As already described in the Instrument Selector section of this manual, instruments play an important role in Renoise. An instrument in Renoise (such as a piano sound) is not necessarily bound to a single specific track; you can play the piano instrument on any track you want. Additionally, they can even be played on multiple tracks simultaneously.
To edit an instrument, select it from the list in the Instrument Selector panel. An instrument in Renoise may be one or a combination of the following and the settings for each type can be edited by selecting the appropriate tab:
By default, the MIDI Input section is closed. To open it, press the button at the top of the panel at the far left. Here you can assign a MIDI input device to an instrument or even several different instruments. You can also specify the MIDI channel which the instrument is activated by, as well as assign it to be played on a particular track within Renoise. These options are particularly useful when performing live.
The default Master device only triggers the instrument that is currently selected in the instrument list.
Pressing the "Show All" button will open a dialog box with an overview of all routings that have been made in the song. You can quickly reset them with the "Clear All" button.
Note: A single Renoise track only supports up to 12 notes triggering at once. So when linking several instruments to a single device it is possible for this limit to be exceeded, resulting in some notes going unplayed. To avoid this, assign each instrument to a dedicated track.
Sample-based instruments may contain one or more samples, which are shown in the sample list. When multiple samples are loaded into an instrument, it is the properties of the currently selected sample that will be edited. It is possible to edit the properties of multiple samples at once by selecting them individually with Ctrl + left-click or across a range with 'Shift + left-click.
- Volume: The overall sample playback volume.
- Panning: The panning of the sample.
- Transpose: Transpose note playback in semi-tonal increments.
- Finetuning: Fine-tuning the transposition of the Transpose setting.
- NNA: New Note Action. When a note is played in a column while an existing note is still is the process of playing, the NNA value specifies how the previous note should stop (if at all). By default, notes in the same column will "cut off" each other. To achieve polyphony, you normally just use multiple columns. But by setting the NNA to "Continue" or "Note OFF", you can create a sustained playback with multiple notes using just one column.
- Loop: Determines how the sample playback should be looped. To edit/view the sample loops precisely, use the Sample Editor.
- Interpolate: The quality at which the sample is re-sampled when generating notes different from the original pitch. "Cubic" is a very good default interpolation setting which results in the best real-time sound quality. "Linear" sounds rougher when playing a sample at a lower pitch. By turning the interpolation "Off", samples will sound a bit more metallic and rough, which can be useful if that's the kind of sound you're after. "Off" can also sound good when using very short looped samples as wave-table generators. When rendering songs as WAV files, you will have the choice of another interpolation mode: "Sinc". This method is the best quality re-sampling method, but is very, very slow and so cannot be used for real-time playback. When selecting "Sinc", only "Cubic" interpolated samples will be replaced with "Sinc". Samples with "Linear" and "Off" interpolations will use those original modes.
- Sync: When enabled, the sample will be automatically pitched up or down so that it lasts for a certain amount of pattern lines, adjusted via the value box. As a consequence, the sample is "locked" and you will be unable to use it at other pitches. It will also automatically update its pitch if the song changes BPM. Useful for syncing drumbeat loops. Alternatively, press the "T" button, which will automatically adjust the Transpose and Finetuning settings to the correct values, leaving you free to change them and play the sample at other pitches.
- Autoseek: The default behaviour for a sample in Renoise is that it can only be heard during playback from when the note is initially triggered. Enabling Autoseek causes the sample to behave like a traditional audio channel, meaning that the sample can be heard at any point during its playback in a song. Highly recommended for vocals, background ambience and other lengthy recorded audio.
- Autofade: Automatically inserts a quick fade at the beginning and end of a sample. Useful for preventing clicking.
Located to the right of the main Sample Properties panel, the Envelopes section is closed by default. To open it, press the button at the top of the panel.
Enabling / Disabling Envelopes
The various envelope types are listed along the left side: Volume, Pan, Pitch, Cutoff and Resonance. Below this are the Env and LFO buttons, which switch between the Envelope and LFO controls available for each envelope type.
All of the envelopes and LFOs are disabled by default. You can enable the envelopes by clicking the small check box at the top left: /
Each envelope type is turned on/off independently from the others. So if, for example, you've enabled the Volume envelope and want to enable Pitch too, you'll need to click on the Pitch button and click on its check box. The LFO settings are also specific to each individual envelope type and so have to be enabled and changed separately as well.
How Envelopes and LFOs are applied
When an envelope is enabled it will start running as soon as you play a note. When playing multiple notes, there will be a seperate envelope applied to each note. Envelopes and LFOs are automatically synced with the current BPM in Renoise. Each highlighted vertical line in the envelope grid is one beat; 24 "ticks" in an envelope makes one beat.
Loop settings define how the envelope loops over time. A sustain point holds envelope playback at that point until the note is released (OFF in the Pattern Editor). When the note is released, envelope playback resumes from the sustain point.
The External Envelope Editor Window
At the top right of the Envelope Editor is the "Ext. Editor" button (only shown in Env mode). Clicking this will open the envelope waveform graphic in the large central section of the Renoise interface, allowing for finer control over details. This also gives you additional tools to use, as well as the "Detach" button in the lower right hand corner. When clicked, this will open the envelope in a completely separate window, which can be moved around and resized. Clicking "Attach" will reattach the window to the main interface. Clicking either the top right "X" or "Ext. Editor" button will remove the larger editor.
Creating and Modifying Envelopes
Double-clicking in the envelope where no point is set will create a new point. Double-clicking on an existing point will remove it. Right-clicking and selecting the "Draw Tool" will allowing you to quickly draw a shape. If you click and hold on an existing point then you can drag it around and set a new value.
- "Left Shift" + Moving points will remove all points that the mouse pointer touches.
- "Left Control" + Dragging a point will fine-tune its value. "Left Control" + Hovering over a point will display the point's value.
Adding/removing points (Double-click) and moving points (Click and drag):
Remove points while moving (Hold "Left Shift" and move):
View point values (Hold "Left Control" and hover):
Change point values with fine-tuning (Holding "Left Control" and drag):
Selecting and editing specific parts of the envelope
Left-click and dragging across the grid will create a highlighted area. Any points within this area will be selected and can be adjusted all at once. You can also copy and paste selected areas by using the right-click menu on the grid. Alternatively, switch the keyboard focus to the grid by middle-clicking on it and use the following shortcuts. Press "Left Control + C" to copy it and then left-click once on the grid at the point which you wish the area to be inserted. Now press "Left Control + V" to paste the copied selection once, or "Left Control + P" to paste it continuously until the end of the envelope. You can also insert with "Left Control + I", which will move the existing waveform to the right.
The right-click menu also contains some additional options in the Process sub-menu:
Envelope Buttons and Controls
- - Turns the envelope on/off.
- - Shows the value of the currently selected point. Left-click to enter a new value.
- Curve Types:
- Points: Only changes value when a point is encountered.
- Linear: Will interpolate playback in a linear fashion between points.
- Curve: Will interpolate with a smoother cubic curve.
- - Length of the envelope in ticks (24 ticks make up a beat).
- - Opens the waveform in the central section of the interface.
- Loop Types:
- Forward: Loop playback from start to end.
- Reverse: Loop playback from end to start, once the end point is reached.
- PingPong: Loop playback from start to end to start to end etc.
- Sustain & Release:
When turned on, a sustain line appears in the envelope waveform. The sustain point stops envelope playback until the note is released (OFF in the Pattern Editor). Using this, you can define a custom envelope section that only applies while the sound is sustained.
The Volume envelope has an additional option in the Sustain property panel: Release. You can set it by using the arrow buttons, changing the value or dragging the slider.
The Release value determines how quickly the instrument volume will decrease upon the note being released. It is roughly equivalent to the "Release" value in a typical ADSR envelope. This is especially useful when not using a sustain point in the envelope, but still requiring a slow fadeout of the samples.
- Envelope Presets:
Store and recall your favourite envelope settings. Right-clicking will store a preset, while left-clicking will restore a previously stored preset.
Applying and Modifying LFOs
There are two LFOs (Low Frequency Oscillators) available per envelope and they run constantly alongside the envelope curves. LFO values are always applied after the envelopes, but can also be used even if the envelopes are disabled. LFOs are often used for adding looped vibrato, tremolo etc. to sounds and multiple LFOs can be combined to create more complex modulations.
There are 4 types of oscillators available for the Instrument Envelopes:
- Phase: This defines the value where the oscillation begins. The exact nature of how the phase value affects the sound depends on the LFO type and, in the case of the filter envelopes, which effect has been selected.
- Frequency: The speed of the LFO (relative to the BPM of the song).
- Amount: The strength of the LFO the effect.
Filter Envelopes & Controls
The Cutoff and Resonance envelopes have various Filter, Distortion and EQ types to choose from:
- LowPass Filters: LP 2x2 pole, LP 2 pole, LP biquad, LP Moog, LP Single
- HighPass Filters: HP 2x2 pole, HP 2 pole, HP Moog
- EQs: EQ -15, EQ -6, EQ +6, EQ +15, Peaking EQ
- Distortion: Distortion, Distortion Low, Mid Distortion, High Distortion
- RingMod: Ring Modulation
Filter envelopes also have extra Follower controls in their LFO tab. The Follower changes the modulation of the filters, depending on the actual sound input. They follow the volume and apply more modulation the louder the sound is. Using this, you can achieve "wah-wah" style modulations and other dynamic sounds effects with the filters.
- Attack: The attack level of the envelope, which is generated from the sound input. The lower the attack value, the more severe the changes in modulation will be.
- Release: The release time of the envelope, which is generated from the sound input. The higher the value, the longer the modulation will still be applied after a volume drop.
- Amount: General intensity of the effect. You can use negative numbers to apply the effect in reverse, i.e. more modulation the quieter the sound is.
Plugin Instrument (VST/AU) Properties
VST or Audio Unit plugins are basically MIDI instruments that run within Renoise - like a built in software synthesizer. This means that they behave as described in the External MIDI Properties section below. Besides the common MIDI properties, they also offer a custom GUI, audio routing options and can be rendered down to sample-based instruments.
- Ext. Editor: Opens the editor window. This can either be a Renoise-alike dialog box or a custom GUI provided by the plugin.
- Instrument: The plugin instrument which you would like to use. This will initially display "None". Click to show a list of available plugins.
- Program: When available, select a specific patch in the plugin. Note that some plugins only allow changing and setting up patches in their external editor.
- Channel No.: The MIDI channel that will be used to trigger the plugin. For most plugins any channel will do, but when using multi-timbral plug-ins you can play multiple sounds with one plugin instance.
- Transpose: Transpose note playback in semi-tonal increments.
- Preset (Load/Save/Rename): Load or save the currently active preset to a file for later use.
- Bank (Load/Save): Load or save all currently active presets to a file for later use.
- Volume: The overall playback volume of the instrument.
- ? : Set up compatibility options for the plugin. Hovering the mouse over this button will display some information about the plugin, such as latency, where the file is loaded from etc.
- Auto Suspend: When enabled, Renoise will completely shut off the plugin when it is no longer producing sound. This is mainly done to reduce CPU usage. While plugins are Auto Suspended they will automatically wake up as soon as they are triggered again by playing notes or automation. Additionally, while suspended you will be unable to play the plugin by clicking on the virtual piano keys in its custom GUI.
- Plugin Grabber: Render the plugin (freeze it) to a sample-based instrument. Left-clicking will replace the current plugin, while right-clicking creates a brand new instrument. See Render or Freeze Plugin Instruments to Samples for a detailed description.
- Output panel: Click the button at the top to open the panel. When using Plugin Aliases it may be useful to play the instruments in multiple tracks to keep things better organised. By setting up track routing you can force the plugin's output to be bound to a single track, no matter which track you send the notes from. This can be useful if you wish all of the instruments to use the same effects present in that one track.
Setting Up VST Paths
Plugins (VSTs or Audio Units) are external components that are installed on your computer. Renoise will try locate them automatically, but on occasion may be unable to do so. If you have plugins installed but they don't appear in Renoise, you can specify directories where Renoise should look via the "Edit->Preferences->Plug/Misc" menu. See the Plugins/Misc section of the Preferences for more information.
Selecting a Plugin
Selecting a plugin
Initially, the Instrument box will show "None". Click on it to select, search and organize plug-ins. To select a plugin, double click on its name. To unload it, select "None" from the list.
Quickly searching and selecting a plugin with the keyboard
As soon as the plugin list is opened, you can start typing in the search field. If, for example, you want to load a plugin called "Filter Modulator", then typing "Filter" will list only plugins which have the term "Filter" in their plugin category or name. To select a plugin using the keyboard, hit the "TAB" key to set the focus on the plugin list, then navigate with the arrow keys to the desired plugin and hit "ENTER". Hitting "ESCAPE" will close the list without selecting anything.
Organising/customising the plugin list
Right-clicking on a plugin name will bring up a context menu with the following options:
- Add To Favorites: Adds the selected plugin or vendor to your favorites list.
- Add To Group: Opens a new dialog box, where you enter a name for the group. If it is a new name, then the group will be created and the selected plugin(s) moved under it. If the group already exists, then the plugin(s) will be moved over to the group.
- Ungroup: (Only available when clicking on an existing group or vendor name) Removes the selected group from the effects list.
- Rename: (Unavailable for native effects) Opens a new dialog box, where you can change the plugin or vendor name. Any changes made here will only be saved within Renoise; the actual plugin name remains the same, since it may be used by other applications.
- Hide: Excludes a plugin or a category of plugins from the list. This can be useful if you no longer use a plugin, but don't want to uninstall it because old songs still use it. To make a hidden plugin visible again, enable the "Show Hidden Devices" option, then simply "Unhide" it again.
- Collapse Whole Tree: Collapses the entire effects list, showing only the Favorites (if any exist) Native, VST categories. Handy if you need to show just a few effects.
- Expand Whole Tree: The effects list will expand back to its full size again.
- Show Hidden Devices: Enables hidden plugins to become visible again.
- Show Short Names: Instead of sorting plugins by vendor, you can also display them as a single list. With this option enabled you can still categorise the plugins by renaming them as described above.
To add a plugin to your custom favorites list, click the star icon to the right of it. Your favorites are located at the very top of the instruments list. To remove a plugin from your favorites, simply click the star icon again.
Plugin Aliases (multi-timbral plugins)
Some plugins allow the playback of multiple sounds from a single instance of the instrument. This is achieved by channelling them through different MIDI channels. This is not absolutely necessary, as you can always create a new plugin instrument for a new sound, but it can be helpful to save on CPU consumption. To find out if your plugin supports this, search for the keyword "multi-timbral" or "routing" in the plugin's manual.
To make use of this feature in Renoise, use Plugin Aliases:
First load your chosen plugin in any empty instrument slot that you want to use for it, then select another free instrument slot in the Instrument Selector. In the new instrument slot, click again on the plugin list in the instrument properties panel and notice at the top of the list is the new category, "VST Aliases" (or "AU Aliases" if you've used an Audio Unit). The aliases refer to the previously loaded plugin. Double-click on one of the aliases in the list to create it.
To use the alias, simply change the channel number:
The instrument is shown in the Instrument Selector with its alias name:
Note that any changes made to the options in the Instrument Settings > Plugin panel, except for "Channel No." and "Transpose", will be applied to all of the aliases, as well as the original plugin. Furthermore, deleting the original plugin will also delete all of the aliases.
Plugin FX Aliases (routing MIDI to existing plugin effects)
You can also create and control aliases for existing plugin effects in Track DSP chains.
Most plugin effects do not support notes or other MIDI events. Those that do, use them to control more advanced features, such as vocoders. Other possible uses include preset or parameter switching with notes or sending MIDI CC messages to plugins.
Once you've set up an alias to an effect, you can play and record with it just like a normal instrument. You can also use a *MIDI Control Device to automate it with MIDI.
Plugin instruments which have more than one output channel will contain multiple path selectors in the Output panel on the right of the plugin property-panel.
Expanding the panel by clicking on the arrow will display the following options:
- enable/disable output channels for the plugin
- name/rename a bus
- set up track routing in Renoise for the individual plugin channels
The left section allows you to activate any or all available audio buses for the instrument. By default, only the first bus is enabled. With the right section you can lock each bus to a specific Renoise track. When enabled, a drop-down box appears listing the currently available tracks, including the Master Track. When disabled, Renoise will automatically use the currently selected track (where the cursor is located).
Each bus also indicates whether it is Stereo () or Mono ().
Plugin Compatibility Settings
This dialog will appear after clicking on the "?" button in the VST Instrument Properties section after a plugin is loaded.
In most cases these options will already have the correct settings, as Renoise comes with a database which sets the defaults for you. If you are experiencing any of the problems described in the dialog, then you might want to try altering the settings.
External MIDI Properties
Using a MIDI instrument you can play external synthesizer hardware or control software synthesizers running on your computer. The latter is done by using virtual MIDI devices (MIDI Yoke on Windows, the IAC BUS on Mac OSX) and programs which receive MIDI. When running Renoise as a ReWire master, loaded ReWire slaves (e.g. synthesizers like Reason) will also show here as virtual MIDI devices.
- Device: The MIDI device which you would like to send MIDI to. Without setting up a device, no MIDI data can be transferred, so this is your first priority when creating a MIDI instrument.
- Transpose: Transpose note playback in semi-tonal increments.
- Latency: A custom manual latency that all events will be sent with. This is sometimes needed to get external devices properly synchronised. Please note that in order to use a negative latency, the Mode (see below) must be set to "ext. MIDI" and that the smallest possible negative latency is limited to the current latency of your soundcard. If you need further negative latency, you can increase your audio latency in the Audio Preferences.
- Note Length: When enabled (not INF), the MIDI instrument will behave as if it has a finite duration, like unlooped samples have. When disabled, Note OFFs must be explicitly sent and added in order to stop playing Note ONs. This can be especially useful while playing drum samples, since you no longer have to manually turn every single one off.
- Channel: The MIDI channel that will be used to trigger the MIDI device.
- Bank: When set, this is the bank number you want to apply before the instrument is loaded with songs. When disabled, no bank change information will be sent to the device. The bank number is a 14-bit value, so you have to enter combined LSB and MSB values when needed.
- Program: When set, this is the program number you want to apply before the instrument is loaded with songs. When disabled, no program change information will be sent to the device.
- Mode: Adjusts the latency depending on how you capture the audio from your external instrument (see Latency handling with External MIDI Instruments for a more in-depth explanation):
- ext. MIDI: The MIDI device is routed to an external synthesizer, which then outputs its own sound directly.
- LineIn Ret: The MIDI device is routed to an external synthesizer, but the audio signal is routed back to Renoise via a #Line Input device.
Latency handling with External MIDI Instruments
The syncing of external MIDI instruments is unfortunately not entirely straight-forward, so warrants some explanation. There are a number of factors to take into account including the soundcard's audio output latency, the MIDI connection's MIDI latency, the automatic plugin delay compensation (PDC) and the soundcard's audio input latency (if feeding the external audio back into Renoise).
If you're feeding any audio produced by outboard equipment directly to the speakers, set the instrument's mode to "ext. MIDI". This will delay all MIDI events sent to the instrument by Renoise's internal audio latency (which is composed of the soundcard's output latency plus any PDC). This way it will be sent to the external synth at the same time as the audio generated internally by Renoise reaches the soundcard outputs. If your MIDI interface and external synth introduce no extra delays in handling the MIDI signal, the audio produced by the synth and by Renoise should now be perfectly in sync.
In reality however, it is likely that there will be a few milliseconds of MIDI latency between the time when Renoise sends out the MIDI event and the time when the synth's audio output reaches the speakers. To compensate for this extra MIDI latency, you can either use the Latency slider in the instrument settings panel or the track delay setting in the Mixer for the track from which the MIDI instrument is being triggered.
If you want to feed the audio from the outboard equipment back into Renoise for further processing, set the instrument's Mode to "LineIn Ret". Then add a #Line Input DSP device to the same track which you're triggering the notes for the external instrument from. In the #Line Input device, set Latency to "MIDI Return Mode". You also need to make sure that PDC is enabled in the Renoise Preferences. Now, MIDI events sent to the instrument will not be delayed by the audio latency like when using "ext. MIDI", but rather get sent out immediately. This is because the audio coming back from the synth into Renoise will be subject to the soundcard's input latency (which is the same as the output latency), so assuming no MIDI latency, the externally produced sound should now be in sync with the internally generated audio.
Again, the MIDI connection to the external instrument is likely to introduce some delay. This time however, you can only compensate for it by using the track delay setting in the Mixer for the track on which you are triggering the MIDI instrument. The instrument Latency slider can't allow negative latencies in the "LineIn Ret" mode as Renoise sends out MIDI events immediately as soon as they are encountered in this mode. The following diagram illustrates this.
It's important that you keep the #Line Input device on the same track that you trigger the MIDI instrument from and that PDC is enabled for this routing scheme to work. Without PDC enabled, Renoise does not compensate for audio latencies.