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Eagle

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The 10 most common tracker mistakes
« on: May 12, 2006, 09:24:25 »

The Most Common Tracking Mistakes v2.0
by Fredrik "Eagle" Larsson

Once being an active reviewer back in 2006, I came across a lot of clearly unintentional pit-falls that were made by less experienced trackers new to the scene. Music is a wonderful thing, but it is easy to also make it unpleasant. In order to learn from your mistakes, you need to be aware of them in order to improve. This is the reason I have listed the ten most common mistakes that I have found. Read and learn.


#1 - Being stuck with a single theme without development/laziness.

Let's face it. Often, as you compose, you will create a theme which may sound wonderful! The problem is when you build your entire song on this single idea without developing on it and moving away from it, it will sound monotone and actually quite boring.

Minimalism can be intentional (and even a whole genre!), but variation in not only arrangement but in composition, melody, sound and dynamics is the key to an interesting song. Allow yourself to be creative!


#2 - Off-key and off-tune. *shivers*

Some can hear it, some cannot. If you have ever felt something sounds horrible without being able to put your finger on what - most likely the tune is off-tune or even off-key. Whichever is the case for you, always tune your instruments or samples before composing with them.

A simple way to tune things would be to play two samples at the same tone simultaneously and listen to whether they interfere with each other. Tune them manually until they play the same tone at the same key. Also try some common accords with 2 or 3 samples like C-major (C, E, G) and see if they sound like they should as when you play the chord with only one sample. For other methods, look for guides on the forums or ask around. There's plenty of good ways.

#3 - Got a little bit off-beat, mister drummer?

Imagine the following sequence to be the sound of a ticking metronome.

Bing-ba-ba-bing-ba-ba-ba-ba-bing-ba-ba-ba-bing!

Hear anything that seems wrong? There are ways to experiment with rhythms and you can create very odd beats. However, whenever you make a song with an odd rhythm, it should at least be consistent throughout most major parts of the song.

The variation of different beats could possibly create interesting effects, but if your song is just random, it will sound like random noise and not a song - I suppose a song is what you intend to achieve?


#4 - Forgetting to fill out the sound spectrum.

As a beginner, you may not be aware of what the term "sound spectrum" means, so I will make it simple for you. Every sound consists of waves with different wave lengths. A long wave has low frequency and creates a bass sound which typically sounds like "ooom". A short wave with high frequency has a fizzy sound or lean towards a flute. And then there's the mid-frequencies like a guitar.

The more you mix instruments with different frequency levels, the fuller your sound is. Listen in your headphones and hear how they compliment each other or how empty it can feel if you, for example, forget to add bass - which many does.


#5 - Missing to pay attention to dynamics and sound levels.

Dynamics and panning may come in second hand, but is just as important a tool to achieve superb effects. You may also want to pay attention to how the volume of different instruments compliment each other. If a pitchy instrument is too loud it will hurt your ears, too loud a bass may give you too much bass and too much mid-frequency things can crack your speakers and drench your songs.

Balance the volume of every different part of your song so that it creates a pleasing effect. Panning helps creating interesting effects  and the changes in volume (dynamics) can create more interesting effects than all the vibrato, glissando can do together. For example you could expressing the feeling of being tense by using or nervous by putting tremolo on a string or use a loud orchestra hit for toning that something just happened. The possibilities are many.


#6 - Finishing a song just for the sake of finishing.

Sometimes as a composer, you will run out of ideas especially as you are about to finish your song. If you don't know how to incorporate an ending, maybe you have already gotten stuck in the pitfall I explained in mistake #1?

Otherwise, there's plenty of way to finish a song. You can always ask someone experienced for a little help on suggestions or you can think it over as you sleep. Just make sure you have a methodical strategy so you can achieve the effect that you want.


#7 - Staring too much on the effect column.

Effects can be used to create something that sounds awesome through clever but technically simple means. However, I sometimes come across those who consider effects as the one and only mean to create a good song.

It's not the amount of effects you use that make something sound good, it is how you use them.


#8 - Forgetting to test your song in other players.

Not everyone use the player you use. Listen to your song in most common players and try to adapt your song to it. If you use external features like VSTs and other plug-ins to create the sound you want, it would be advised that you release an MP3 in first hand and perhaps the module on the side so that everyone can listen to your song the way you intended it to sound.


#9 - Stealing too many ideas.

Some call it inspiration, others call it influence, bloggers call it being unoriginal. There's a line where being inspired goes towards stealing ideas. If you have another song in mind, of course you can use some parts or ideas from it in your own creation, but create your own thing first and then put it in as a subtle compliment, and not the other way around or else accusations will be made. There's a fine line between stealing and being inspired.

Now, you don't need to be paranoid. If your song coincidentally sounds very, very much like another and you were not aware of it while creating your own piece, you have not done anything wrong.

If you remix a song or make a cover, credit the original author and make it clear that you have remixed/covered someone else. If you make a cover, do it from scratch and with your own interpretation or else it will be classed a rip.


#10 - Forgetting to add details.

For archiving reasons, don't forget to add details and credit of when you made your song, possibly how you made it, what software you used and credit yourself for being the author behind it.

You may also add your contact details if you would like. It's not necessary if you do not want to do so. As long as the listener can find what else you have made and easily categorise your creations. It's all for your own benefit!

Copyright © Fredrik "Eagle" Larsson, 2006-2008


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This is a short article I wrote recently. Newbies, look here!

Version 1.1 released! (Wednesday 31st May 2006)

The Most Common Tracking Mistakes v1.1
   by Fredrik "Eagle" Larsson

I have listened, reviewed and viewed a lot of modules and often I see the same mistakes being done over and over again. I have listed the most common tracker mistakes in this small article in order to help newbies to get on the right course and avoid doing the same mistakes as most other trackers has done (Though, mistakes are the best teachers, hehe.):

#1 - Looping and using the same theme

Let's face it. Adding a single new sample after four looped patterns is not "kewl". It makes the song monotonous and therefore boring, yeah, simply boring. Be more creative, you will like it!

#2 - TOO LOUD, TOO QUICK!!

It happens that I turn on a fresh module which goes BAAAM-BA-BLAH! In those cases the author had built on the same patterns putting more and more samples without considering volume. The author probably had a low volume on his/her speakers too. Pay attention to the graphical equalizer (The red and green volume meters) in your tracker. If it is up in the red zone, it is time to decrease the volume. A good way to avoid this mistake is by starting with a single instrument and then add the rest to it as the song goes along. Avoid mistake #1 while doing that.

I may add that making your song too quiet is not a good idea, either. People need to be able to hear your work without buying a new, mega super duper hyper ear crushing surrond 4000W bass system. Try to keep a consistent volume throughout your module.

#3 - No depth, no panning, no nothing.

This is a common mistake done by less experienced trackers. Remember that echo, stereo sound and other things are the key to a filly and detailed sound. Without them, the song turns into a simple melody and nothing but a melody.

Too much details may destroy your song, though, so do not exaggerate!

#4 - Out of beat

Bonk-ba-baa-bonk-baaaa! When a song uses a bassdrum on 0 then a snare on 5 and hi-hat on 7, there is probably something wrong with the module. Remember to count the beats and keep your drum rhytm synchronized with it. For example, use a bass drum on 0, 4, 8 then a snare on 2, 6, 10 and then you can experiment with variations of this for example with a hi-hat on 1,3,5,7 and more. Look how other people do and you will see what I mean!

Remember that the melody must be synchronized with the drums and the drums synchronized with the melody. You can not (Well, you can, but I do not recommend it!), for example, use a 3/4 waltz rhytm with 4/4 rock rhytm, it will sound awful!

#5 - Finishing the song abruptly

Pling-plong-...? If a sample is active when the song ends, the song is not finished correctly (Unless you intended it in order to create some sort of shock effect to grab your listener with surprise). Perhaps the author forgot to jump to a certain pattern by using a loop in the end or perhaps the person just forgot he/she was not finished? Avoid this mistake by listening through your song before publishing it.

#6 - Forgetting to add contact info

You think no one cares about your music? You are wrong, people do care. If you publish a song, be sure to add your name and e-mail or any other way to contact you. If you have a website, add it. This can be done in the comment area in XM and IT and in the sample names in MOD and S3M. You may be surprised to find someone thanking you for making your module!

#7 - Spelling your mail-adress wrong

Check your spelling when you write your contact info. One mistake and your info is quite useless - especially if you misspelled your mail adress!

#8 - Cutting a note by using another note when you should not

This is a mistake I see often by complete newbies. Read your tracker documentation if you do not know how to use a note cut or a volume set. You know, RTFM (Read The Fine Manual)!

#9 - Using relative values

This is not neccessarily a mistake. But if you can, use absolute values instead. It takes longer to do but increases the chance that it will work correctly on other players than the one YOU happen to use.

With this I mean that you should avoid using effects that decrease something with -1, for example Set Tempo (-1). XMPlay, for example, misinterprets Set Tempo -1 as -8 or something like that and therefore the tempo changes abruptly rather than subtly or in any way you planned to change it.

Volume slides, may I add, is not a bad idea to use. They usually work correctly on all trackers and works better in slow tempoes/speeds compared to a manual volume slide made with Set Volume, which in slow speeds makes a stair-like and choppy volume slide.

#10 - Ripping

You think no one will notice that you just happened to change the sample names and adding your name to someone else's module? Think again! Ripping is wrong, no, ILLEGAL! If you get caught for doing this, and you will, you can say good bye to your future tracking!

Though, ripping samples is not wrong unless the author has made them himself/bought them and makes it clear that he/she do not want you to rip. Remember, he/she got the copyright.

Copyright © Fredrik "Eagle" Larsson
« Last Edit: September 30, 2008, 16:00:09 by Eagle »
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Saga Musix

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The 10 most common tracker mistakes
« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2006, 20:28:53 »

yes, this is pretty good - i remember some of those mistakes from my very beginning :)
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Eagle

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The 10 most common tracker mistakes
« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2006, 22:33:01 »

I've done all of those mistakes (except #10, would not even cross my mind) myself. However, those were mostly amoung my 20 first modules. I learned quite quickly there after. :P
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Rikimbo

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« Reply #3 on: May 12, 2006, 23:31:55 »

Most of that is good, but I definitely don't agree with your number 9...

Using absolute values is great, but making a volume slide kind of thing using absolute values can easily make the volume slide sound like a 'staircase' of volume levels, not so much a slide.  Sure, you need a good ear to hear this effect, but it's there.

What you can do is do some testing -- by which I mean you put a volume slide, let it do it's thing, and then later change the volume abruptly to the absolute value that you want it to be;  If you can hear the volume change - bad: fix the volume slide until it goes to the volume you want (ie you can't hear the volume change when you set the absolute value.)  Personally, that's what I do -- and it's definitely not lazy!  :mad:
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The 10 most common tracker mistakes
« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2006, 10:22:44 »

Well..it is usefull "rules" for me... :thumbup:
If you dont want to be a victim of ripper...your music should know more people..and in different and legal and good site's =)
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Eagle

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The 10 most common tracker mistakes
« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2006, 15:45:05 »

Quote from: "Rikimbo"
Most of that is good, but I definitely don't agree with your number 9...

Using absolute values is great, but making a volume slide kind of thing using absolute values can easily make the volume slide sound like a 'staircase' of volume levels, not so much a slide.  Sure, you need a good ear to hear this effect, but it's there.


Actually, I added that #9 to just fill my article with ten mistakes. I actually just came up with 8 mistakes so I kind of felt I needed to expand it with #9 and #7. But it really does not matter. If this article helps anyone at all, it has served its purphose.

On the other hand, I think the reason why you experience that "staircase" feeling is because you are using 12 as speed. I use 6 which makes the volume set more smooth. But if it suits you, by all means use the method you prefer.
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Rikimbo

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The 10 most common tracker mistakes
« Reply #6 on: May 13, 2006, 17:19:14 »

Quote
On the other hand, I think the reason why you experience that "staircase" feeling is because you are using 12 as speed. I use 6 which makes the volume set more smooth. But if it suits you, by all means use the method you prefer.

Haha, yeah, I know, it's definitely easier to spot that staircase effect on my low tempo, speed 12 frames per row stuff.  I don't know why I took a shine to 12 frames per row really... I guess it's because with six frames I would always be spacing out things in pairs anyway.  With 12 frames per row I can see more on the screen I suppose.  I can get 6 frame intervals using note delays and retriggers anyway.  Maybe it's silly, haha, I don't know.  It works for me.

Good tutorial, in any case.

#1 - Looping and using the same theme  <-- I still do that, and I don't care :D

#2 - TOO LOUD, TOO QUICK!! <-- haha that, I have never done.  Too soft, too slow?  That would be me.  :)

#3 - No depth, no panning, no nothing. <-- sometimes I'm still to lazy to add panning... usually I throw in some though.

#4 - Out of beat <-- doesn't happen at speed 12! Every row is on either a strong beat or on one of the weak beats!  hahahaha woooo I rule! ^^

#5 - Finishing the song abruptly <-- haha that's what happens when I run out of ideas :(  Also, you could add here: don't use a fadeout!  I know I do it often enough, but I really shouldn't.  It's a crappy and lazy way to end a song.

#6 - Forgetting to add contact info <-- too much vanity to do that :)

#7 - Spelling your mail-adress wrong <-- too much vanity to do that :)

#8 - Cutting a note by using another note when you should not <-- pretty sure I avoided that in even my first mods.  Not sure though.

#9 - Using relative values <-- discussed that already :)

#10 - Ripping <-- psh.
Quote
If you dont want to be a victim of ripper...your music should know more people..and in different and legal and good site's =)

Or make music that isn't good enough to intice rippers to steal it! :D

~~Rikimbo
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Darth Nefelim

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The 10 most common tracker mistakes
« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2006, 22:05:55 »

I have an article about using other people samples - read it here, don't want to post it if you are not interested. That's all I want to say about ripping.

In whole, this recommendations can be useful for newbies. And even for "seniors" sometimes. :) The problem is we all know this, but don't have a particular list to remember time to time.  :thumbup:  Nice, I like this.

p.s. This list is not about me.  :lol:
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Eagle

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« Reply #8 on: May 17, 2006, 08:39:43 »

Quote from: "Rikimbo"
Quote
If you dont want to be a victim of ripper...your music should know more people..and in different and legal and good site's =)

Or make music that isn't good enough to intice rippers to steal it! :D


I may say that those who rips are never clever people so you never know what they may choose to rip. But I think no one would notice if someone ripped one of the worst modules in modarchive, it would be trashed in the filtering process, anyway, hehe.

By the way, Darth. That is quite a good article, you've written.
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John_Marwin

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The 10 most common tracker mistakes
« Reply #9 on: May 30, 2006, 09:49:37 »

Hehe, since I'm too an old fox in this game, I thought I'd give you a bit of critique on your article =)

#2 - TOO LOUD, TOO QUICK!!

It happens that I turn on a fresh module which goes BAAAM-BA-BLAH! In those cases the author had built on the same patterns putting more and more samples without considering volume. The author probably had a low volume on his/her speakers too. Pay attention to the volume meter in your tracker. If it is up in the red zone, it is time to decrease the volume. A good way to avoid this mistake is by starting with a single instrument and then add the rest to it as the song goes along. Avoid mistake #1 while doing that.

^ This point assumes that one has a graphical equalizer or main volume graph in their tracker, something which isn't an universal truth.
What I'd like to say in this area is that keeping a module TOO low in volume can sometimes be quite annoying aswell. Keeping your volumes consistent throughout the track is better. (ie, don't suddenly raise/lower the volume violently)

#3 - No depth, no panning, no nothing.

This is a common mistake done by less experienced trackers. Remember that echo, stereo sound and other things are the key to a filly sound. Without them, the song turns into a melody

^ Using excessive reverb can make a song sound very bad since the echoes can conflict with eachother, so sometimes less IS more.
But, the main point is well made, effects mean details, and details are essential when making music!

#4 - Out of beat

Bonk-ba-baa-bonk-baaaa! When a song uses a bassdrum on 0 then a snare on 5 and hi-hat on 7, there is something wrong with the module. Remember to count the beats. If the bassdrum is at 0 and the snare at 4, it must continue the same way in 8, 12, 16, 20, et cetera.

^ This is completely wrong, and encourages a mechanized vision on how to make a module. (this is a common beginners mistake) Utilizing a speed adjustment command to mess up the rhytm could theoretically make any combination of beats on any combination of rows work.

I'd rephrase this into "keep your drums properly synced to your melodies"
instead.

#5 - Finishing the song abruptly

Pling-plong-...? If a sample is active when the song ends, the song is not finished correctly. Perhaps the author forgot to jump to a certain pattern by using a loop in the end or perhaps the person just forgot he/she was not finished? Avoid this mistake by listening through your song before publishing it.

^ Usually, finishing a song in a mid sample means that yes, indeed the author was a lazy git who didn't check his instruments before ending the module pattern. However, I've used this technique a number of times to make the song suddenly stop, for the shock effect. So, what others might view as you being a n00b, could mean that you intended the song to sound that way!

#9 - Using relative values

If you use volume slides, you are lazy. Use absolute values instead. It takes longer to do but increases the chance that it will work correctly on other players than the one YOU happen to use.

^ Sometimes, using volume slides is preferred over utilizing commands since a volume slide works independently of the number of rows processed in time, which makes a slide very useful in slow row speed songs. Also, commands were made to be used, so use them,but use them when it's appropriate!

Well, that's about the critique I've got for this guide, perhaps I should write one myself sometime... when I get the time...
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