/ Music Trackers / GoatTracker

GoatTracker is a cross-platform, open source tracker that lets you program the SID sound chip of the Commodore 64. It is developed by Covert Bitops. GoatTracker has a very steep learning curve. If you are not familiar with trackers you should come back to GoatTracker at a later time. You've been warned!

The SID chip has 3 oscillators that can each generate different waveforms in a wide range of frequencies. Each oscillator can generate 4 different wave forms (triangle, sawtooth, pulse, noise). This means that you can switch wave forms on the same channel on-the-fly. It has programmable volume envelopes (ADSR), as well as programmable volume, pitch, and pulse width modulation. What sets it apart from other sound chips it that it has programmable filters (lowpass, bandpass, highpass) that can be applied to one or more channels. It is also capable of ring modulation between the channels.
These properties give the SID chip a very unique and recognizable sound.

GoatTracker is mainly controlled with the keyboard. With the F12 key you can always open a help screen that lists all the keyboard shortcuts, effects, and commands. If you get stuck, check the README file in the GoatTracker directory. There is also a cheat sheet included in the archive.

The main screen displays everything that you need to create music: the pattern editor, song editor, instrument editor, and table editor.

The pattern editor works similar to other trackers. There are a few minor differences. Each channel can play any of the 4 wave forms. Instead of a note volume, you have to set the instrument's volume envelope (ADSR). Each channel can have a different pattern length.

The song editor is where you program in which order and on which channel the patterns should be played. A pattern can be played in any of the three channels. This means that you can set up your channel and swap the patterns around so that they are played with different effects.

The instrument editor lets you set the volume envelope (ADSR). The wave form, the filter, and the vibrato settings all reference positions in the table editor. The table editor is where the sound properties of the instrument are programmed.

The table editor is what differentiates GoatTracker from most of the other trackers. Everything the SID chip has to offer is programmed from there. Both the pattern editor and instrument editor reference the data of the wave table, pulse table, filter table, and speed table. This is where you program the wave form of your instrument, create modulation envelopes, configure filters, etc. For instance, an effect like the arpeggio is created in the wave table. The jump command lets you create loops inside a table.
The README file in the GoatTracker directory contains many useful examples for each table type. Make sure to study it.

Once you get a hang of the table editor, everything else will fall into place. It's really the most difficult but also most powerful part of the tracker.

With that said, give GoatTracker a try and check out the amazing example songs by Hein Holt and Cadaver.

Further Reading