Author Topic: Programmer - Musician  (Read 10420 times)

Offline Matt Hartman

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« on: January 09, 2006, 17:16:30 »
Hey all, I've been wondering this for the longest time.

Do you think part of the responsibility of any modern composer is to learn programming? (Graphic Design is quickly heading this way) Has programming become what sight reading was in the past in relation to music?

There is a lot of smart people around here. Most of you talk about programming and code like it's common every day intellect,  which in all honesty completely evades my level of comprehension. I'm wondering if learning this language will help me be more compositional as technology changes, or is it still relatively not a required skill set?

Would tracking itself be considered a marriage between programming and composing?

What can someone like me, who doesn't particularly find the thought of programming very rewarding or stimulating act, do if this is the case?

I find a lot of trackers are programmers on the side or vise versa. I must have missed the boat because I generally find programming a bore.
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Offline Randilyn

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« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2006, 17:58:15 »
I've been programming for over 8 years.  It doesn't really seem to help my tracking skills at all.  Oh well...

Offline Squirrel Havoc

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« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2006, 18:40:01 »
I've been proggie-ing for about hmm 6 years, and thats why my tracks are so simple and mechanical, because I am used to programming. So it has an opposite effect on me
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Offline LPChip

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« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2006, 21:13:50 »
I do program, but I think both tracking and programming are the result of the same -> logical thinking. Both require you to do so in order to get something done by the program you use for it.

Eg. For programming you need to write a script that do tasks in a logical way. Eg. If you want to write a variable and print it out, you both need to declare this variable and then print it.

In tracking this is kind of the same. In the pattern editor, each row is being played behind eachother. Not only the notes, but also the pauses between them is the logical thinking.

I've let my nephew played with MPT for some time. He uses midi equipment to play around with at home, and was amased with all the songs I've made. So I though lets show him around. He couldn't understand a think about the spacing thing. Perhaps programming stimulates the logical thinking which makes you able to track faster?
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Offline Relabsoluness

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« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2006, 22:06:08 »
Maybe programming knowledge can help understanding or learning tracking better, but I don't see them so related, however. There are, if not infinite, at least so many 'variables' affecting the result of the composition that programming skill, or lack of it, can be just a drop in the ocean.

Offline shableep

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« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2006, 22:45:36 »
i think the further technology develops, the more programming knowledge gives you more creative flexibility.

Offline Sam_Zen

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« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2006, 02:13:53 »
I started programming in machinecode for the 6502 and the Z80. So I agree with LPChip about the need for 'logical thinking'.
So probably this, later, caused my choice for the tracker-concept to construct my compo's on a Pc.
Transparant control.

I don't see this gap between Programmer - Musician, related to electronic sound.
In fact, strictly spoken, as soon as you use a program, you are programming. Changing variables for the output.
Surely programming sometimes is a bore, but isn't it to play on an instrument the same phrase for 16 times ?
Learning the codes just expands the language of the compo, so not a matter of 'effects' but of 'expression'.
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Offline rncekel

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« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2006, 08:59:55 »
I think that the problem is what do you consider a programming language. In a certain way, even the traditional pentagram CAN be considered a program. Look careful: that is not music, just a set of instructions to make music. The use of trackers, midi and so on are similar. The only difference that I think that really matters is the level of the language. You can program in a low level language or in a high level. In fact, there are a lot of levels in the middle. I think that, as technology develops, there is less need to know low level languages to program, so I think that, for a composer, only high level languages will be important. And, may be, these high level languages will be even in an higher level than now...

Offline DustWolf

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« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2006, 23:17:48 »
I guess it must be annoying to those who really only want to make music using a tracker, but I think that the music-making software that fails to support a kind of free coding element is stupidifying.

The idea that composing generally is all about writing down music that sounds good, not anything to do with the means this is done; programming on the other hand is a world where you can cause anything a computer is capable of doing to happen. So I agree that tracking is a marriage between programming and composing.

The wonderful thing about this is that in tracking you are not limited by existing instruments, existing sounds, other people's work, etc. Generally you want to make music, yes, but when you come accross an obstacle that normal composing cannot overcome, you have the elemental signal processing tools under control and by manipulating those into some kind of code, you can produce just the sounds you had in mind.

Taking this to diffirent extreemes is what diffirent trackers do.


I am a programmer, yes, all my life. My favorites are low-level programming tools. I've been a tracker for quite a while now. My music is primarily remixes of other people's tracked work, where I thought I could improove the code. Atho commonly accused of, I do not intentionally stick around low-quality samples.

Offline Sam_Zen

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« Reply #9 on: January 18, 2006, 03:32:58 »
Quote from: "DustWolf"
My music is primarily remixes of other people's tracked work, where I thought I could improve the code.  

A use I didn't much thought of before, but with rather fascinating aspects.
If you talk about improving the code, it would mean that you work with the original trackerfile, not with the saved result as a wav, mp3 or ogg. Somewhat similar of editing the source code of an open source application.

A matter of performance of the same composition, like playing opus 33 of Liszt with one's own interpretatation.
A tracker can be performed very precisely according to the 'personal touch'. Balance between channels, number of pattern-loops, pan-envelopes of instruments, macro-settings. Even adding a certain extra instrument score in a section created for a 'solo' upon the basic is possible.
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Offline DustWolf

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« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2006, 14:26:32 »
Quote from: "Sam_Zen"
A use I didn't much thought of before, but with rather fascinating aspects.
If you talk about improving the code, it would mean that you work with the original trackerfile, not with the saved result as a wav, mp3 or ogg. Somewhat similar of editing the source code of an open source application.


Perhaps we trackers should, in the interest of maintaing our heritage, call ourselves "open source musicians"?

Quote from: "Sam_Zen"
A matter of performance of the same composition, like playing opus 33 of Liszt with one's own interpretatation.
A tracker can be performed very precisely according to the 'personal touch'. Balance between channels, number of pattern-loops, pan-envelopes of instruments, macro-settings. Even adding a certain extra instrument score in a section created for a 'solo' upon the basic is possible.


Yes... sometimes so much can be achieved by changing an instrument somewhere (tho I usually don't change the source selection of samples for more than one sample), and using a diffirent instrument with the same melody in a part of the song to add to the content. Also sometimes songs seem to lack a more powerfull atmosphere or a deeper base.

Again, this is a matter of taste of course, which is why people are always encuraged to listen to both the original and the remix to see which they preffer.

Actually there is some intersting depth behind this as well, as people are accostum to certian themes and view them as beautyfull as opposed to others, which are really no less random, but are simply not what people are accostum to. In reworking the code, I maintain the theme, which provides the song with beauty and then place this theme in a diffirent atmosphere, an atmosphere which I think conveys the message I wanted it to convey.

In short, the programming element also represents content in a track as well as the purely musical element.

Offline Sam_Zen

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« Reply #11 on: January 19, 2006, 01:22:29 »
Quote from: "DustWolf"
Perhaps we trackers should, in the interest of maintaing our heritage, call ourselves "open source musicians"?

A nice one. In fact, as soon as I publish some piece in the original tracker-format, instead of some compressed wavfile, I have to accept, that others can change the song, because it is still 'codable'. Nothing wrong with that, as long as normal civilised behaviour is at stake, meaning that the author of the original is mentioned in the credits.
In the case of commercial purposes, e.g. for a game, asking the author for permission to use it is the default.

By the way, the opposition 'programmer-musician' is only valid from a traditional musical view.
In the real tracker-world there isn't much difference between programmer, composer or musician.
Mostly tracker-modules are made by a one man's band, so . .
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Offline Randilyn

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« Reply #12 on: January 19, 2006, 03:17:01 »
Quote from: "DustWolf"
Perhaps we trackers should, in the interest of maintaing our heritage, call ourselves "open source musicians"?


Amen to that.

Offline Waxhead

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« Reply #13 on: January 20, 2006, 22:22:27 »
I've started programing in C64 basic, moved to Amiga and used Amos, then AmigaE and some MC680x0 assembly language. Now I programm in C (not C++). I guess I have been programming since 1989 and I remember how "programmish" it felt making music in SoundTracker, NoiseTracker, ProTracker.
When I do music I often tries to avoid using "programming tricks" like looping patterns etc... In most of my tunes not one single pattern is equal. This can be quite "limiting" but also rewarding. However thinking to logical might not always be smart in music imho since music is about feelings and feelings are not always logical (...it seems) :)

So I think the benefits of beeing a programmer using a tracker is that you probably figure out how to use it faster than other folks. You also "understand" better how stuff works since you think of it in a logical way. The drawbacks are possibly that your music can suffer from beeing to logical also :)

Offline Matt Hartman

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« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2006, 02:49:09 »
Quote from: "Waxhead"
I've started programing in C64 basic, moved to Amiga and used Amos, then AmigaE and some MC680x0 assembly language. Now I programm in C (not C++). I guess I have been programming since 1989 and I remember how "programmish" it felt making music in SoundTracker, NoiseTracker, ProTracker.
When I do music I often tries to avoid using "programming tricks" like looping patterns etc... In most of my tunes not one single pattern is equal. This can be quite "limiting" but also rewarding. However thinking to logical might not always be smart in music imho since music is about feelings and feelings are not always logical (...it seems) :)

So I think the benefits of being a programmer using a tracker is that you probably figure out how to use it faster than other folks. You also "understand" better how stuff works since you think of it in a logical way. The drawbacks are possibly that your music can suffer from being to logical also :)



Awesome response Waxhead. Well thought out.

I agree, music should be about feelings and expressing ones inner self. However, music can carry over a lot of feelings, even sequential, non emotional feelings if that makes sense?

I've been frequenting these boards recently and I've noticed a lot of programming lingo and jargon. More so than questions and comments about actually composing music. I understand the nature of the beast here, we are tracking and a tracker is a perfectly technical commodity, granted.

However, I think there's a simplicity that gets lost with trackers from all backgrounds. Most in my experience and even with myself, tend to get wrapped up in the technical aspects of tracking, rather than learning how to transcribe music itself into this form of fashioning it. I see far more emphasis on code than music. This left me thinking that I may be missing something, or vise versa, maybe a lot of trackers are missing the point?It's a good question to ask ones self at any rate.
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