22 March 2008

The Beauty of Trackers

I'd forgotten how much I love trackers and tracker music. I've just been spending some time playing old tunes by Skaven and trying to re-learn the ropes of tracking.

There have been and still are countless different trackers, of course. Two, though, rise high above all others: Impulse Tracker and FastTracker. Most traditional trackers of today follow in the footsteps of one or the other. IT was the one I used when I first got into trackers in the late 90s, and it still makes me feel very nostalgic. (Schism Tracker is probably the best choice on modern platforms for that perfect IT experience.)

The tracker I'm using at the moment is called MilkyTracker. Unlike most trackers I've used over the years, it is based on FastTracker 2 rather than Impulse Tracker. Which means having to re-learn the interface and shortcuts and stuff. But, frankly, I've been absent from tracking for so long that it'd take a while to get back into the swing of it whatever tracker I used. So far I'm quite happy with it, although I'm yet to do any actual composing.

The Mac isn't necessarily the ideal platform for tracking. There isn't a plethora of software available, and the ports that exist often have issues because of the differences between Mac and PC keyboards (particularly OS X's use of function keys can be a pain). I once tried a port of Schism Tracker (my first choice of trackers for some time), and couldn't get essentials like file loading and saving to work because of the function keys. But so far I have not encountered issues in MilkyTracker that couldn't be fixed with little changes in OS X's keyboard settings.

Although I've dabbled with trackers featuring more modern technology, such as software synthesizers, it is oldschool trackers (like MilkyTracker) that make me happiest, even if the sound they produce is often somewhat crude and old-fashioned. Just looking at the interface makes me all warm inside.

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