The original tracker workflow (on amiga) - a demonstration

It was 2012 when I saw a tracker (renoise) for the first time in my life and the exotic “hacker” type interface got me hooked right away. I tried milkytracker too and with time I slowly put the puzzle of the history of trackers together.

But this video explained and demonstrated the upcomings and the workflow of the historic trackers so well, that I really feel like “I get it now!”, I now understand the place where trackers stand in the musical universe and where they absolutely outshine every other daws approach.

This video opened my eyes to why some things are hard to do in Renoise (- its just not where it came from), where the potential lies that I just haven’t used yet (even more and bold sampling than I currently do) and finally the amazing job the developers of Renoise did to connect the trackers of back then to the possibilities of todays music-making-technology (VSTs and such).

I know there are a lot of amiga veterans in this forum, looking down on youngsters that haven’t been brought up with this background, but this post is for people like me who enjoy getting a glimpse into the past and getting educated, inspired and entertained by it.


I grew up with Commodore Amiga 500, so in my early teenage years i used GMC (Game Music Creator) first and i fell in love with the tracker-concept, i think i was around 13 years old, also back then i didn’t even knew about the whole horizontal DAW concept, from there i moved onto Protracker 3.15, then i got a PC with Fasttracker 2.09 and Impulse Tracker (one of the first trackers i knew that supported cutoff filters with resonance). (tried alot of other MS-DOS based trackers but couldnt get the hang of it), then finally Windows came into existance and then Arguru Noisetrekker 2&3 and finally onto Renoise.

Basically my whole life was vertical, until i discovered DAWS and horizontal based piano rolls, i could never get used to that (maybe it was lazyness and i didnt feel like relearning the whole concept of it since i already knew alot about trackers), even when i worked in a music studio i showed them Renoise and tell them what a tracker is, but for them it was a complicated thing because of course they were used with Cubase etc.

I think no matter what you grew up with, whether thats a vertical tracker or horizontal DAW piano roll, it both has its advantages and disadvantages.

1 Like

I was 15 when I discovered the world of trackers in 1988 on my new Amiga 500.
Believe it or not, it wasn’t as cool as the guy in the video reflects it. Computers were not so present in the old days in Germany and the internet took nearly a decade to show up. The main problem was, that nearly everyone and everything regarding to the Amiga was focused on games & gfx. So useful information was hard to get for a so called lamer.
I wanted to create and remix electronic music, but more the acid house style, although I never even thought about playing a real instrument. So Aegis Sonix wasn’t a good starting point for me. First problem, the output left and right was mono. So you got the drums on the left and the keys on the right or vice versa. So the first thing to do was diy soldering a RCA cable with a mono switch, so you could hear all the instruments on both speakers. Next problem: Hardware compatibility. There was only one sampler I could afford and it was the Pro Sampler (I think that was the name). This came with a phrase sample software, but you couldn’t use it somewhere else. Even the formats you saved couldn’t be read by the usual trackers and converters were hard to find. It became better when Oktalyzer arrived. Even the nasty 4 channel limit came to an end. The next problem: The low pass filter on the Amiga was always switched to on. So your high hats were incredibly low. Deactivating it too often could lead into guru meditation, which was the BSOD in those days. It was much easier to rip off some game soundtracks and use them. There were no used markets for soundcards in those days and if you were lucky, you lived in one of the big cities, which I didn’t, was you found one. Shipping that kind of equipment was risky and not affordable. I tried it twice and everything came to me completely broken.
At least I managed to create a remix of Lil Louis French Kiss (which was completely rubbish), but hey - someone said: “Boy - you? No! You can’t mix that way.” I played it back in the youth club. Nope, I’d rather say, one must not make such experiences. If you want just a bit of an old school feeling, just install Med Soundstudio v2. It works even on a Windows 10 machine.
The glory in those early days was, that most people didn’t even think about making music in that way. So you were some kind of unicorn, even if you just managed to operate a sound tracker. Most people even didn’t understand what a DJ did, except from being everybody’s music bitch.
But if I consider the software development over the last 25 years, I’d say, I’d expected more.
I don’t think that it’s cool to emulate all kind of old hardware, to sell certain controllers for high prices in order to handle the software.

Damn, it’s 2021 and if you are dragging standard midi files into the top notch sequencers of today, they are sounding as shitty as hell. Even the 30 years old dls from direct sound (Win) does a better job in playing them back. There are only two exceptions, Band-In-A-Box, which has a useless interface and Logic which is nowadays restricted to the Mac. You could even get a better sound from an 80s Casio. But that’s surely not the way a tracker should go for.
When it comes to Renoise I’m still puzzled that it’ll eat up the resources so dramatically, even if I’m using just a few plug-ins and tracks. When I used Renoise 1.X, there was a built-in fm or wavetable synth, which I really liked and used a lot. I could arrange 36 tracks at the same time on a standard laptop. Nowadays on an Intel(R) Core™ i7-9700K CPU @ 3.60GHz 3.60 GHz with 48,0 GB RAM, after 9 or 10 tracks, I come to the limit, although I still use 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz (depending on the plug-ins) for playback.
But the quality of the 96 kHz export is superb.

I didn’t watch the whole video, but it’s always cool to have a look in the past. As stated in this thread I started on Amiga in 1991 with Soundtracker and also worked with Noisetracker and Protracker for years until 4 tracks weren’t enough anymore. Back then it was not about production quality, is was just about the ability to make something “big” out of something very limited, and of course about the fun. There were samples all the way, no instruments. With the Techno Sound Turbo cartridge I sampled my stuff, I also used to sample some of my patterns of a song and created a loop out of it, so that in the end I had “16 tracks” in Protracker, one loop of a sampled pattern in each track. Good times, but I think that I would have prefered Renoise back then, too. The combination of a classic tracker and the possibility of using VSTs is all you need to create good music. :slightly_smiling_face:

I was 12 years in 1990 but wan’t acquinted with computers at all (exept the nintendo nes :slight_smile: , I had two friends who were real technoids .
One of them showed me a tune he made on his amiga , a banging house track , made on a computer …I just couldn’t believe it .
The other guy is now running analogue renaissance ( TS-303 MK2 fame ) and all kind of analogue revision boards , a real genius

1 Like