The Most Popular Tracker Ever?

Stone Oakvalley had his Amiga 1200 playing for one year, 24 hours a day, to make the largest MP3-compilation of Amiga music. 255 000 songs and 200 days of listening. The info page shows 194 different formats, and I wanted a list of the most popular ones (amount of songs per format, rounded off).

  • Protracker – 77 200
  • Taketracker – 6300
  • Noisetracker – 5800
  • MED – 3500 + 700 in OctaMED
  • Sierra AGI – 1800
  • Soundtracker – 1400 + 300 in Ultimate Soundtracker

Just below 1000 we can find MusicLine, Startrekker, TFMX, Sonix, AHX and custom players. The synthetic trackers (SIDmon, Art of Noise, DigiBooster, Sonic Arranger, SoundMon, Future Composer) are all less popular. There are several noteworthy ones that I haven’t even heard about: The Player, SoundFX and MusicDiskTracker for example. Maybe worth checking out?

The high amount of Sierra AGI-songs, is probably caused by jingles and sound effects being interpreted as songs. Or is there a subculture of Sierra ravers that I don’t know about? Also – what is Taketracker? It seems to be an obscure MS DOS-tracker from 1994, but there are over 6000 songs made in it here. Is it because 4-channel Fasttracker songs were converted to Taketracker, which was Amiga-compatible?

[update: Stone used Deliplayer 2 to detect the format of the music. The songs that DP2 detects as TakeTracker are identified as as Soundtracker, Noisetracker or Protracker by other software (Eagleplayer, Delitracker, Aplayer, Hippoplayer, Noiseconverter & ExoticRipper), as Stone showed me. With artists like Maktone, Josss, Dubmood, Zabutom, Zalza, Cerror, it’s likely a PC-tracker]

As Stone suggested in an e-mail, it’s probably a specific version of a Pro/Noise/Soundtracker that is misinterpreted]

Although Soundtracker was developed (hacked) for 3 years, there are only 1700 songs. Perhaps it is because 1) people did not use the mod-format but rather the song-format (which did not include the samples), 2) the files have been re-interpreted as Noisetracker/Protracker, or 3) the music was poorly archived.

Or perhaps the home computer music revolution only got started with Noisetracker and MED in 1989? Both these programs were developed until 1991 (when MED became OctaMED). But in 1990 Protracker appeared (as a Noisetracker-hack) and became the new standard.

With almost 80 000 songs, Protracker is more popular than the PC’s Fasttracker, Screamtracker and Impulse-tracker combined (source). Did any other music software leave such a massive amount of non-recorded songs? On the C64, we can use SIDId to see that no program was used for more than 10 000 songs (scroll down here). I suppose those numbers don’t include sub-songs though.

Anyway. Protracker – the most popular tracker ever? Also, is it the most popular 8-bit tracker in terms of vinyl releases? In the timeline there are 100+ vinyls made on Amiga, most likely in Protracker or MED. Protracker was very popular in the-stuff-that-became-known-as-breakcore on labels like Bloody Fist, Digital Hardcore and Fischkopf.

Btw – check this great diagram on the history of trackers. Useful++

24 Responses to “The Most Popular Tracker Ever?”

  1. oldschoolgameblog Says:

    Incredible stuff. The numbers of modules are staggering! :)

    Good to see that Mr. Oakvalley’s Amiga 1200 was up to the task. It goes to show how great the 1200 really is. I’m impressed.

  2. iLKke Says:

    The Player was in fact not a tracker at all, but a custom replay routine coupled with a way of packing modules so that rastertime/memory/filesize are saved in demos. Also for a while this format was hard to rip/convert back to modules, which might have appealed to some people as well.

    Cheers for an interesting article.

  3. iLKke Says:

    Umm, just noticed in that chart that HeartTracker2.33 has supposedly stemmed directly from ProTracker1.1b, while in fact it was Crayon’s custom version of his own ProTracker2.23a. Just sayin’

    • chipflip Says:

      Yeah, seems unlikely that Crayon would start from scratch :). Also, it was first released in 1992 (afaik) but the chart only shows v2.33.

  4. Redneckerz Says:

    Nice article, to start with :) I lurk here once in a while since approx 2009, nice to see that this is still up.

    Anyways, i can clearify most of your questions here. Since a while (just as on/off, probably will never get really ready lol), im researching the whole history of trackers and oldskool demoscene music. My plan is (and it probably will just be a plan, like usual:) ) to write a definitive history about the music programs of the demoscene (and believe me, there are a lot of rare and unusual programs over here!)

    to move on with the questions:

    The Player is, as mentioned already, a playroutine/module player for the Amiga. Its playroutine got used in countless Amiga Demo’s, and its almost the defacto standard for including mod music in your amiga demo, as well as a very important player.

    SoundFX was a shortlived competitor of the original Soundtracker, made in 1988. It wanted to compete with Karstens Soundtracker, but by 1988, the first Soundtracker hacks already appeared, and they went on to be far more popular than SoundFX, so it died. You can find more info at Exotica: http://www.exotica.org.uk/wiki/SoundFX

    Musicdisktracker was the internal tracker by Mahoney and Kaktus (of Noisetracker fame) created for their own Musicdisk 5. Stone Oakvalley asked on EAB about this prog, you can find that over here: http://eab.abime.net/showthread.php?t=52827
    ”Musicdisk 5 Tracker
    This Prog is not a new version of the Noisetracker, and it’s totally worthless for anything but our Musicdisk 5. Forget it!”

    And finally, Taketracker. This was an relatively obscure (well not so obscure that you cant find it anymore, haha!) Protracker look a like. It had one advantage though: It could create and save 16 channel Mod modules. Something which only got superceded by Fasttracker 2, who had the ability to save 32 channel Mod modules. Taketracker however, was one of the most powerful trackers which only supported the .mod format, with its 16 channels. Rather interesting, i must say :)

    • Redneckerz Says:

      just to add on it:

      Taketracker might be a 16 channel tracker, in the doc’s it is mentioned that a 32 channel variant also existed. Which to me concludes that it was the most powerful .mod format only tracker back in those days.

      • chipflip Says:

        I suppose that TakeTracker was the best way to make Amiga music on PC back in the days, and that’s why it’s so popular in this Amiga music collection. A bit strange that so many musicians didn’t have Amiga but still wanted to be part of the scene.

        Alright, so MusicDiskTracker is a version of their Master’s Noise stuff. That was basically Noisetracker, but with some features for synthetic sounds, afaik?

        For your project to document the history of trackers and demoscene music, I can recommend you to start a blog and post some of your research there. It’s a good way to document your progress and also get feedback. But either way – please keep me posted on your progress!

        Btw – Daniel Botz will release his dissertation about the demoscene soon. In German though, but a very very good read!

  5. Redneckerz Says:

    It sounds indeed strange that Taketracker takes up so many mods. Especially when it wasnt really know back then. My best guess is that people started in Fasttracker 2 and then moved it to TT, although i dont know why they would do that since FT2 had a lot more features anyhow:)

    Afaik, Musicdisktracker was just a customized Noisetracker, not based on His Master’s Noise. As far as i can tell it doesnt support synthetic sounds at all.

    Ha, my plan so far just included making a huge Word document with all the trackers/editors with their descriptions and all that. Actually, i pinned a similar idea to Coma from Modland fame a few months ago, because its a eponyomous task to start with. All i have now, is just a huge list with names of trackers, and even though i sport a fairly good memory, all these need to get categorized, edited, and organized into something that looks like an encyclopedia. :) Plus it also sports a lot of stuff that hardly has any demoscene label on it. The problem is, like most huge projects: Time. Things would have come a lot handier if someone could help me out with this project. I know you have a timeline for computer music achievement, how about an extra page with my gathered info in it? Im sure this would make a great addition to the page. I mean, i personally believe that demosceners would like to know when the first 8 channel amiga tracker appeared (hint, it wasnt Octamed or Oktalyser), among others. It can be a tremendous resource for a lot people, the problem is just time, dedication, and maybe a helping hand :)

    I know that im just ”blazing in” like this, especially when its just my first reply here and what not. But i just take my chances, maybe you, (or someone else who wants to help editing stuff and find links to downloads/pictures for it – i can look them up anyhow) can aid me in here. I know that you obviously also have a personal life, but it would be a great thing if you could help, one way or another. Motivation is basically just what i need, so who is willing enough to aid me into creating argumentably the best list of exotic music programs from the demoscene on this planet?

    Ive heard of Daniel Botz :)
    and oh, just a typical newbie question (cant help myself haha): Are you 4mat? I read that somewhere :)

    Thanks for your time.
    Red.

    • chipflip Says:

      I can contribute to this, and I’m sure there are plenty of others who can contribute even more. Set up a wiki somewhere, or make a public Google Doc perhaps?

      Categorization of trackers is interesting, and something I wrote about in my thesis. I used two main types: hyper sequencer and soundtracker. But I won’t go in to the details just now, here.

      (and btw, I am not 4mat :)

      • Redneckerz Says:

        Well,Its pretty easy to implement the whole list, its just hard to get some interest into (which in turn motivates me to go on:) )

        What i was thinking about (very simple ideas):

        – Categorize the list in platforms (Amiga, PC, etc)
        – Implement a simple, text based ”template” so i can work quickly
        – First create the list in .txt, with descriptions and everything. (and so i can work on it pretty much every where)
        – Then, copy-paste to Word.

        – eventually, also chroniclizing the various Amiga Soundtracker would be an idea.

        If you are willing enough to set up some kind of ”Music Editors of the Demoscene and various other things” page, a bit like your time line, then things can easily be added. Im sure you know WordPress better than i do :)

      • chipflip Says:

        It doesn’t make so much sense, because people won’t read it just because it’s here. It makes more sense to do a Google document or a wiki and invite people that you want to contribute. Perhaps you can make a new page at http://8bc.org/wiki? I’d contribute!

  6. iLKke Says:

    goto80 != 4mat in every concievable sense

    Also, re:TakeTracker …

    Is it possible that many modules got registered as TakeTracker because they are in multichannel-mod format? AFAIK several programs (and utilities) had the option of producing those. Of course if TT has it’s own fileformat, then my ‘theory’ does not float.

    • Redneckerz Says:

      Ah, well then its nice to know the great 4mat then :)

      Your theory could be plausible. But at the time of releasing, you already had Fasttracker 1 which put 8CHN in the titles. Taketracker did this with a 16 channel and 32 channel mod, 16CHN and 32CHN, .mod compatible, but yet slightly different :)

  7. chipflip Says:

    Perhaps it’s not as popular as the archive would have us believe…

    The list of TakeTracker songs: http://fonix.dyndns.org:40000/soamc/index.php?av=0&sb=SOAMC&ss=&sf=taketracker&sy=&sil=N%2FA&sc=&srd=&sd=&sip=N%2FA&sr=&sx=&sl=&sis=N%2FA

    ( ambient-tune! ) by Beathawk is a mod-file, and at my work computer here Winamp detects it as Protracker. And in the sample-names you can read “hope this plays ok on pc”. So, did PC-coders convert it to some kind of TT-format to make it play better on PC or something?

    • iLKke Says:

      There is a good chance that “hope this plays ok on pc” is related to the difference between PT2.x and PT3.x replay routines. For some reason PT3.x did not support changing the instrument while the note is playing (it would retrigger the note, while in PT2.x it would swap the sample in mid-play). This for example made a lot of chip music (where this was a standard practice) sound awful on everything from FastTracker onwards, which would mean pretty much every PC tracker ever, until MilkyTracker. I suspect PC trackers were based on PT3.x routine assuming it was more advanced.
      Also this was the sole reason I never switched to ProTracker3.x :)

      • chipflip Says:

        Yeah, Protracker 2.3 forever! That retrigger-issue with later trackers is very silly. The first Fasttracker was released the same year as Protracker 3, it seems. So it’s possible that Triton got the idea on their own aswell.

        I’m digging more into the Taketracker mysteries – will write a new post about it. But for example, the first chipstuff by 4mat (Amiga, circa 1990) is reported as Taketracker. Hrmf.

      • iLKke Says:

        Triton probably just took the latest replay routine thinking it was the best. What made Cryptoburners mess it up is what’s a real mystery.
        The whole TakeTracker thing is fishy to say the least. I found one song by Rez being labelled as TakeTracker and asked him about it. He denied ever using it, as expected.
        Seems to be a parasitic format, then :D
        Can anyone really confirm that TT supported more than 4 channels? In all the screenshots I could find it looks like a regular pt clone.

  8. iLKke Says:

    Perhaps http://chipaedia.com/ would be a good place for this wiki endeavour? It’s chipmusic oriented, rather than demoscene or general tracking, but then again, so is 8bc.

  9. Redneckerz Says:

    @ iLkKe:

    Its easy to confirm this. just download the package from http://pouet.net/prod.php?which=33176
    And look in TRACKER.doc:

    TakeTracker 0.9e Betaversion
    16 Channel tracker for Gravis UltraSound (and SB)

    and:

    ”This tracker can handle up to 16
    channels of music”

    which pretty much confirms it. a 16 channel mod tracker from 94.

    Also maybe something new Goto80 for your new post:

    there has been a new tracker out for plain Atari ST. as you might or might not know, a plain Atari ST just has a 3 channel YM2149 chip. But because the ST has a rather strong CPU, they can software mix 4 digital channels on the CPU. Trackers for this are Protracker ST.

    Now there is 1 developer, named Paulo Simoes, who for a couple of years has been pushing the limits out of this ST machine (not the STE!)

    He has demonstrated 4 channel, 50 Khz (Thats higher quality than a CD) on a ST: http://pouet.net/prod.php?which=16918
    and pushed 8 channel mod music out of a 3 channel synthesis chip: http://pouet.net/prod.php?which=14827

    but today he has released a tracker which does the impossible:
    http://pouet.net/prod.php?which=56822

    up to 16 digital channels on a plain Atari ST! and in reasonable quality too (around 9.1 Khz) This guy squeezed 16 channels out of a 3 channel chip that wasnt even made to do digital music. This tracker also lets you make those 50 Khz 4 channel mods as demonstrated in YM50K.

    Its format is almost identical to the .mod format, with a few left outs. Anyhow, just wanted to inform you about it, because even an Atari ST can achieve more channels than the Amiga ever had. I didnt expected that :)

    • iLKke Says:

      Didn’t DigiBooster Pro have up to 128 channels? I seem to remember using that and Octamed Soundstudio on my Amiga back in the late nineties. Not sure how many channels the latter had but I do remember loading 64 channel XMs from Fasttracker2 into it.

      Any other ‘exciting’ news? :D

    • chipflip Says:

      Wua, I had no idea about that. Impressive work.

      Alright, so maybe Protracker ST is identified as Taketracker in SOASC aswell hehe.
      Who used Protracker ST? I think I spotted 505 in the list…

  10. Taketracker Mystery Solved? « CHIPFLIP Says:

    […] a previous post we saw that Taketracker was listed as the second most popular Amiga tracker, which was odd since […]

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