Mod Archive Forums

Music Production => Tracking => Topic started by: Eagle on July 04, 2006, 18:46:44

Title: Ten tips for beginner trackers
Post by: Eagle on July 04, 2006, 18:46:44
Beginners, look here! This is another article for beginners. Pretty much in the style of my tracker mistake article. I hope you will enjoy it. May perhaps even be usefull for experienced trackers. Well, read it and see for yourself. :D

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Ten Good Tips for Beginners to Tracking
     by Fredrik "Eagle" Larsson

So, you are new to tracking, eh? Here is ten good ideas that will help you getting started. I hope this article will serve you well. It took me more than half a year to learn to track since I took none of following steps when I first got into tracking:

#1 - Read the documents of your tracker.

A boring start, you think? Oh no, you are dead wrong. It's very interesting to read the docs (at least I think so)! Look for headers like "Getting Started" and "FAQ". You don't have to read it all, just try to find the most important parts as to how to load samples and instrument and placing out notes on patterns. If you don't know what "patterns" and "samples" are or what on earth I mean with instrument, keep reading the documents and you will see.

#2 - Look for tutorials.

This will help you a lot! If there is no tutorial coming with your tracker, look for tracker community forums and see if they have any tutorials there. Luckilly, they usually have. Try to look for the website of your tracker and its forums, too.

#3 - Experiment with all the effects.

Don't worry about trying out new effects. They will not ruin your little song. And even if they do, just remove the effects with [del] or [backspace]. Read your tracker documentation and look for "effect list". Effects are very important if you are planning to make your little piece of music sound good.

#4 - Search for samples and instruments.

Without samples, you can't track anything. Look on the website of your tracker and see if you can find any package with samples. Otherwise go to a tracker community forum and look there. You may also find samples in places with sounds for flash developer. Most sound formats will work in most trackers. MP3 is not supported on many tracker formats, though (although there is a newly developed tracker format which supports it as I am writing this, but there is little support for it on players and trackers at the writing moment).

If you can't find any samples, why not record some sounds yourself? Get your microphone and start recording banging pots, slicing kitchen knives and your piano, if you have one.

#5 - Learn to play an instrument.

Learning to play an instrument will help you a lot! People who have played an instrument earlier (or been part of a choir) before starting tracking usually have musical experience already and are more likelly to generate good music. If you haven't learnt to play an instrument, try learning to play a simple instrument like synth or a flute, for example. You will like it!

#6 - Learn to play drums or to catch rhythms.

Ever stomped the ground with your feet or clapped your hands to a song? That is rhythm (more or less). Try listening to drums or play drums yourself to learn about different rhythms. You can take courses in your local music school. You just have to learn to recognise and keep rhytm and tempos. If you play a drum on every fourth line in your pattern, you can learn by using your tracker. Once you got a hang of some simple rhythms, you are less likelly to unintentionally generate off-beat music (which in most cases sound chaotic or bad unless the author intended it).

#7 - Listening to music.

This is a very good inspiration source and will help you develope your own style. By listening to music, you will probably feel like doing this and that yourself or whatever kind of musical idea that happens to pop-up in your head. You will also learn to recognise styles and genres (if you try to find out what kind of category the music you listen to is, for example: pop, hip-hop, rock, et cetera).

#8 - Look how other trackers have done it!

Download and look for modules and listen and/or view how the author made his or her module. You will easier learn about effects and you will get new ideas for techniques, which in turn will help you improving your own songs or get new ideas.

#9 - Discuss tracking with other.

There are a lots of trackers out there, and if they love to talk about something, it is tracking. Useful info and new ideas are often shared by people. Don't worry about being a newbie in the tracking community, come share your ideas with folks and they will share their ideas with you. Plus! You will make new friends! Just remember to be friendly and follow proper netiquette, OK?

#10 - Learn how to make your own samples.

By learning how to make your own samples, you will probably come across a lot of audio technical words and learn more about audio. If you get good at it, you will probably end up using and having a large library of instruments and samples! Making samples is quite fun, too. If you have the right tools, we may be talking about magic!

I hope these tips will help you out on your way to becoming a great and recognised tracker! And be sure to help those who are new to tracking once you get good yourself!

This article is copyright © Fredrik "Eagle" Larsson, 2006.
Title: Ten tips for beginner trackers
Post by: Ceekayed on July 04, 2006, 21:17:35
#5 is rather useless in my humble opinion - it's not like it's a must to learn to play an instrument (a tracker is already an instrument of a kind) to be able to make good music - some of the best composers I know don't have any musical background. And the ability to play an instrument has got nothing to do with composing, afterall - you can be a guitar virtuoso, but it still doesn't mean you could compose a good piece of music (and vice versa)
Knowledge in music theory, or just plain experience in composing is the thing that matters.

Other than that, nice tips.  :thumbup:
Title: Ten tips for beginner trackers
Post by: yozfitz on July 27, 2006, 18:35:39
I have no musical background.  I still have been composing for many years.
Title: Ten tips for beginner trackers
Post by: oto on August 01, 2006, 20:44:33
hey yozfitz, i like your website.. very cool!!  :thumbup:
Title: Ten tips for beginner trackers
Post by: yozfitz on August 02, 2006, 02:33:03
Thanks oto, I really appreciate your mentioning it!
Title: Ten tips for beginner trackers
Post by: s-go on August 17, 2006, 21:05:42
Nice article with useful tips as in the other sticky topic here in the Tracking section  :thumbup:

One thing that can't be underlined too much in my opinion is patience. As good as these tips are, I think that the great majority will have to have certain amounts of determination and true intrest in music to keep oneself focused on the matter. If one can track good tunes in a few days, that's extremely good for him/her, but I doubt that a few beginning artists can manage to learn to track even as soon as Eagle did. So if your tracking doesn't seem to work in a week or a month or a year, but you're still having fun, then keep on doing it!

Back in the days when a friend showed me a tracker and played some tunes and it was so exteremely cool and interesting but I mostly spent the first year playing Nibbles on FT2 (I was about 12 at the time, it was really neat back then :oops:) and listening to the best modules I could find. Then slowly I started to create something and then after a moderate evolvement curve from your basic-itsy-bitsy-spiders etc to some original material I suddenly noticed that my songs were listenable and even other people then myself were enjoying them  :lol:

Maybe if I had seen these kind of tips I might have gotten the hang of it sooner, but that's a big maybe. I'd have probably done just as I did  :)  There's no easy solution that would qualify for everyone, and I'd like to underline that a beginning tracker needs patience and healthy confidence. Ofcourse tracking gets frustrating at times, it does for everyone, but if you still get back to your favourite tracker after a while, you've chosen the right path on tracking.

Sorry for the long post, one last note that came to mind while ranting and getting even cheesy at times, is the fact that when you get criticism from a song, take it the right way or atleast learn to try to do so. Flames and such can be disregarded but good constructive criticism is really a priceless tip and a pathway to find things to develop in one's songs. Ok, now I'll just shut up and post this.  :roll:
Title: Ten tips for beginner trackers
Post by: Eagle on August 17, 2006, 21:19:32
Your reply is better than my whole article, haha. :thumbup:

I regret only one thing, and that is that I didn't read the help file on how to use the Tracker when I first got it. If I did, I would have gotten into tracking a lot faster. It took me 5 months to learn the basics of basic. :)
Title: Ten tips for beginner trackers
Post by: yozfitz on August 30, 2006, 19:47:15
Quote from: "s-go"
If one can track good tunes in a few days, that's extremely good for him/her, but I doubt that a few beginning artists can manage to learn to track even as soon as Eagle did. So if your tracking doesn't seem to work in a week or a month or a year, but you're still having fun, then keep on doing it!

True, effort and insistence on this is what let you improve.
I remember the first time I tracked.  It was a couple of months after I discovered the tracking world, shown to me by one of my friends.  I was really eager to track my first song  (a cover, actually).  
I didn't have any clue about this stuff; I was only given Modedit 2.0 and I went straightly for creating my first MOD. I thought I did it pretty cool  because I was really satisfied at that moment with the results.  

Neverheless, though I wanted to track more songs after this one, I found myself without a "hook", I didn't know what to track.  I did track more songs, but I didn't feel quite at all proud of these songs. It took me some time to track something that really satisfied me likewise or more than my first mod.   If I hadn't put more effort in training myself in tracking and gaining insights from other author's songs,  I wouldn't have gone on tracking.
Title: Re: Ten tips for beginner trackers
Post by: moncrey on December 12, 2008, 22:34:48
Is it common for one column or track to  be used for multiple instruments?

I was looking in this thread hoping there would be a note on organization of a module.

I am often guilty of not isolating my instruments to their own column. This is mostly for songs I make with Nitrotracker.  Renoise forces me to be more orderly due to dsp on tracks.

Do any of you obsess over this detail, even when track effects arent present?
Title: Re: Ten tips for beginner trackers
Post by: Saga Musix on December 12, 2008, 22:44:19
that really depends. if you go for less channel, you have to stick to many instruments per channel. as long as i'm not limited, i take at least one channel per instrument, though.
Title: Re: Ten tips for beginner trackers
Post by: m0d on December 12, 2008, 22:45:49
When the luxury of having infinite number of channels is there (Renoise for instance),  organisation (and labelling) is key to keeping your sanity when working on complex stuff.

On hardware or software limited systems, though, you have to be inventive and make use of the resources that are there. For instance, you don't exactly get much choice when using Protracker, or AHX which are a maximum 4 channels.
Title: Re: Ten tips for beginner trackers
Post by: barryvan on December 16, 2008, 14:08:44
Personally, I work in OpenMPT, and although I don't use channel-based plugs, I keep everything nicely organised. Hey, I even leave an empty channel between instruments. :D Basically, if you've got the facility, use it, imo.
Title: Re: Ten tips for beginner trackers
Post by: billyskank on April 03, 2009, 21:16:08
If I may add my 0.02 to this article, it is useful to get a sample editor beyond the one the Tracker provides, for example if you want to chop drum breaks up. Audacity is an excellent editor, and available for free, and it is what I use: