Could Renoise Go Microtonal?


I’m new here. I’ll introduce myself properly if it looks like I’ll be sticking around… But first of all I have a suggestion:

You may or may not be familiar with microtonal music and alternative tunings. I myself recently got turned onto them when I started to find conventional tuning a little hackneyed for some applications. Some synths like Absynth allow you to import tuning lists, allowing you to play scales other than the standard 12-tone equal temperament.

How easy would it be to have Renoise (which is easily the most advanced tracker in existence as far as I can see) be able to import a tuning file, preferably from Scala, for use with it’s sample playback engine?

This would add another dimension of power to the Renoise arsenal and would also possibly attract a whole niche-market of microtonal composers to Renoise.

Scala can be found here and it’s fascinating to play with:
This program makes the scale, lets you hear/play it onscreen, and then dumps all the info into a scale file which can be read by compatible programs easily.

Note that microtonal music doesn’t have to be completely wacky, even though some of it is. Many microtonal scales are very similar to 12tET (the standard Western scale that all trackers use) but are just different enough that listeners know something cool is happening to the music. Possibly they will think it is some neat DSP trick breathing new life into the melody/chords/whatever (I did until I learned about it).

Anyway, since I’m a proud Renoise owner and I know the developers are interested in user suggestions (and that inroads are being made into making the timing-element of Renoise even more powerful) I figured I’d throw my tuning suggestion onto the table. My apologies if this has been suggested before, I did a quick search for ‘microtone’ and ‘microtonal’ and didn’t get any results back.

Well, have at it :D

Absurdist Lover

i think this is an interesting suggestion and, the marketing appeal angle of drawing composers that utilize non-western notation is certainly signifigant.

i personally have never had occasion to write music that’s off the western scale. it would be fun to play with, but it’s not really a priority for me.

Absolutely! People who want to use nonstandard tuning are very limited in the synths they can use and it’s a mark of distinction if an instrument covers these possibilities.

I make IDM, synthpop, drillbeats etc… and I’m happy with standard tuning but when you hear the subtle possibilities offered by tuning it’s a real ear-opener. Given that almost everything has been done before these days it’s important to be able to define your own sound and give yourself an edge and tuning is a powerful way to do this. An example is Just Intonation which has exactly the same layout as 12tET but each key you can compose in or modulate to has a slightly different flavour (as opposed to all keys being the same in 12tET apart from the frequency of the tonic).

I agree, it is an interesting suggestion. And I think it could be implemented using the new, open instrument format (version 1.8+).

If someone created a thirdparty instrument editor that transposed each key slightly to create the micro tunings, there would be no need for the renoise developers to make this functionality.

Once, during FastTracker2 times, I had a simple yet effective idea to achieve microtonal scales: I had two copies of the same instrument, one of which had its samples tuned at a quarter tone less than the other.

Having the ImpulseTracker ability to share samples amongst different instruments would of course save a lot of memory in such case

The idea is good, but it would work for (middle-eastern style) quarter tone scales only, not more exotic tunings such as slendro/gamelan.

I think it should be doable.
Years ago I remember reading a tutorial on how to do it in trackers by fine tuning the samples.

Putting a tuning cross-reference table for zones would work for the built-in “sampler” instruments.

However, there is no way ASFAIK of implementing generic microtonal scales for hosted VSTi:s though. It has to be done in the plugin itself.
ugly but interesting site. has a list of vsti’s that support microtonal

You can always save your samplekit and design an app that applies different tuningschemes of the samples upon the instrument xml file

I believe TobyBear did some MIDI plugin that could translate a “normal” sequence of notes to microtonal scales on the fly, by using the pitchbend. How this could be made to work with Renoise, I dont know…

EDIT: It’s called MicroTune, part of his “MIDIBag” collection of plugins …

i think i had proposed this idea a long time ago with no luck .
but im glad to see it would be useful to other users .
i hope it will be implemented .
fingers crossed .

Dude, bump. If Renoise would add support for Scala tuning files, I believe it would receive lots of attention and praise from the microtonal crowd. It’s a smaller crowd, but a devoted and excitable crowd. A desperate crowd. A hyphy crowd. With older beardy/glasses kinds of guys.

Anyway, Renoise is already by far the best program in the world for my tastes and needs, and I realize that half-decent microtonal support may be more effort for the developers than it’s worth, considering the niche. But if that becomes a potential feature, it has my vote many times over.

diptera, maybe this thread could be of your interest

i play fretless guitars and this would blow my mind.

im in.

ps: renoise already has one uber dedicated crowd (i.e. trackers) and this would add another, possibly changing mmusic forever. think of it, if microtonal ever became ‘big’ at would have had to have started somewhere…

Well, I know of one guy so far who’s been doing microtonal tracking for a while, and he’s pretty awesome:

And CaptainWoo – I have doubts that microtonal will “go big”, at least in the sense that messenger bags and aviator sunglasses “went big”. There is a firm comfort barrier that must be crossed at first for most individuals to enjoy xenharmony. I believe that’s why it’s such a rare, personal, and beautiful thing.

Actually, I suppose it would just take a popular rock band to make it big. Huh.

Thanks for the link Diptera, I’m listening to his music right now.

Just wanted to add, that the microtuner script was inspired in part by this thread, and came into existence for two major reasons

  • I had an idea for a song that required an alternative tuning (quarter tones). I could have re-created the scale by hand, but I realized it would be much easier to have some kind of tool for this task

  • I want to give something back to Renoise. This software is something I could only have dreamt of, back in the 90’s while working with FT2. Actually seing the program evolve and mature to the current stage is amazing.

As for the hype…well, if any of you guys have tried to work with Max/MPS, you’d know that the “beards and glasses” segment are almost entirely occupied with that, and it has support of microtonal patches using an third party extension. I really don’t think those people will see much potential in tracker software, to be honest. I am much more interested in what tracker musicians (whatever the style) can produce with an expanded tonal palette (in time, I’d really like to hear a quiet Balinese gamalan-inspired piece, or some crzy drill’n’bass mangling with chiming bells and detuned whistles on top)

Times ago I suggested a new command to play notes with desired amount of fine-tuning here. Still I think that it might be a great advancement.

danoise, I believe we may have similar tastes.

Good for you for giving back to Renoise. They certainly deserve it. So if I can be of any assistance with your script, like I said, I’d be glad to.

Ha ha. Funny you should mention it. I use both Renoise and Max/MSP. They’re my two favorite pieces of audio software (though I may have a top 3 or 4 list). But yeah, people will always be picky about software, as with anything. I know I am. I mean, if people will start flame wars over keyboard focus or shortcuts, then the differences among Renoise and Cubase and anything else are astronomical.

And on the subject of Aleksi Eeben, he’s a C64 music and game programmer. Funny connection I just learned about: The voice overs for one of his games (“Greenrunner”) was done by Elaine Walker of the band ZIA. And wouldn’t you know it? She writes microtonal music too. Weird stuff like the Bohlan-Pierce scale.

Which scales do you want to work with? And would a prepared instrument not be easier to work with?
I’m asking, since I would like to know if the microtuner script could be improved.

I’m thinking, traditional musicians that play non-western scales have an instrument that produce the desired pitch when played. The kora, for instance, is a west african harp with no less than 21 strings.
Just out of curiosity, is it your experience with Iranian musicians, that they “bend” the strings to achieve the tones that are so common in your country, or is the instrument “prepared”?