perform live with them.

I'm not sure what audio interface you use (obviously) but you can switch between solo and cue functionality. What this does is that when you push the solo button instead of muting all the other channels, it sends the chosen signal to your headphone or other output on the interface, very cool for road-testing during live performance.

The other cool thing about Live is that you can record audio into it while you're playing something else. So you can mix a beat and then record it in and Live will loop it for you automatically. You can also load up wav, mp3, ogg and aiff files to mix in as well. So you can take any other artist's choonz you love and incorporate them into your live set!

I'm not sure if you dj as well but if you do you probably have some choonz that you wish you could easily edit to suit your mixing style better. I know I do. Live is really good for that too, you can put a solid edit together in less than 20 minutes... Assuming you're just re-editing the track arrangement, that is.

Anyway, I'm on a rant. A few questions for you. What's the license on Renoise (freeware/commerical)? And what other software/hardware do you use? Do you do your own mastering?

I'm curious to know because I liked your sounds...

You're a shitty troll, so stop pretending you have more of a life than a cool dude -- HollyHopDrive
[ Parent ]

I was talking James Holden (none / 1) (#47)
by conner_bw on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 12:06:22 AM EST

I've played with Live. It's what many of my peers are using and they give me the same sales pitch you do. No doubt it's solid but Renoise is where I'm at. It's 49.99 EUR Shareware.

I don't do my own mastering. A friend of mine who's a sound engineer for films/elecrtoacoustics at one the local universities does it (he's also a DJ in a breaks crew called Broken) did it for me on my last project. Has access to all the latest gear, software, plug-ins etc.

As to what I own, here's a picture of my modest studio.

Imac G5- 1.8GHz M-Audio Firewire Audiphile
Edirol MA-20D Monitors
Oxygen-8 Midi Controller
Behringer UB802 Mixer (bring the noise!)
Bass & Guitar
Numark CD-Mix 1 (not pictured)
Ibook G4 with DJ apps (not pictured)
VST/VSTi Plugins, Wav Editors, Samples, Flavor Of The Month, Etc.

Pissing contests, good times.

If you ever get around to the article and want me to have a go at it, gimme a shout.


[ Parent ]

Nice one... (none / 0) (#49)
by D Jade on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 01:20:50 AM EST

That's a similar setup to mine. At the moment I'm running

Intel D desktop & 2gb RAM
Edirol M-30 Midi Controller
Evolution UC-33 Midi Pad Controller (AWESOME)
M-Audio Firewire 410
Behringer Truth Monitors
Accoustic and Electric Guitar
SL-1200s & DJM 600

Ableton, Logic, VST's to boot, Reaktor (Wikkid)

I'm saving up for some CDJ's as well. But a few people have recommend the new Numark ones to me but I know nothing about them...

I gotta say the best investment I've made lately was the UC-33. It's a pad controller that's laid out like an 8 channel mixing desk, great for doing mixdowns. I'd recommend it to every man and his dog.

Your setup looks sweet bro. Mine's currently set up on the kitchen table while I convert my spare room into a workspace.

Hey, I checked out your website too, signed up... very cool.

You're a shitty troll, so stop pretending you have more of a life than a cool dude -- HollyHopDrive
[ Parent ]

So what do you recommend? (none / 0) (#73)
by p3d0 on Thu Nov 17, 2005 at 10:43:12 PM EST

Patrick Doyle
My comments do not reflect the opinions of my employer.
[ Parent ]
Memories (none / 0) (#46)
by scorbett on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 11:45:38 PM EST

I thought trackers had long since gone the way of the dodo. I remember back in the day playing around with ScreamTracker 3 to hack together some background music for the games I was writing at the time. I still have some of my stuff available online, though I was never very good. I moved to Impulse Tracker briefly, near the end, but quit tracking altogether shortly after graduation. That was eight years ago.

Well damn, now I feel old... Nice trip down memory lane though, thanks.

dude (none / 0) (#58)
by zenofchai on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 03:38:38 PM EST

I had no idea you were such a badass. Shit.
The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
[ Parent ]
I believe the expression is LOL WHAT (none / 0) (#59)
by scorbett on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 05:32:12 PM EST

Unless my sarcasm detector is broken, in which case never mind.

[ Parent ]
must be broken (none / 0) (#62)
by zenofchai on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 09:49:58 AM EST

Because I don't often do the "text sarcasm" thing, and that was not one of those times. My only published cliam to fame is the lame K5 graph. I wish I had the commitment to, once I've conceived of a game, to complete it and publish it, regardless of outcome.
The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
[ Parent ]
One from the peanut gallery (none / 1) (#53)
by conner_bw on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 10:39:52 AM EST

This tip comes from pro_xy over at Renoise.Com:

If you cut a break properly, where it is 4 or 8 beats in the sample, you can get to the snares/bass kicks simply by doing an offset from 0-10-20 ... A0 etc. It's a much more efficient way of writing breaks.

Also - if you use this method, you can layer breaks with the same offset and get a groove that you wouldn't have been able to obtain otherwise.

ANY rythmic sample broken up in base 4/16/32/64/etc. follows the rules I mentioned. When you write a break and have the 0x10 number in mind, you can write cut-up breaks without having to go back and look at the waveform.

Cutting a break, in this sense, means breaking it into parts. This can be done in Renoise's Internal Sample Editor or an application like Audacity.

Good luck.

URLs to Linux Trackers (none / 0) (#56)
by conner_bw on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 11:32:47 AM EST

Sountracker, like you mentioned.
SKALE (binary only, compiled under RedHat 9.0)
Schism Tracker
Cheese Tracker

Have fun.

[ Parent ]
Nice article (none / 1) (#55)
by stuaart on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 11:20:39 AM EST

Has made me want to take up tracking again.

Anyone got any recommended s/w for GNU/Linux? I've used Soundtracker before and that seems pretty sweet. I also want to hook up my digital piano via midi to some crazy modular synth program. Any recommendations there?

Linkwhore: [Hidden stories.] Baldrtainment: Corporate concubines and Baldrson: An Introspective

URLs To Linux Trackers (none / 1) (#57)
by conner_bw on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 11:34:23 AM EST

Sountracker, like you mentioned.
SKALE (binary only, compiled under RedHat 9.0)
Schism Tracker
Cheese Tracker

Have fun.

[ Parent ]
Reminescing (none / 0) (#61)
by duck0 on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 08:17:13 AM EST

Why, this certainly took me back. I remember also that the best mods were those done without actually sampling ready-made beats (with some exceptions), but built off single instrument sounds.

Maybe it's time to go power up the old amiga.

I hear you. (none / 0) (#64)
by Lisa Dawn on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 03:07:21 PM EST

I'd like to see an article on sequencing beats from scratch. Every one I've read goes on about cutting up existing stuff, but it's not actually all that hard to start with nothing (and it will teach you more about rythm & groove during the practice.)

[ Parent ]
anyone remember Cubicplayer? (or cubeplayer...) (none / 0) (#66)
by xutopia on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 11:23:11 PM EST

I remember using that under Dos. It was absolutely amazing to see sound come out of such small files.

Gravis ultrasound emulation...mmmmm.... (none / 0) (#68)
by gmol on Thu Nov 17, 2005 at 03:04:49 AM EST

[ Parent ]
Trackers are for hippies. (none / 0) (#69)
by Wealthy Foreign Investor on Thu Nov 17, 2005 at 01:27:31 PM EST

Get a fucking midi sampler and synth etc already.
Ah yes, the good 'old (none / 1) (#70)
by mentalfloss on Thu Nov 17, 2005 at 04:27:46 PM EST

Hey Conner :) It's good to see trackers are still being developed. My evolution was Musiccalc (C64), ST2, ST3, IT and then Buzz. Now I use Reason and Live exclusively, though I can't say I'm writing anything actively... mostly listening, digesting and DJing. I'm mostly poking my face in here to reconnect with others I used to chat with long ago. Sorry to be a contact whore. May as well be a link whore, too: http://www.mentalfloss.ca

KFMF/Kosmic/Etc (none / 0) (#74)
by conner_bw on Thu Nov 17, 2005 at 11:17:29 PM EST

Nice one!

[ Parent ]
thats nothing (none / 0) (#71)
by auraslip on Thu Nov 17, 2005 at 09:27:02 PM EST

I sampled the kick drum on van morrisons brown eyed girl.

(shameless self promotion)

*sigh* converted from an editorial comment. (none / 0) (#72)
by tzanger on Thu Nov 17, 2005 at 09:54:03 PM EST

I did some very simple stuff way back in the day when Scream Tracker was king.  I pulled out the hard drive that had all my samples and the hundreds of in-progress songs and experiments and it was a real trip down memory lane.
 http://www.mixdown.ca/~andrew/dump/asong/ has a few of them recorded to mp3.  I actually got Scream Tracker working with the old Gravis Ultrasound Max under DOSEMU, then jacked the output into the line in on a laptop to record.  :-)

I've been contemplating digging all that shit out again and learning how to do it properly with MIDI but it's been a looooooooooong time now (10-13 years!) and the time constraints are harder to work within.  I always lived in awe of the greats such as Dr. Awesome ... people who could make 4 channels sound like an entire symphony.

Thanks for this article... it's renewed my interest in this yet again...  

Encouraging Article (none / 0) (#75)
by jimekus on Sat Nov 19, 2005 at 06:25:50 PM EST

Hi, I design my own personal life-based AI BPM software system in VB6 with an API to VB.Net. It was designed around my large CD collection. Currently I make my own Tracker but in an unusual way in that it takes its score from a spinning Hamiltonian graph. The graphs themselves are rather remarkable in that they can describe a person's thoughts or feelings as easily as they can the weather or earthquake patterns. The software can search the net for interesting data patterns, which can be turned into music. With such a level of abstraction now available to me for composing, I've no need for the old time trackers, yet after reading the current thread on Trackers, I'm willing to try to control one from my own software. Please help me get this to someone in the know. The thing is that I also liked Scream Tracker in the 1996 era but now I need, not just to create music. I need to create it using Winamp to control the tempo of a Win32 Tracker. In turn Winamp is controlled from my own software, called Ingrid. Ingrid supplies the Hamiltonian stuff along with Grooves and Motifs, with Genre and normalized BPM based autotuning remix kits, drum sets, etc., currently via DirectMusic. Does anyone know how to help me interface my Ingridx tempo to a modern Win32 Tracker API and which one is best. Thanks.

Need a little more info on motivation (none / 0) (#76)
by splitpeasoup on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 01:14:51 AM EST

I'm trying to understand this article without actually installing software. My question is: why?

Sounds like 'cutting' consists of taking a sequence of drum notes and isolating each individual one (e.g. bass, snare, bass, bass, snare) and then 'tracking' consists of putting them back together in a manner consistent with the original rhythm.

My question is: why? Why not just start with individual bass, snare, hi-hat sounds, etc, and put them together in a tool like Acid Xpress? I'm obviously missing something here.

"Be the change you wish to see in the world." - Gandhi

Different Stokes (none / 0) (#77)
by conner_bw on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 09:26:53 AM EST

A few of my peers use Acid. Ragga jungle hits from the last 5 years come to mind. It's just a different paradigm, that's all. In computer music making paradigms, trackers have a very long history and many people are too intimidated to even try one. This article proposes that it's not that difficult to get started. Cutting a break-beat is an easy way to do this.

[ Parent ]
Sample generations (none / 0) (#78)
by jonny 290 on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 05:55:00 PM EST

My question is: why? Why not just start with individual bass, snare, hi-hat sounds, etc, and put them together in a tool like Acid Xpress? I'm obviously missing something here.

Yep, and that 'something' is often what we call 'air'.

Take a kick, snare and hihat drum loop, and put it on a record in 1960.

Re-press it anywhere from three to a dozen times, cut the loop from the record, put it in a digital sampler and put some effects on it.

Press THAT track in vinyl (we're maybe around 1988).

Put that record in a crate for 15 years, have some DJ dig it out. Have him use that sample for his new track, which he presses to cd.

The multiple generations of degradation/compression/mastering adds a 'chunky' looped feel to a breakbeat that you just don't get with straight sequenced drums.
-- brojames@ductape.net ----here to flip the script and channel your aggression inside----
[ Parent ]
That's why god invented dub plates... (none / 0) (#79)
by durdee on Thu Nov 24, 2005 at 03:11:16 AM EST

Fact: You have no insight whatsoever into my motivations, personality, or thought process.
[ Parent ]
Nobody has mentioned... (none / 0) (#81)
by nub on Tue Nov 29, 2005 at 02:11:00 AM EST

...what is, in my opinion, the best mod tracker ever. PlayerPRO. It used to be shareware, but has since been made free and open source. It's a Mac Carbon app, and kind of unstable, which is why I'm assuming it never made it big. (Aside from being a sample-based tracker in the world of Reason and Cubase)It has a ton of interface options, and full support for MOD, S3M, and XM. It has partial support for Impulse files, and doesn't export very well to them, but XM is plenty good. Also, it can export to AIFF. I think the interface is the best thing about it, though. I can't read normal tracker notation. Too complex. If, however, you can read musical notation, you can use PPro pretty effectively.

Linky: http://amonre.org/pplounge/

A Tutorial on Cutting Up a Breakbeat Using a Tracker | 81 comments (73 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
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