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Drum machine programs?


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Hey. So I know at least a few of you (Rocks and Wind, at least) know a ton about making electronic music. I'm looking for something relatively similar -- I just want to make drum machine beats for a few songs for a demo that me and my friend are putting together.

Really I am a complete beginner when it comes to this shit, so, you know, any information y'all have would be helpful.

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well, where to start....

I'll outline your choices with some wiki

Tracker is the generic term for a class of software music sequencers which, in their purest form, allow the user to arrange sound samples stepwise on a timeline across several monophonic channels. A tracker's interface is primarily numeric; notes are entered via the alphanumeric keys of the computer keyboard, while parameters, effects and so forth are entered in hexadecimal. A complete song consists of several small multi-channel patterns chained together via a master list.

There are several elements common to any tracker program: samples, notes, effects, tracks (or channels), patterns, and orders.

A sample is a small digital sound file of an instrument, voice, or other sound effect. Most trackers allow a part of the sample to be looped, simulating a sustain of a note.

A note designates the frequency at which the sample is played back. By increasing or decreasing the playback speed of a digital sample, the pitch is raised or lowered, simulating instrumental notes (e.g. C, C#, D, etc.).

An effect is a special function applied to a particular note. These effects are then applied during playback through either hardware or software. Common tracker effects include volume, portamento, vibrato, retrigger, and arpeggio.

A track (or channel) is a space where one sample is played back at a time. Whereas the original Amiga trackers only provided four tracks, the hardware limit, modern trackers can mix a virtually unlimited number of channels into one sound stream through software mixing. Tracks have a fixed number of "rows" on which notes and effects can be placed (most trackers lay out tracks in a vertical fashion). Tracks typically contain 64 rows and 16 beats, although the beats and tempo can be increased or decreased to the composer's taste.

A basic drum set could thus be arranged by putting a bass drum at rows 0, 4, 8, 12 etc. of one track and putting some hihat at rows 2, 6, 10, 14 etc. of a second track. Of course bass and hats could be interleaved on the same track, if the samples are short enough. If not, the previous sample is usually stopped when the next one begins. Some modern trackers simulate polyphony in a single track by setting the "new note action" of each instrument to cut, continue, fade out, or release, opening new mixing channels as necessary.

A pattern is a group of simultaneously played tracks that represents a full section of the song. A pattern is intended to represent an even number of measures of music composition.

An order is part of a sequence of patterns which defines the layout of a song. Patterns can be repeated across multiple orders to save tracking time and file space.

There are also some tracker-like programs that utilize tracker-style sequencing schemes, while using real-time sound synthesis instead of samples. Many of these programs are designed for creating music for a particular synthesizer chip such as the OPL chips of the Adlib and SoundBlaster sound cards, or the sound chips of classic home computers. These programs are also often called "trackers" and are listed in this article.

Tracker music is typically stored in so-called module files where the song data and samples are encapsulated in a single file. Several module file formats are supported by popular music player programs such as Winamp or XMMS. Well-known formats include MOD, MED, S3M, XM and IT.

The term tracker derives from Ultimate Soundtracker; the first tracker software. Ultimate Soundtracker was written by Karsten Obarski and released in 1987 by Electronic Arts for the Commodore Amiga. Ultimate Soundtracker was a commercial product, but not much later shareware clones such as NoiseTracker appeared as well. The general concept of step-sequencing samples numerically, as used in trackers, is also found in the Fairlight CMI sampling workstation of the late 1970s. Some early tracker-like programs appeared for the Commodore 64, such as Rock Monitor, but these did not feature sample playback, instead playing notes on the computer's internal synthesizer.

The first computer game to feature tracker music was Amegas (1987), an Arkanoid clone for Amiga. The music, which was composed by Obarski, is generally considered the first MOD music ever made and is well known by fans of "old school" computer music.

Most early tracker musicians were from the United Kingdom and Scandinavia. This may be attributable to the close relationship of the tracker to the demoscene, which grew rapidly in Scandinavian countries, and the relative affordability in the UK of computers able to run tracker software. Tracker music became something of an underground phenomenon, especially as so much contemporary chart music was then sample-based dance music (a genre relatively simple to produce with step-based sequencing). In fact, several chart-topping 1989/1990-era dance singles strongly foreshadow compositional trends in tracker music which would remain popular for many years to come; in particular, 808 State's "Pacific" and Octave One's "I Believe". Both tracks rely heavily on muted, detuned saw-wave background pads which play four-tone augmented major seventh chords in chord patterns which fit the pentatonic scale; an unsyncopated 4/4 drum beat runs underneath. Though this particular musical arrangement was scarcely heard earlier, an overwhelming number of tracker compositions in following years used the exact same pattern.

The popularity of the tracker format may also be attributable to its inclusion of both score data and samples. In the early 90s, the price of wavetable sound cards for personal use was very high, and the expressive capabilities of the cheaper FM-synthesizer sound cards were rather limited. A tracker requires neither of these sound card features.

The first trackers supported only four channels of 8-bit PCM samples, a limitation derived from the Amiga's Paula audio chipset. However, since the notes were samples, the limitation was less important than those of synthesizing music chips.[1] For example, a process which became a cliché in early pop-rave chart tunes was to sample chords and play them back on a single channel. Rapid chordal stabs, often of fifths, were the hallmark of Altern-8 and other transient techno phenomena. Later tracker software, most famously OctaMED, allowed for eight or more channels, whilst special hardware could allow for 16-bit playback.

Over time, 'tracker music' became something of a term of derision for stereotypically ravey, computer-game-style pop tunes, whilst the difficulty involved in adding 'swing' to a mechanistic sequencing style resulted in much 4/4 music based around strict four-bar sections, often using similar samples. One tracker trying to address these issues is Radium; however, it is debatable whether Radium itself qualifies as a tracker at all.

Tracker music lives on today. It can be found in modern computer games such as the Unreal series and Deus Ex, as well as a considerable number of indie games. However, the easy availability of software samplers/synthesizers and sequencers has caused most professional musicians to adopt other music software. Nonetheless, tracker software continues to develop (as of 2007). Some of the early Amiga trackers such as ProTracker, OctaMED have received various updates, mostly for porting to other platforms. ProTracker having resumed development in 2004, with plans for releasing version 5 to Windows and AmigaOS, but only version 4.0 beta 2 for AmigaOS have been released. Other cross-platform trackers include Renoise, MilkyTracker, and Skale.

Buzz, ModPlug Tracker, MadTracker, Renoise, reViSiT, Skale, Psycle, and others offer features undreamed-of back in the day (improved signal-to-noise ratios, automation, VST support, internal DSPs and multi-effects, multi I/O cards support etc.).

During 2007, Renoise and Modplug Tracker (OpenMPT) were the most active in development. Development is resuming on Skale and reViSiT is technically a Tracker VST plugin in the spirit of Impulse Tracker, not a stand alone program.

Tracker files have also become popular in the handheld gaming community. NitroTracker is a Fast Tracker 2 style tracker that can run directly on the Nintendo DS. The Game Boy Advance has the hardware and processing power to support tracker music, which offers good quality while taking up little space compared to MP3s or other forms of audio.

The traditional tracker stigma of unwieldy, complicated programs (aimed at a predominantly technologically-minded audience) is slowly being cast off, as programs become more accessible and user friendly. As such, tracking has recently enjoyed a mild resurgence as people begin to appreciate the importance of laying down music as quickly as possible - the musical equivalent of touch typing.

Trackers are also becoming increasingly popular with professional musicians, particularly in genres such as IDM, where fine control over sample playback is needed. Venetian Snares, for instance, has released a video on youtube of his track Tache playing in Renoise.

this is the route i would take, as it truly is a superior method of triggering and composing Beats/Music. Plus, you can use trackers as a live instrument sampler as well (granted your versed in the program well enough.)

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A digital audio workstation (DAW) is an electronic system designed to record, edit and play back digital audio. A key feature of DAWs is the ability to freely manipulate recorded sounds.

The term "DAW" simply refers to a general combination of audio multitrack software and high-quality audio hardware — the latter being a specialized audio converter unit which performs some variety of analog-to-digital (ADC) and/or digital-to-analog (DAC) signal conversion. For example, a workstation could have eight discrete audio inputs, and two or more audio outputs for playback monitoring or routing signal to other devices. Systems can have as few as two mono inputs and outputs — the discrete audio inputs and outputs provide for simultaneous multitracking dual mono sources or stereo recording. A professional DAC performs the same function as a common sound card, but is generally of higher quality and offers sonic or functional advantages when compared with its consumer cousin.

While almost any home computer with multitrack and editing software can function somewhat as a DAW, the term generally refers to computer systems which have high-quality external ADC-DAC hardware, and some form of audio software; some of which is commercial proprietary software such as Cubase, Nuendo, Logic Pro, Pro Tools, Adobe Audition, SADiE 5, Sony Sound Forge, Samplitude, Soundscape, SONAR, ACID Pro, FL Studio (formerly Fruityloops), Ableton Live, Tracktion or Digital Performer, some of which is free software such as Audacity and Ardour. Besides having high-end sound cards most DAWs also require a large amount of RAM, fast CPU(s) and sufficient free hard drive space.

Computer-based DAWs

Consist of three components: a computer, an ADC-DAC, and digital audio editor software. The computer acts as a host for the sound card and software and provides processing power for audio editing. The sound card acts as an audio interface, typically converting analog audio signals into digital form, and may also assist in processing audio. The software controls the two hardware components and provides a user interface to allow for recording and editing. Many radio stations in the U.S. prefer using computer-based DAWs over integrated DAWs.

Integrated DAWs

Consist of a mixing console, control surface, audio converter and data storage in one device. Integrated DAWs were more popular before personal computers became powerful enough to run DAW software. As computer power increased and price decreased, the popularity of the costly integrated systems dropped. However, systems such as the Orban Audicy once flourished in the radio and television markets. Today, some systems still offer computerless arranging and recording features with a full graphical user interface, such as the Roland MV-8000, Roland MV-8800 and recent Mackie HDR-series hard disk recorders.

As software systems, DAWs could be designed with any user interface, but generally they are based on a multitrack tape recorder metaphor, making it easier for recording engineers and musicians already familiar with using tape recorders to become familiar with the new systems. Therefore, computer-based DAWs tend to have a standard layout which includes transport controls (play, rewind, record, etc.), track controls and/or a mixer, and a waveform display. In single-track DAWs, only one (mono or stereo form) sound is displayed at a time.

Multitrack DAWs support operations on multiple tracks at once. Like a mixing console, each track typically has controls that allow the user to adjust the overall volume and stereo balance (pan) of the sound on each track. In a traditional recording studio additional processing is physically plugged in to the audio signal path, a DAW, however, uses software plugins to process the sound on a track.

While DAWs are capable of mimicking the functions of a traditional recording studio, there are areas where they excel, and in some cases they can do things that are impossible without a DAW.

Perhaps the most significant feature available on a DAW that is not available in analogue recording (some other forms of digital recording do have this) is the ability to 'undo' a previous action, which makes it much easier to avoid accidentally erasing or recording over a previous recording.

Commonly DAWs feature some form of automation, commonly performed through "envelope points." Each dot represents one envelope point. By creating and adjusting multiple points along a waveform or control events, the user can specify parameters of the output over time (e.g., volume or pan).

you could go this route, which maybe easier, but your performance ability is HIGHLY restricted, as most of these programs (besides Abelton Live) are for studio use. I highly recommend AL though, awesome program.

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I am most familiar with LGPT and i think its a pretty awesome program (it follows LSDJ's interface.) But Renoise is the coolest, it costs some money though. Mod PLug if your on Windows. Cheesetracker if your on mac. (LGPT is kinda working on both platforms, its designed for the GP2x)

Im warning you though, Trackers can be a little daunting to work with at first.

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The only one I really made any progress with was Mod Plug, just because there was the most documentation for it on the internet that I could find really easily. Haha. My friend also got me to download Fruity Loops, which is really easy to use.

There's something about all of these that's just not clicking, though. Like... When you write a beat, it plays one measure and then goes back and repeats that measure again. Are you just supposed to make edits to it while it's playing if you want to change the song?

Also I haven't been spending as much time on this as I'd like because of classwork and such.

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for instance in LGPT:

1__ A#__ <---------this is your pattern

2__ B#__ you can organize these

3__ __ __ which ever way you choose

4__ __ __ Imagine it like FL studio only

5__ B __ your piano roll is vertical as opposed

6__ __ __ a simple

7__ G#__

8__ A __

9__ __ __

The next step is to organize those patterns so it plays the patterns back in the way you organized them

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