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Archive for the ‘tracker reviews’ Category

Joint review, LSDj and LGPT: Therrrrrrre’s my chippy

Posted by r on January 20, 2014

This post is part of my ongoing tracker-app-reviews-from-slash-FOR-a-possible-tracker-newbie-perspective series. Next up: likely Klystrack.

I figure out absolutely everything backwards. The very first tracker that really piqued my interest in all this tracker-y stuff so “late” in life wasn’t Renoise, SunVox, or even some other “well-known / classic” tracker app for desktop machines. It was LittleGPTracker, aka LGPT, aka PiggyTracker, aka Piggy, aka The Pig.

I don’t remember how I bumped into this crazy app or the associated Hexawe netlabel-community. I liked much of the music I heard being made with Piggy, and was further fascinated by the idea of a robust music app designed to run on mobile devices with only gamepad input allowed for the end user.

LGPT was directly and openly inspired by a longrunning Gameboy music / tracker app called Little Sound DJ – LSDj for short. These two apps share more in common than their numerous interface / UI similarities; both are meant for use on mobile gaming devices or equivalent, and both have super-passionate fanbases actively making music with the things. Once you’ve got the basics of using one of them down, you’re pretty well ready to use the other as well. But there are some pretty significant distinctions between their approaches as well, particularly from a sound-generation angle.

I’ve played / worked much more with LGPT than with LSDj. While LGPT is available not only for several obscure mobile gaming dealies but also natively for Win32 (to say nothing of OSX / Linux / even RPi), I don’t have the requisite hipster hardware to run the Gameboy-only LSDj on a real Gameboy for the “legit experience” and have had to resort to using it in an emulator. But I’ve used both apps just enough at this point to feel comfortable slapping up a joint review from, again, the tracker-n00b perspective.

I have also used both of these apps enough to believe that some smart developer who might get serious about combining these two apps’ particular strengths with a somewhat more modern set of capabilities and UI could very much be on a direct route to The Future Of Mobile Electronic Music-Making. These apps are incredibly cool, and particularly in the case of LGPT, they’re useful for more than just chiptunery. Both programs have particular strengths in terms of workflow / input efficiency that eludes not only most other trackers, but nearly all other “modern” music-making apps as well.

Let’s get down to it.

But before we do – I’ll say more about “hardware requirements” at the very end of this review, but you should know upfront: these apps were meant to be used with gamepads or the equivalent. I would vehemently argue this does not mean you should take these apps any less seriously as music-making tools. You may eventually disagree, but try to keep an open mind.
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Some tracker reviews before 2013 is out

Posted by r on December 9, 2013

Earlier– ok, much earlier this year, I of course made a big to-do about the merits of trackers and set out on a huge review set of tracker-style applications. I had a feeling I was potentially biting off more than I could chew, and I was right.

However, in March through May, I did dig sufficiently deep into a good subset of the trackers on my list, and started writing some pretty in-depth reviews thereof. I realized pretty quickly that what I was writing would be well into tl;dr territory and, despite the absurd level of detail I was pursuing, ultimately not helpful to would-be beginner tracker users.

So here are some much shorter reviews– again, oriented toward would-be beginner users– of my basic findings on Jeskola Buzz, LGPT, OpenMPT, Psycle, Schism, and SunVox – roughly half of my original list of trackers I’d planned to take on. I will probably still go back and get a few more of the ones from my 3/13 master list later on; in particular, I’m still interested in digging into FamiTracker, Klystrack, LSDJ and Renoise.

Along with that, I’ll shortly be doing a review of a semi-recent Android app called Syntheogen, which has a lot in common with the “tracker mindset” despite appearing a bit more like a traditional graphic sequencer. Syntheogen is neat stuff and deserves its own look even at this early stage of the game.

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Final pre-review preamble: Why learn a tracker at all?

Posted by r on March 23, 2013

It’s 2013. There are enough free and cheap DAWs / sequencers, to say nothing of VSTis, to achieve just about any sonic aim / complete just about any job you could imagine on the (extremely) cheap. The horizontal-sequencing genre represents a mature (now over 20 years old itself), quite flexible and well-established paradigm that quite easily understood by most musicians right out of the box. So why is a tracker or tracker-esque application– with its typically standalone nature and somewhat heavier learning curve– still of potential interest to a modern musician?

That’s something I hope to successfully address in this post, because I’m explicitly aiming this series at potential tracker newbies (like myself!), and I base all this effort on the belief that there are uses for both types of tools in the contemporary musical toolbox for lots of folks, well beyond the traditional audience for tracker apps.

There definitely aren’t many tracker evangelists out there being heard (or even making any effort to be heard) by the DAW-addicted masses; the tracking faithful are working in their own niches and are not particularly interested in the horizontally-oriented world outside. But I hope to make the case that trackers are in fact potentially useful tools regardless of the style of music you’re making, and with this post, I hope to make said case successfully in the eyes of other said newbies before I start taking on individual app reviews.

Ultimately, a tracker is perhaps best viewed as “just another tool,” and one that I find does some things better than the more widely-accepted tools in most contemporary DAWs. I definitely don’t think it’s necessary for a musician to limit themselves to working only inside a tracker, but having some basic skills in one tracker or another opens some very cool new possibilities that are harder to get to with the DAW alone. For me, those possibilities are worth the initial learning curve, and I suspect that other musicians might find the same if they’d give these apps a chance.

So, more specifically: what does a tracker potentially offer that a GUI-based DAW does not?
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Tracker review series: The master list of reviews to expect

Posted by r on March 20, 2013

Before I can get started on the tracker review series, I need to set things up properly in a few add’l preamble posts. Let’s start with which trackers I’ll be examining.

As of right now, these are the 15 (count ’em, fifteen!) tracker apps I plan to examine / review in detail as part of the tracker review series (listed alphabetically, definitely NOT in the order I’ll be reviewing them – that order will be decided as I go along):

Buzz (aka Jeskola Buzz)
LGPT (LittleGPTracker)
LSDJ (Little Sound DJ)
Schism Tracker

The primary criterion for inclusion is that the app in question must run on at least one modern desktop platform (WinXP and later, OSX, and/or Linux). (Note: LSDJ doesn’t technically meet this criterion as a desktop-native application, and is really primarily meant for the Nintendo Gameboy family– but it does run suitably under certain GB emulators for multiple platforms, and the developer makes the emulator-ready ROM file available for direct download.)

Beyond that, these fifteen trackers made the grade on the basis of meeting at least one of the two following sub-criteria:
1) The app is at least sufficiently mature for some form of self-contained music-making at this time and is still being actively developed,
2) the app is still “popular” / in visible regular use amongst a given userbase. (“Popular” could mean as few as 10-20 active / apparent users trafficking in related forums / mailing lists, as assessed by an outside lurker i.e. me. With this particular genre of software, 10-20 fans avid enough to participate in continuing online discussion of the software suggests that the software must have some review-worthy level of merit.)

There are a couple (to-be-left-unnamed) tracker apps here that barely meet one criterion or another from where I sit, and I reserve the right to change up this list accordingly if I end up feeling that SketchyHackyTracker 0.004a isn’t keeping up with the JonesTrackers in terms of ongoing development or ongoing popularity when I finally get around to dealing with it.

I mean, seriously, to evaluate each tracker fairly and thoroughly is a lot of work– I’m currently guessing 1.5-3 weeks of fairly serious usage and learning per app. So if the devs and the users for a given app aren’t continuing to bother, I won’t either. This review series is meant to be about the future of trackers, and attracting curious new users to the genre (to say nothing of helping them sort wheat from chaff before they embark on their own journey), so picking apart executable deadwood / flogging dead binary horses is a waste of everyone’s time.

If you’re an active / avid tracker user and you would like to suggest a tracker you think I missed which meets the above criteria, please mention it in the comments. I am definitely open to amendment! (By the way, special thanks to plusminus of the Soundevotion compo/community and elsewhere for looking over my initial proposed list and throwing a few other suggestions into the mix.)

More on my actual review process in the next post.

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Posted by r on March 18, 2013

In coming weeks / months, I am going to be reviewing a category of music-making software in-depth. This genre of software: the obsolete, clunky, horribly documented, and ever-astonishing tracker app. Why?

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