Avoiding that "tracker sound"

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AS efficient they are, music created using trackers tend to have a few common traits that may not be desirable. Here are a few of them, and how you might avoid them:

Pattern length obvious

It is very easy to get caught up in this 16 (4 bars) long feeling, which makes everything repeat every bar. This becomes noticable rather quickly. You can avoid this in several ways:

  1. Make sure to have patterns of different lengths, e.g. 8 ticks, 16 ticks, 32 ticks and perhaps even 64 ticks.
  2. A more tricky approach is to not start your bars at the beginning of the patterns but somewhere else, e.g. somewhere close to the middle of most of the patterns. This will changes from one pattern to another happen at a less recognizable point of time, blurring the obvious positions of the patterns. This approach has the drawback that the song becomes rather tricky to work with.

All instruments have same volume

The default volume of instruments in most trackers is "max volume", 0 dB. This leaves no headroom, and gives you a soundscape where everything seems to be of equal importance, lacking dynamics and contrast. This is also a tell-tale sign of using a tracker. Solutions:

  1. Make sure you have both instruments that are loud and soft
  2. Go through all the notes and give them another volume than just the default ".." (which is 80) or use random volume.

Things are repeated too often

It's just too tempting to re-use things when working with a tracker. This causes a lot of repetition to take place, so unless you're unusually productive, make sure to randomize as many things as you dare. There are two fundamental kinds of randomization that are very useful to know:

  1. Classic randomization of volume, pitch, sample offset, filters, or whatever parameter relevant for the generator in question, is essential in causing each note to be slightly different in time
  2. Probability, a rather unique feature of Buzz which "throws the dice" to see if a note in the pattern should be triggered at all, or skipped. Both matilde tracker and Polac VST have this feature.
  3. Don't play notes 100% quantized. A little bit of "humanization" to the timing helps greatly in making the music feel more "alive". Delaying notes in Buzz is usually a breeze, but sadly it is rather tricky/clumsy to achieve a slight negative delay (playing a note slightly before the "correct" time).