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Renoise, the reawakening: the tracker for the rest of us hits beta 2.0, as seen above. (Screen grabs by Wallace Winfrey.)

While better-known software names may get the attention, Renoise, a music making tool in the mold of a tracker, has long had a lot going for it. It runs on every platform you own (Windows, Mac, Linux) with just one license, applies a unique approach to musical arrangement and composition with a more modern interface, and allows speedy production with lots of keyboard shortcuts. As a tracker, the pattern editing in Renoise allows a “granular” level of control, for quick editing in textual views instead of visual blocks as in a piano roll. Whereas some retro-styled trackers don’t support modern features, Renoise has multi-core support, MIDI, VST instruments and effects, ASIO, audio recording, built-in effects, and flexible routing and mixing. It also has a built-in sampler and sample editing, so you can do audio manipulation from within Renoise as well as make use of your suite of instruments and effects. And the whole thing costs EUR49.99.

Renoise is about to get a major 2.0 update, with support for:

  • An overhauled engine with better timing and precision
  • Plug-in delay compensation — although what’s interesting here is that this promises to impact more than just hardware DSP platforms like Universal Audio; it also “also compensates your MIDI gear and midi cables wired to other hosts.”
  • Audio Unit plug-ins on Mac, plus improved VST support

The AU plug-in support alone could help Renoise crack the Mac community. I also like some of the other features, including new plug-in browsing, drag-and-drop, new filters, and quantization.

Renoise 2.0 Product Page (note: there’s no public beta as such, but if you’re an existing, registered Renoise user, you can access the beta releases; everyone else will for now have to try the 1.x demo)

Discussion on Renoise Forum

This is the tracker bit of Renoise. Instead of using graphical displays, it uses text codes to represent patterns. That may look unfriendly at first, but it saves screen real estate and, combined with keyboard shortcuts, can be quicker to work with — part of the reason trackers have been popular on everything from vintage computer systems to mobile gaming consoles like the Game Boy.

Because Renoise is a bit different from the music tools to which you’re probably most accustomed, and because this is an important release, I had some quick questions for main Renoise developer Eduard Mueller (aka Taktik)…

If you’re expecting only archaic editing, think again: friendly interface streamlining like these tabs and new, improved browsers abound.

PK: For those who may not have tried trackers before, how would you suggest getting started with Renoise? What should they do once they’ve grabbed the demo in those first fifteen or thirty minutes?

EM: Beyond the manual and the tutorials, the best way to get started with Renoise is to go to YouTube and search for the word “Renoise.” Many proud users show many aspects of the sequencer and “tracking culture” on there. Of course not everything you will find is an epic masterpiece, but the enthusiasm is there, and you get a good vibe for what Renoise is all about.

What was important to you for this release?

EM: The most important feature is the engine overhaul which introduces precision and timing. It allows for level of quantization and accuracy never seen in Renoise before. Moreover, this massive engine overhaul is essential for behemoth features in later releases, such as Zooming, the Arranger, Audio Tracks and maybe even a Piano Roll.

Ed.: Wow — putting a piano roll in a tracker would be a new development, for those who occasionally want the best of both worlds!

What would you suggest to Renoise users wanting to get the most out of Renoise?

EM: Learn the shortcuts. Renoise is like an instrument. It’s like learning a guitar, or a trumpet. You have to get a feel for your QWERTY keyboard to get the most out of it. Of course you can use the
mouse, and that’s not wrong in any way, but the shortcuts allow you to get the most out of the workflow.

CDM: We’ll have more on Renoise soon as the 2.0 release launches, including how you might integrate with workflows in other tools. Stay tuned.

The new filter.

New plug-in management — and there will be more plug-ins to manage on Mac, too, thanks to AU support (plus VST tweaks on both platforms).