The Music Program
Written & designed by:
Hans Arild Runde
Karl Anders Øygard
Karl Anders Øygard
Hans Arild Runde
ProTracker ST is the result of close to two years of more or less
hard work. It represents a peak in soundtracking on the Atari ST.
Work on ProTracker ST started when the pretty well known ST News
editorial staff, Stefan Posthuma and Richard Karsmakers, visited
us back in the Christmas of '90. Torbjorn "HackBear" Ose had just
been hacking happily away on the Cuddly Demos, and was proud to
present me with a fully resourced version of the digisound demo
contained in the Cuddly Demos. I had a quick look at this source,
and was intrigued and astonished by the techniques used for
replaying samples. Two days later I had a prototype of a
soundtracker replay routine ready.
As far as I can remember, this little debut in soundtracking was
not particularily well received, and Stefan and Richard saw to
that the not particularily pleasing noises terminated rather
Still, I was not quite that easily stopped, so half a year later
I could present the world with a 100% compatible, totally
rewritten, more than twice as fast and a lot less noisy sound-
tracker replay routine. This is where Hans-Arild enters. At this
point he challenged me to write a small soundtracker around the
replay routine. I rather regret accepting the challenge.
Now, one and a half year later, the ProTracker ST is ready,
better than even its Amiga cousin, ProTracker Amiga.
1.2 HISTORICAL FLASHBACK
Trackers have been a favoured way of making music on the Amiga
ever since Karsten Obarski introduced this novel approach to
create soundtracks. Although there were more powerful programs
around when the first Soundtracker appeared, the ease of use made
the Soundtracker a winner amongst the many amateur musicians.
However, trackers have changed a lot since then. Numerous demo
groups have had their best programmers improving the capabilities
under guidance of some of the best composers on the Amiga.
ProTracker 2.0 represents a peak in the development, with more
effects at the hands of the composer, more tools to ease his
work, for instance built-in sampling software and MIDI-support,
and flexibility to meet _your_ requirements.
The trackers previously released on the ST have been of varying
quality, but all are inferior to the Amiga ProTracker. Till now.
The ProTracker ST for the Atari ST and STE is based on the Amiga
ProTracker's philosophy. It supports almost every feature of its
predecessors, and in some areas it goes even further, notably
better editing, offering more possibilities, easy recording and
an easier and more powerful sample editor. It also makes full use
of the STE's stereo sound introducing bass and treble control.
Both on the ST and STE, the digitized sound is of a quality
superior to anything else, yet leaves far more time for other
tasks to run simultaneously. Furthermore, replay routines comes
together with the ProTracker ST, making it easy to implement
soundtracks in demos and games.
1.3 WHAT IS A TRACKER?
To get the computer to sound like real instruments, digitized
sounds are used, i.e. samples. A sample is a sequence of bytes
which describes the waveform of the sound. Each byte represents
one point on the waveform. Depending on the wave, it will sound
like a piano, a guitar or even a cow bell or a drum. If you think
this sounds difficult, don't despair. It's fully possible to make
wonderful music without knowing anything about digitized sound.
The duration of the sound depends on the length of the sequence
and the pitch of the note. High pitches give short notes, and low
pitches give long notes. Usually, the bytes are run through only
once when a note is played, but the sample can be repeated
partially or wholly to create longer notes. The ProTracker ST
allows you to use a maximum of 31 different instruments/samples
in a song, memory permitting.
A song consists of up to 127 positions, each referring to a
sequence of notes, called a pattern. The same pattern can be used
several times in the position table, which contains the informa-
tion about what pattern should be played at what position. Each
pattern has four tracks, which means that the tracker can play
four notes simultaneously. The patterns can be from 1 to 64 steps
long, usually depending on the time signature of the song. It is
the patterns that actually contain the music.
When the song is played, it starts at position 0 and goes through
the table until the last position (as defined by the length
value) has been reached. It will then usually restart at position
0, but this can be changed to another position, or to no restart
1.4 HOW TO USE THIS MANUAL
Chapter one and two are introductory, whereas detailed informa-
tion about all the features is primarily found in chapter three.
There are also four appendices. Appendix A "Glossary of terms"
explains some frequently used terms in this manual, both musical
and other. Moreover, there is an index at the back which should
make it easier to find what you're looking for. Leafing through
the table of contents may also be of help.
The best way to learn how to use ProTracker ST is to read through
the manual once, and thereafter experiment with this manual close
2. GETTING STARTED
2.1 THE PACKAGE
The package should contain:
The main disk, with the trackers and replay programs.
One disk with music examples.
Two disks with instruments ('SAMPLE01' and 'SAMPLE02')
The manual you're hopefully reading now.
First of all you should make a backup of the disks. Do this as
outlined in your ST's Owner's Manual. Later, you should always
use the backup disks. Store the original ones in a safe place.
If you have a harddisk, you can just copy the files into a
2.2 STARTING THE PROGRAM
To start the program, double-click on either PT_ST.PRG or
PT_STE.PRG, depending on which machine you're using. The
PT_ST.PRG will run on any ST, but does not take advantage of the
better sound capabilities of the STE. Running PT_STE.PRG on an ST
makes no sense, and you will be informed of this upon trying to
2.3 YOUR FIRST SESSION
In this first session of tracking, we will begin from the very
beginning. So, if you for some reason are rather familiar with
trackers, you could skip chapter 2 and only pay attention to
chapter 3. However, we will recommend even experienced tracker
musicians to read briefly through chapter 2 to be sure not to
The aim of this chapter is to give you a glimpse into some of the
huge capabilities that this music tool offers. You will learn how
to load a soundtrack from disk, how you easily make small changes
to a song, how you play the music and how you make use of other
basic but necessary features and commands. You will need an
estimated 30 to 60 minutes for these exercises, depending on how
familiar you are with trackers.
The initial screen will later be referred to as the Main screen.
To remove the info window telling you who wrote this program,
just press the left mouse button anywhere on the screen. To get
back the info window, click the INF button positioned a bit to
the right in the middle of the screen. However, learning the
authors' names and staring at the ProTracker ST logo isn't very
funny in the long run, so go on!
We won't spend much time explaining everything thoroughly at this
point. Just follow the instructions carefully, and you'll manage
The first thing you should do, is to find the DISK button and
click it. The DISK menu pops up at the top of the screen. Insert
the disk with music examples and click the LOAD MODULE button.
When the file selector appears, choose the file "TESTSONG.MOD"
and click OK.
You've now loaded a Module. A module is a disk file that contains
all necessary data to make it possible for your computer to play
the song. That means that the file both holds the sample data
(the digitized instruments) and the song data (the notes and
information about what samples the song uses). To avoid
misunderstandings, we have chosen to distinguish between these
data stored on disk, and the same data stored in the computer's
memory. When stored in memory, we refer to the data as a
Soundtrack. It's actually possible for the ProTracker ST to keep
several soundtracks in memory simultaneously, making it easy to
copy song data from one soundtrack to another. However, we will
come back to this in chapter 3. To leave the disk menu, click the
EXIT button, or just press the Escape key.
If you've done everything right, the Songname should have changed
to "TEST SONG UNEDITED". As you've probably observed already, the
songname is longer than the file name. Actually, the songname is
independent of the file name and vice versa. The songname can be
up to 19 characters long, whilst the file name has its normal
limitations. To edit the songname, just click it and write
whatever you like. Press Return when you're satisfied.
In the upper left of the main screen, you find the position
table. Here you decide in what order the patterns should be
played. You also define the length of the song and where to
restart when the patterns have been played through once. Don't
change any of these values before you are told to!
SAMPLE INFO TABLE
The sample info table is positioned under the position table.
Right now, the table contains the VOLUME, LENGTH, REPSTRT, REPLEN
and FINETUNE values of sample 1. Don't worry if you can't spot
the finetune value. Clicking the VOLUME box will exchange the
VOLUME box with the FINETUNE box. To retrieve the VOLUME box,
click the FINETUNE box.
When sample 1 is displayed, we refer to sample 1 as the current
sample. The name of the current sample is positioned under the
songname. To change the current sample, click the up and down
arrows to the right of the sample number. You could also click on
the sample number and reenter/edit it. However, the easiest way
of changing sample, is to use the key pad. The upper row refers
to sample 1-4, the second from the top to sample 5-8 and so on.
["(" is sample 1, ")" is sample 2, etc. ] You shouldn't change
any of the values in the sample info table yet.
To the right of the sample info table, you see an oscilloscope.
The oscilloscope actually shows the waveforms of the samples
being played. Nothing's being played right now, and the scope
doesn't show any waveform.
In the bottom of the screen, Pattern 00 is displayed. (That is,
if you haven't changed anything). This means that pattern 00 is
the current pattern. The pattern is divided into four main
columns. Each column is referred to as a Channel or a Track (the
term "track" will probably be used more frequently than
"channel"). The pattern consists of 64 lines called Steps, and
the small column to the left shows the step number of each line.
It's possible to choose to play only a certain amount of the
steps in each pattern. This test song for instance, uses only 48
of the 64 steps available.
To move the cursor around in the pattern, you use the cursor
keys. You can also move the cursor with the mouse by clicking on
the desired point in the pattern. Go ahead, experiment! Note that
the cursor always will be positioned on the edit line in the
middle of the pattern window.
To change pattern, click on the pattern number box and enter
another number. An easier way of changing patterns, is to press
the left or right cursor key while holding down the Shift key.
Above the oscilloscope, there are four columns, each with four
buttons. At this point, we will only pay attention to the PLAY,
PATTERN, EDIT and STOP buttons in the first column, and to the
SLST and DISK buttons in the third row. Pressing the SLST button
will pop up the Sample list. The sample list is a list containing
all your samples. You'll learn how to update this list later. You
already know what action the DISK button causes, and we won't
tell you more about the DISK menu in this chapter anyway.
There are two modes of playing music. Clicking the PLAY button
will start playing the song from the current position in the
position table. Clicking the PATTERN button will play only the
current pattern. The program will always start from the top of
each pattern when using PLAY or PATTERN. It's actually possible
to play a pattern from e.g. step 16, and you'll get to learn that
Now, you should click the PLAY button. When you've heard through
the two patterns currently being the song, click the STOP button.
It should be obvious that the test song is far from finished.
Therefore, it will be your job to complete it under guidance by
The song lacked a bass line. In other terms, we need a bass. We
are going to load the bass into sample 3. To do that, you have to
select sample 3. Then you should click the SLST button. Use the
cursor keys to move up and down in the sample list. Search the
list until you find the sample called "BASS11.SPL" and click it.
Now, a requester will pop up, asking you whether you're sure you
want to load the sample or not. Click the YES button or press the
"Y" key to confirm your choice. Then you are told to insert disk
SAMPLE02. Well, just do it!
When loading a new instrument into sample 3, all previous sample
3 data in memory will be lost. If you for some reason didn't load
the right sample, repeat the above procedure until "BASS11.SPL"
is loaded into sample 3.
We will use the second track for the bass line. When you've moved
the cursor to track two, try to press e.g. the Q, W, E, R and T
keys. If you have done everything right, you should hear some
notes being played. You see, the keyboard is organized like the
keys on a synth. Actually, there are two rows of note keys.
Upper note keys: 2 3 5 6 7 9 0 =
Q W E R T Y U I O P [ ]
Corresponding notes: C# D# F# G# A# C# D# F#
C D E F G A B C D E F G
Lower note keys: S D G H J L ;
Z X C V B N M , . /
The ProTracker ST has got three octaves. When the OCTS switch is
in L(ower) mode, you can play the notes from C-1 to G-3 on the
keyboard. When the switch is in U(pper) mode, you can play the
notes from C-2 to B-3. To toggle between Lower and Upper mode,
click on OCTS or press the Help key for Lower mode and the Undo
key for upper mode.
Make sure that the cursor is placed in the second track in
pattern 00. Click the EDIT button. By now, the pointer should
have turned blue. This is to indicate that you're in edit mode.
If you now try to play some more notes, the notes will be written
into track two in the pattern.
Please note that it's possible to edit even when playing a song
or a pattern. To prevent destroying data when playing the music,
always remember to turn off the edit mode if you don't intend to
edit during play.
The information in the track/pattern is given as follows:
16 F-2 13 C35
/ \_/ |/ \_/
/ / | \
Step Note Sample Effect command
The F-2 is the note being played at step 16. $13 (19 decimal) is
the sample number, and the three last digits represent the effect
command. In this case, it sets the volume to $35 (53 decimal). C
is the command, $35 is the value. All values in the pattern are
hexadecimal, except the step number. Usually, only the note and
the sample part of the information will be stored automatically.
Additional information is found as an effect command and has to
be written separately.
The effect commands is one of the strengths of ProTracker ST. You
may change the volume of a sample during play, you can slide the
pitch of a note (portamento), vibratos and arpeggios (chords) are
easily produced, and altering the speed of the song is no big
deal. Other useful options are also available.
Each time you enter a note, the cursor will move one step down.
If you for some reason want to correct a note, place the cursor
on the desired note and reenter it. To delete the note without
reentering it, just press the Backspace key.
SOLOING A CHANNEL/TRACK
You have probably noticed that the other tracks are also being
played when you play notes in track two. If this annoys you, hold
down Ctrl and press '-' on the keypad. This will "solo" track
two. That means that the other tracks are muted (turned off). To
turn all channels/tracks on, hold down Shift and press '0' on the
If you feel ready to start entering the bass line, go to the top
of the pattern and press the F1 key. This will clear the whole
track. Choose the lower octaves. Make sure that you're in edit
mode. Start with a F-1 at step 0 (press 'V' for the F-1). Step 0
should look like this: F-1 3000. Place another F-1 at step 4,
before you enter a F-2 at step 6 (press 'R' for the F-2).
Continue entering notes in the track as outlined below:
Step Note Step Note Step Note
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----
0 F-1 18 F-2 36 A-1
4 F-1 22 G-1 40 A-1
6 F-2 24 A-1 42 A-2
10 F-1 28 A-1 44 G-1
12 F-1 30 A-2 46 A-1
16 F-1 34 A-1
When you have (hopefully successfully) reproduced the track, it's
time to listen to pattern 00. Click the PATTERN button. If it
sounds very fishy, you've probably done a mistake. Make sure that
you've done everything as instructed and correct possible
mistakes. If you still think it sounds dreadful, you might have
too big expectations to a TEST song!
COPYING A TRACK
When you're tired of listening to pattern 00, click STOP and go
to pattern 01. (Click on the pattern number box, and enter 01.)
Observe that the pattern both lacks a bass line and drums
(channel four is empty). Before editing the bass line like in
pattern 00, we're going to copy the drums from pattern 00 to
pattern 01. To do that, return to pattern 00, move the cursor to
channel four and press F2. This will copy the track into the
paste buffer. Go to channel four in pattern 01 and press F3 to
paste the drums into the track. Now both patterns have drums,
without you having to write anything in pattern 01!
Now, you should write a bass line like in pattern 00, using the
notes in the table below:
Step Note Step Note Step Note
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----
0 A#1 18 A#2 34 B-1
4 A#1 20 A-1 36 B-1
6 A#2 22 A#1 40 B-1
10 A#1 24 B-1 42 B-2
12 A#1 28 B-1 46 B-1
16 A#1 30 B-2
If you feel like it, click the PLAY button to hear the song this
far. Remember to turn all channels back on, otherwise the song
will not sound very impressive. The volume of the melody voice
(sample 5, PANMALL.SPL) is perhaps a bit low, especially compared
to the bass. Try setting it to 61 (hexadecimal $3D). (Select
sample 5 and change the volume value in the sample info table.)
Do also change the volume of the bass from 64 (hex $40) to 48
(hex $30). It should sound better after you've done these
For your convenience, we've written some more patterns of music
data for you. Alter the LENGTH of the song. Now, it should be set
to eight. Unfortunately, we forgot to make drum tracks in
patterns 02 to 07. Copy the old drum track from pattern 00 or 01
to track four in patterns 02 to 07. When you've done this
properly, go to position 0 in the position table. To do this, use
the up and down arrows to the right of the position number. You
can also click on the number and reenter it. Click PLAY to listen
to the song.
It's getting better! Nevertheless, there are still a few things
left to improve. First of all you should try to speed up the song
a bit. Move the cursor to track one in pattern 00 and change the
F06 effect command to F05. Play the pattern. The new tempo seems
to suit the song far better.
Moreover, you should make a small drum 'fill in' (a small
variation at the end of the pattern) in patterns 03 and 07. Go to
track four in pattern 03. Do the following changes:
Step Note Sample
---- ---- ------
42 B-2 7
44 G-3 8
46 G-3 8
Copy the edited track to track four in pattern 07, and listen to
EDITING POSITION TABLE
Actually, you're almost finished with your first session. We hope
you've enjoyed it, and you've probably learned a lot. But before
we look upon the song as finished, you should learn a bit about
the position table. Set LENGTH to 20 (hex $14) and RESTART to 8.
As you might already have guessed, we've prewritten some more
patterns. Now, you should place them in the position table. You
do this by selecting the desired position and entering the
corresponding pattern value. The list below contains the
Position Pattern value Position Pattern value
-------- ------------- -------- -------------
8 0 14 10
9 1 15 11
10 2 16 12
11 3 17 13
12 8 18 14
13 9 19 15
Then you should lean back and enjoy your first piece of music
written with the ProTracker ST! If you're not sure whether you
got everything right or not, you should load the "TEST2.MOD"
module from the music example disk. That module contains a
finished version of the test song. But remember to save your own
edited module first. To do that, just go to to the DISK menu and
click the SAVE MODULE button. Confirm your choice, and insert a
formatted disk in your disk drive. Pick a suitable file name, and
save the soundtrack to disk.
Honestly, the test song isn't at all any masterpiece of sound
tracking. Therefore, to avoid you getting an incorrect first
impression of the ProTracker ST's music capabilities, you should
load and play the "KLISJE.MOD" module which also is to be found
on the music example disk. This superb soundtrack was originally
written on the Amiga by the very talented Norwegian musician Tor
Gausen. All in all, we have included four songs by famous Amiga
musicians. These are:
Klisje_paa_klisje (KLISJE.MOD) by Tor Gausen (Walkman of CRB)
Madness2-PartB (MADNESSB.MOD) by Matthew Simmons (4-MAT of
So what... (SO_WHAT.MOD) by Hans Arild Runde (Gladiator of CRB)
A lot can be learned by looking at the techniques used in these
modules. And who knows, with the ProTracker ST in your
possession, you might reach their level in some weeks or months.