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MilkyTracker—Open Music Tracker (

Fans of musical tracking programs, such as Fasttracker, ProTracker, CheeseTracker and the like, will want to check out MilkyTracker, which has been quite popular on SourceForge and has had pretty widespread distro integration of late. To quote MilkyTracker's documentation:

MilkyTracker is an open-source, multiplatform music application, more specifically, part of the tracker family. It attempts to re-create the module replay and user experience of the popular DOS application Fasttracker II, with special playback modes available for improved Amiga ProTracker 2.x/3.x compatibility.

MilkyTracker provides all the old-school, low-level control from ye olde days of music tracking.

You don't get much more hard core than waveforms drawn by hand!

Thankfully, a keyboard-based instrument editor is included as well.


When it comes to installation methods, you are pretty spoiled for choice. Along with the usual source tarball, packages in various repositories are available for Ubuntu, Arch Linux, Debian, Enlisy, Gentoo and SUSE, as well packages for our FreeBSD and OpenBSD cousins. Ubuntu users are doubly spoiled with a binary tarball built upon Karmic.

For those who are running with source, according to the documentation, MilkyTracker can be compiled using the standard ./configure; make; make install (note that make install requires the use of root or sudo). However, I ran into compilation problems during the “make”. I hope you have more luck. I went with the binary tarball in the end, which ran with no problems.

As far as libraries go, there shouldn't be too much in the way of strange requirements, although I did need to install libzzip-dev and libsdl1.2-dev to get past the source code's configure script.

Once your installation has finished, run MilkyTracker with:

$ milkytracker


The first thing I recommend doing is loading some of the provided songs, which instantly will show off MilkyTracker's capabilities. Click the Load button in the cluster of gray buttons near the top left of the screen, navigate to the directory in which MilkyTracker has been installed, and look at the songs directory. Choose one of the available tracks and click Play Song on the bottom-left corner of the main cluster of gray buttons. My personal favorite (or at least the most credible of these tracks—demonstration songs are always pretty dry) is “slumberjack”, which is nice and progressive and shows off MilkyTracker's capabilities quite nicely.

As the track plays, you'll see a bar move rapidly down the main composition screen's page and move on to other pages of music as the song progresses into new movements. A welcome feature from classic tracker programs is the wave visualization inside those windows in the middle section. They give individual readouts for each channel. It's pretty cool to watch this multitasking in progress and see the music's very DNA scroll before your eyes.

I also noticed a very willing use of the stereo spectrum in this program, which helped to add spice. That said, my favorite part of this project is the sample editor, which lets you manipulate waveforms by hand. It also lets you literally draw your own waveforms—effectively making something from nothing.

However, none of this stuff will come as a surprise to tracker veterans, who've grown up with such hard-core features since the days of DOS. Newbies who are used to soft-core programs like FruityLoops will freak out in this imposing retro environment. Veterans probably will rejoice in the imposing low-level interface and go back to skulking around in their basements listening to Kraftwerk and Wumpscut.

Ultimately, MilkyTracker provides an authentic environment for those who have grown up with these programs, while adding more modern capabilities and platform diversity. I personally find these programs way too daunting, but old-school Tracker fans are going to love it.


John Knight is the New Projects columnist for Linux Journal.