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Table Of Contents
I. Message From the Editor
III. General Tracking Techniques
IV. Computer Aided: The Difficulty of Tracked Music
V. In Tune -- Tourach's "Line of Force"
VI. Monthly Software Review -- BuzzTracker Beta 15
VII. Is the Demoscene Dying? Only if You Let It.
Message From the Editor
Well, after our first issue, we appear to be off to a good start. This
is now our second issue with 30 subscribers -- much more than I
expected after only one issue. We've gained 13 subscribers just since
last month. Keep Spreading the word!
We're off to a good start, but we're not there yet. I would still like
this to be much more well rounded. As of now, we're real dense in the
tracking end of the scene, but I'd like to get more demo related
columns and articles in here. Among the types of columns I'd like to
have are Demo Reviews, Codeing tips, interviews of fellow sceners, and
so on. If you have any ideas or would like to contribute anything,
please don't hesitate to send a message.
I'm also looking for ASCII artists to supply us with a new header.
Submission must not use high-ascii characters, and must include a spot
for the date and subscription count. You can send them to me at
Now I bring you this months issue of Static Line. Dilvish has supplied
us with an article providing some useful tracking tips and tactics.
Ever had "outsiders" question your abilities, simply because you use a
computer? Setec debates that issue with his article entitled "Computer
Aided." On the reviewing block this week is the music of Tourach, and
BuzzTracker Beta 15. Finally, if you think the demoscene is dying?
Guess again -- read my article titled "Is the Demoscene Dying?"
I hope to see you all next month. Remember, spread the word about us,
and send us something to publish. Cheers...
Letters from the Readers
-=- Letter From Adok: Why all the Fuss? -=-
Your mag was nice to read. it's tiny, but that okay for the first issue
of a monthly newsletter. the best thing about it is the good english.
that's natural, when it's made by native speakers :)
You wrote that articles for static line have to be formatted this way:
two spaces at the beginning of every line, and one space at the end. why
this great fuss? it might prohibit people from submitting articles,
which they've written before in a different layout! there's a better
solution: do you know the text editor aurora? it can take charge of all
the layouting thing. get it at http://www.download.com, it's shareware.
then, in the options menu, set the left margin to 3 and the right margin
to whatever you want (77, i suppose). then select a paragraph and click
at ctrl+b - finished! i strongly recommend you aurora, it's really a
-=> Thanks for the feedback Adok! I downloaded a copy of Aurora, and
fell in love. I am currently useing it to edit all of our issues from
now on. Thanks to your recommendation and Aurora, we no longer
require such extensive formatting (see the closing).
Also, you can expect our issue to get slightly bigger as more
articles and columns become availble to us. However, when it comes
down to the wire -- quality always takes precidence over size.
General Tracking Techniques
First off, I want to talk about some general instrument use guidelines,
that I think even a few experienced trackers can forget a bit too
easily. I've noticed a couple classic blunders lately in some tracked
INSTRUMENT USE: Have you ever heard a mod that uses a trumpet, or a
sax, and been reminded of a cheesy $20 keyboard's demo song? Of course,
a lot of that may be the sample itself, but it may be more likely that
you're just not using it right. If you're using IT, and you're trying
to track a solo on a brass instrument, keep in mind that these
instruments are not polyphonic.
Try to use them like a piano, and you end up with a half-baked cheesy
effect. If that's what you're going for, great, but if you're at all
interested in a serious melody - maybe some moody jazz - be careful to
use them realistically. Set your instruments to note cut. Add an echo
channel or two at very low volume, with some side panning to simulate
If you want to play two notes at once, be sure you do it in a way that
implies a second player. Don't just throw around notes and chords like
you would with a piano. Set up another channel, with a different pan
value, and give those wall reflections different delays for a realistic
A big part of tracking horns, woodwinds, and strings, are volume fades.
Good musicians use a lot of dynamic range when they play instruments
like these... even on a single note. Fading notes in and out can really
add a human touch to a song. Trumpets almost never cut off drastically.
Fade out those notes. (Though, not while another note has begun!
Remember, that is impossible to do on a real trumpet.)
Another thing I've noticed is that some people could use a little work
with their mixing technique. Here are a few ideas to get you started on
the road to good mixing.
GENERAL GUIDELINES: Reverb and low-end do not mix well. Floor toms,
kick drums, and bass usually don't need much reverb. Use it very
sparingly. Keep your kicks and floor toms tight and punchy.. don't let
them ring for too long, and it'll really help clear up that muddy sound.
Also, a bass guitar is a great place to use the note cut setting in IT
that people have become so scared of. There are times when NNA's are a
bad thing. Keep that in mind.
STEREO SEPARATION VIA EQ: Here's a trick I picked up quite a few years
ago when a guitar part I recorded was overpowering my vocals. If you
have access to a nice graphic EQ (10 bands or more, preferably.. the
more the better), try this: open your sample *twice* in your editor,
and drop every other frequency slider all the way. Then do the same for
the second copy of the sample, but drop the sliders that you left alone
in the first copy:
file 1: file 2:
| | | | | |
| | | | | |
| | | | | |
=== | === | === |
| | | | | |
| | | | | |
| === | === | ===
Now open up your tracker, and create two copies of the sample's part.
Pan them to opposite sides.. as much or as little separation as you
need. Use your ears to judge. Now you've opened up a spot right
between them where you can sit a prominent melody line. =)
This technique works well if you have a bass that's getting in the way
of your kick drum. Keep the separation low, so your bass stays seated
in the center of your mix, and put the kick drum right in the center.
Don't be afraid to spread that kick drum's pan a little, too. Just keep
the kick and the bass separate, and you'll be fine.
You *could* achieve a similar effect with a little delay, or a sample
offset (simulated delay), but with that method, the part could become
less clear, or worse.. suffer phase cancellation problems and become
weak. (There are some neat tricks you can do with eq and phase
cancellation, but that's another article.)
Keep in mind that panning doesn't need to be static. You can add a
little body to anything by giving it a looped panning envelope that just
moves back and forth a little bit.
Dilvie / Kosmic
The Difficulty Of Tracked Music
By: Jesper Pedersen / Setec
We have probably all tried it. During a friendly chat with someone
you mention that you enjoy making music in your spare time. "Make music?
So, which instrument do you play?" Well, you do not really play an
instrument, at least not while making music. No, you are not in any
band. "So what do you mean, you make music?".
And this is where the conversation really goes wrong. You try
explaining that you make music on your computer, and then you are given
that LOOK. "Oh...." That about sums up all thoughts that "outsiders"
have about computer generated music: "Well, then you do not really
make the music yourself!" You may try desperately to change their
viewpoint, but your efforts will almost always be wasted.
Because of the general idea that people have -- that computer
generated music is created not so much by the individual behind the
keys, but more so by the chipset on the other side of the keyboard -- it
is a lot easier to make music with the aid of a computer rather than a
band. And most importantly, that whatever result you might get, you
cannot really be branded as the author.
So, let us take a closer look at the prejudices. Is it really easier
to make music with the aid of a computer as opposed to the usual method
of composition? For starters, let us imagine a typical scene of a
composer being inspired. Imagine that you have been sitting by your
piano and suddently you come up with an excellent chord progression.
Okay, so far the approach has been the same for both the tracker and the
"real" composer. But now the two of them take seperate paths. Where the
"real" composer might notate the progression on a piece of paper and
start working out some sort of melody, the tracker will most likely boot
up his tracker of preference. He will then have to search for some
suitable instrument (that he has perviously found, sampled or created
for himself) and then determine the correct speed for the pattern's
progression. Then he can start punching in the notes. So is this
simply a matter of entering the piano keystrokes? We all know that this
is not the way it is done. If you merely do that you will end up with
something that will sound at least "wrong." No, first you need to set
up different volumes on each note, maybe add a small delay on some of
the keystrokes, setup the instrument parameters and maybe fix a small
glitch in the looping.
So what has the tracker actually achieved by now? Well, he can now
have his computer play the chord progression over and over again, he has
obtained a (hopefully) nice mix, and he will now be able to work on some
sort of lead. A lot of hassle for so little. So how much work would it
take the "real" composer to get to this point? Well he was able to
work on the lead immediately after coming up with the progression, but
of course the tracker could have chosen to do this too. So what we will
have to look at is how much work it takes to transfer the music to the
medium of your desire, so that you may use such a recording to add more
to it. Record. That is it. No problems of coming up with the proper
samples, adjusting the volumes, looping or delay. Because this all comes
naturally when playing an instrument. The tracker has to immitate this
random behaviour, while the "real" composer obtains this by just playing
Okay, this way of looking at it is a tad too simplified, but I think
the point I am trying to make is correct. Making computer generated
music adds just ass much extra work as it takes away, or maybe even
more. While we get rid of the hassle of getting five or six people to
meet and play (by having samples of the instruments), we have a new
problem at our hands: obtaining samples of proper quality. And while
replaying and editing tunes might be easier on a computer, we actually
have a lot of work just mixing the tunes.
This, I think, is one of the things that acually makes tracked music
harder to make than "real" music. Mixing -- volumes, panning, and
such -- takes up such a huge amount of work and time. The selection of
samples is probably the most difficult and time-consuming. We have to
obtain a sample set that goes well together. Something that, when put
together, has a certain sound quality. Just think about it. We
actually have to find a bass and a guitar that compliment each other! I
doubt that many bands have such problems. :)
And this is not all. On the topic of guitar samples, most of you
will know how damn hard it can be to make it sound like a real guitar.
This is because of yet another problem that we have. We have to imitate
real musical instruments, to make it sound as if it wasn't created on a
computer. And this is not easy! Of course, this only applies to some
categories of tracked music, but the task of creating a genuine mix goes
for all of them.
Percussion. Now there is an area of music where tracked music truly
differs from ordinary music. Imagine the beat on a standard rock tune
and the one in some fast-moving electronic track. Think of the
complexity in the latter (granted that the author is good, naturally) as
opposed to the often striking simplicity of the first one. And I think
most of you agree with me when I say that mixing the percussion is
proabably the most difficult of all. I mean, just think of all the work
we put into a simple hihat line. :)
Well, I believe that I have succesfully proven most or all of the
assumptions that people have about computer generated music are wrong.
The object of this article is not to make tracked music "better" than
ordinary music, because I do not believe that this is the goal. But I do
believe that tracked music, and especially the authors of such, need to
be treated with the same respect that "real" musicians get. Because this
is what we all are...musicians. It is not some chipset or a set of
jumpers that makes the music that we publish. It is ourselves, our
creative minds and the musician inside of us.
Because really, is tracked music that computer aided?
Setec / Immortal Coil
Tourach's "Line of Force"
By: Coplan and SiN
Unfortunately, SiN will be unable to join us this month, as he has a
very busy schedule to uphold. I hope that this does not in any way limit
the quality of this review. Meanwhile, he will hopefully be back with
us next month to continue reviewing with me. Now, down to business.
-=- Coplan -=-
This month, I am reviewing "Line of Force," a song written by Tourach
of Chaos Theory. As I am very much the product of the 80's, this song
brings me back to the classic days of Van Halen. I would classify the
song as rock, though I must admit -- I wouldn't know what kind. Lets
just say it isn't the typical electronic based music that you often find
in the music scene these days. This song is the first of a two song
series (so far). The second song, "Line of Force 2" (ct-line2.zip),
follows the same style, and can be found in the same directory as "Line
The first thing that I must commend Tourach for are his samples.
Credits aren't assigned to the samples, so I can only assume that he
created all the samples himself. Even if this isn't so, he chose his
samples well. All are very clean, well matched and generally
appropriate for the song. He has several guitar riffs sampled which he
uses effectivly in the song without unnecessary repetiton. Some people
may feel that this is "cheating," but in all honesty, it adds a level of
realism to the song -- especially if it is done well.
The song opens with a very dramatic introduction useing mostly
percussion and some sythesized horns. Then an organ breaks in with a
dramatic chord progression. I want to point out the percussion here.
Try to imagine the song without the percussion being as clean as it were
here. The delivery of the opening is almost entirely dependant on the
percussion, and Tourach makes no folly of that. The introduction
continues up to Order 10 in what I call a three part introduction (its
not a technical term -- its something thats typical of many rock songs).
You will notice how the feel of the introduction changes at order 6,
with a fancy guitar riff, and again at order 8, where the synth-organs
come back with another guitar riff in the background. Finally at order
10, we are set into the overall mood of the song. A phenominal
introduction that many could learn from.
At order 28, we have a very well done key change with a guitar taking
the lead here. This is where useing pre-recorded riffs can get tricky.
You will notice that the lead guitar changes key a couple of times.
This gets tricky when you use pre-recorded riffs, because the speed of
the riff also changes from note to note. There are two good solutions
to avoid this, one is to sample the same riff at different keys.
Tourach chose to have a sample that extends for 128 lines -- complete
with the key changes and all. You will notice, however, that the key
changes precicely at line 64 (unedited, this would be the first line of
the next pattern). This is where tempo and song speed come in handy,
in this case they needed to be manipulated to match the instrument.
In general, most of the transitions in this song are clean and well
managed. However, I would like to make an example of the transiton at
order 34. This transition isn't nearly as clean as it could have been.
In order 33, there is no warning given that a change is about to happen.
It would have been a good idea if that last note of the guitar riff were
to hold out for a couple of seconds more (extending the pattern a bit),
and if the drums were to somehow kick into a dramatic riff, then cut off
just before the guitar note carries off. There are several ways to do
this transition, that would just be one possible way. As it exists
currently, however, almost every instrument simply clips off, and the
new melody kicks in. There needs to be some sort of buffer between
order 33 and order 34. You can see a good example of what I'm talking
about in this very song, at the transition between order 51 and 52.
Notice how that tiny 16 line buffer makes all the difference!
My favorite part of the song is from order 54 to order 61. Tourach
transfers from the bells to the synths smoothly and effectivly, and the
percussion is once again flawless. This launches you into the closing
set, which very much like the opening, is well done. You see a little
cameo appearance of all the instruments that have appeared elsewhere in
the song, and finally it closes with nothing but bell chords. A good
closing to a fine piece of work.
Though it has its weak points, this song is a good example of what is
possible these days. Its original, its full of fresh ideas, and most of
all -- its cleanly organized. I will not be reviewing the second song
in the series, "Line of Force 2." But if you liked this song, you
should definately give it a listen. It too is well worth the time.
Coplan / Immortal Coil
Coplan: IT 2.14 useing default Interwave drivers; Koss Standard
Title: Line of Force
Author: Tourach / Chaos Theory
Filename (zipped/unzipped): ct-line.zip / trch-lin.it
File Size (Zipped/Unzipped): 640k / 686k
"In Tune" is a regular column dedicated to the review of original and
singular works by fellow trackers. It is to be used as a tool to expand
your listening and writing horizons, but should not be used as a general
rating system. SiN and Coplan's opinions are not the opinions of the
Static Line Staff.
If you have heard a song you would like to recommend (either your own,
or another person's), we can be contacted through e-mail useing the
addresses found in the closing notes. Please do not send files attached
to e-mail without first contacting us. Thank you!
Monthly Software Review
BuzzTracker Alpha 15
By: Louis Gorenfeld
People have told me that on some systems in Windows 98, Impulse
Tracker does not work. I assume you can still run it in good old DOS,
but the picky memory requirements of IT will frustrate people used to
Win95. And with some sound cards that need DOS drivers which take up
memory, it can be quite a chore getting it to work. That's why I have
been looking around at Windows native trackers.
One thing about Buzz that may frusterate people is that it seems to
require IE3 or higher (yes, that poses a problem for those people who
deleted theirs in an anti-Microsoft tantrum, or who have an older
version of Win95 and never downloaded IE). I do not know if Buzz will
run at all without IE3 or up, but it is listed in the requirements.
BuzzTracker has been around for a little while but is still far from
completion. Though it shows a lot of promise. Basically, it is a
softsynth tracker. Well, what's so great about that, you say, most
softsynths come with a sequencer. The deal with Buzz is that you get
multiple softsynths plus effects such as flanging, chorus, delays and
reverb. You lay these machines out in a kind of (I hate to say this)
virtual studio, hooking them to each other and finally to the mixer.
On top of that, it's expandable: new softsynths and effects can be
programmed (if you're a programmer, it does not come with a scripting
language or anything like that). The downside of this is that the
softsynths and effects (machines) are not embedded in the song file so
if you use a new machine in your song, whoever you give your song to
must have the same machine as well. You can still use samples (with a
"tracker" machine), but you cannot import other module formats.
Another nice thing about Buzz is that depending on what softsynth or
effect (yes, you can track effects) you are editing, the pattern editor
has different columns to match the capabilities of whatever machine
you're entering notes for. One thing that it lacks however is a
standard effect column for the kind of control trackers are used to
(though I don't know if this is possible to do).
The order list is a bit different. With other trackers the order
list is one-dimensional. In this, you make patterns for each individual
softsynth (for example, a bass machine can have it's own pattern 00,
then another machine comes along and will get a different pattern 00).
When you get to the order list screen to lay it out, along the top of
the screen are the names of all the machines that you tracked. Then you
enter the number of what pattern you want what synth to play when. If
you want, you can even name the individual patterns.
As I mentioned before, Buzz is not done yet. In fact if you looked
at the version reviewed, you would see it's only in alpha stages. Some
of the bugs include noticible crackling sounds with certain machines and
effects, some graphical bugs and very sloppy playback control. I
recommend a fast computer for this (p166 or better) unless you want to
write songs at 11khz and listen to them using the built-in stereo wave
writer. It's so far not exactly a replacement for IT or FT2, but it's
on its way.
Rating: 2+/4 (too buggy so far)
Min. Req: Pentium, 16mb RAM, 800x600 display, IE3+, win95
Rec. Req: Pentium 166, 16mb RAM, 800x600 display,IE3+, win95
Platform: Windows 95 and up
Is The Demoscene Dying?
Only if You Let It
Recently, we have had a lot of people leave the scene. Perhaps they
have been thrown into the real world, and time has become more of an
issue than it had been in the past. This is certainly a reasonable
excuse to "leave the scene" in my eyes. However, its not always the
case. Unfortunately, I have noticed that a lot of people have left the
Demoscene out of dissatisfaction rather than the time issue. Still more
have left dissatisfied, but blame it on the time issue. Has the
Demoscene really turned raw -- to the point that people are leaving in
numbers? It all depends on how you look at it.
First of all, you must realize that the Demoscene is much more
accessable than it used to be. The internet has become the ultimate
form of communication between persons involved in the scene, and with
more and more people with internet access, we of course have more people
involved in the scene. This has created a false sense of decreasing
quality of productions in the scene. Think back to the first time you
entered the scene -- be it for tracking, codeing or GFX. Most of you
can't truly claim to have been gods and goddesses of the scene in the
first few weeks that you graced the scene. Now, consider how many
people are new to the Demoscene. I'd make a rough estimate that the
size of the Demoscene has almost doubled in less than a year. So, that
means that half of the scene's members are inexperienced. Doesn't it
seem like the overall quality is decreasing? Well, as I said, it
depends on how you look at it. Let us forget about those people who
have had less than a years experience. Lets look at those who are
familiar with their medium. New ideas are still arising, quality
productions still exist. The only difference is that it is harder to
find them. Regardless, they are there.
So what do we do? Do we simply say that the majority of the scene
sucks, and give up? That's the easy way out that many people are
taking. Unfortunately, this will do nothing to help the scene. If you
truly love the scene, a better solution would be to hang around and
teach the inexperienced. Teach them what only years of experience has
gotten you. I myself floundered around for the better part of two years
before I came across someone kind enough to teach me some tricks about
tracking. Just think what would've happend if I met that person two
years earlier. I'm not saying that you should take on an apprentice and
teach them from the very beginning -- though it wouldn't hurt (that's
how craftsmen learn their skill). Many people can benefit quite a bit
from a tiny peice of advice. If you were to teach someone how to tune
an instrument in Impulse Tracker, don't you think their music would
improve drastically, simply because they now know how to tune? Simple
gestures such as that can almost garuntee that quality productions will
once again hold the majority of Demoscene releases.
What's a few moments of your time relative to the many years the
Demoscene has been in existance?
Coplan / Immortal Coil
Editor: Coplan / D. Travis North / firstname.lastname@example.org
Assistant Editors: Ranger Rick / Ben Reed / email@example.com
Subliminal / Matt Friedly / firstname.lastname@example.org
Web Manager: Dilvish / Eric Hamilton / email@example.com
Columnists: Coplan / D. Travis North / firstname.lastname@example.org
Darkheart / Zach Heitling / email@example.com
Louis Gorenfeld / firstname.lastname@example.org
SiN / Ian Haskin / email@example.com
Staff Writers: Acell / Jamie LeSouef / firstname.lastname@example.org
Dilvish / Eric Hamilton / email@example.com
Setec / Jesper Pederson / firstname.lastname@example.org
Technical Support: Draggy / Nicholas St. Pierre / email@example.com
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If you would like to contribute an article to Static Line, be aware
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See you next month!