The tracker for the rest of us – now more customizable. Click for full-sized version.

Ever wish your music software could do something your way, something it can’t do now? Wish you could just get in there and change it yourself?

That’s some of the ambition of Renoise 2.6, the multi-platform music creation tool. By opening up the entire music tracker to scripting, users can create custom functionality and control surface. But scripting – while it sounds like the domain of hard-core geeks – doesn’t have to be daunting. That’s important, as presumably you want to spend some time making music. Scripting should save you time and let you express ideas more directly, not act as an impediment. So, the design of the Duplex feature in Renoise does work to make this customization accessible.

Renoise 2.6 has just gone gold master, meaning you can add it to your stable music setup. New in this release:

  • Lua scripting. Customize the app using an elegant, clean, friendly language.
  • OSC, MIDI support. Integrated control with Duplex (MIDI/OSC), native Open Sound Control support.
  • Extensive hardware support. Maybe you don’t want to write a line of code, ever. You can let someone else do it for you, and reap the rewards. Already, Renoise has native, fully-integrated support for the AlphaTrack, BCF-2000, BCR-2000, KONTROL49, FaderPort, microKONTROL, nanoKONTROL, Launchpad, Remote SL-MKII, Nocturn, Monome, Ohm64, iPad via TouchOSC… all thanks to community support for the new scripting engine.
  • Sample autoseek. Absolutely essential to making audio behave in the way it does in linear arrangement tools, the sample will play back from the position in the timeline, rather than from the beginning each time you hit play. (Seems obvious, but it’s part of making Renoise bridge tracker-style apps and more conventional, linear ones.)
  • Better performance, compatibility. Tweaked performance on Linux and Mac, expanded file format compatibility, plus 64-bit Linux, DSSI Linux support. Renoise is a reason to run Linux, and Linux a reason to run Renoise, if you hadn’t guessed that yet. No, seriously, you’ll enjoy it. (I always feel like it’s telling someone to go vegan. Linux can actually be fun. And you still get to eat bacon.)

The release date seems the perfect time to really explain what Duplex is about, and what it means to you. First, it’s best to see it in action in this Duplex video. What you see is fully integrated hardware and software, but in a way that doesn’t necessarily require specific hardware. (There’s no “Renoise” logo on the controller – and you could substitute something very different and get the same impact.)

More information on the Renoise forum from the video’s creator, Danoise: Duplex – Playing With Loops

Basically, I’m arranging a small song on-the-fly, using a Launchpad + monome. Since the song was basically written using the StepSequencer, the vertical resolution of each pattern is just 8 lines. I then use the new loop feature in the Matrix to “pair” patterns into longer sequences.

This is just one possible workflow among many, but it’s one that’s I’ve found to be immensely rewarding when you’re sketching a tune out.

Bjørn Nesby, Duplex’s lead developer, explains his creation to CDM:

Duplex is aimed at both people who are willing to create their own scripts, and those who just want a nice way to interact with their music using Renoise. Many of the scripts (called ‘applications’ in Duplex) are pretty generic in nature, and will simply take control of a specific part of Renoise, like the Mixer or Pattern Matrix. This is something everybody can use, so this is where I focused my efforts to begin with. More exotic applications are also planned, but we needed to get the fundamentals in place first.

A thing that was clear from the beginning was, that the whole setup and configuration process needed to be as simple as possible. I think we succeeded in that, as my personal copy of Renoise will automatically launch the applications I need when the program starts, on three separate controllers. And I’ve heard from many people that they love this aspect of Duplex, as it reduces a potentially tedious startup process to an absolute minimum. Of course you can have an initial device setup process that you need to go through (like selecting the input and output ports for your device, which might vary from system to system), but in most cases you’d only need to go through this once, after which the device is ready to use.

And I believe this is not just about ‘convenience’, because sometimes you need to be absolutely focused on the music and not the order of which you launch various programs – especially true when you bring your music to the stage.

However, I have to point out that the configuration process is not perfect yet. There’s still room for improvement when customizing application mappings – this is currently done by editing some of the accompanying configuration files by hand, and although that might sound scary, it’s actually a pretty straightforward thing to do (and if not, the Renoise forum is there to help people out). Also, finetuning a setup like this is hardly part of the music-making process itself, so I hope it’s something people can live with for a little while longer.

From a developer point of view, the Duplex framework might be technically interesting as it attempts to follow the ‘write once, run everywhere’ model, as known from the mobile computing world, but instead applied to musical gear. For example, the Mixer application is able to run on all devices, from the Novation Nocturn to the monome128. Physically speaking, those are two very different devices, but everything in the Duplex API is abstracted to the point where a standard user-interface element like a slider can be a rotary dial (Nocturn), or an array of buttons (monome). In the application code, you simply create a slider, and base your logic around that. The framework will do all the dirty work of translating that into *actual* controls. This is possible because everything in Duplex is based around a descriptive XML file, the control-map. Unlike a traditional MIDI implementation chart, the control-map will not only describe the parameters and their ranges, but rather the complete physical layout of the device. Once a proper description has been made (and they are not hard to make, several of Duplex’ control-maps are user-contributed) you can launch an application on e.g. the monome that creates virtual sliders from individual buttons, because each button “knows” where it’s located in a X/Y coordinate space.

I’ve also tried to keep the syntax as familiar as possible. Many people who’ve done a bit of actionscript will probably recognize many of the concepts in this framework, hopefully making the whole experience a little less daunting for budding scripters.

One unique aspect of Duplex: the virtual control surface. When Duplex is installed, you can try out all the various supported devices, even if you don’t own them. Again, it’s the control-map structure that makes this possible, as you can define things like button size, color etc. Of course, this is not the same as the real thing (try hitting two buttons simultaneously using a mouse?), but it’s still interesting to play with, a huge advantage for developers as you can design a control-map that device owners can then try out and test, and makes for self-documenting applications, as you can assign tool-tips to the control surface that display exactly what each button does.

More information:
What’s New in Renoise 2.6 – Renoise Geek Edition.

Renoise Lua Scripting

2.6 Forum Discussion

And, of course, you can discuss Renoise and other trackers on our own Noisepages community. Specifically, we’re looking at how to use trackers in live performance.

Trackers for Live Performance @ Noisepages

  • http://tomascerny.net TC

    This is absolutely cool and still going to be better and never worse or bloatware.

    Thanks developers for your honorable work!

    Thanks Peter for great news!

  • Tony

    "..Try hitting two buttons at once with a mouse…"

    Renoise just became perfect for a tablet form factor. If duplex can accept multi-touch events, this would be an ideal app for me.

  • Damon

    Wow! Renoise + laptop + midi controller = the absolutely cheapest total go there get there rig available. Probably my favorite quality of Renoise is that it brings even the most basic samples alive. This just makes it that much more visceral as an instrument. Well done.

  • Human Plague

    Faderport driver here. Even comes with a PDF manual. AlphaTrack here. Duplex which contains a pile hardware templates here. (Quote from the Duplex page comments section: "This tool made me buy the novation launchpad! :) ")

    The PDF manual put it over the top. It had me thinking, this must be a guy working for Presonus. When asked in the forums, he said no, just doing it for fun.

    Insert snarky remarks about marketing departments forging alliances with each other while a new breed of musicians buy the gear, ignore them, and build their own tools?

    Is this what Kraftwerk was referring to when they talked about "music workers?"

  • http://tomascerny.net TC

    "…it brings even the most basic samples alive."

    Sure, but don't forget that you can use plugins too. There are tons of free vst instruments and effects for windows and a few great and free for mac!

    (I don't use Linux so can't mention its possibilites…)

  • http://napodano.com It-Alien

    about sampleseek:

    this feature is not just a sort of "play from marker point" feature: you can apply all tracker effects to the sample, such as pitch bend, glissando, arpeggio, and still get consistent behaviour of autoseek

  • Adrian

    Thats gorgeous. Extensibility is always an important consideration when comparing software, and this just goes out there and says "Do what you want!"; I haven't ever played with Renoise but I think I am going to have to. The fact that it runs natively on linux? A huge plus. Thanks for showing this off!

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Capitan-Mission/124520374261493 Capitan Mission

    Great! Renoise is one of the best music software around. Powerful, simple, stable, very open ended.

    You can do very intricate programming in few minutes, use vsts, rewire, Linux, Windows and Mac versions…

    If you make electro-acoustic music : look at Renoise.

  • Bendish

    Why the Protools 9 Topic is getting more attention than this I have no idea. This mental! Totally customisable! Immense! What an awesome program and what a great team behind it.

    Did I say Awesome?

    Awesome!!!!

  • HeavyBeats

    That's right @Bendish how needs Protools 9, me not :) Renoise is really great creative tool, with a great community. Thumbs up! YEEE, is just Awesome!

  • Random

    This seems to be something which I've long wanted to see, but since using Max4Live I'm not so convinced about the textual road to scripting in a music application. Using Max/MSP I can build plugins graphically and insert some JavaScript or C or Java or whatever code when I feel like it. Which to me means two things: I'm not stuck with a purely textual environment, and I can mix and match different languages as I see fit. No need to learn yet another language which I'm not going to use for anything else (in the case of Renoise this would be Lua).

    Renoise seems to get more capable every day. Hopefully, it will never try to be something which it is not, i.e. a proper DAW for all those people who think in terms of a score and a digital tape recorder.

  • Peter Kirn

    @Random:

    Actually, there's an excellent Lua implementation on Max/MSP Jitter.
    http://www.mat.ucsb.edu/~wakefield/lua~/lua~.htm http://moniker.name/sputnik.cgi?p=software/jit_gl

    I don't really see it as being "stuck" with Lua in this case. They've just chosen it as a tool for the job. It's a really, really easy language to pick up quickly – we're not talking the amount of effort required to learn, say, Java, even less so if you've already got some other languages under your belt.

    Because of the amount of logic coding you're doing, I think it's a smart choice versus a patching language.

    I just started toying around with Lua myself and was really pleasantly surprised.

  • Bjørn Nesby

    I think it's important to mention that Duplex is just one of many tools already available on http://tools.renoise.com

  • http://yourimaginaryfriends.bandcamp.com Dar Austin Zaccaro

    I certainly agree with you, Peter: Renoise is a reason to use Linux, and Linux is a reason to use Renoise.

    Live implementation will be increasing exponentially now, with scripting. If only we had the hardware support, I think Linux could be better than OSX or Windows for audio.

  • http://twitter.com/dirtRAID Brand B

    @Random except 99 percent of the people using MAX4LIVE will never insert some C in their MAX patch. I am just sayin! As far as to what is a proper DAW.. it is just a term. Digital Audio Workstation.. I am pretty sure using Renoise on a 2.0 ghz + multi core cpu with a POSIX OS counts as doing digital audio on a workstation. I hope Renoise expands into any and all areas that its developers and users hope for.

    @Peter have you heard any rumor of a native iOS port for Renoise?

  • Human Plague

    <cite>Tony

    “..Try hitting two buttons at once with a mouse…”

    Renoise just became perfect for a tablet form factor. If duplex can accept multi-touch events, this would be an ideal app for me.</cite>

    @Tony: I think this idea is a winner. It makes a lot of sense for something like the Indamixx 2. If Trinity Audio Group can get a scripter or two on board their beta program, and design some fresh tools and GUIs using the Lua API, then there's some massive potential here IMHO.

    The future's so bright I gotta wear HD Vision Wraparounds and Blueblockers, double layered?

  • Bjørn Nesby

    ”..Try hitting two buttons at once with a mouse…”

    Actually, I have no idea if the MeeGo OS makes this possible with Renoise, but considering that it's a touch-centric operating system, it should be.

    But for those who can't wait, the iPad is probably the best multi-touch controller available for Renoise ATM.

  • http://www.bagger288.com/goldenmaster goldenmaster

    I'm not a big renoise user myself, but I like that the renoise developers have decided to go with scripting instead of some boxes n' lines method like max. First of all, lua is offered at NO EXTRA CHARGE, right? Getting max4live is at least a couple hundred bucks, if I remember correctly.

    I think that using a scripting language is way more efficient than trying to bash things out with lines and boxes. I've done a lot of work in reaktor, and love reaktor, and am also familiar with PD. But if you're going to be doing something beyond what a somewhat flexible piece of software can do already, chances are that at some point you'll be smacking your head against the wall trying to figure out how to do something by connecting a bunch of virtual patch cables and wishing you could just code a FOR loop with some nested IF statements inside, or whatever. Just my 2c.

  • http://www.inoutfest.org Flplsx

    @goldenmaster

    M4L and Renoise scripting serve two different purposes.

    M4L makes sense for it's purpose, which is a sort of plug-in creator/editor with some access to the guts of Live for doing some interesting things, but mostly leaving Live as it is. The patch-cable-esque environment makes it easy to implement various effects with limited programming knowledge.

    Renoise's scripting is more for getting to the innards of Renoise and creating extra functionality that suits you and your work flow. A textual language makes more sense here because you're dealing with more logic statements that would be more cumbersome in a patch-like environment, like you said.

  • shim

    i freaking LOVE renoise and this is well, golden.

    and now it's so purdy.

    it's still a tad too scripty/easy/hard still but i keesh you.

  • http://tomascerny.net TC

    I want to refer to possibility of using PureData (completly free, multiplatform) with renoise as they even use it for example of OSC. Very nice:
    http://tutorials.renoise.com/wiki/Open_Sound_Cont
    I have to try Jack OS X (in my case) again and route also audio from PD to renoise. I've already tried this but with occasional problems on the side of PD. But development of Jack is still going so it could be better in time… (Or it was my fault that it seemed to be not enough stable for me.)

  • Marc

    I'm sure Lua is nice and all..

    but I wish they chose a more popular language like Python.

  • http://myspace.com/zeroreference zeroreference

    Awesome! I've been eyeing renoise for a while. Now I have a netbook, and this is the kicker to put linux on it.

    Does anybody have a recommendation/experience with a good audio distro? I've done stuff w/Linux before, so I'm not afraid to get dirty. I'm a little hesitant to pay for Transmission. Right now thinking of Fedora, so I can use planet CCRMA if my netbook is supported enough.

  • http://yourimaginaryfriends.bandcamp.com Dar Austin Zaccaro

    @zeroreference Ubuntu 10.04 + RT Kernel (10.10 doesn't offer an RT Kernel). I run Renoise with ALSA instead of JACK, so no need to install more than that here. In my experience, studio distros are bundled with a metric ton of random crap I'll never use.

  • http://myspace.com/zeroreference zeroreference

    @Dar. Cool, thanks.

    I've just downloaded fedora, more because I have some experience with ubuntu (and really enjoyed it) and am ready to try something else. I'm also curious about this planet ccrma thing. If it doesn't go well I'll jump to ubuntu.

  • Human Plague

    @zeroreference: AVLinux comes with the Renoise demo pre-installed. It's a pretty decent distro for what it's trying to do.

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