A Profile of SoundTracker

The following article is based on a chapter in the author's Linux Music and Sound, published by No Starch Press in October 2000.
From Pattern to Song

After creating patterns, you chain them together to create a completed song. This is also an easy procedure. In the upper left corner, set the song length desired (the Insert/Delete buttons can also dynamically control Song length), use the Current Position box to select an insert location point for your pattern, and then use the Pattern box to select which pattern will play at that location. In the example shown in Figure 4, the song length is set to 46 patterns. The display can show only one pattern at a time, but scrolling the Current Position box would reveal that positions 0 through 3 are taken by pattern 2, positions 4 through 6 are occupied by pattern 1, position 7 belongs to pattern 11 and so forth.

When completed, files can be saved in the common XM (Extended Module) format. You can also render your XM to a WAV file directly from SoundTracker.

Additional SoundTracker Features

Figure 5. SoundTracker's Sample Editor

Figure 5 shows a bass WAV file loaded in the Sample Editor. SoundTracker's editor is not intended to be a full-fledged sound file editing environment, but it does provide basic cut/copy/paste operations, along with the loop mode settings and initial volume, pan and fine-tune controls. It also has the option to load 8-bit sound files.

You can record your own samples directly into SoundTracker by clicking on the Monitor button. When the Sampling Window appears, click on the Start Sampling button and record away.

Figure 6. SoundTracker's Instrument Editor

Figure 6 shows the Instrument Editor display where you can edit the volume and pan envelopes of a sample (while the song or pattern is playing, if you wish). This panel also provides a keyboard for mapping your samples across an instrument's range.

XI instruments can be loaded and saved in the Instrument Editor as well as from the Instrument menu in the top menu bar. These instruments are samples specially prepared for use in trackers with defined loop points and envelopes for volume and panning as well as vibrato effect information. You can load and edit your sounds in the Sample Editor, edit them further in the Instrument Editor, and save them as your own XI instruments simply by selecting the Save XI option from either the Instrument Editor tab or the top menu bar Instrument menu.

For more information regarding the XI instrument format, please see the file xi.txt in the SoundTracker doc directory.

Figure 7. Tracking in Jazz Edit Mode

With the Tracker tab displayed, select Edit/Jazz Edit Mode from the top menu bar. A row of buttons will appear across the top of the Tracker panel, corresponding to the number of channels in your pattern. Click on any of these buttons to define the number of tracks to remain active for Jazz Edit mode. Now, when an event is entered into an active channel, the cursor box will automatically advance to the next active channel.

Figure 7 shows the Tracker display opened in Jazz Edit mode. The pattern has four channels, with channels 2 and 4 selected for Jazz Edit mode. After entering an event into Track 2, the cursor box will advance to the next beat in Track 4; after entering an event in Track 4, the cursor will return to Track 2 and so on. You can override this activity at any time by using the Tab or Shift-Tab keys to relocate the cursor box to another channel.

Jazz Edit is very handy in real-time tracking. In Figure 7, channels 1 and 3 will continue to play as usual while you shuttle between the tracks selected for Jazz Edit mode. Note that you can change your instrument numbers in real time and even load new samples while your pattern plays (though larger samples will likely cause playback to “hiccup”). In fact, real-time edits can be made in any entry box not greyed-out during playback.

You can modify your computer keyboard's note entry behavior by clicking on the Volume Envelope button in the Instrument Editor and then clicking on the Sustain button (seen at the right side of Volume Envelope display in Figure 6). Now, when you play your keyboard, it will respond like a real synthesizer keyboard, with your “note-off” following the key release. You may need to adjust your audio buffers for the shortest possible latency (open the Settings/Audio Configuration menu and select Editing Output from the key at the top of the dialog box). In effect, your keyboard can now be played with polyphony (simultaneous sounds) as high as the number of channels selected for Jazz Edit mode.