Trackers!

It’s a thread for information about and appreciation for Music Trackers!

Software Trackers

  • The first music trackers to be called by that name were the various MOD trackers on the Amiga:

  • LSDJ is an incredibly popular tracker for the Gameboy:

  • Piggy Tracker (LittleGPTracker) is a popular lightweight software tracker with a wide range of device compatibility:

  • SunVox is many things and works on many more things, but at its core is itself a tracker:

  • Deflemask is perhaps the premiere tracker for multi-system chipmusic composition (particularly for generating system-native VGM):

  • Regen Modular’s Frames plugin is the only tracker for VCV Rack that I’m aware of:

There are many more besides in the realm of software trackers.

Hardware Trackers

  • NerdSEQ was the first dedicated hardware tracker (that I’m aware of) and the only eurorack modular one to date:

In development

  • The M8 is the most portable and minimal (though plenty robust) and latest entry to the standalone hardware trackers:

  • NerdSEQ Portable is the standalone version of NerdSEQ with a built-in sampler:

15 Likes

Great list, but Renoise feels like a major omission. After starting with Octamed many years ago, Renoise does everything I’ve ever really wanted out of a DAW.

17 Likes

I’ve only included the one’s I’ve specifically used or researched (Renoise is included under that Woolyss link, however), but if it’s possible for the opening post to be a wiki somehow, I’d certainly be okay with that.

1 Like

i used the old Jeskola Buzz tracker for years in the early 2000’s.
it is a modular environment (similar to a simplified version of Reaktor) based on tracker style sequencing. i think it has been one of the most advanced music creation environments ever! problem is the original builds were destroyed in a fire in the developer’s studio, so for years the software has just been improved on the old skeleton, adding stuff, but it was open source so people coded a lot of new plugins for it, it had VST support too.
the community around it was crazily good! there was buzzmachines.com , a repository for all things buzz, then the buzzchurch, a forum for users and developers, the scene was incredible!
one developer released a plugin that helped jumping to various parts of the macro sequencer, something like scenes in ableton live, and you were able to assign locations to keys on the computer keyboard. i was preparing my liveset when i realized that with the very precise step resolution i was using, the “btdsys livejump” plugin was unable to reach all locations of my liveset due to a coded limit. i had to perform that same night! i panicked, wrote in the forum, the developer (btdsys) wrote me back and sent me a custom version of the plugin without that limit, in half an hour! i installed it, assigned everything and was able to play my liveset successfully!! i was so gratetful :smiley:
sorry for the long anecdote but it was too good to not share it :slight_smile:

14 Likes

Oh no, wasn’t meant as a criticism. Just wanted it to be mentioned early in the topic.

No worries. It is a wiki now, though, if you or anyone has any additions.

Glad to see Piggy on this list. It’s a hidden gem.

18 Likes

MilkyTracker for those who like it old-school with demoscene vibez but with all the features

Also works on Android

And yes of course HoustonTracker 2 for allowing Texas Instruments TI-8* graphic calculators do some 1-bit magic :notes:

4 Likes

Famitracker as well!

I’m one of the 98 or so beta testers on the M8 and adore the damn machine. I use it a little differently than most (mainly with samples and midi) but holy smokes do I love it. Got rid of a Polyend Tracker for it and couldn’t be happier! Happy to answer questions. Been also trying a few simple streams with the Touch Designer template for streamers. It’s rad af.

As I’m actually using it RIGHT now, I’ll actually say; the M8 is so good because it’s so portable and so fast that I can generate some drums in the 8 minutes in which I’m waiting for my wife to do something on her phone.

5 Likes

My “golden age” of trackers was with the MS DOS variants - Fast Tracker 2, Scream Tracker 3 and Impulse Tracker - which haven’t been mentioned yet. Was just a tiny bit too young to get started with Amiga ones (although I was jealous to friends for having Amigas and C64s, all I got was a Vic 20 and then a 286 PC as the first “proper” computer), and there weren’t really any other easy options for someone who was young enough not to be able to buy (and understand) a boatload of MIDI gear.

Later used Buzz a lot as well as I was already familiar with the paradigm, some of the chiptune-specific trackers were a lot of fun, and Renoise is great - now liking Polyend tracker a lot although it’s in many ways a throwback to pre-DOS tracker times (in others, much less so).

7 Likes

Hi there, thanks for the walk down the vertical memory lanes !

The very first music software I used was the obscure Psycle , it was very confusing for me at the time as I had zero to none idea on how to make a computer bleep.

It had a classic tracker interface w/ up to 64 tracks + a modular environment to program your patches.
Even if I didn’t know anything about electronic music back then, I managed to make a bunch of melodic tracks quite easily somehow. Tracker workflow just clicks for me I guess.

I’m planning to get a Polyend Tracker soon, the interface seems to bring an immediacy that can bypass the keyboard shortcuts ninja skills required to enjoy a tracker like Renoise.
I’m also intrigued by the M8 which is a more portable option, I would love to use a tracker as the center piece of my studio to trigger both MIDI and CV hardware.

Also it’s worth mentioning the Ultimate Music Tracker Base with 270+ up to date entries.

4 Likes

So, having had both the m8 and the Polyend Tracker, and using the gear to control both euro and hardware equipment, I can’t suggest the M8 highly enough! Its so cool to just, pick up a handheld device, write some stuff and play it out its bigger Brothers. The M8 handles midi out better and has built in synth engines which is sick. The best plus to the Polyend tracker is being Annie to sample in, cup samples on the machine and to render samples. If you generally have questions about the two, I’d be happy to answer as best I can.

4 Likes

The M8 looks great. I have been waiting on the nerdseq portable and this looks comparable. Has it been released? Or is it a beta thing just now?

Edit: reread the thread, I see it is beta for now.

Yeah, but there are actually some open source ways to try out the system now. The creator has built a ‘headless version’ which basically runs be connecting a Teensy to your computer via USB, and running a touch designer template. Obviously it is not portable at that point, but it’ll give you a good idea of how all the different portions of the software work. Plus, you can try driving some midi equipment with it and using the tables as a result.

I would suggest that if you try the headless version, you sign up for the creators Patreon, as he obviously doesn’t get any value on just a Teensy purchase. The instructions can be found on his Patreon as well:

3 Likes

Oo. That sounds like a fun Christmas project. Thank you.

Absolutely! If you plan to, there’s a ton of good resources on the discord as well, since that’s where all the convo is happening.

The three things that really set it apart as a fantastic machine are; tables (think a tracker INSIDE a tracker). It’sa totally separate page that triggers each time an instrument is triggered. You can program envelopes, automation, midi CC or just about whatever in there. Have a specific arp idea, that’ll do it! Cool thing is, these aren’t tied to an instrument! There are a bunch that can be accessed through a simple TABLE command FX.

Instrument sanding and settings: have specific midi layouts and CC’s for a synth of yours? No problem! Set it up once on the instrument page and save it! Now, you can pull up that profile any time you like! Just like that!

Macro and micro synth; there are actually sound engines built in! The wave synth or whatever it’s called is a simple chip tune style Pwm and wave generator. Sounds great! Second is a ported version of the braids engine! Super cool!

I ended finding the M8 was more my speed than the Polyend tracker, so I clearly have strong feelings for it. If you chose to build one let me know!

4 Likes

Can you talk me about the M8 sample playback features? The specs says it reads 16bit mono wavs. Can you modify sample start, end, reverse,…?
It’s difficult to find info about it

So, stereo is added in a beta, which is a nice plus, but could cause some overloading if you’re running 8 samples at huge speeds, but it should work well as a stem or creative playback (meaning instruments and drums)

As for play modes; forward, backwards, pinging pong, loop and more, all definable in the CMD column. Finally, there’sa simple sample slice mode where you turn it on and define the number of slices equal size slices. This is good for chopping loops or building drum kits.

You can also choose start and end offsets. Then apply similar sets of envelopes and sends as a normal instrument.

As an example, here was a test I did for loop chopping and internal instruments.

3 Likes

That’s very nice! I am in doubt between Nerdseq and M8 to sequence my modular, and playing samples creatively is also something I want, and it seems the M8 is more advanced than the Nerdseq in the sample area.

1 Like