Renoise Beginner's Tutorial

Uploaded by LearnRenoise on 27.04.2012

Welcome to the Renoise Beginner's tutorial.
In this, we'll cover everything that you need to know to start creating music.
Don't worry if you've never used Renoise or have never even seen a music tracker before,
you'll be taken through the absolute basics, so you properly understand what it is that you're doing.
But we'll also be covering a lot of ground,
so even if you're familiar with Renoise, you may still pick up some tips by watching.
If you're worried that there's going to be a lot of talking and background details
before we actually get to working with any kind of sound,
don't worry; this isn't that kind of tutorial.
So start up your copy of Renoise and follow along.
When it's loaded, your screen should look similar to this.
Now this might seem a bit complex at first, and it kind of is because it's a very powerful program.
But I'll be taking you through each section as we need to use it
and soon enough this won't look overwhelming at all.
The first section we need is at the top here.
The Disk Browser is where songs, sounds and other things are loaded and saved.
This should already be open, but if it's not, just click on the Disk Browser tab.
Renoise comes with a lot of example songs, so to load one in, make sure Song is selected at the side
and press the Library button to take you to the default Renoise directory, if you're not there already.
Now double click on a song in the File Panel and press play when it's loaded.
Looking at how these songs were created can be great way to learn about how Renoise works, especially the tutorial songs at the bottom.
But we're going to be creating a brand new song to learn everything from the start,
so select New Song from the File menu.
===== Part 1: Building A Beat =====
To begin building our beat we'll first need to load in a sample.
In the Disk Browser select Sample
and make sure we're in the default Renoise folder by pressing the Library button.
Double click on the Samples folder to open it,
single-click on Kicks to view its contents and then double click on the Kick 001 sample to load it.
It will appear in the current slot of the Instrument Selector
and if you click on the Sample Editor tab, you can see its waveform.
Press the Zed, or Zee, key on your keyboard and you can hear the sound.
Now that we have a sample loaded in, we can begin using it create the beat.
Press the Pattern Editor tab to bring that back to the middle section.
The highlighted cursor here shows our current position
and will record notes we enter there when Edit Mode is activated.
To do this, press Escape on the keyboard
and a red border will surround the Pattern Editor to show Edit Mode is active.
Press Zed, or Zee, on the keyboard and you can see that the note has been recorded.
Renoise sequences notes vertically, so to complete this part of the beat,
use the up and down arrows keys on the keyboard to move around
and record a note by pressing Z on every fourth line.
By default, every fourth line is highlighted, so you can use this as a guide,
but if you make a mistake, simply move back to that note and press Delete.
Keep going until you reach the end of the pattern.
You can play back what you've just entered by using the play button,
or more quickly with the keyboard shortcut, Spacebar.
Pressing Space again will stop the song.
Now let's load in another sample.
First press Escape to exit Edit Mode, so that any key presses we make don't get recorded.
Select an empty slot in the Instrument Selector and click on the HiHats folder.
Double-click on Hit Hat 001 to load it in and then press Z on the keyboard to hear it.
Notice that the Pattern Editor is divided up into separate tracks
and typically you'll want to put each different sound into its own track.
So notes for the HiHat will be recorded into a separate track from the Kick drum
and we can move the cursor across with either the arrow keys, or Tab to skip a whole track.
Shift-Tab will move you backwards through the tracks.
Now move to the top of the pattern with the arrow keys, the mousewheel, the slider at the side, or just press F9.
The notes will be going on every off-beat between the kick drums,
so move down to line 2 with the arrow keys.
Let's make use of a shortcut to record the notes much quicker.
Move the mouse over the Edit Step option and change the value to 4.
Now when we enter Edit Mode with Escape and press Z, the cursor automatically moves down 4 lines.
This is incredibly handy for simple rhythms like this,
because you can just hold down the key and fill up the pattern.
We also need a Snare drum, so, again, select an empty slot, Snares
and scroll down until you see Snare01, then double-click on it.
Exit Edit Mode with Escape and press Z.
This sounds too high pitched,
so let's change the octave that our keyboard is using with this option here.
Take it down to 3 and now it sounds a lot better.
Move over to the next track and skip to the top with F9.
The Snare will going on every second beat, which is every 8th line,
so let's change the Edit Step to that, but using a shortcut this time.
Pressing Control (command on the mac) and any number will change the Edit Step to that value.
So press Control-8, move down to line 4,
enter Edit Mode with Escape and hold down Z.
There are a few tracks now, so it will be worthwhile renaming them,
since songs can quickly become quite complex.
Staying organised is important, so that you can keep track of what you're doing
and Renoise offers plenty of ways of doing this, which I'll show you throughout this tutorial.
For now though, let's just double click on the track names and change them to something appropriate.
Now press Spacebar to play the beat
and we'll begin adjusting the BPM of the song, which is its speed in Beats Per Minute.
You can adjust the BPM by using the left mouse button on the arrows, which will change it by 1,
or the right mouse button, which will change it by 10.
You can also put the mouse over the value box, left-click and hold, then move the mouse up and down.
Or you can just double click on the box and enter in a number with the keyboard, finishing with Enter.
You can use these various methods to adjust the value of most things in Renoise,
but whichever one you chose, let's set a BPM of 130.
===== Part 2: Adding Effect =====
We've created a basic beat and now it's time to enhance this by adding effects.
To hear the changes we're about to make more easily, you need to know how to mute tracks.
Press Spacebar to Play the song and move the mouse pointer to where it says "Play" under one of the tracks.
Left clicking here will mute the audio coming from this track
and left clicking again will un-mute it.
Right clicking will solo this track, muting all of the others so that only its audio is heard.
Right clicking again will un-mute the other tracks.
So let's solo the Hi Hat track, move the cursor into it and add a Track DSP effect.
Go down to the Track DSPs section and double click on Delay.
This has added the Delay effect to this track, which can be turned on and off with the tick box.
One of the main reasons that sounds are put into separate tracks is because of these Track DSPs.
Unmuting the other tracks will show you that the Delay has only been added to the Hi Hat track.
Now let's add another effect; scroll down to Flanger and double-click on it.
Each DSP comes with a choice of preset values to choose from.
Click where it says "Init", which stands for Initial Preset, and pick Wanderer from the list.
The order that DPSs are in has an effect on the audio created,
which is easy to demonstrate with this Distortion.
Moving the effect left and right, you can hear a very noticeable change.
The reason for this is that the original sound comes from the notes in the Pattern Editor
and starts its way through the DSP chain from left to right.
First is the Pre Mixer, which every track has and can control various things like volume and panning
before any effects are applied.
The audio then moves through each effect, one at a time,
until it reaches the Post Mixer, which is found at the end of every track.
This controls the final volume and panning after all of the effects have been applied.
In this example, when the Distortion is first in the chain,
it is applied to the original sound and then delayed.
The delays still have reduced volume here.
But when moved to the right,
the Distortion is applied to the initial sound and the delays,
which results in them being louder than normal.
To remove a DSP, just hit the X button at the top-left...
and let's soften the sound a bit by adding a Chorus effect.
Un-solo the tracks, go to the snare track and add a Reverb.
The initial settings are pretty good, but the Reverb itself is rather loud.
We can adjust this with the Wet and Dry Mix settings.
The Dry Mix is the original sound
that enters the Reverb DSP before the effect has been applied to it.
The Wet Mix is the sound leaving the DSP after the Reverb has been applied.
If, for example, I change the Dry Mix to zero, we only hear the Reverb audio.
Let's take the Wet Mix value down to -6 dB,
remembering that left click adjusts by a little and right click by a lot.
===== Part 3: Automation =====
Automation allows us to change the effect parameters of a DSP as the song is playing.
There are two methods of doing this and to demonstrate the first, let's create a Bass track.
Click on an empty slot, go to Bass Hits and load in BassHit 01.
Move over to a new track and skip to the top with F9.
Set the Edit Step value to 4, enter Edit Mode
and hold down the Z key.
Now change the Keyboard Octave back to 4,
move in between the notes and hold down Z again...
and give the track a name.
Let's add a Filter effect.
There are a few different Filter types and the one we'll be using is HP,
which stands for High Pass, and this will cut off the lower frequencies of the audio in this track.
Click on the Automation tab and you can see the various parameters that are available to us.
The one we want to Automate is "Cutoff", so double click on that
and a point is inserted here at the top left which has the parameter's current value.
You can grab the point and move it around by clicking and holding down the left mouse button.
Note the numbers across the top here, which are basically a time-line of the pattern,
as they correspond to the line numbers of the Pattern Editor.
The line here is just our cursor position.
So let's create an Automation which rises and falls again throughout the pattern.
Move this point to the start and hold down the Control key (the command key on the mac),
which gives fine-tuned control over the value and also prevents you from moving the point horizontally.
Set this to 0.05 Khz.
Now double click halfway down the pattern, which is line 32,
and a new point is inserted.
Change its value to 1 Khz.
Create a final point right at the end and make its value the same as the start,
0.05 (use value box).
Play the song
and you can see the cursor position moving along the Automation Envelope we created,
changing the sound as it goes.
Go back to the Track DSPs section
and you can watch the Cutoff parameter value being smoothly automated.
Let's also change the Resonance value,
which as you can see from the graphical representation of the Filter at the side here,
puts a peak right at the Cutoff frequency.
Make that 5.
Notice the small icon here, which indicates that a Graphical Automation Envelope is present.
Clicking on it is also a shortcut to the Envelope in the Automation tab.
The second method of Automation is to change a parameter's value using the right mouse button,
which inserts a command code into the effect column at the right of the track.
Note that Edit Mode does not have to be on for this to work.
You can even play the song and record the changes you make.
This method is limited compared to the Graphical Automation,
because you can only make one change per line and the values can't be recorded with absolute accuracy.
But it can be a good, fast way of working and has one advantage:
you can automate DSPs on and off.
Delete this
and note that the values we entered are automatically removed.
Put in a new Distortion and adjust the values like so.
Right clicking on the tick box will record the on/off status of the DSP,
so start with it off and record the changes when they're needed.
===== Part 4: Instruments =====
Now let's load in an Instrument.
Select an empty slot, choose Instrument, Pads and Super Saw Pad.
Press and hold down the Z key.
Notice how the sound keeps looping until you let go of the key, where it fades out gradually.
Samples are just audio files that can be used in any program,
while Instruments can have special properties added to them in Renoise to behave more like real instruments.
If you open the Sample Editor and play the sound again,
you can see the playback looping between these two points.
Now press the Instrument Settings tab and open the Envelopes panel,
where you can see the Volume rise when the key is pressed,
sustained at this point as long as the key is held down
and then fade out when it's let go.
There are many other options and tools to explore in these two sections,
though they're beyond the scope of this Beginner's Tutorial.
But it is important to know the differences between Samples and Instruments,
and to demonstrate another one let's load in an Acoustic Guitar.
All of the notes we've used so far have been from the Z key,
but most of the number and letter keys on your computer keyboard correspond to notes on a piano keyboard.
As you can see from this image,
the keys in red refer to the current Keyboard Octave in Renoise.
The green keys are one octave above this and the blue, two octaves.
Open the Sample Keyzones tab and play around with the keyboard.
The notes that you're actually playing are shown down here.
You can see the section above the notes is divided in a few different parts,
and this is the other difference between Samples and Instruments:
Instruments can contain several samples within them.
Go back to the Sample Editor, play on the keyboard again and see how the sample changes.
Assigning different samples to different notes is a good way of creating realistic sounding Instruments...
or building a full drum-kit contained within a single Instrument slot.
Again, there's much more that can be done with this that we won't go into here. (remove kit with minus button)
Back in the Pattern Editor, select the Saw Pad,
name this Track something appropriate
and with the Keyboard Octave of 4, record a note at the top with the I key.
Press Play and listen to what's happening:
the sound keeps looping as if the key is being held down.
To tell Renoise to release the key and make the sound fade out,
you need to record a Note Off, which is done with Caps Lock.
If you're wondering how I managed to skip down to line 16 instantly, it was with the F10 key.
The keys from F9-F12 will take you to different points in the pattern.
F9 - the top, F10 - a quarter of the way down, F11 - halfway and F12 - three quarters of the way down.
If you want to skip to the end, just hit the End key.
We don't actually need a Note Off here, so hit F10 and delete it.
===== Part 5: Track Extras =====
Now let's pan this instrument around.
This could be done with Automation, but let's use something else instead.
We've seen in the Bass track that the effect column on the right can control DSPs,
but other commands placed here can directly affect the samples themselves.
Open the FX menu at the bottom of the Pattern Editor and look at the list of Sample Commands.
The one we're after is Autopan, right at the bottom.
The code for this is 0Nxy,
where x is the speed it travels from left to right and back again,
and y is the depth, meaning how far to the left and right it goes.
Click on it to enter it into the effects column
and insert values of 1 and F, so that it moves slowly and fully panned.
Now with an Edit Step of 1, fill the pattern with the N command.
You don't need to put 1F on every line, as a value of 00 will just repeat the last value.
That sounds pretty good, but change the Edit Step to 2 and delete every other line.
This causes the panning to jump back to the middle
without losing its place in the stereo field when the N command is played again.
Creating an Automation of this would take quite a long time.
Select the Acoustic Guitar, move over to the next track and rename it.
Let's record an arpeggio of C major: C E G.
If you're still on a Keyboard Octave of 4, this will be the keys Z, C and B.
When you play this back, you'll notice there's a problem:
whenever a new note is reached the old note is cut off without fading out, which sounds really fake.
We can get around this by using the Plus button here which inserts extra note columns into the track.
Now set the Edit Step to 6 and insert each different note into a separate column.
That works nicely, but the Guitar sounds a bit loud compared to the other tracks,
so reduce the volume to -3dB.
Before going any further, let's take a look at the actual note data in the columns.
The note itself is shown at the far left (C E G)
and the number next to it is the octave number, which, looking across, has been used from 3 to 6.
Next to this is the instrument number,
5 for the guitar, 4 for saw pad, 3 bass and 2, 1, 0 for the drums samples.
At the right is the effect column, but in between there's something else.
This is the Volume column
and it allows us to change the volume of each individual note without affecting the volume of the whole track.
There are also Panning and Delay columns, which do the same for their properties,
but are off by default.
You can turn them all on or off for each track separately at the bottom of the Pattern Editor.
We want to adjust the panning of notes here, so enable that.
This column accepts values from 0 to 80, with 0 being far left, 80 far right and 40 the centre, which is also the default when left blank.
We don't want to go to those extremes, so instead go halfway out with 20 and 60.
Because the arpeggio only uses three notes, you can see at the end of the pattern C and E are played but doesn't it neatly end on the G.
We could just leave it, or we could take advantage of this and make it a feature of the song.
Skip to the top and put a C-3 in the right note column with a panning of 60,
so there will be a bass note announcing every repeat we make.
Now left click and hold while dragging across the notes until line 15.
Again, there's the C and E, but the G is outside of this quarter section of the pattern.
Let's make this selected area repeat every quarter,
which you can do easily by pressing Control C (command c on the mac), copying all of this note data.
Skip to line 16 with F10 and paste what you've copied with Control V.
Do the same halfway down and three quarters of the way down.
Be careful when copying and pasting like this: the cursor position is where the pasting takes place from.
If, for example, I move over here and paste, then what I copied is pasted from this point.
The Copy and Paste commands should be familiar to you from other programs, since they're pretty universal.
Renoise supports some others:
Control A will select all, Control X will cut, Control Z will undo and Control Y will redo.
I've shown you how note columns can be added with the plus button, while the minus button removes them,
and you can do the same with effect columns.
You can also add or delete tracks by right clicking and using the menu, or the shortcuts Control T and Control Shift T.
Tracks can be moved around by left click and holding on their name,
and if you need extra space, you can collapse them with the arrow button on the left.
===== Part 6: Group, Send & Master Tracks =====
There are a couple of ways of affecting more than one track at a time.
The first, Groups, also helps with organisation by allowing you to group several tracks together.
To insert a Group, either right click on a track and choose Insert Group from the menu,
or just use its shortcut, Control G (command G on the mac).
Now left click and hold on another track's name and drag it into the Group.
Do that for the three percussion tracks and we'll name the Group, "Drums".
Now move over to the Drums Group itself and insert a Distortion effect with the preset, "Drums Soft Cut".
Play the song and note that the Distortion is affecting all three tracks contained within it.
Another nice feature is that if you right click on the Play icon of the Group, all of its tracks are solo-ed.
The second method of affecting more than one track at a time are Send Tracks.
Send Tracks are found to the right of the Master Track, which we'll come to in a minute,
and are used by inserting a Send device into the track you wish to send from.
The Receiver option at the bottom states which Send track that the audio is being sent to.
If we were using more than one Send track, then we could change this here.
You can have Send devices in multiple tracks all directing audio to the same Send track at once.
So any track with a Send device that points here will be affected by the changes made.
You can also rename them just like normal tracks, making it easier to know where the audio is going.
Sends also have a number of other features.
You can control the volume and panning of the audio that is sent,
and you have the option of keeping this source audio or muting it, so that only the sound of the Send track is heard.
This is similar to the Dry/Wet setting that we saw in the Reverb DSP.
There are many other possibilities with Sends,
but until you're completely comfortable with routing audio like this, it can get a bit confusing,
so we won't go into more depth here.
Just delete the Synth track Send device
and enable Keep Source for the Guitar Send.
And now we come to the Master track.
This controls the sound coming from all other tracks in the song
and although you cannot enter notes here, you can insert effects just like any other track.
Common mastering effects are the Exciter, which adds brightness and width,
and compressors, which keeps the peak volume under control.
Renoise comes with two native compression devices, the standard Compressor,
and the Bus Compressor, which is often useful for mastering,
since it examines the signal before reacting and comes with many presets specifically designed for mastering.
Now that we're at the stage where the function of the various tracks are understood,
it's a good time to introduce the Mixer.
You can see the FX, and the Pre and Post Mixer volume and panning values,
and so with this you have a quick and easy way to make changes to all of the tracks.
You'll most often use this in Post mode, since this changes things after the effects have been applied.
It can be incredibly useful for keeping your final mix under control, as things do get louder as you add more tracks.
The VU meter at the top provides extra information to help with this, including when the signal is clipping.
The Master track's Post Mixer volume, also available at the top left of the interface, is the absolute final volume after all audio from the tracks is combined.
So you can use this to adjust the overall volume of the song.
===== Part 7: Advancing The Song =====
Let's create some variety to our Guitar arpeggio by changing every second repeat to a minor chord.
This involves changing the Es to D#s, which could be entered manually,
but instead we'll used the Advanced Edit panel.
Left click and drag over the three Es here
and make sure "Selection In Pattern" is the option chosen at the top of the panel.
Go down to the Transpose section and press -1 once...
and do the same to the bottom three.
Now to extend to our song by creating new patterns, which is done with the Pattern Sequencer at the far left of the interface.
The plus button will add a new blank pattern underneath the currently selected pattern,
while the minus button deletes the current pattern.
You can move up and down in the sequence by using the mouse scrollwheel while the pointer is in this area,
or by using the scrollbar at the side.
The Clone Pattern button also creates a new pattern, but will automatically copy the contents of the current pattern into it, including the Automation.
Notice that new patterns have different numbers.
This means that their contents are unique to each different pattern number.
So changes made to Pattern 1 do not affect the contents of Pattern 0.
However, you can change the number of a pattern using the arrows at the sides here
and patterns with the same number share the exact same contents.
So the changes made here are also present here.
The way that Renoise works is that it plays through each pattern
and when the end is reached it moves down to the next pattern.
It carries on through the entire sequence until the final pattern where it loops back to the start again.
So let's clone our existing pattern and create some changes across this sequence.
In Pattern 0, click and drag to select the bottom half of all tracks except for the Drums.
This is from line 32 to 63.
Go back to Transpose in the Advanced Edit panel
and press +1 three times, bringing those notes into the musical key of D#.
In Pattern 1, press +1 once to reach C#.
Select the top half of the pattern, which is line 0 to 31, then press -1 twice for A#.
You can hear there's a problem, and it's from the fact the Synth is only played at the top of a pattern,
so the Transposing had no notes to work with at line 32.
We could enter the notes in manually, but let's do something more interesting instead.
Using sample commands, the pitch of an instrument or sample can be altered with U and D, which stand for Up and Down.
The pitch is moved by a single note when a value of 10 is used,
so open the Sample Keyzones tab to plan out what we need to do.
The starting note is C, which then rises to D#, that's up by 1 2 3 notes.
It then moves to A#, which is down 1 2 3 4 5 notes.
Next is back up to C#, 1 2 3
and then to the start again at C, down by 1.
Keeping this in mind, add three Us just before the halfway point of Pattern 0 and add a value of 10,
remembering that we only need to do this once, since 00 will just repeat the previous value.
Near the bottom, add 5 Ds and a 10 isn't necessary here either.
In Pattern 1 we don't want this note here, so just delete it and add three Us before the middle.
The ending only goes down by one, so instead of just a single D,
let's create something more fun with D U D U D.
The area just to the right of the Pattern Sequencer is the Pattern Matrix
and it provides a graphical representation of what's happening in the various tracks across the patterns.
It can be used in a variety of ways to help with the construction of a song and I'll show you a couple just now.
In Pattern 0, click on the leftmost drum track (for me that's Kick, but you may have moved yours around),
hold down Shift and click on the rightmost drum track so that you have all three selected.
Now hold down Control and Shift (command shift on the mac), then left click and drag upwards.
When you release, a new pattern is created with the contents of the three drum tracks copied over.
All of the patterns so far have been 64 lines in length,
but this can be changed with the value box at the top left of the Pattern Editor.
Make this one half the length at 32 lines and it will serve as a nice introduction to the song.
Let's add to the structure of the song again by creating two patterns where the Synth and Guitar do not play,
and here the Pattern Matrix can help us again.
Press the Plus button twice and change the pattern values to match that of the two below.
Now with the middle mouse button, click on the four slots of those tracks.
What this has done is mute those tracks at this point in the sequence,
changing the way the song plays without the need for new patterns.
Note that muting the tracks in this way is not the same as using the Play button.
With that method, the tracks are muted permanently until you un-mute them again.
Continue the structure by cloning the bottom two patterns.
What we're trying to do here is copy the two pattern sequence, so remember,
the clone is inserted after the current pattern.
Click on the first clone to select it, then click and drag so it appears before the second one.
Let's insert some extra Kicks so the beat becomes more interesting.
And we'll make the second pattern sightly different by adding extra ones at the end.
Just like with Tracks and Groups, you can name Patterns to keep organised.
Click and drag the right side of the Pattern Sequencer to reveal the text boxes.
Our song is short and this takes up quite a bit of screen space,
so instead let's use Section Headers.
With this you can separate out the various sections of the song,
so go ahead and enter in some appropriate titles.
Now to create an ending.
Add a new pattern, change its length to 128 lines and insert a Section Header that says "Ending".
Go back to the first Extra Kicks pattern
and press Control A (command A on the mac) to select all, then Control C to copy.
Paste it into the final pattern with Control V,
making sure that the cursor is at the top left so everything is pasted from the correct point.
Do the same thing for the second pattern and paste it halfway down.
Looking at the bottom Bass slot in the Pattern Matrix, we can see that the Automation has not been copied by this method,
as only the note data was selected.
So go back to the Automation Envelope
and select the graph by clicking on it with the middle mouse button.
Now when you select all and copy with Control A and C, it happens down here.
Before pasting this in the last pattern, click around the grid with the left mouse button.
This line is the point at which we paste from.
So do it at line 0 and line 64.
The song should fade out over the course of this pattern
and this can be achieved very easily by Automating the volume of the Master Track.
Double click to insert the starting point,
then double click on the grid to insert an end point,
bringing it down to zero.
Let's also change the Envelope type to Curve instead of Linear,
giving us a more pleasing fade.
Finally, it would be nice if the song stopped at the end instead of looping back to the beginning again.
This can be done by inserting a Global Command to change the BPM.
If a value of 00 is used then the song will come to a complete stop at this point.
That's it for this Beginner's Tutorial.
Don't forget to check the Help menu within the program,
where you'll find lists of effect commands and shortcuts, as well as links to the User Manual and the Community Forums.
This was just an introduction to the essential features of Renoise, but it has much, much more to offer.
Try out the included songs and tutorials, keep playing around with various sounds and techniques,
and don't be afraid of making mistakes.
If you have any questions, then the Beginner's Forum on is the best place to go.
There is a large and helpful community and you'll usually get a quick response.