Samples Vs. Instruments

I’ve been using Renoise on and off for a couple of years now, with “off” being the most common level of usage during that time. While I feel like I understand the basics, I’m still trying to figure out a workflow with Renoise, which has probably been my primarily reason for neglecting it all this time.

I had a quick question for those of you willing to entertain them… do you work primarily with Renoise Instruments or do you just load up samples? I find myself creating a lot of instruments, especially when using drum machine samples, and while setting up instruments isn’t very time consuming, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense if you’re using single samples, especially if you’re not manipulating them at all.

If any of you would like to elaborate on how you get “setup” to create music, I’d appreciate it.

Thanks in advance!


I don’t tend to use Renoise for instruments that require different keygroups because the workflow for it is a bit clunky and I have better tools for that.

What I typically end up doing in Renoise is either
A: using the hotkeys to cut up an existing sample into an ad hoc instrument
B: using samples that were already cut up and drag-dropping them into an instrument
C: using one sample per instrument

I think the best way to learn the workflow would be to have a look at the “insides” of Renoise songs other people have created.
More than a hundred .xrns files can be downloaded from the sdcompo page.
This is how 90% of all trackers learned to track.

The only Renoise Instruments I have are drum kits I’ve cobbled together. I have no reason to use the format for anything else.

Same here.

I only use instruments. All made by myself.

9 out of 10 times i use single samples instead of instruments containing multiple samples. simply because i have more control that way. if i really need to ‘play’ something, i’ll build an instrument for it.

Thanks for the input, everyone. I think I’ve asked similar workflow questions in the past and I always learn a lot from them. I’m not really looking to copy anyone else’s habits and processes, but I always seem to learn a lot from reading about them and seeing them in action, so I appreciate everyone being so forthcoming with how they organize themselves in Renoise.

Listening to sound feeds inspiration, it lets you imagine things, hearing the potential of sounds, possibilities through knowing your tools, effects is what I’m after (+ Dennis Bergkamp kind of timing). I’ve learned composition is an interaction between planning and playing, you can write down a design strategy, set up limits like, I dunno, only use fart sounds ;) , but through intuitively playing with the sounds you might get better ideas and build from that.

For a start, collect sounds that inspire you, sounds you want to work with. Create your own library, pallet of options.
A library of your own instruments is cool, but can become a trap if you only collect and don’t use them in tracks :) .

If for the last year, you haven’t been that fruitful working with Renoise it probably is because you can’t translate your imagination into music using your current tracking skills, …plus maybe perfectionism?

You say a lack of workflow is holding you back, than start creating a workflow by using the program more often! I believe in doing.

Workflow is a mix of the rational and the irrational, meaning unconscious decisions. I don’t believe a chronological order of actions by different members in this thread is going to improve your aesthetic sensibilities. Still informative though, and can make one aware of own habits and look for improvement, but yeah… my point is workflow isn’t read.

Like Applejack says: analyze and play with other people songs. While you can’t see their use of keyboard shortcuts, speed of tracking, customs or order of operation, you can analyze the arrangement while the music is playing and get a sense of the structure. Remixing mod’s is how I started in protracker 17 years ago, fuck I’m old :badteethslayer: .

If you’re anything like me, you probably see possibilities in everything, than how to choose out of all those possibilities, millions of sounds? Aargh :)

Solution: stop caring about creating something ‘good’ and start listening and having fun programming and playing with effects.

Now the hippie shit aside, I don’t get your distinction in instruments with one or more samples? What do you mean with Renoise instrument? You mean samples manipulated through envelopes in the instrument editor vs samples that don’t rely on this?

Why focus on this aspect, shouldn’t it be about what the sound needs according to how you listen?

this. he’s right.

You’re completely right Jonas and this is something I’ve been struggling with in the past. Typically, I sit down to use Renoise, hammer out a nice rhythm, and then decide what I really want is a sound I’ve created in another app. I’ll find a solution or alternate sound, then as I continue working I’ll decide what I really need is an effect that I’ve created in that same, other app, etc. Eventually, I just get frustrated, dump Renoise, and work in that other app (Reason or Record).

The obvious solution that you’re probably screaming at your monitor is “just rewire,” but that kind of defeats the purpose of using Renoise. If I’m just going to mine Reason for sounds, why not just use Reason?

So, what I’m thinking about doing is taking a month off to work exclusively in Renoise. This would certainly fit with your suggestion of “using the program more often!”

Yes, I mean samples loaded into Renoiseand then saved as instruments, either manipulated through the instrument editor, or kept “clean” and just mapped across the keyboard, as I’ve done with a zillion different drum machines.

I guess what I’m really asking is how much prep time do people usually put in to working in Renoise? Do people have folders filled with instant sounds and effect chains, ready to go, or do most people hash it out on the fly?

In Reason and Record, for example, I’ve created approximately 800 to 900 patches with custom instruments and effect chains (in Reason they’re Combinators) and so when I’m working on something new, I have an incredible resource of tools that I can use. I almost never use samples, so while I’m not a beginner in making music, Renoise has forced me to restart a little, using more samples and VSTs, which I’ve avoided for many, many years.

Anyway, I appreciate the feedback and thoughts. We’re almost finished with February, so maybe I’ll make March a Renoise only month, and really start figuring out how to Renoise, once and for all. :)


i recognize this whole process. i came from Reason like you do, and my first steps into the world of Renoise were about the same. the fact is, Reason has synths (and a drum machine etc. you get the point), and Reason has extremely cool routing options. Renoise does not have synths, it does have a lot of routing options but still nowhere near the possibilities of Reason (but don’t forget Reason’s routing options directly follow from the fact that it has synths). so ultimately, you come to a point where you are not able to do in Renoise what you were doing in Reason. that is why you run into a ‘workflow problem’, because you have to work with something you are not used to working with.

i got tired of Reason because everything i made started sounding the same, and i ran out of fresh ideas. Renoise opened the door to new ideas for me, simply because of the differences with Reason. in the beginning i did Rewiring, and i also did a lot of exporting sounds out of Reason and importing them into Renoise. however, as i started working with Renoise more, i started to enjoy the way the software works, and also appreciate for example its sample-mangling qualities (which were - for me at least - less present in Reason). now, i do use Reason from time to time to do insane routing and fuck up Rex-loops etc, but i always export the results into Renoise because i feel it gives me more options to arrange and compose and whatever.

of course this is personal, but the message here is to just go with the (work)flow. when you are in the mood to make music, fire up Renoise and see what happens. if you need Reason for some sounds or drums or whatever, use it, but try to come back to Renoise in the end. you’ll invent your own workflow and will enjoy learning a new piece of software, which in turn will make you more creative.

hope this helps.

edit: it was unavoidable i would somewhere mix up Renoise and Reason in this whole text… fixed.
edit[2]: another example i thought of: in Reason, i used to use the RV7000’s reverse reverb feature a lot simply because i wanted to reverse sounds without using the NNXT and without going into an external sample editor (remember, Reason does not have a sample editor!). in Renoise, i can do that with one simple B0 command.

Thanks, rhowaldt, that actually helps quite a bit. You’re right that both programs have very different ways of approaching things. In some ways, its nice to hear that I’m not the only one who is or has struggled making that transition between them.

I think, as I mentioned above, I’ll take a month off from Reason and see what I get out of Renoise. Its slightly complicated by the fact that I run a Reason daily blog, but I have a few days to try to get some posts queued up, so I’m ready to make the switch in March.

Thanks again for your input.

no problem, that’s what the forum is for. let us know how your Renoise-month goes, and try and find out for yourself a way to incorporate Renoise into your workflow. familiarize yourself with it, learn it, and of course just have fun.

another suggestion, you could try joining in a DDRC competition round. it’d give you a week to make a track based on some random samplepack, with no pressure whatsoever and no prizes either except some dudes will check out what you made and pat you on the back for competing. on top of that, you will learn a shitload just being given some random samples and asked to make a track. check it out:

  • the last competition has just finished and it is now voting time
  • watch the forums for when kazakore starts the new competition and uploads the sample pack etc.

hope you’ll join and good luck with all of this!

Thanks again, rhowaldt! I’m not sure if I’ll be ready for a competition just yet, not until I get my “sea legs” first, but its a good idea and an intriguing idea. I’ll at least keep an eye on it.

For what it’s worth, here’s what I do:

I hardly ever use instruments. Why?
For several reasons.

What can you use instruments for?

  1. Mapping a set of drums across the keyboard. I don’t do this for two reasons: sometimes I want to (easily) pitch the drums up and down according to what sounds better in a specific context. I am aware that you can do this in the instrument editor, but I want to be able to do it by putting in notes on the keyboard. Second reason is I’ve got lots of folders with different drum samples in them. If you put together an instrument this means that you always get the same hats, claps, percussion and kicks if you load up that specific instrument. I prefer to mix up different samples every time I make a new beat. So I load every sample to a new instrument slot, thus creating a unique configuration of drum sounds every time.

So, how does one put together a beat without the option of audtioning it “live” on the keyboard (i.e. playing it)? Usually, I hear it in my head, but sometimes I’ll bring in one of the beats instruments that came with Renoise, like the 808 or the 909 just for messing around, then I’ll replace the samples later.

I prefer complete freedom when it comes to beat making. This is also why I almost never sync up a loop to the tempo (that’s LAZY). I’d rather cut it up and make it fit manually. Sometimes a cut-up loop sounds better and becomes more rhythmically interesting when it is slightly off the BPM.

  1. You can use instruments for applying effects, volume sweeps, etc. to samples. Almost invariably this is easier and more intuitive to do in the track editor, with automation, etc. Only rarely is there any need to add effects to the samples (i.e. in the instrument editor) before treating them in the song itself. The exception is the sub-sine that comes with Renoise (which I often use), because it needs a tiny bit of fadeout in order not to click when released.

  2. You can create multi-sampled melodic instruments. I have one of those. I found a sample pack (I forget where) containing a bunch of Mellotron samples which I mapped out across they keyboard. It sounds great, but generally I find life is too short to do this very often. I’d rather get on with the tracking.

Also, the instrument editor isn’t very powerful, IMO.

i must give the instrument a bit of credit, even though i completely agree with Sam’s points.

again, from a Reason > Renoise perspective, i always enjoyed the Reason NNXT Grand Piano-B sounds. so, i decided to export those for use in Renoise. i did a lot of edits in the instrument and sample settings to make it sound and act right, and i saved that as an instrument for two reasons:

  1. there are a lot of samples which i mapped to the keyboard manually (damn why can’t that be easier)
  2. the samples are quite high quality and take some time to load up.
  3. all my settings are saved.

wow, that was 3 reasons. for this, i love the instrument. any other time, what Sam said.

More excellent advice. Thanks Sam and rhowaldt. I know I’ve said it a few times in this thread, but I really do appreciate everyone taking the time to offer their opinions and suggestions as I try to wrap my brain around how best to use Renoise.

It’s funny, because I’m not really looking to dump Reason. I’ve been using it for almost ten years now and really enjoy the program, but there’s something about Renoise that has really intrigued me since I started using the demo a couple of years ago.

Today is the 1st of March, so if I follow through with my plans to take a month off from Reason and spend that time with Renoise, today is the day. It might be tomorrow or the day after before I actually do anything with it, but I’ll let you know how my progress goes.

Thanks again, guys! And, if you have any residual interest in Reason, my blog offers new sounds almost every day: Reason Patch A Day

Take care,