Teaching Renoise lessons to college students

So! Yesterday I did a presentation on sampling music to a college class here in the states. I used Renoise as my program to to show them some examples of sampled music as well as a quick building of a few different beats using said samples. A couple students are interested in having me teach them how to produce music. I’m kind of excited to do this, but I don’t really know where to start.

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I’ve been doing this for years, although my students have also been a bit younger, 12-18 I guess…

What I found works great it providing starting points: xrns files with instruments loaded, effects on tracks, a rough mix done, makes it easy for them to focus on the noise making in the beginning. Easy way is to take some of your own finished songs and remove all patterns…

After a handful of lessons, it might be clear what they need the most. In general, navigating the program doesn’t take too long to handle. It pretty quickly gets down to the compositional process: imagination, leave space, contrasting ideas, motives/phrasing, thinking in stereo and frequency range, repetition vs variety, shaping sounds to blend, structure, stuff like that.

Recreating a simple/part of a tune they know, is a good way to learn the concepts of renoise, entering notes, tracks, instruments.

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I taught individual lessons on Live and Renoise while I was in school, and one of the best ways I found to get learners involved was to ask them to find a track off youtube “that they want to make a beat out of”. By treating the concept of sampling as a given, the renoise workflow made much more sense right off the bat. I addressed synthesis by introducing the draw tool. Using line-in and recording levels are a great way to give learners an impression of how far effects can take an ordinary sound. Sequencing and composition are DAW agnostic in my opinion but I use the oft-relied upon analogy of an excel spread sheet to describe tracking. First effects we used were filtering, then to EQ, then Delay, and Reverb. Frequently, I would use acoustic spaces on campus to describe what an effect does, theater, cafeteria, classroom next door, etc… Alot of the time lessons would be occupied by sound design, which I am mostly okay with as long as guided variation and “homework” are a factor. Youtube is also an invaluable resource. Over the course of four weekly lessons in a month, I tried to get them to the point where they had a finished track mostly with a main pattern and an intro and an outro. Not that I take any responsibility, but some of the people I have worked with over the course of months have gone on to take music classes, one has done multiple sound installations, a few started a label together, one is in Berlin studying music tech right now. All very exciting. If you want any other details/tips, hit me up.

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Cool well done!!Have you thought about making tutorials on youtube?Or do you have already a channel?

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I taught an “Intro to Beat Making” workshop with Renoise for a couple years at a community-based event called “Workshop Weekend”. It attracted curious people from all walks of life, and not necessarily musicians – kids, twentysomethings, fiftysomethings – they all just came for a couple hours to check it out and see what they could do.

I consciously tried to limit the initial “WTF reaction” people commonly get at Renoise’s UI by focusing their attention on individual music-making tasks where they can be successful in the first few minutes. Make a simple 4-on-the-floor beat, play a sample in a unique rhythm, etc.

I provided a set of samples they could easily load, play around with, and sound good right away. I also collected a few Renoise instruments that’d be recognizable to any newbie, like “(acoustic) drum set”, “piano”, “drum machine”, and “bass”. This way they could load up an instrument, bang out a simple sequence, and have a good experience.

I also showed them how they can record their voice with their laptop mic, play it higher or lower, add effects, etc. – just simple activities so they can feel successful right away.

The tools in Renoise go so deep, I didn’t want them getting lost in the complexity, or overwhelmed by tasks where there’s a lot of tedious manual fiddling. Where possible, I tried to relate the tools in Renoise to the original hardware tools producers would’ve used to create their favorite records – mixers, synthesizers, drum machines, effects – and to teach Renoise as if it’s just a roomful of those discrete tools that they can use to make music just like their heroes did.

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Working as a composer and software developer at the same company,
i had the honor to conduct a workshop for some of my co-workers (age 25 - 40) about what it means to compose computer-aided music in general and specifically with Renoise.

As you can imagine most of them never saw a tracker before, even though they had experience with musical composition for quite some time.
So i talked about tracker history and compared benefits of tracker- and notation-based systems,
explained technical terms and later on mixing and mastering stages.
Also i tried to get my point of of view across when it comes to staying creative in a pattern-based world.
By that i mean : how to construct fluid song arangements with a pattern based system, without thinking in terms of patterns too much. Since it is basically intrinsic to create too repetitive and uninteresting music.
Eventually i demoed bigbeat and breakbeat composition in Renoise and used a breath-controller to control a physically modelled brass plugin to show a more direct way to input ones ideas.

The workshop was a real eye-opener for some since there are a lot of misconceptions out there -
like a composer is a “Producer” or “DJ” nowadays.
Also, 10 out of 20 co-workers present were under the impression that in computer-aided music production,
one would rather remix and put ripped samples together than actually playing and recording instruments.
Well, that hurt. But after they realized how much work has to go into a well crafted tune, appreciation followed.

Using Renoise and good MIDI-equipment makes a real instrument afterall.


That is the sad truth unfortunately.I almost fell into that trap when i was first starting but quickly found there was no satisfaction of accomplishment in that way so searched further and found Renoise that made me think different.THis daw is forcing you(in a good way)to learn how music works not just put ready made pieces together.


Would love the opportunity to sit in on a class such as the one described here. Those students are truly privileged!