Why Trackers


don’t know why, but i’m really getting into this tracker bizness. but before i leave ableton live 5 in favour of renoise (if ever) i’d like to know some things.

  1. what made u choose a tracker over a conventional sequncer?
  2. whate are the pros and cons of trackers in comparison to a conventional sequencer?

this is it for now.

thanks for any help,

Trackers come from home computers and the scene which consists of enthusiastic users of those home computers. No matter how respectable the pushing of the limits of consumer hardware may be, it’s still considered something amateur. Conventional sequencers on the other hand have the status of professional software. I should think the majority of Renoise users have a long tracking history possibly dating back to the days of Amiga. Tracker software often was either public domain or ridiculously cheap and therefore it was spread among the scene which made it possible for everybody to try it out and for some musical talents this was their first step in actually writing their own music. I wouldn’t go as far as calling myself a talent but the rest applies. I never understood notes nor the theory, neither was I any good at playing the Casio. But the trackers gave me an intuitive interface to tell the computer how I want my music to sound and it would play it exactly like that over and over again. And since the tracker interface has always been comfortable for me, I don’t think I could do (or at least write music) without it. So, to answer your questions:

1.&2. My reason for choosing a tracker over any other composing method it’s simply historical: Tracking is practically the only way I’ve ever worked. I’ve tried some Propellerheads software and stuff but fiddling with virtual knobs and drawing the music with a mouse just_doesn’t_work for me. There surely are more people who switched from trackers to conventional sequencers than there are converts TO tracking. But thanks to modern trackers such as Renoise, the amateur-professional division is becoming extinct as we speak. In my opinion the tracker interface does have better control over the resulting music and I would recommend it to any beginner or a musician who seeks something different.

ditto :)


well put raina, not much to add besides that i want to stress that writing music is way more pleasant for me than painting it.
furthermore, sequencers like cubase, logic, or even worse fruityloops have a pretty cumbersome GUI which hinders creativity and workflow with their dozens of windows and windows in windows.
with renoise you basically have everything directly on the screen and don’t have to go through pulldown menus in order to get where you want.
the majority of all features and functions can be adressed by keyboard only - the mouse is only an option here, whereas piano-roll sequencers involve heavy-mouse usage which is, in my opinion, a big minus.

so briefly put the advantages of a tracker are imo:

  • lucidity / clarity of the GUI
  • straight forward
  • control
  • workflow
  • the spirit ;)
  • value for money

the only disadvantage i can think of now:

  • resolution (i.e. if you want to add notes between rows - there are workarounds like the delay command or faster speed, but afterall, they’re just workarounds)

and how would the transition be? i mean would it take me a shitload of time to get used to this completely different (and bizarre imo) aproach to writing music?

One fairly huge disadvantage would be that trackers usually come without samples to work with, while big packages like FL Studio or Reason got all you need in one box. Although this should only apply if you got no internet connection to get yourself some VSTi instruments, it CAN be very frustrating if you don’t have that possibility.

Oh, and I like how you are allowed to plug the “cables” in Reason any way you want it. Something I would like to see in a tracker as well. Basically, the perfect program for me would be a hybrid of Renoise and Reason. :D (Rewire support wink)

I prefer trackers because when I started making music, first I had no money for Cubase and especially that Midi-Stuff :D The other reason was, that I first created my own tracks on C64 with tracker-stuff…

I tried FL and the other tools but now I am so “tracked up”, that I do not know how to handle these other tools.

i think nobody here can tell you your fortune.
the time it will take until you’re 100% accustomed to renoise is of an individual nature. some people know how things work after few weeks, others after a few years.
you have to give it a try on your own, in order to find out what kind of user you actually are.
but don’t expect renoise to do miracles for you - whatever software you use, it’s afterall all depending on the user if the outcome is hot or not.
and what’s wrong with ableton live 5, btw?
why do consider abandoning it?

that only applies to absolute newbies.
you can’t say renoise is less of a good program, just because it lacks a set of generic samples which every average user from then on would use until they’re sucked dry.
everybody not doing this thing for the first time most commonly has
a) its own pool of samples and
B) not the urge to use samples from a standard sample pack
c) using them lacks creativity.

it’s like using VSTi with the factory presets only, imo.

because most people who buy and use renoise already know how and where to get good sounds to play with in the first place.

you’re completely right, imo.
i think: i’m sitting in front of a computer. why tha h… should i want to have a program to emulate a lot of hardware displayed as pixels and computed by my cpu to compose my music, when my computer can be programmed in a totally more flexible way. (yeah, bouncing cables! all i need :rolleyes: )

Spot on.
Drawing notes from scratch in sequencers are hell. But if you use midikeyboard, renoise can be hell :)

i wanted to say it too when i started reading this thread, but you guys beat me to it :)

Use sequencer if you want to record music by playing midi keyboard etc
and use tracker if you are not so good at playing piano, or if you want to program music instead of recording it.

Well, I didn’t say that at all. ;) But if you were a newbie, that point might indeed turn you off. A newbie doesn’t want to search the net for some useful plugins or sample patches, he wants to dive head first into making music.

A long-time musician who already built a fairly huge database of sounds won’t mind, of course.

hehe. i guess we won’t agree there.
i don’t see why there should be any samples bundled with renoise just for the sake of newbies being able to get it going without moving their lazy booty and sample stuff on their own or visit one of these 10.000++ (aprx.) sites offering samples for free download.
besides that, there still are the tutorial and demo songs bundled with renoise, which contain quite a bunch of samples which can be used for making the first steps after deleting all patterns via the click of one shiny button.

ok! this was my last try towards convincing you regarding that matter! ;)

Convincing is one thing but maybe you can help me understanding your opinion:

Maybe I got you wrong, but do you really want to say trackers aren’t supposed to be something for (lazy) beginners?
I think at least there should be a chance to start off with a tracker when it’s your first time. That said, I find complete modules more usefull than single samples to begin with. Fortunately there are some included in the Renoise package (as you mentioned already) so I’m not going to wish any changes in this case.

The proof that tracking rules:

00 xy Arpeggio (x=base note offset 1, y=base note offset 2)
01 xx Pitch slide up (speed 00-FF)
02 xx Pitch slide down (speed 00-FF)
03 xx Set volume (volume 00-FF)
04 xy Volume slicer (x=sliced volume - 0 (silent) - F (full volume), y=tick when to begin slicing 0-5)
05 xx Glide to note (speed 00-FF)
06 xx Volume slide up (speed 00-64) - 64 x 0601 slides from silence to full volume
07 xx Volume slide down 64 x 0701 slides from full volume to silence
08 xx Set panning (position 00-FF) - 80=Center
09 xx Sample Offset (offset position 00-FF) - 00=sample start, FF=sample end

Nothing else can do this quite like a tracker can.

i started making music on trackers forever ago. whenever i’ve tried using a diffferent interface approach to making music i’ve always been frustrated by not being able to compose quickly enough. once you get good at tracking, and yes it takes a while to get comfortable wih it, but once you understand the basic idea of it it’s just playing with it to get comfortable, and then it’s frankly the most intuitive and quick way to write even very complex music. tracking is composition.

you got me wrong, indeed.
the discussion was initially about “trackers vs sequencers”.
c-Row said

i disagreed because of the above mentioned reasons.

so it’s not about “anti-beginner”, it’s about the fact that the lack of product-bundled samples does not interfere with the actual quality of the application itself.
it’s not really a disadvantage of renoise not to have samples because they are around virtually everywhere and i think that reason is in no way better just because there are xxx MB of samples.
and of course i have nothing against beginners - why should i? without fresh people starting to learn and use the program it would most certainly die on the long view.
i even try to “recruit” potential renoise users wherever i can.

so my argument is quite simple: don’t favour certain software just because there are some gimmicks (ie. samples) bundled - they don’t determine the superior program - functionality-wise.

You… roll dice… fail. :D

Anyway, one huge advantage (to throw one in) is that you got much more precise influence on the effects you use in trackers. Want to create a very strange delay effect you just can’t create with a plugin? Just “track” it yourself then.