Have you been paying attention to Renoise, the modernized tracker? You might want to start. The cat is out of the bag on Renoise 2.5’s new beta (available immediately to registered users), and it looks like it may be a dramatic leap forward. Even better, 2.6 promises to allow a level of customization, scripting, and integration we haven’t seen in any music tool, anywhere.

Two memes have gripped the underground electronic music over recent years. One has been the tracker, and its atomic, ground-up musical process, embodied in new and old software and in the love of handheld game systems like the Game Boy. The other has been the grid as a way of reconceiving and playing musical patterns, from Ableton Live to the monome.

Now imagine if these two memes collided.

And, oh yeah, imagine if you suddenly got the modulate-anything, script-anything, customize-anything, control-anything-with-anything, use OSC and MIDI and keyboards everywhere you’ve been asking for. A beta that’s about to drop should begin to answer whether Renoise will be the first app to pull it all off, with major new features coming early in the year and powerful scripting and customization later in 2010.

Have a look at this (very fuzzy) video, and you’ll see something is up.

First, let’s back up and talk about the Pattern Matrix. Look deeper than its skin, and it does appear to be something different from previous things with rectangles and steps and clips.

A long-standing problem with trackers has been that they’re so atomic, it’s often difficult to form larger structures. The Pattern Matrix promises to do this and more, with clever, keyboard-controlled boxes that allow you to mess with the larger form of your work. Unlike something like the Ableton Live clip view, this matrix is resizable, and you can see what’s happening inside each box (and inside is all the usual tracker goodness).

While you ruminate on that, there’s more. Meta devices in Renoise that modulate other parameters can now be chained… anywhere. This has been possible to limited effect with hacking or MIDI routing in other hosts, but in Renoise, these modulations are everywhere.


In another interesting feature, Renoise will be able to take plug-in VST and AU instruments and magically turn them into sampled instruments (which could be very handy for taking them on your Linux-powered netbook at a gig, without worrying about crashing).

Let’s do the quick bullet-point list to sum up what’s coming in 2.5:

  • A Pattern Matrix that lets you seamless control and trigger and see anything at any level of your arrangement – something really quite new, like a combination of the best of a step sequencer, a matrix of clips, and a tracker.
  • Meta-Device cross-track routing of modulation and control so you can connect and modulate everything with everything.
  • Instant creation of sample-based instruments
  • Internal effects: cabinet simulation, stutter audio (yeah, that’ll get overused), signal-following meta device (whaaa?), instant linking to an X/Y pad
  • Improved timing and plugin delay compensation
  • Mac plug-in crash guards, MIDI chords, MP3s on Linux, UI tweaks…

Check out the full 2.5 feature list.

Extensive thread by developer taktik (with some very juicy tidbits, to say the least)

As for when you can get it, registered users get the beta first. Full details from the source:

Pricing and Availability

Beta versions are exclusive to registered users. The first public 2.5 versions will be Release Candidates. The final version is expected to be released at the beginning of next year.

As usual we will test the beta for as long as necessary to make it rock solid, avoiding annoying floods of small updates to fix crucial issues.

The price of Renoise will change from 49 Euro to 59 Euro when the final version is released – This price is for a multi-platform license. That means that a single license is valid for Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux.

To ease the transition, everyone that buys Renoise 2.5 before the final version will get Renoise for the old price of 49 Euro. This covers upgrades up until and including version 3.5.

Real Integrated Customization Coming: Lua, OSC

Now, here’s the real bombshell. We’ve seen limited customization and scripting in music hosts. But what if all of this went further? That’s what Renoise is promising to do later in 2010.

From the Renoise forums:

We usually can not promise exact release dates and plans, but this time its “very likely” that we’ll throw in a Renoise 2.6 release right after this release. Well, soon, as soon as 2.5 went final. This mainly will be a “Renoise nerds” release – in a positive way.

For this release we already are working on integrating a scripting language into Renoise, actually already some of the new features in Renoise 2.5 are built with it, which will allow you to (and more):

– OSC support, create interactive MIDI controller scripts.

For example: control Renoise with a Monome, Mackie Control and so on, without having to manually “map” the controller. Just plug in the controller and you’re ready to go.

– Extend Renoise with the features you always wanted: Just like Extensions in for example Firefox, you will be able to extend Renoise with the features you want, like beatslicing, note shuffling, auto composing algorthms, whatever. Thoise scripts allow bidirectional comminication with Renoise, but not just with the song, as we have
it now for the XRNS tools.

You will also have the ability to write custom Renoise GUIs for your scripts, assign keyboard shorcuts and so on, to perfectly integrate them to Renoise.

More details about this will follow later, after the Renoise 2.5 release was done.

Of course, if successful – and keeping in mind this hasn’t been formally announced – this could go further than what even Max for Live has done this year, by being built from the ground up to integrate directly with the tool.

I could comment further, but I have a feeling this already has a few heads reeling.

Yes, I’ll be following this closely.