Could Renoise Go Microtonal?

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”?

I want to work with all Iranian scales. In Persian music there are 7 main scales called DASTGAAH, each Dastgaah consists of many GOOSHEH’s, that are slightly various. Totally there are more than 45 scales in Persian music. All the 7 main scales contain quarter-tones, which are approximately but not exactly half of a semi-tone.

For example, below is the SHOOR scale:

G | Ak | Bb | C | Dk | Eb | F | G

k means that the note is played a quarter tone lower, so Ak is approx. halfway between A and Ab. This is called a KORON.
SORI means a quarter-tone higher.

Of course it is, but you cannot produce electronic music with them! I’ve always searched for an easy way to use Iranian scales in renoise.

All Iranian traditional musical instruments are built in a way that they can produce as many as the notes of the 7 Dastgaah’s. Consider the TAAR for instance:

If you look carefully at the frets on the fingerboard, you see that they do not seem to have a logical order like what you see on a guitar, but this kind of arrangement of frets makes it possible to play almost all Iranian scales by TAAR. None of Iranian instruments strings need to be bent to produce a quarter-tone.

That’s awesome information, Ashkan !!

So, if the SHOOR scale was adapted to a Renoise instrument, it would lack the normal A, E and B notes, as well as most “black” keys.

The way I have imagined a tuning to work, the keyboard would be laid out in the following way - only the C note is actually placed in the right spot, the rest are laid out in “order of arrival”:

And perhaps, in a future version of the microtuner, it would be useful to merge the normal keyboard layout (the default western pentatonic scale) with one’s own custom tuning. Then, both tunings would be available in the same instrument.

For a rock band to make music microtonally, I would assume they would need to have custom fretboards on their guitars and basses… otherwise bands like Dillinger Escape Plan, or Mike Patton’s various projects would have almost definitely have done this already (if they haven’t already!)

… check this out:

Let me correct this: if the SHOOR scale is adapted to a renoise instrument, there are 2 quarter-tones that need to be added: Ak and Dk, so you’ll need to use a copy of the sample transposed a quarter-note down (sample 1) like this:

This is how I made instruments in renoise to play Persian scales, so I can easily play them using a MIDI keyboard and based on Iranian music standards. When a real piano is tuned to be played in SHOOR scale it would also be something like this.

EDIT: Other things to be mentioned here are these:

  • The notes in persian music are totally some cents sharper than classical notes.
  • Iranian scales can be played starting from different notes. For example there is another common kind of SHOOR scale known as SHOOR in F, starting from F.
  • The microtonal notes in a scale are not exactly the same. For example the interval between A and Ak in SHOOR scale is not the same as the interval between D and Dk.

In fact emotional/traditional eastern music cannot be formulated completely. It is highly dependant on improvisation and internal creativity.

You’d be surprised. There are not a whole load of rock bands doing anything microtonal, and certainly not many better-known rock musicians. Hardcore/metal bands like harmonic dissonance and often bend notes, but I don’t know of any who have taken it to a more musical level – i.e., beyond just “sounding out of tune” for cool effect. Not here in the West. Even DEP and Patton.

Part of the difficulty – besides discovering, enjoying, and understanding xenharmonic music – lies in the fact that the basis of rock, the guitar, has to be specially changed for it. It’s not cheap either. I have a friend who’s had many guitars (six or seven?) re-fretted by specialists to various tuning systems. But you’d have to be crazy like him:

Edit: I’d also like to add that MIDI support for retuning is inherently sucky, if not non-existent. With the help of computer software like Scala, and hopefully someday Renoise, it may be a little easier to implement.

When I decided to go for a “in order of arrival” instead of trying to place notes as near as possible to their original key, it is mostly because some scales are really complex, and need more than an octaves worth of keys to fit all the tunings onto a keyboard. Consider the Bohlen-Pierce scale (screenshot from Scala):

There are 25 unique tunings for each “octave”, each octave being approx. 2000 cents, instead of the normal 1200 cents.

I agree. So, when the Taar is able to play most persian scales (although these scales are in fact slightly different from each other), it is because the accomplished taar player will emphasize certain notes in a non-descript way.

Hmmm…Maybe we could ask Taktik to make the pitch bend command support samle-based instruments?

What is the current status of pitch-bend support? I noticed that the pitch wheel on my keyboard controller doesn’t do anything.

No, it’s reserved for VST instruments. See Renoise tutorial (@ bottom of page):

Ah. I get it. After some experimentation, it seems that some VSTis will accept MIDI pitch bend messages, and some don’t. Also, those which do accept it can be bent with the pitch wheel on a MIDI controller.

But this still doesn’t solve the problem of bending samples. Renoise doesn’t have any pitch-bend support for samples?

Not exactly, no. Renoise has lots of ways to achieve the same effect, for instance the 5 command for sliding to a note. But when we’re talking about sliding to a point “between notes”, yeah, it lacks.

Take the 1 and 2 commands (pitch up/down). You tell Renoise to pitch up, and it will do so, but in a relative way (“Increase pitch by this amount”), also depending on other factors such as the speed at which the track is played. Most of the time, one will need to hear the result to determine if it’s OK. In contrast, pitch bending will work with absolute values. “Go to this value!”.

So, it would be great have have both ways of pitching, especially in a microtonal context.

Not only that, but for the sake of being able to pitch-bend samples with a pitch wheel during performance.

Agreed. Just trying to stay on topic, I guess ;)