Converting from Impulse Tracker

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Skaven (of Future Crew fame) has been gracious enough to give us the time to prepare the following words regarding transferring your Impulse Tracker skills and knowledge to Jeskola Buzz. This information should be useful to anyone with tracker experience in general, but extremely useful to those who are accustomed to IT.

Helpful Tips

The following tips will help you navigate and compose in Buzz:

  • Use Multiple Trackers

Divide your songs into elements and parts. Each machine has its own patterns therefore you can - and should - divide your song into different elements. Instead of playing all samples through one tracker, use several trackers, one for drums, another one for pads / chords, etc. The fun point is that each one of these can have its own different dsp effects (reverb, chorus, distortion, etc.). This also allows console style mixing with the Jekola Mixer. Arranging the song is also easier this way. You don't need to duplicate an entire pattern just to change the drum loop while everything else remains the same. However, the new Buzz builds also include an alternative pattern editor called Pattern XP. With Pattern XP it's possible to group notes, parameters etc. from different machines together. If you like to have many (or all) things on one screen, Pattern XP can be configured to do so.

  • Use the Synths!

You don't even NEED to use samples, thanks to the wide variety of software synthesis machines available. They produce clean sound, a lot cleaner that could be obtained with samples, because resampling always loses some information. Also, you can change the synthesizers' parameters on the fly. You can give the sounds much more variety than would be attained with samples (unless you go through the trouble of creating multiple samples).

  • Don't Bother With Creating Extra Notes for Delays

Buzz has a nice variety of different Delay effects to suit your needs. The basic Delay machine actually uses less CPU time than the extra tracker channels used for "artificial" delays as they are only simple delay buffers, while tracker-made note delays involve resampling and mixing extra channels with possible effect commands. To create a tracker-like multi-tap delay (with a specified panning for each tap), perform the actions listed in the Getting Started section.

  • Sequence Editor vs. Order List

While Impulse Tracker has just a single-column order list, the Sequence Editor in Buzz is a different world. This is where all the separate elements you've created come together. It may seem confusing at first, but after you got used to it, you wouldn't go back to normal order lists. Remember that the Sequence Editor's accuracy is one tick (=pattern row). You can zoom in / out by changing the Step value, either from the menu, or by pressing Shift + and Shift -. This allows you to place your patterns with one-tick accuracy if needed. Mind you, if you offset the patterns by an uneven amount of ticks, they may disappear when you zoom out. However, they are still there. Playing new patterns in a track always interrupts the previous one. You can also interrupt a pattern on purpose with the Break or Mute command (press comma or period in the sequence editor).

  • Effects and Master can have their own tracks.

While only Generators get tracks automatically created for them in the sequence editor, you can actually create tracks and patterns for any machine, including the Master output. The Master patterns can control master volume, BPM/TPB and the volume / panning of each input separately. This allows you to fade in and fade out different machines. You can also do groove quantizing through the Master, by alternating the TPB or BPM between two values. Be warned, though, that Delays that are synchronized to ticks will go out of sync if the TPB keeps changing. All other machines, for example filters, can have their parameters changed during the song. This allows you to control the amount of reverb or create interesting filter sweeps that are fully controllable, for instance. It is also possible to create two or more tracks for one machine. One of them can play a pattern which contains a short note arpeggio, while another one can play a long pattern that has an interpolated parameter sweep. This way you can use the same parameter sweeps for any note sequences you create.

  • F2, F3, F4. Use Them.

In Impulse Tracker, you jumped between the main windows with F1 .. F4. In Buzz, you use F2, F3, F4 for Pattern Editor, Machine Layout and Sequence Editor, which are the main windows. Use them every time you can and refrain from using the mouse, and you'll learn them in no time.

  • Only Machines Connected to the Master May be Panned

This may be confusing, and seem limiting at first (as Impulse Tracker allows you to pan every track or even every instrument and note separately), but it is not such a drawback. Most "instruments" you create with Buzz are chains of machines anyway, handled as one whole signal. Some effects produce stereo output (examples: Stereo Reverb, X-Delay). If these machines are connected to Master, the Pan control acts as a Balance control. If you try to connect a stereo output to a mono input effect (not all effects support stereo input, which is up to the developers of the effects), Buzz will ask you which channel (left or right) you want to connect.

Problems, Questions and Answers

  • How do I Play the Pattern I just Created?

Buzz Tracker still lacks the "Play current pattern" feature, due to its different structure. First of all, the machine you created must be connected to Master. After this, when entering notes to the pattern, you will hear them play. To play the pattern, you need to add the pattern to the Sequence editor and then play the song. To play a pattern that's in the middle of the song, you need to create a temporary loop. Press CTRL-B where the loop should start, and CTRL-E where it ends. (You can then remove the loop by pressing these keys at the begin (CTRL-B) and end (CTRL-E) of the song). To hear only a single instrument you've created, the machine must be Soloed from the Machine Layout page. You can also mute/unmute tracks by clicking on their title bars with the mouse in the sequence editor.

  • How do I retrigger/play the note sequence I just entered?

Unfortunately there is no way yet to do this directly in Buzz. Perhaps the feature will be added later. With Pattern XP it's possible now.

  • How do I quickly jump to a pattern to edit it when I am in sequence view?

Just move the cursor to the pattern and press Enter. This works just like pressing "G" in the order list in IT. Pressing Enter again in the pattern editor brings you back to the Sequence editor. This allows you to quickly jump between the sequences and patterns to edit them.

  • How do I jump to different parts of the song when playing it?

Click the tick numbers (in the left-most column of the sequence editor) with the mouse. The line which displays what part of the song is played will move and the song will play from there. However, the patterns are not interrupted when this is done, so some longer drum loops etc. may continue playing until they finish. This may be changed later on.

  • How do I create a tracker-like multi-tap delay, with each delay with its own panning?

Connect the source signal directly to Master. Create a plain Delay, and set its dry through to 0. Connect the source signal to this delay, and the delay to Master. Then create a second Delay, and also set its dry through to 0. Connect the first delay to the second delay, and the second delay to Master. Now, you can adjust the volume level and panning of the source and both the delays separately. If you need more delays, simply add to the chain. Another way to do this job is to just route the generator signal through a more advanced delay like the FSM Panzerdelay. Which simply has it's own seperate parameters for the left and right delays.

  • There are no NNAs. How should I deal with this?

Live with it. However, this is not such a problem, as some machines actually have extra dynamic channels of polyphony per track (such as PluckString and PrimiFun), and most of them have efficient anti-click. Using delays and reverbs also helps to fight sudden note cut. And you never know, a Tracker machine with NNAs just might come up someday.

  • How do I create a cool gapped sound often used in tracker songs?

Use Arguelles GoaSlicer. It's actually easier that way, than typing volume commands to every row.

  • There's no vibrato, nor panning envelopes. What do I do?

Some synthesizer machines have vibrato (or an LFO which can modulate the pitch). Jeskola Tracker has no vibrato, but other trackers have it. Try Mathilde tracker for instance. To add vibrato to any signal, use Rout Vibrato. However, it does the vibrato with pitch shifting / timestretching, so it tends to click with extreme values. Make it subtle. Also, Rout Vibrato only processes an incoming signal and is unaware of any note data, so you cannot make the vibrato delayed unless you're willing to create the vibrato its own pattern(s).

  • How do I create cool chip-like waveforms?

In thousands of ways. Begin with Psi Corp's Wave Ass. It allows you to draw your own waveforms. The following chart should help explain the various differences in terms between Buzz and Impulse Tracker:

Terminology Differences

  • Buzz : Impulse Tracker
  • Tick : Pattern row
  • BPM  : Tempo
  • TPB : Speed (This doesn't work as Speed in Impulse Tracker. Instead, higher value actually increase the song speed. Understand it as "Tracker rows per beat".)
  • Sequencer View : Order List