Appendix A - Tutorial

This tutorial has been written to help a beginner in starting to write music in Desktop Tracker. If you run through this, it should help you to start creating your own masterpieces.

We will be assuming that you are working off of the floppy discs supplied with Desktop Tracker (or a backup of them!), although if you are running it off your hard disc, then you will have to translate the floppy names into the ones on your hard disc.

If you are not used to the RISC OS desktop, then we strongly advise that you read the relevant section in your RISC OS User Guide, supplied with your computer. It will have all the information on how to use desktop applications in general.

Loading Desktop Tracker

Desktop Tracker must be started while you are inside the RISC OS desktop. If you are not using the desktop, then you will have to enter it, by typing in *Desktop at an appropriate prompt.

Insert the floppy disc labelled ”Desktop Tracker - Main program and utilities• disc into the drive, and click select on the floppy drive icon, located at the bottom left hand corner of the screen, in the icon bar. After a brief pause, the directory will be displayed on the screen. Move the mouse to the application !DeskTrckr, and double-click with select. This will load Desktop Tracker in. After a couple of seconds, a window will be displayed. Then, after a brief pause, this window will disappear, and an icon will be displayed on the right hand side of the icon bar. Along with this icon, two windows will appear. These are the editor window and the player window.

Windows, Icons, Mice and Pointers

The icon on the icon bar is the main Desktop Tracker icon. If you click select, then the editor window will be brought into full view. If you subsequently press select again on it, then the player window will be brought into full view. A double-click will ensure that both windows are displayed.

If you press menu on the icon, then a menu will appear. This will be referred to as the ”icon menu•. It allows you to see what version the software is, display various windows, and set the options.

The editor window is the one that is titled ”<Untitled>•. It is split into three sections. The first of these is the top part, which is the Note editor. It allows you to view 11 events around the current event, which is highlighted in a different colour. The left hand pair of numbers are the event numbers. This part of the window can be scrolled off the screen, if you need to. These are in hexadecimal, from &00 to &FF. To the right of this, there are note/octave/sample triplets, one for each track. For each of these, the musical note is displayed, followed by the octave number (from 1 to 3), and after a space, there is the sample number, which can range from &00 to &3E.

If the note is ”---•, then this means there is no note. If the sample number is ”--•, then this means there is no sample. If the note is missing, and the sample is present, then a note is heard, which corresponds to that of the last note played on that track. Similarly, if the note is present, but no sample, then the note is played with the last sample heard on that track. However, if neither is present, then nothing is played.

For example:

C 2 11Play a C on octave 2, with sample &11 (17)
D 2 --Play a D on octave 2, with the last sample (which is &11)
--- 03Play the last note (D 2) with sample &03 (3)
--- 04Play the last note (D 2) with sample &04 (4)
--- --Play nothing.

The middle part is the track selection area. Each track can be selected, by clicking on the track number shown in the window. If the track is selected, then the box is highlighted, otherwise it is not.

You can only edit, and hear, selected tracks. If a track is not selected, then you are unable to edit it, and you can't hear it either.

The bottom part is the effect editing area. For each track in the current event, there are up to 4 possible effects. A full list of these effects can be found in Appendix B.

All of the numbers in the effect editing part are in hexadecimal, with the first 2-digit pair meaning the effect number (from &00 to &1F), and the second as the data byte. If the effect is &00, and the data byte is &00, then there is no effect. If the last three effects are ”-- --•, then this means that there is only one effect on that note. Switching between 1 and 4 effects can be achieved via a simple key press, but 4 effects use up more memory.

To the right of the note editing area is the scroll bar, that allows you to move the current event around, so that you can quickly scroll through the music.

The menu can be activated by pressing menu on this window. It is called the editor menu. It allows you to change some of the various parameters of the current tune, and to save it.

Here is a diagram of the window, with everything described above on it:

The player window is also split up into 3 sections. The top left hand part is the player icons. These allow Desktop Tracker to be put into one of several modes. The top right hand side displays information about the current position. The pattern displayed in the editor window is the current pattern, which is displayed in the second icon down in the top right hand part, labelled ”Pattern•. It is using these icons that the sequence of music can be arranged.

The bottom part of the window displays information about the current sample. Although the various parameters of the sample can be edited in this window, it is advisable to use the !DTTSounds application, as this allows the information to be displayed graphically. However, you do not need to worry about this in this tutorial.

The mode is selected by clicking on the icon with the same name within the player window. If you wanted to go to play mode, then you press select on the ”Play• icon; if you wanted edit mode, then click on ”Edit•.

Okay, so now we've described the various windows, let's make music!

Making music

If you've played some of the Desktop Tracker tunes, you will have a fairly good idea as to what it can do. In this section, we are going to create a simple tune - you don't have to like it; you only have to understand how to make a tune.

Before you start, you have to clear the current tune. If you've just loaded Desktop Tracker, you don't have to worry about this. Double-click on the red ”Clear• icon in the player window.

Just as in any music, Desktop Tracker requires instruments for you to hear the sound. The instruments used in Desktop Tracker are called ”samples•. A sample is a recording of a sound that you can replay at any pitch. If you have a device known as a sound sampler, then you will be able to record your own instruments, or sounds, or even parts of music. If you do not have one, then you can use the samples that are included on the two samples discs.

Just as a composer has to decide which instrument will play a part, you will have to decide which sample to use. The sample filenames are usually descriptive, so that if a sample is called ”DreamBells•, then you can be fairly sure that this is a bell-like sound. On the other hand, something called ”Nice• is not descriptive - you just have to hear it to decide for yourself.

The sample discs are ordered logically, with separate directories for notes, percussion and miscellaneous sounds. The notes directory is called ”Notes•, the percussion is ”Percussion• and the others are called ”Sampled•. Each of these directories are split up further, but as you'll find out, they are also logically separated.

For this tune, we will be using the note samples ”Notes.Bass.FunBass•, ”Notes.Normal.RingPiano• and ”Notes.Normal.Strings6•. The percussion samples we'll be using are ”Percussion.BassDrums.BassDrum2• and ”Percussion.Snares.DMCSnare•. Let's load them in.

Loading samples

The first sample we'll want to load in is the ”FunBass• sample. Insert the floppy disc labelled ”Desktop Tracker - Sample disc 1• into the disc drive, and click on the floppy disc icon, in the same way as when you loaded Desktop Tracker. Double click on the icon ”Notes•. This will go into the directory called ”Notes•. Then, double-click on the icon ”Bass•. This will display the samples that are inside this directory. Then, click and hold on to the icon called ”FunBass•. Drag it to the Desktop Tracker main window. If you can see the player window, the sample information will change to tell you about the sample ”FunBass•. You have loaded the first sample, ”Notes.Bass.FunBass•. Press select on the sample number icon. This will increment it, to the number ”1•. Locate the sample ”Notes.Normal.RingPiano•, and drag it into the Desktop Tracker main window. Increment the sample number, and load in ”Notes.Normal.Strings6•. Continue this, until you have loaded all the samples, in the order above, so that ”DMCSnare• is sample number 4.

Set the sample number to ”0•, and go into edit mode (by clicking on the edit icon on the player window) and we'll start with the bass line.

Entering a track

The first track will be used for a bass line, the second as the main voice, the third as a long note track, and the fourth will be a percussion part. Press Home to go to the top ”left hand corner• of the pattern, i.e. track 1, event &00.

Make sure you are in the edit mode, and press the ”Q• key. Track 1 now contains the note:

C 2 00

The ”C 2• part is the note/octave, so it is C on octave 2. The ”00• is the sample number in hexadecimal.

Then press W, E, R, T, Y, U and I in turn, and you'll discover that you've created a scale. You can play it, if you like, but don't get too excited and rush into the street and shout ”Eureka!•. There's still more you can do to the tune.

Press Cursor down, to skip a line. Then press Q, Cursor-down, Q, Cursor-down, Q, E, Q. The track will look like:

00 C 2 00
01 D 2 00
02 E 2 00
03 F 2 00
04 G 2 00
05 A 2 00
06 B 2 00
07 C 3 00
08 --- --
09 C 2 00
0A --- --
0B C 2 00
0C --- --
0D C 2 00
0E E 2 00
0F C 2 00

All the other tracks should be ”--- --•. Now, we're going to put the top part in. Set the sample number to 1 (which is RingPiano), press Home and then cursor-right three times. This brings you to the second track.

Type in the following into this track:

00 C 2 00 G 2 01 --- -- --- -- T
01 D 2 00 --- -- --- -- --- --
02 E 2 00 --- -- --- -- --- --
03 F 2 00 C 3 01 --- -- --- -- I
04 G 2 00 E 3 01 --- -- --- -- P
05 A 2 00 --- -- --- -- --- --
06 B 2 00 F 3 01 --- -- --- -- [
07 C 3 00 --- -- --- -- --- --
08 --- -- --- -- --- -- --- --
09 C 2 00 --- -- --- -- --- --
0A --- -- --- -- --- -- --- --
0B C 2 00 E 2 02 --- -- --- -- E
0C --- -- D 2 02 --- -- --- -- W
0D C 2 00 C 2 02 --- -- --- -- Q
0E E 2 00 A 1 02 --- -- --- -- N
0F C 2 00 G 1 02 --- -- --- -- B

Note that the sample number changed at event &0B. You can play this, if you want, but there's still more to do.

Go into track 3, event 0, by pressing home and then cursor-right six times. Every time you press cursor-right 3 times, you will move on to the next track.

Now select sample 3 (Strings6) and enter C3 (”I•) at event &00, and then G3 (”]•) at event &08.

Then, move to the top of track 4, select the bass drum (sample 4), and enter a E2 (”E•) at events &00, &04, &08, &0C and &0F, and then a snare drum, using G2 (”T•) at events &02, &06, &0A and &0E. The finished pattern should look like:

00 C 2 00 G 2 01 C 2 03 E 2 04
01 D 2 00 --- -- --- -- --- --
02 E 2 00 --- -- --- -- G 2 05
03 F 2 00 C 3 01 --- -- --- --
04 G 2 00 E 3 01 --- -- E 2 04
05 A 2 00 --- -- --- -- --- --
06 B 2 00 F 3 01 --- -- G 2 05
07 C 3 00 --- -- --- -- --- --
08 --- -- --- -- G 2 03 E 2 04
09 C 2 00 --- -- --- -- --- --
0A --- -- --- -- --- -- G 2 05
0B C 2 00 E 2 02 --- -- --- --
0C --- -- D 2 02 --- -- E 2 04
0D C 2 00 C 2 02 --- -- --- --
0E E 2 00 A 1 02 --- -- G 2 05
0F C 2 00 G 1 02 --- -- E 2 04

If you play it now, you may notice two things. Firstly, it is too fast, and secondly, it has an enormous unfilled gap at the bottom.

The second of these is easily remedied. Go to event &0F, and press Ctrl-B. This means break, and you will see all the notes beneath it disappear. The pattern is now 16 events long.

The speed can be changed, by editing the effects. Press home to bring you to track 1, event &00. Then press Tab. The cursor will disappear, and the effects editing part of the editor window will have the top left hand digit highlighted. This is the cursor for this part of the editing window. Cursor-up will move the cursor up an effect, Cursor-down will move down, left and right move left and right. If you enter a hexadecimal digit, the cursor will move right one position. The effect number for ”change speed• is &0F, so type in ”0• followed by ”F•. The cursor will now be on the data byte. For the ”change speed• instruction, the data byte is the time interval between each event, in 50ths of a second. We are going to set this to 10, which is &0A. This means that Desktop Tracker will wait for 10/50ths of a second between each event; effectively, 5 notes per second. The effects part should look like:

0F 0A -- -- -- -- -- --
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

If you want to go back into note editing, press tab again. Now, you can create any track you want, but isn't it a bit boring listening to the same track over and over again?

Set the music length to 2, but pressing select on the music length icon on the player window. Then, set the position to 1, by similarly pressing select on the position icon, and finally, set the pattern number to 1, in the same way. You will notice that the pattern changes to a completely blank screen. DON'T PANIC, your old creation is still there, in pattern number 0. You are displaying pattern number 1. You can create another part of a tune in this pattern, and then when you play, at the end of this pattern, it will play pattern 0 again, and when that finishes, it will play pattern 1.

Note that if you want to delete a note, then place the cursor over it, and press the space bar. The note would turn to ”--- --•.

You can go on adding new sections, and repeating others, until either your imagination is exhausted, or you've run out of discs to save them on.

Saving music

This is done by pressing menu on the editor window. A menu will appear, with the second option down being Save. Move to the right of that, and a RISC OS style save window will appear. Type in the leafname, and drag it in to a filer window, where you want to save this tune. Subsequent saving can be done by clicking OK.

Now you've learnt the basic aspects of Desktop Tracker, then you will be able to write music to your heart's content.

At all times, Desktop Tracker will use the !Help application, to provide you information about where your pointer is. If you want a list of the effects, then use the icon menu, move to the right of Show, and choose the Effect summary option.