Time runs vertically in a tracker, moving down line-by-line from the top of a pattern/phrase to the bottom, triggering the sequence of notes and commands found in each line. Notes and effects are recorded into the tracker interface in the order that they are to be played back.
There are two types of main column: Note and Master FX. Note columns are used to record instruments/samples by entering notes into the note sub-column, while the other sub-columns affect how the note is played. The note sub-column is always visible, while the others can be turned on/off with their corresponding buttons in the Pattern Editor Control Panel or Phrase Editor Options. Master FX columns are used to apply Effect Commands that affect the behaviour of the entire track/phrase. The images below illustrate the column layout for Renoise and Redux:
- Note: e.g. C-4, A#3. The first two characters represent the musical note, while the third character is the octave number. The notes are not entered letter by letter like a text editor, but like a piano, using the computer keyboard or a MIDI master keyboard.
- Instrument/Sample Number: The instrument/sample number that will play the note. Optional in the Phrase Editor only.
- Volume: (00-80) - The note velocity/volume, where 00=minimum and 80=maximum. Additional effects can also be triggered from here.
- Panning: (00-80) - The panning of the note, where 00=full left, 40=center and 80=full right. In Renoise, this will only be applied to samples (MIDI and VST plugins will be unaffected by values in this sub-column). Additional effects can also be triggered from here.
- Delay: (00-FF) - A time delay added to the note, where 00 is no delay and FF will result in the note being delayed until immediately before the next line.
- Local FX: Effect Commands entered into this column will only affect the notes being played in this particular Note column.
- Master FX: Effect Commands entered into this column will affect the entire track/phrase.
An individual Note column can be muted by left-clicking on the 'Play' text underneath its name. Clicking again will un-mute it. Right-clicking a Note column's 'Play' text will solo it within a track, muting all of the others so that only the audio from that column is heard. Right-clicking again will un-mute the other columns.
A Note column can be renamed by double-clicking on its name (by default this is 'Note') and typing in a new one, finishing with Enter.
Adding, Deleting & Moving Columns
You can add or delete the two main column types with the buttons at the top left and top right of a track or phrase. There can be up to twelve Note and eight Master FX columns. To reposition a column left-click and hold the button on its name, then drag the column to either side.
Lines, Beats and Pattern Resolution
There is a "Lines per Beat" option which changes the number of lines that make up a musical beat. The higher the LPB, the greater the resolution available to you for editing notes, effects and automation. In the Pattern Editor, this is found in the Transport Panel and it affects the entire song. It can be changed during playback with the ZLxx effect command. The Phrase Editor uses the Phrase Properties panel to adjust the LPB for each individual phrase.
By default the LPB is 4, meaning that placing a note on every highlighted line will create a simple 4/4 beat in a pattern that is 16 lines long. How many lines you use for a beat is totally up to you, but it can be important to get it correct if you're interacting with other beat-based instruments or sequencers (e.g. plugins which use beat timings), or when syncing a song/phrase with other applications via ReWire.
When working with time signatures other than 4/4, it's useful to set your number of lines in a pattern to a factor of the time signature's numerator multiplied by the LPB. For example, when working in 3/4 and a LBP of 4, you could use a pattern length of 12, 24 or 48; when working in 5/4 you could use a pattern length of 20 or 40 etc. This will allow you to place your notes on exact pattern lines without having to delay notes with the delay column.
Navigating & Selecting
Moving the cursor around the Tracker Interface can done with the arrow keys or by left-clicking with the mouse (either single or double click depending on your preference). The "Page Up/Down" buttons will move the cursor up and down 16 lines at a time. To quickly jump to the next note column press "TAB", while "Left Shift + TAB" will jump back to the previous note column. "F9", "F10", "F11" and "F12" will move to the beginning, first quarter, half, and last quarter of the pattern, respectively. Press "End" to skip to the last line in a pattern.
To select an area, hold down the "Left Shift" key while moving around with the arrow keys. This can also be done by left-clicking and dragging with the mouse (holding "Left Control/Command" will scroll through lines much quicker). By holding down the left "Alt" key, you can fine-tune both of these methods to select individual sub-columns. A selection can also be made by starting with "Left Control/Command + B", moving the cursor to another position and ending with "Left Control/Command + E".
The selection can be now cut, copied and pasted using the standard shortcuts of "Left Control/Command + X (Cut), C (Copy), V (Paste)", or affected by more complex transformations with the Advanced Edit panel or the shortcuts listed below. Alternatively, the selection can be moved by left-click and dragging the selected area to a new position. Holding down the "Left Control/Command" key while releasing the mouse button will copy the selection to the new location and keep the original selection, instead of just moving it.
Other Keyboard Shortcuts
To quickly copy, paste and perform edits in the Pattern Editor (current pattern only) and the Phrase Editor:
- F1 + MODIFIER: Transpose one note down
- F2 + MODIFIER: Transpose one note up
- F3 + MODIFIER: Cut
- F4 + MODIFIER: Copy
- F5 + MODIFIER: Paste
- F6 + MODIFIER: Flip
- F11 + MODIFIER: Transpose one octave down
- F12 + MODIFIER: Transpose one octave up
Where MODIFIER is:
- Left ALT: Selection in the Pattern/Phrase
- Left CONTROL/COMMAND + SHIFT: Current Column
- Left SHIFT: Current Track/Phrase
- Left SHIFT + ALT: Current Group
- Left CONTROL/COMMAND: Whole Pattern/Phrase
You may find hexadecimal easier to understand by watching our video on the subject.
In the tracker interface many values use the hexadecimal system. We're all familiar with counting; a digit has a range of 0 to 9. It counts upward one at a time and after reaching 9 it becomes 10 – one-zero. The counting begins again, going up to 19, then it becomes 20 – two-zero… and so on until 99.
In hexadecimal though, the digit range doesn't stop at 9. It extends past this with the letters A B C D E and F, which represent the values we know in decimal as 10 11 12 13 14 and 15. It then becomes one-zero, which represents 16. The counting begins again, going up to 1F and then becomes two-zero, which is 32… and so on until FF.
So in decimal the range of possible values with two digits is 100: 00 to 99. In hexadecimal, the range of 00 to FF is 256. This allows for more instruments and samples to be represented by just two digits and also gives greater accuracy for the volume, panning and delay columns, and when applying values to Effect Commands. It's important to note though, that although the values in the Local and Master FX columns use hex, the Effect Commands themselves do not. They use letters, but it's to represent what the effect does, e.g. S for 'Slice' or V for 'Vibrato'.
So where did hex come from and why are we using it? Well, it has its roots in binary and coding, but the real reason it's used in Renoise and Redux is because of their tracker heritage, where efficiency and that extra resolution was very important. Even though much has changed, these things are still relevant today.
It can take a while to get used to working this way, but it does become easy. To get started, here's a simple example of the hexadecimal system:
- 00 = 0%
- 40 = 25%
- 80 = 50%
- C0 = 75%
- FF = 100%