Mindset for tracking/composing

If this is the wrong category for this question i hope the Admin moves it.

I’m curious.
What kind of mindset do people that commonly compare in trackers have?

I mean, I have for many years (26) jammed away on my keys until something worth using came up. With trackers i find that i need to compose/imagine more stuff in my head before programming it down.
I’m not used to this and it’s kind of stopping me atm, as i usually try and Not think when I’m composing.
I’m sure i can adapt though, just need another kind of mindset for it all.
Thing is, i LOVE the fast workflow. I LOVE the instant overview you have of many tracks at once. I’m totally in for life now. No way back. :smile:

When i just put some random notes in, i can usually fiddle around with them until i like what i hear. It’s way different than how i have worked in the past though. However, new ideas, stuff I’ve never thought about, easily comes out this way. Compared to jamming, where i tend to just walk the same old paths over and over again.
It however might take a while to make it sound “human”, and not like random data. Hard to imagine where notes should be to get that “flow” you get while jamming. I’m sure it’s a learning process though.

I know i can record myself jamming away in Renoise too, but even if i will use this feature, I’m trying to get away from it a bit. New path ahead…

How do you approach your composition in Renoise?


Still curious! :smile:

Until I met Renoise I was a mouse composer. Drawing in the notes. Nothing wrong with that. Except it always felt like I was disconnected from what was happening on screen. Using my mechanical computer keyboard to control Renoise feels somewhat more tactile than using the mouse. Probably because it is slightly more involved with the shortcuts and all.

Anyway, for most my tracks I like my instruments and phrases/patterns to extend over the bar line. Or do poly metric stuff. I don’t think Renoise is as intuitive for doing that as doing that in a piano roll. And i dislike using the phrase-editor. So that was always a bit of struggle. But i learned to do it.

Recently I had to do a thing in a piano roll again…and I love that you can see the contours of the melody easily. Sure makes it easier to compose a counter line. But my brain is now so adapted to Renoise that I felt like a fish out of water in piano roll land. Looking at the distance between the notes it was hard to imagine what that would sound like. But reading notes names next to each other gives me a pretty good idea. Not to mention that horizontally scrolling notes have become really weird to me.

Different DAWs have their own strengths and weaknesses. And that has an influence on what I try to get out of that particular daw. But running into those limitations can be a fun challenge.

I love Renoise. It does many things right for me. It thought me to appreciate samples and the way you can manipulate them. Never did anything like that in any other DAW.

Interesting read, thank you for sharing!

Sounds to me you already did tracking before, but with the pianoroll.

I like that you can “hear” the notes easier with the tracker paradigm now, compared to the roll.
I’m not used to reading notes, I’m rather a “image thinker”, but I’m sure i can learn to look at notes as images of keys eventually.

I gotta say, i too share the new appreciation for samples. To the point that i have dug up my old sample cds again to use samples of synths. It actually works! There’s not always the need of the “real” thing.


I’ve been going through a similar process of adaptation to Renoise (started like 6 months ago). I was a Ableton Live and Bitwig Studio user for a while with a Akai APC Key 25, so I got used to record stuff on the go and then just quantize it manually. That gave me very interesting results, even though I’m not a keyboard player and my piano skills are lacking.

However, I felt that these DAWs aren’t very suited for the kind of drum programming I’m interested in. Placing drum notes in the piano roll didn’t work for me, specially because changing pitch and velocity, reversing sounds, chopping, etc in this view is an annoying and quite slow process (even more in Ableton Live, imo). I also don’t like working with audio files directly in the arrangement view. It’s too slow. The tracker view just makes so much more sense regarding this stuff - specially because of the sample commands such as dxx, uxx, rxx, etc… The workflow is incredibly faster, and it gets even faster the more you learn shortkeys (which I’m still trying to memorize).

I definitely recommend checking the Noodletrap and Auto Clone Pattern tools. They’ve been helping me a lot when it comes to recording stuff with a midi keyboard (which I’m slowing start to abandon, the more I learn the Renoise shortkeys), just like I did in previous DAWs. I usually make relatively long patterns with manually programmed drums and then use these tools to record pads, leads, etc. It’s not perfect, but it’s enough for me.

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I share you thoughts on drum-programming. I too walked that path. Though, one can do a lot of with the keyboard in arrange view in Live these days, its still way easier and faster to work in Renoise for this.
I tend to have a similar approach for basslines as well, which i not always want to have as audio. So again, Renoise makes this easier.

Thank you, happy to share.

I had to think about that for a minute. But I think you’re right, I probably was treating my piano roll kinda like a tracker.

Yup, it takes some getting used to. But I’m confident you’ll get used to it the more you use it. It took me a couple of months before I started to ‘get’ Renoise. Playing around with the demo, get frustrated and move back to Sonar. Eventually I decided to just buy Renoise so I would force myself to compose at least one tune in it. That was 4 years ago this December.

You know what was funny after not using a piano roll for 4 years? Thinking about the tune felt different. Like I’m using a different part of my brain. I’ve used Sonar and other Cakewalk programs before it for over 10 years, maybe more. So those shot cuts are still in my fingers without thinking about it. And I’m making similar melodies and drum patters as I would in Renoise. So I think it is the visual difference between piano roll and a tracker layout. It feels peculiar.

@untilde I hear ya. My friend makes this utterly bizarre complex breakcore / mathcore inside Reaper. And I have no idea how she does that. It seems like quite a struggle to make Reaper do this. Have a listen. This does not sound like something you expect to come from Reaper:

I’ve recommended Renoise to her numerous times. Even offered to buy her a license. But she needs that piano roll to do her thing.

Nearly 4 years in and my Renoise is pretty much just stock. I hardly have any tools installed. But these seem quite interesting. I’ll give them a whirl. Thanks for the links.

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Damn, that sound is crazy! I would never guess it was made on Reaper, seriously. I’ll definitely listen to more stuff later.

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I’ve never had a problem with jamming away in Renoise. You can set the patterns to loop while you come up with new parts. Eventually, if you end up using a bunch of VST’s, you’ll have latency problems, but personally I’ve never run into any CPU issues while in the “live jamming/composing” phase.

That said, it’s not my favorite way to write. I have folders and folders of two or four bar loops that were written in that way, and I never go back to finish them. I just take some time every once in a while to go through and delete them, actually.

It’s better for me to write a song on guitar so I know the chords and everything, and then once I’ve got the basic parts programmed in, I can jam a bit to come up with some extra sounds here and there. It’s what works best for me, although it’s less exciting than jamming my way into happy accidents.

I agree, jamming leads to endless clips of happy accidents. I have 300 of them!
I’ve always adored those who can compose like you mention. Making up some chords and then program a song out of that.
Never really figured out today last part myself, I’ve more or less relied on my happy accidents to come through. (which they don’t anymore)
I do strongly believe that’s the way to go though!
To quickly sketch up a base, and then tweak on that rather than making one sound/part perfect with 80% of the song missing.
It’s also the hardest part in a way. Letting go, accepting it possibly sounding like crap at first, staying focused on the song.