/ Music Trackers / AdlibTracker

AdlibTracker is an open source tracker that sequences the OPL3-chip. The chip can be found for example on the older Soundblaster soundcards. It runs on Windows, Mac, Linux and on MS-DOS (with the compatible soundcards).

The FM-synthesis capabilities of the OPL3-chip allow you to create, or rather mimic, the sound and timbre of real musical instruments by applying frequency modulation to simple wave forms. This is very different from using sample-based trackers like MilkyTracker (FastTracker) or SchismTracker (ImpulseTracker). You need to create the instruments yourself by configuring the chip. It is not difficult to create interesting sounds just by experimentation, but if you want to achieve a very specific sound it can take some time to find the proper configuration. Experimenting and finding new sounds and effects can be a very inspiring approach to creating music.

AdlibTracker comes with over 400 instrument presets that you can load and use in your songs. The archive, that you can download on their site, contains hundreds of demo songs that feature different music styles from blippy keygen chiptune goodness to contemporary techno, house and psytrance/goa. So there is a lot of material to get you started.

Feature wise you have 18 channels at your disposal with two effect columns per channel. The list of effect commands contains more than 80 effects which range from your usual pitch-bend, volume-slide, and arpeggio effects, to changing parameters of the instrument through the effect column.

The tracker is controlled only by keyboard so it will take some time to learn all the basic commands and key shortcuts. If you are stuck you can always press the F1 key to open the context sensitive help window which contains all the relevant shortcuts for the current screen. The manual itself is a little bit lacking, especially for someone who doesn't know anything about FM-synthesis or the properties of the chip. For instance, the manual contains no explanation about the Macro Editor screen whatsoever. It would have also been great to have an overview of the INI-file settings since the GUI itself does not offer a settings screen for the application itself. Sadly, there aren't many tutorials for AdlibTracker and the project has no forum, which is a shame.

On a positive note, the project has been updated regularly in the past few months which gives me hope that with a growing community these things will improve over time.

If you have never used a tracker before, I would not recommend using AdlibTracker as your first, since learning the keyboard commands, getting into the FM-synthesis mindset, and figuring out how programming music in trackers works, might be a little bit too much to handle at once. If you have some tracker experience and you like the idea of not relying on samples for music creation and instead you would like to explore the capabilities of the OPL3-chip, then AdlibTracker might be just the thing for you. Even tho it is not very beginner friendly, AdlibTracker is a solid and very powerful little tracker that offers you complete freedom with FM-synthesis and plenty of effects to spice up your song.

Further Reading