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10 Tracking Tips for Beginners

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 likely 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 rhythm 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 likely 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 develop 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, etc).

#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.