Who says we should have only one set of assumptions when it comes to how music software should work? Renoise remains a vision of an alternate reality where mod trackers – musical editors with vertical, pattern-based views instead of horizontal, linear piano roll views – are our present and future. And Renoise keeps getting better and more modern, demanding less of a sacrifice from those coming from other music production tools while strengthening the unique elements of its musical workflow.

We get a first look at the new features here for Mac, Windows, and Linux users, as well as the inside story from the developers.

Multiband send, anyone? While not typically associated with most mod trackers, one of Renoise’s strengths is flexible routing.

The new 2.7 release, released in beta this weekend, adds some changes that could dramatically improve working with this tool. Renoise 2.6 was all about hacking and developers; 2.7 is focused on musical utility. (Of course, that means the two combined is a nice one-two punch.) The new features are detailed in the video above, but here are the highlights:

  • Smart sample slicing. It’s about time – you can now easily slice a sample using markers or transient detection, and instantly map them using either a keymap or Renoise’s pattern slicing. Yes, other tools have similar features, but slicing is actually more of a natural fit in Renoise, because of its emphasis on pattern triggering, integrated sampling, and fine-tuned edits. DIY instruments did some of this, but having it as an integrated feature is invaluable.
  • Better sample keyzones. Renoise’s sampler now acts more as you’d expect a sampler, with the ability to map samples to velocity, key release and not just key press, and to stack and overlap sections. Again, a “traditional” feature takes on new meaning in the context of Renoise, because of Renoise’s advanced mixer routing and pattern triggering capabilities.
  • Automation snapping and other tweaks. You can now adjust zoom, snap, and whether or not the edit position follows playback. I actually wish Ableton Live’s automation envelopes worked more like Renoise’s now do. It’s also very accurate, now with 256 steps of precision for each line of the pattern view.
  • Multiband sends and more track DSP improvements. Multiband send — oh, yes, indeed, hello. I’m not sure why this isn’t more common, but this feature alone could make Renoise editing wortwhile for effect-loving users. There’s also better DSSI support for Linux users.
  • MIDI input routing to individual instruments and tracks.

There are many other improvements, too: pre-count metronome (’bout time), undo/redo that doesn’t view each note played live separately, real-time rendering if you want it, new Lua bindings, and lots of usability tweaks. I’m also quite fond of the phase meter spectrum view you see at the beginning of the video.

Renoise requires some learning and adjustment if you’re used to more conventional editors, and it’s still better suited to production than it is to live use, though people are working on that. But to me, the sample slicing and sample mapping alone could put a lot of people over the top; they’re what has personally held me back from doing more production in Renoise instead of elsewhere.

Automation editing is snappier – figuratively and literally.

Don’t forget, as the press release observes:

Renoise boasts full ReWire and Jack support, FX and instrument VST/AU/LADSPA/DSSI plug-in support, automatic plug-in delay compensation, multi-core load balancing, MIDI I/O, OpenSoundControl, audio recording, flexible audio output, graphical & numerical parameter automation, modular parameter routing, and much more.

I think it’s now probably the most complete music tool available on Linux, and even on Mac and Windows, has the most sophisticated native, built-in API for manipulation and customization and OSC control. On both Mac and Linux, by the way, powerful Jack control means that Renoise, Ardour and Harrison Mixbus, and Pd (Pure Data) can all play nicely together – an insanely-powerful combination of tools that you can get, incredibly, for under a couple hundred dollars.

If you’re a registered user, you can grab the beta right now. Release notes and download link:
http://www.renoise.com/release-notes/270

But the developers also have some reflections on Renoise that they wish to share with CDM. They actually did this, much to my delight, unsolicited, and they offer real insight and even usability tips. It’s great to get this right from the people working on the project.

The welcome new slice marker editing feature. Yes, in this case, it’s something that will look familiar from other tools – but couple this with Renoise’s mod tracker-style editing, and you could have what will be to some a perfect workflow. All screenshots courtesy Renoise; click for larger version.

Kieran Foster (dblue)

Known to plug-in enthusiasts for his fantastic, free Glitch plug-in for Windows, dblue has now joined Team Renoise.

Hi, my name is Kieran Foster. I was born in 1979 in the North East of England. I grew up with computers like the Sinclair Spectrum 48k and Atari ST, and have been fascinated by sound, graphics and programming since a very early age.

Why Renoise: I’ve used trackers exclusively my entire life, so Renoise definitely doesn’t feel like a niche product to me; it’s simply the only way of making music that I feel comfortable with.

As far as what attracted me to the project, it was a completely organic process that just kind of happened on its own. When I first became a registered user in 2003, I simply enjoyed using the software and felt proud to help support it. I later joined the community forums in 2004 and gradually became more and more active there, and found myself completely caught up in it all.

After using Renoise for so many years now and watching it grow, it’s obvious to me that’s there’s something very special and unique going on here, produced by a small team of very smart and creative people. It’s impossible not to be attracted to that and want to be a part of it somehow.

Ideas for the future: I’d like to see a more flexible clip-based approach to arranging chunks of pattern data and automations on a global song time line, making it easier to get an instant overview of your whole song, as well as quickly rearranging sections and experimenting with new ideas. This is one of the few remaining things that really bugs me about working with trackers these days, since it’s often a total nightmare to work with fixed patterns and keep track of where everything is. I will always love the tracker style of composing, but there’s definitely a lot we can do to modernise things and make it more friendly.

I’d also like to see a more modular approach to handling internal DSP effects and signal routing, with the ability to take complex, unmanageable chains of devices and combine them together into self-contained modules or ‘racks’ that are easy to use and only expose the handful of important parameters you actually need to tweak. It’s possible to create some truly incredible DSP chains in Renoise, but managing the huge number of devices and parameters involved can be rather daunting – especially when trying to share your creations with others.

Tips for new users: Don’t judge a book by its cover; Renoise may look insanely complex at first glance, but it’s really not that difficult to get to grips with. Be patient and you will soon fall in love with the incredible low-level approach to making music that only trackers can offer.

Become a master of the LFO Device!

At last, the sampler in Renoise becomes a proper multi-sampler – but with an interface that remains, in my opinion, easy to use.

Erik Jälevik

An early member of Last.fm’s development team, Erik is now a core Renoise developer.

Hi, my name is Erik Jälevik. Born and raised in Sweden, moved to the UK at a young and impressionable age, now in Berlin since about a year. Music has always been my main passion, but once I realised I wasn’t going to be able to make a living from making music or DJing, I decided to get a degree in computer science and embark on a career as a software developer. I’m in a lucky position in that I get to combine my passion with my profession.

Why Renoise: Last.fm certainly wasn’t mainstream when I joined, it was just a handful of guys in a rundown 2-room flat in east London. What it grew to become was part of the reason I left however. But what attracted me to Renoise really had nothing to do with its mainstream or niche status, I really knew next to nothing about the people behind it before starting working it. It was simply a case of thinking it was a great piece of software, and getting in touch asking if I could get involved.

I don’t think Renoise will ever be the perfect solution for everybody. And neither should it. It occupies a certain niche and provides a refreshing alternative to other computer-based music production software. Rather than heaping on shiny, new, big bang features, I’d like to gradually refine what we have, getting rid of all the little annoyances and limitations that are still there, and really make Renoise shine at what it does best, i.e. being a modern tracker.

Tips for newcomers: I’m all about workflow so here’s some (perhaps somewhat boring) tips that make life easier for me:

  • Take advantage of the vast keyboard shortcut customisation options so you have everything at your fingertips. I have keyboard shortcuts set up to open all of the major tabs inside Renoise, for example.
  • Forget about reusing patterns in the pattern sequencer, just always add new patterns into the sequence so that each pattern is unique, it saves a lot of headaches later on.
  • Always set LPB to 8 and enable quantization to 1 line for new projects. I find that the most comfortable way to record with Renoise.

What think you, users? Those of you Renoise users trying the beta, we’d love to know what you think, and if you have any particular tips to share.

  • http://soundcloud.com/tarek-fm Tarek-FM

    Very exciting stuff!! Renoise is slowly but surely developing in2 my dream DAW.

    Gr8 to see Dblue part of the team…to me he has always been part of the Renoise team!!:)

  • http://braduro.com James Levine

    1st comment, really? This Sunday Post must be a Daylight saving special. Thanks Peter! And thank you Kieran and Erik for including a "Tips for newcomers" in your introductions. I'd like to see more of that.

    I'm an old cat, and I don't like thinking that I'm simply not nimble enough to "get" something. I hate to think there's a topic out there, be it a programming language, a new theoretical science paper, or an approach to musical composition, that I can't wrap my head around. Renoise is doing this to me. I never created music on computer trackers, although I was an early practitioner of midi sequencing. When ableton came out, it immediately invoked in my imagination some notion of what it did, even if I was completely off-the-mark (I thought it was going to be more for Stage Management-lighting, blocking, and other events.)

    With renoise, I just watch the videos, most of which involve lots of explanation, I see how cursor-dependent the workflow is, and my eyes start to glaze over. (As an aside, I think just 'bout every tutorial everywhere from here out needs to be more like a photoshop recipe: start with the outcome or a before/after, tempting people with the sonic results. Then go into explanation.)

    Maybe computer users such as myself have outgrown a mono-focus means of maneuvering. That first video on the site makes me want to use Renoise. Just love the sound of it, and the way the video moves in and out of the matrix of numbers. There are some examples of phenomenal controllerism in Renoise. However, I can't help but feel like even with these amazing feats, the artist is simply steering through the inevitable: a slalom course down the timeline. Sort of like moving from arrangement to Session back to arrangement in live (only Live is much less intuitive and musically inclined in its arrangement/session relationship, and I don't find myself straddling the line).

    That leads me to my next suggestion (Forgive me if I simply need to visit the site again to correct myself):  more artists tracks, straight up, on the Renoise website. If anything, we now hear what a Live track sounds like, for better or for worse. This type-casting isn't something I'd aspire towards as an artist, but I know as a consumer, what building blocks go into a Live track and whether I want to work with it. (Maybe like Stutter Edit, this paradigm of the deconstructed is loosing its novelty.) Before I get into Renoise, I don't need to know about the learning curve, I need to know what its relationship would be to other instrumentalists, what productions, compositional ideas, or artists it lends itself to.

    Even if I'm a lost cause, with you guys on board, Renoise is going to start making a whole lot more sense to people.

  • Human Plague

    @James Levine

    > more artists tracks [...]

    Hi James, check out the Remixta podcast. It's a net radio station dedicated to featuring Renoise artists:

    http://remixta.net/

    Cheers.

  • Peter Kirn

    I don't personally find music samples to be of any use whatsoever in evaluating music software. Renoise itself sequences events and audio; it doesn't sound like anything. If it did, it'd be a pretty poor canvas for music. So I think it only really matters what music you make with it.

    That said, I think that it's time for a new tutorial series for Renoise. The workflow isn't exactly what it was before. And there are people who might find it to be, effectively, a modern DAW with a mod tracker rather than the other way around – meaning that they'll get into the mod tracker features more gradually. 

    Incidentally, I think despite Live's clip grid, it remains more closely tied to the conventional, timeline-based sequencer concepts than Renoise is, which means it is going to be slow going for some people.

    But having the ability to run long audio clips without constantly setting the playhead position (introduced earlier), alongside these new slicing and sampling workflows, I think Renoise could be worth a second look.

  • http://noisepages.com/members/tim.bedard/ Tim Bedard

    I am super excited about the new automation. Drastically increased resolution, zooming out to view the whole song. Through different curves in there for each point that can be manipulated and I'm set.

    The new slicing is awesome. The new phase meter is nifty. All around great release this time around. Made my day.

  • http://soundcloud.com/tarek-fm Tarek-FM

    Renoise used to put artist tracks on the front page…dunno why they stopped…good point@James

  • Peter Kirn

    Actually, in 2009 we (CDM) sponsored with Indamixx and Renoise an "efficient" music competition and selected one winner – but now I don't know where it was hosted. It was all Creative Commons-licensed. I'll ask. (see, for instance -&nbsp ;http://createdigitalmusic.com/2009/10/download-cc-tracks-vote-now-for-efficient-music-competition/)

  • Peter Kirn

    Here you go — music made with Renoise.

    http://songs.renoise.com/

    I don't mean to be dismissive of the idea of hearing music – after all, I helped sponsor that competition! I just am a little wary in that I don't think it'll resolve your question of whether or not you should use this particular tool. The reverse reaction is possible, too – oh, that doesn't sound like my kind of music, so that must mean the tool isn't for me, etc., when that isn't always the case. I prefer to see people abuse the tools and make them do something entirely different. ;)

  • digid

    A ten minute video about audio software containing about 10 seconds worth of sound.

    That's just terrible marketing and, from an educational standpoint, a failure.

  • http://soundcloud.com/plugexpert jonas

    Greatest software got greaterer.

  • Human Plague

    But we paid Ray Romano a lot of money for that video!

  • Alex Weiner

    We don't need a beat slicer!!

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1zyx5_we-do-not

    an old user video from about  Renoise 2.5

  • Peter Kirn

    @Alex: Smoking is bad, except in France. ;)

  • louis

    [Quote - Human Plague: "But we paid Ray Romano a lot of money for that video!"]

    I'm totally in stitches :D

  • http://themrecords.com Mushen

    renoise is not difficult to use or learn! spend a few minutes learning the basics; if you can't figure something out, the solution is a 1 minute forum-glance away. i can't stress this enough. the learning-curve is amazingly brief. once you learn the terms ("beat", "line", and "tick"), you'll find the only difference between renoise and any other daw is its commendable respect for logic.

    with respect to how your music sounds, the environment in which you create your music, especially software, is entirely arbitrary. it's a tool, simply defined, to arrange sound. the choices you make with the tools (e.g. samples/vst/au/dsp) are the only actual reflection of the artist.

    this tool just happens to work better than the others on the shelf.

    once you go track, you never go back.

  • Ben Alex

    In my free time I've been using Renoise for a few years and I really dig it. But in a production class I'm attending we work in Cubase, and it really, I mean really really, feels like a retarded workflow (plus it's on a Mac and I really don't get why people rave about those). It's bloated and slow, and oh my the amounts of pop-up windows.

    Renoise might look insane upon first glance, but once you get to know it it's in fact really minimalistic and straight forward. Everything is in view within a few clicks or keystrokes via the main interface. Yes there is a few things that Renoise can't do (like true pitch shifting), but what it does is does very very well, and probably more sufficient than most DAWs (yeah it's a tracker, but hell they serve the same purpose).

    It's just logical, price friendly and stable, AND it's getting better with every new version.

    Glad that this site remembers to cover these things amoung all the hardware and bloat-ware frenzy :D   

  • Jonah

    I've never been able to enjoy the way trackers make you use patterns to compose. I don't see a reason for them to be mandatory anymore.  One idea I had would be to have "infinite" length tracks and allow the user to drop movable "pattern markers" just like loop points or slices in a waveform editor.  

    I also think it's weird that you don't get told pattern lengths in musically useful terms, like seconds, etc.

    I do like to use renoise as a wavetable synth. :)

  • http://soundcloud.com/plugexpert jonas

    @ Jonah,

    As the song length time in the top right corner of the gui gets updated whenever you move through patterns, I've never felt the need to see an additional time-line.

    There is a tool called 'show transport stats' that gives info on the amount of bars and beats if that helps?

  • Ben Alex

    @ Jonah,

    That never was a problem for me, if you know how many lines per beat you are dealing with it's easy to know how many bars you are dealing with (if you know some basic math), and how long the song is is displayed in the upper right corner. I can't really see how knowing how many seconds individual patters last is musically useful? You could always just render selection to sample at check it out in the sample editor if it's so important. Endless patterns would be a pain in the ass. 

  • Rich-o

    0.08kHz? Sometimes I think they try a little too hard to be different.

  • http://braduro.com James Levine

    First, I have taken a moment to read the latest post on Japan, I hope you will do the same, and I am genuinely thankful to share this fragile moment with you. So let's rejoice when we can, and help each other get there too:

    Thank you for the link to the remixta station. Getting my inspiration on. Yeah, I hear you Pete and Mushen, ideally a digital musical platform is transparent in lending itself to the compositional or game approach you're going for. What I've found, nonetheless, is that tools and workflows tend to leave some form of signature trace. That's what I'd be listening for, as a decision maker. It's pretty easy for me to tell when a television sound track was made in Logic, for example. I do hear Jonah saying that he's transcending the pattern in his compositional approach, and it's been awhile since I've used nice uniform chucks/blocks in my approach. We're not the first-Wagner resisted restatement of his ideas, and that was, what? 150 years ago? Is that a common constraint in Renoise? Now hats off to Renoise if it truly keeps itself out of the equation when users stretch their musical aspirations.

    Maybe someone like me ought to be working on the documentation? As a funny analogy, I'm always amazed how even as a native New Yorker, I can take a wrong turn out of JFK airport, trying to find this little island with 12 million people. (Van Wyck North when you know you need to go West, or Belt Pkway West, when you know it's going south? 5 seconds to decide if you're already in the right lane, and 2 if you're not. Answer: take the subway!) I wonder what that must feel like to visitors? Unless there's a subtle, (daresay passive aggressive) exclusivity intended in keeping visitors in a cloud, maybe urban planners from Boston ought to be the one's putting up the NYC signage, while NYer's do there's?

  • http://www.monstrumsepsis.com robert wentz

    Renoise can not be beat. Ive been tracking since the amiga days with protracker, then fasttracker, then buzz, then skaletracker and since 2004 I continue to find myself coming back to renoise to compose and record music.

    I use Renoise to not only sequence with samples but with a variety of midi synths. With the gross lack of sending/receiving sysex patch dumps, there is no other DAW out there that allows me to creatively craft a composition so efficiently.

    The developers are pros. The feature set has been growing immensely since Renoise first took off, yet the user interface shows little sign of any "tacked" on features – every new updated feature (there have been a handful of major additions in just the past 12 months) is thoroughly tested within renoise's enthusiastic community and well designed into the interface to ensure a smooth and enjoyable user experience.

    The latest and greatest of these updates blurs the lines between a DAW and sampler as XRNIs (Renoise's instrument file format) can now handle velocity sensitive keyzones allowing you to trigger a completely different wav/mp3/aiff/flac/ogg file depending on how hard you hit the key on your velocity sensitive midi controller. Now we just have to wait for the third party developer of Extreme Sample Converter to incorporate the updates and you'll be converting your Kontakt, Akai, gigasampler libraries to XRNIs to say farewell once and for all to memory hogging bloated sampler vsti plugins!!!!

    I have had a lists of "wishes" and feature requests for the application since I first started using Renoise. I think the developers have almost cleared my list…

    now if only we could send MIDI dump requests from Renoise…

  • Mark

    This is a great update. All it needs now is a piano roll to complete it. This will of course upset the "tRaKEr foR LifE" crowd but anything beyond the most basic chords and melody's, especially played live with note delays and the way is stores notes as FIFO in the sequencer are a nightmare to edit.

  • http://www.monstrumsepsis.com robert wentz

    @Mark it might take some time to get used to but the "FIFO" arrangement allows you to edit much more efficiently than a piano roll.. if you give in fully you'll realize you don't even need a mouse!

    do that with a piano roll!

    With that said leave it to the renoise dev team… I wouldn't be shocked if some day a piano roll of some form actually does find itself brilliantly incorporated into renoise. It'll probably be the next evolutionary step of the grid editor, and I'd place my wages that it would remain vertically orientated – track-or-die !!!. :)

  • Mark

    What I mean by the FIFO recording is that if I play a chord on my keyboard "C-E-G" depending on the slight timing of which notes get hit first it can be entered as "G-C-E" or "E-G-C" etc in the pattern sequencer. Now multiply that with a more complicated sequence and the notes are spread all over the place in a random order. I like the sequencer but it currently does have it's limitations. Saying that the dev team are amazing the the app is really well programmed and rock solid. It can only get better.

  • Ben Alex

    @ Mark personally I have zero use for a pianoroll and I thing many people feels the same. If you do alot of midi recording that needs editing afterwards… then Renoise might not be your thing. I'd rather have then work on their native dsp's or a way to visualize waveforms within the pattern editor. 

  • mono

    absolutely love renoise. the most logical and functional way of making music with a computer hands down.

  • http://www.monstrumsepsis.com robert wentz

    @Ben

    Mark's point is a valid one, that when playing and recording chords it is impossible to dictate which column which note goes in.

    Still I use Renoise for everything including recording lots of MIDI and editing afterward and I don't find myself missing a piano roll by any stretch whatsoever. A chord is a chord so what difference does it make what column the notes go in? I feel I have plenty of control of where my notes go if I use tracks and additional columns effectively, manage what instruments go in what tracks, use quantization if needed…

    Personally I feel there is no contest – it is SO easy to move/edit events precisely in renoise instead of slide stuff around with a mouse like what is required with a traditional piano roll.

    Still there are those who flat out feel most comfortable when put in front of a visual piano roll as opposed to a hexadecimal event editor. whether they're recording/editing MIDI notes or not. There's nothing more elite or correct about either approach – fact is there are multiple approaches, all opinions are subjective and everyone's creativity works differently.

  • akrylik

    actually renoise scares me. what if after all the hundreds of dollars i put into ableton it turns out that renoise is better?? it would break my heart.

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

    Awesome new version!

    Im currently working on Live. I discover both at the same time (2 or 3 years ago). All the songs that I finished were made in Renoise. I cant finish a song in Live, and I want to finish the first one. Live is great, the instruments and effects are very good, some max4live tools are awesome, and you can use it Live!

    But for some reason, Renoise feels better. I never used a tracker before. My workflow is very fast in renoise, I can control a lot of details, and with each release it gets better (and not bloated) . Im starting to think that Renoise makes that I put more attention to what I hear, and not what I see. So, I can reach desired results faster.

    My main concern about Renoise is about how "rigid" it is. In Live I can work without a grid, can I achieve the same results with a high resolution? And I really dont know about patterns, Im starting to think that in renoise patterns are only a way to organize your sound, but it doesn't forces you to repeat the same. In Live I need to force myself hard to get outside of loops.

    To me, the most "transparent" the tool, the better. Letting outside Pure data/similar tools, Renoise seems more transparent than other DAWs.