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This guide is designed to walk you through the basics of Milkytracker so you'll have a working knowledge to begin using the software for creating music. The guide will be broken down by sections coordinating to the colored boxes in each picture provided.
Some recommended resources that should come in handy in getting you familiar with Milkytracker are:
Refer to this picture as you move along the guide. We will break down Milkytracker by sections to get you familiar with the software.
Yellow Box - Overview
The top left corner shows which sequence/pattern you are currently working on and is being displayed below.
Ex: 1/00 2/01 3/00 4/02
In this example, you should notice the sequence follows a numerical order. Patterns can repeat a number of times (the way a song comes back to a verse).
For this tutorial, sequence will refer to the current page you are working on. Pattern will refer to the arrangement on the page (like a verse or chorus or a 4 bar loop).
- To add a new sequence to the page, hit the “SEQ” button found in the yellow box.
- To do a quick copy/paste of the most recent sequence hit the “CLN” or “clone” button in the yellow box.
- To change your current sequence to a previous pattern, use the +/- buttons next to the”SEQ” button in the yellow box.
- Repeat will jump back to the pattern you designate once the song reaches it’s end.
Blue Box - Overview
BPM = beats per minute. This is the tempo of your song.
Speed = Numbers of ticks per row. I usually don’t touch this.
Add = number of ticks the editor moves down after adding a note in edit mode. If at zero, it’ll stay in the same spot. If it is 1+, the editor will move down that many spaces down the line when you’re adding notes.
For example, if you wanted 1 kick drum hit every 4 ticks without manually moving the cursor down, you would want “Add” to be at 4 to have the cursor automatically move 4 ticks for you.
Green Box - Overview
Patn – changes to view other patterns you’ve already made
Len – changes the length of the current pattern you are working on. Examples of when you’d use this would be to create a short loopable riff, or if the song is complete and there is some dead space.
Expand – shortcut for adding to the length by 32 ticks.
Shrink – shortcut for cutting the length by 32 ticks
Orange Box - Overview
Zap – basically a big delete button for either the pattern, instrument, or everything
Load – load
Save – save
As – save as
Disk op – disk operations. Load instruments, songs, patterns, etc
Smp ed – sample editor: used to make adjustment to your current instrument
Ins ed – instrument editor: used to create your instrument
Add - add more usable tracks
Sub – decrease usable tracks
Creating an instrument
Refer to this picture for the following section.
Step 1: Creating an instrument
First we’ll add an instrument. Make sure instrument 1 in the yellow box is highlighted.
Now click on the sample editor. In the blank space right click and select new. (blue box) Insert a sample size using a number in the power of base 2. (IE 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, etc). This way, your instruments will be in tune with each other if you create an instrument at a different sample size.
Note: sample size will change the pitch of your instrument. Experiment with this to get the sound you need.
Step 2: Generating A Sound Wave
Next, you will want to add in a sound wave. Right click in the blank space and go to generators and choose the sound wave desired. Keep the period at 1 and volume at 100 and click ok.
Note: If you want more variety in your sound waves, you can always draw your own using the draw option (red box) or by importing a sample in (green box).
Step 3: Testing out your sound
You’ll notice if you try to play anything, you’ll get clicking noises rather than a note. Be sure to change the section in the blue box to the “Forward” option. This will be the most used option. Experiment with the other options to see what they do and sound like.
Composing The Song
Now it’s time to start composing!
You’ll be composing with your new instrument starting from Track 1. (White Box) As you’ll notice, each note has several colored dots. Each color corresponds to several aspects of the note.
- White: Note/octave (C#1, D5, Eb3)
- Blue: instrument (each track can utilize different instruments by changing this portion if you wanted)
- Green: volume
- Purple/Yellow: Effects/effects level (More about this can be found in the Milkytracker manual. Be sure to explore and experiment for different sounds)
Here are the most used key commands you will be using
- `,1,2,3…b,n,m,,./ : insert note (be sure to be in edit mode to input into
` or 1 is note off rather than a note (you’ll use this if you want a note to cut off at a certain point)
a note will go on forever unless you put in a new note, create a fade, or use note off.
- spacebar – edit mode on/off (this will allow to you add notes and effects)
- enter – play song from current order
- F1-F8 : select octave
- Ctrl c – copy selected
- Ctrl v – paste selected
- Ctrl z – undo
A Few Notes About Hexadecimal
Milkytracker uses a hexadecimal system. Basically, instead of counting 1-10, you are counting 16 digits. In short, when you count you are counting as such: 00, 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 0A, 0B, 0C, 0D, 0E, 0F, 10, 11, 12, …1A, 1B, 1C
A Few Notes on Basic Music Theory
The length of time that a note is played is called its noted duration, which is determined by the type of note.
There are 4 beats to a measure. A quarter note is equal to one beat. If you were to look at your track (White Box) 00-03 would make up 1 measure with each tick being a quarter note. You rhythmically count this using (1-2-3-4).
An 8th note is half the duration of a quarter note. Eight 8th notes make up one measure. If you were to use 00-08 as 1 measure, then you’d be composing with 8th notes. You rhythmically count this using (1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and).
A 16th note lasts half as long as an eight note or 25% as long as a quarter beat. Four 16th notes make up one beat. Sixteen 16th notes make up one measure. You rhythmically count this using (1-e-and-a-2-e-and-a-3-e-and-a-4-e-and-a)
Note: I have made a habit of treating 00-0F as one measure so as to utilize sixteenth notes for songs, which will allow you more freedom in composing melodies. Also, it lines up with the hex count of 16 and allows for easy accounting of measures.
Mixing and editing your tracks/instruments
Refer to this picture for this section
As you’ll notice, if you hold your note, it’ll go on forever. To give your instrument a more realistic decay like that of an instrument, you want to click and drag in the volume section (red box) and create a downward slope and check the box "On" over on the right. Experiment with this until you get it to sound how you’d like.
note: another method that could be used to create a volume fade could be to change the volume section in the track incrementally lower. You could also create crescendos and diminuendos this way. You could also you make a volume fade effect in the effects section of the track.
If a certain instrument is too loud, you can lower the volume for the instrument as a whole using the volume slider in the sample editor. (blue box) You will want to adjust the volumes of the instruments and tracks as you create your song to make sure nothing is overpowering and everything blends together the way you want.
To create stereo mix, you will use the panning slider found in the same section (blue box).
There you have it . Now you know enough to at least get started and learn the basics of using milkytracker. I found the best way to get an idea of how to really utilize the software is by downloading a couple song files, playing it, and seeing how that composition plays out in real time. See how the volume is used, how and what effects do what, how a song is arranged, etc.
For further tutorials, see the links and milkytracker manual provided above.