Manual for Vortex Tracker II (Edit)


Ingredients (Edit)

Grab Vortex Tracker II from here

Unpack the archive into a folder. If you're wondering what a .7z file is and how on earth can you unpack it, use this.

Getting Started (Edit)

Run VT.exe which is now in the folder you've just made. Welcome to Vortex Tracker II!

Go to File >> New, hit CTRL-N, or click the button with the sheet of paper in the top left corner. Oooh, a new module!

If you have a big screen, and this window looks a bit small, you can fix this. Go to File >> Options, and increase the "number of track lines". Close this window and make a new one. Hopefully it is longer and nicer looking.

But how can I make a noise?! (Edit)

Maybe now you are wondering how to make a noise. This is quite complicated in Vortex tracker, especially if you are used to FL Studio etc, but you'll get the hang of it in no time.

You are now in the pattern editor. It is where you will spend most of your time composing. However, you should ignore it for now, and click the "Samples" tab.

You should now be looking at some small boxes and a big list of strange looking codes and numbers. This is the sample editor where you create your instruments.

At the moment, the first line of that big list you can see says:

00 | tne+000_ +00(00)_ 0_

Change it to read:

00 | Tne+000_ +00(00)_ F_

That's right, all you need to do is capitalise one letter, and change a 0 to an F. Simple!

Now just up and to the left of this list is a box called the "Test field". It should say something like:

....|..|C-4 1F.F ....

Click on where it says C-4. Hit some buttons on your keyboard. Hurrah!!

Yeah, so I made a beep. I want to make a song!

Of course you do! Go back to the pattern editor by clicking the "Pattern" tab.

The pattern editor works like any tracker, with columns representing different channels. In this case, there are 3 columns, for 3 channels. The main part of the pattern editor contains only 3 different characters (besides the row numbers down the left hand side): | and — and .

The | cannot be changed, it is essentially there for decoration. You'll notice you can't select it. The full stops (periods) are for effects and commands. We'll look at these later. For now, let's focus on the —. This is the most important part of the pattern editor, because it is where you add notes!

Select the first set of three hyphens in the first column. Press "E" on your keyboard. An E note was added. Now use the down key on your keyboard to move the cursor to the row labelled 04. Press "W" on your keyboard. Move to the row labelled 08, and press "Q", then to the row labelled 0C, and press "W" again.

Press F8 to hear what you've done. Press Esc to stop it. Or use the transport controls at the top of the screen.

Sounds okay? Not really, but it's alright. But wouldn't it be nice if the last note didn't carry on forever? Go to line 0E and press "A". "R--" was added. This means note cut. It allows you to use rests in your song.

Press F8 again. It's the first 4 notes of "Mary Had A Little Lamb". Try and finish the song if you want, if you can't be bothered, don't.

Using more than one pattern (Edit)

Four bars isn't enough for a real song. You need to use more than one pattern to make a song. This is really simple.

Above where you have been entering your notes, there's a long line of little boxes with "..." in them. This is the order list. Select the first box, and type a "0" in it. Now select the second box and type a "1" in it. Now you have 2 patterns. Put something in pattern 1, and hit F6. Pattern zero will play first and then pattern one will play. Use delete to get rid of patterns, and remember you can use a pattern more than once in your song (don't reuse them too much though).

Other tips (Edit)

I want arps! (Edit)

To create an arpeggio, use the ornaments tab. It's very simple and easy to get the hang of, even though it looks scary.

Adjust the length of the ornament to 3. Now, just enter "0" in the first row, "3" in the second row, and "7" in the third row. Go to the test field and hit some notes. Minor arp!


To use this in your song, go back to the pattern editor. Change the third period after the note you want to arp to "1". Play your song, and you'll hear some arps. To turn the arping off (so you can have it applying only to specific notes, not to a whole column), just enter the number of an ornament you haven't used yet. Such as F.

How do I do a kick drum? (Edit)

length 1, loop 0

00 | Tne +0D0^ +00(00)_ F-

Of course you can edit this to make better, nicer, and more complicated kick drums, this is just a simple one to get you started.

How do I do a hi-hat? (Edit)

length 1, loop 0

00 | tNe +000_ +00(00)_ F-

Of course you can edit this to make better, nicer, and more complicated hi-hats, this is just a simple one to get you started.

It's all very well you telling me how to make instruments, but if I just understood what all these numbers meant, I could make my own.

1F|tne +000_ +00(00)_ F_ ***************

11 234 56667 899 AA B CD EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

1 - Line number. Cannot be edited.
2 - If set to "T", a tone plays. If set to "t", it doesn't.
3 - If set to "N", white noise plays. If set to "n", it doesn't.
4 - If set to "E", envelope sound plays. If set to "e", it doesn't.
5 - Direction of pitch change.
6 - Amount of pitch change.
7 - If set to ^, pitch change adds up over time. If set to _, pitch change is absolute.
8 - Direction of pitch change for noise and envelope sound.
9 - Amount of pitch change for noise and envelope sound.
A - Displays the absolute value of pitch change for noise and envelope sound. Cannot be edited.
B - Like 7, but for noise and envelope sound.
C - Volume of sound for this line.
D - If set to _, nothing happens. If set to +, volume increases. If set to -, volume decreases.
E - Visual representation of the volume for that line. Cannot be edited.

All of this is explained in more depth in the manual. Look at some instruments from other people's songs to help you understand how they work.

I wanna be Yerzmyey! (Edit)

Practise makes perfect. Spend time messing around and figuring stuff out. Load up some .pt3 files by your favourite speccy musicians and have a look at how they work. Read the manual that came with Vortex Tracker II. Don't give up.

I Am New To AYM  (Edit)


You might have heard of the AY 3-8910 chip, AY 3-8912 or maybe of their Yamaha clone the YM2149, and of that the former practically resides in the NEC PC98's chip, the YM2608 ... Well, bad news - even though you see the name of a respected music tech manufacturer here, you're not gonna use FM synths or anything close to it in this format! D:

Just three channels. But you really might make it look like you're using not three, but all five (or if you're studdy enough, six (literal six, if you get along with the TurboSound board)).

Instruments and Tone (Edit)

First off, download Vortex Tracker II or, to be more specific, its enhanced version called Vortex Tracker II Improved which is gonna make your life easier here just a bit. Either way, the tutorial covers both, with slight side-trips to the Improved version.

VTII affords three types of sounds to ya, all of which can be combined with each other: tone, envelope and noise. The former can have different notes on all three channels, but the two latter can't.

Now, VTII's interface might be a bit tangled for you, but it might be somewhat cleaner once you squeeze off your first note. You will need to refer to the "Samples" tab in that case - that is instrument editor for you. Change the first instrument from this:

//00 [ tne +000_ +00(00)_ 0_//

... to this:

//00 [ Tne +000_ +00(00)_ F_ ***************//

Don't forget to use spacebar to make the "T" in here capital or vice versa!

So we've defined that we're gonna use tone and bring it on maximum volume. As you're done with this, return to the pattern editor, and place try to place a couple or two of notes this way:

00 | C-3 1..F ....
 01 | — .... ....
 02 | C#3 1... ....
 03 | — .... ....
 04 | D-3 1..D ....
 05 | — .... ....
 06 | R-- .... ....

There you go! The "F" and "D" placed in this pattern will change the channel's volume, while "1" stands for the instrument that will be played on it. "R--" is, obviously enough, the rest note. By default pressing the A key will put a rest.

Now, you've really gotta get back to our instrument editor - just to make a small modification of your new sample. By playing around with Length and Loop values as well as, again, the spacebar, try to make the following instrument:

 00 | TNe +000_ +00(00) F_ ***************
 01 | TNe +000_ +00(00) E_ **************
 02 [ Tne +000_ +00(00) E- ************** **< place loop here**

Notice that after the volumes F or E there's either an underscore or a hyphen; they're different! Replay the pattern and see how the sounding has changed! For the curious, we've got a blend of tone and noise in the sample's first two frames - which means they will play simultaneously. In the last frame (the one that loops), the volume will automatically decrease. The opposite of this thing is, obviously, "+".

Now, you might wonder what all those zeros in the above example mean. Generally speaking, the first three are for the tone pitch setting (pretty useful for vibrato), the rest are for noise duty.

Still didn't get it? We-e-e-ell... Create the instrument number two!

00 [ Tne +002_ +00(00)_ F_ ***************  **< place loop here**
01 [ Tne -002_ +00(00)_ F_ **************
 02 [ Tne +002_ +00(00)_ F_ **************
 03 [ Tne -002_ +00(00)_ F_ **************

Now that's quite a wavey vibrato you've got there!

The blank space to the right of +002 and -002 means that we're shiftin' pitch from the note we've typed. If you "capitalize" it, it will turn into a ^** symbol, and the pitch shifts will then "pile up", i. e. based on the note which resulted **after the said shift.

In other words, take a look at this slide sample:

00 [ Tne -001^ +00(00)_ F_ ***************

So it will do a portamento all the way down to the beginning of the note range (and loop from its' very end - so you might want to cut this note before that occurs). Same works for noise, but that's for a later time.

Hardware Envelopes (Edit)

In addition to defining an envelope like the volume sequence "F E D C B A 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0" in software like VTII or your ZX Spectrum program, the AY also has a built in feature to do this for you. It takes the channel and ramps the volume down from F to 0. What you're supposed to do, ideally, is make a sample with envelope enabled like this:

//00 | tnE +000_ +00(00)_ F_ ***************//

Or, in case if you don't really like bare 'n pure envelope, like this:

//00 | TnE +000_ +00(00)_ F_ ***************//

and then assign a speed in the envelope period column. It's the first set of blanks.

//00| HERE | .. | — .... ....| — .... ....| — .... ....//

The smaller the value, the faster the envelope will ramp down. The actual speed of this process is done using the formula Frequency = Clock / (16 * Period). It won't matter what volume you pick in the sample because using the envelope feature overrides any volume assigned and just plays F to 0 every time.

Let's do a nice long fade out with a speed of 4096, which is 1000 in hexadecimal

//00 | 1000 | .. | A-5 .1.. ....| — .... ....| — .... ....//

When we play that, it does a nice smooth ding. You'll notice we put a value of 1 in one of those blanks. Here we choose the shape of the envelope. This is where things get interesting.

This chip has 16 different kinds of envelope shapes, but some are duplicates so it's more like 8. The simplest are the first four which start at F and go to 0 and then stays off at 0. You can also choose shape D to start at 0, go to F and stay on. Here's the full chart:

//0-3 \_______
 4-7 /_______
9 \_______ A \/\/\/\/ B \¯¯¯¯¯¯¯ C //////// D /¯¯¯¯¯¯¯ E /\/\/\/\ F /_______//

More modern AY tunes make heavy use of shapes 8, A, C and E because they repeat and the period can be made small enough and fast enough to reach the audible note range. Or in other words OSCILLATE. We now magically have another melodic channel!

You can use the shaping alone to make a single note with a sample tnE. VTII has an easy way to input the period column automatically. Just to the right above the pattern editor, you'll see "AutoEnv" and 1:1. Press the AutoEnv and when you input notes, it'll automatically try to match the frequency (sometimes it'll be out of tune). You MUST have somewhere on or above the current line an envelope shape of 8 A C or E or this feature won't work. You also need it defined on the current line to play or else it'll use the same period as the last time you defined it. A simple saw bass note using tnE would be a good start (by the way, you don't actually need to specify sample 1 because VTII always assumes a blank spot means that, at least on the start of the track):

//00 | ..7C| .. | A-1 .8.. ....| — .... ....| — .... ....//

When you use TnE you WILL have both frequencies playing at once, and since the tone will follow the ramp of the env, you'll basically achieve ring modulation. Try the previous example with a TnE sample to hear this effect. If you are not familiar with ring modulation then you've got a chance to learn it all! You can play around with that 1:1 below AutoEnv and change the ratios. You might also want to try placing a note with AutoEnv, then turning it off and changing the octave of the tone. Or even the note to something different entirely!

Oh, and in case if you don't really want to get along with the AutoEnv feature (or if you opt to use pure envelope), that's where Vortex Tracker II Improved kicks in - the envelope amounts are typed in and shown (optionally) as actual notes, which makes the whole process a whole easier! Keep in mind, though, that custom envelope digits cannot be added up here - you might need to fiddle around with transposition (which now works for envelopes, too!).

Noise (Edit)

Like all good chips, the AY has its own unique noise generator. As you guessed using tNe will have a channel doing noise only. But AY programming/composing is tricky because it has no independent volume. You only have 3 channels to use 5 oscillators and if you're using TNe, then whatever volume your tone is playing at in that channel your noise will be just as loud.

This noise generator has 31 different frequencies, 1 to 1F with 1F being the lowest note. Although inputting a 0 in VTII will leave it blank, it still counts as a 1. On the pattern table, it's the second editable column, i. e. directly to the right to envelope digits.

//00 | .... | 1F | — .... .... |— .... .... | — .... ....//

In the sample editor you also get a few lines to change the noise period very quickly within the sample.

//00 | tNe +000_ +01(00)^ F_ ***************//

The above will make a Defender sounding sweep down through all the frequencies.

Ornaments (Edit)

Can you recall a really good song that doesn't use arps? Nope? Well then, time to get along with the local arpeggios, known as ornaments here! For your information, unlike in most trackers, ornaments are not deadly tied to the instruments, and that fact alone gives you more freedom of sound! ^_^

As you might have guessed, these are defined in the "Ornaments" tab - the rest is somewhat obvious to an experienced tracker user. For everyone else, here's a guide to how make some ve-e-e-e-e-ery simple arps. Note that these work for tones and ONLY for tones. And that all note shifts here are typed in decimals, not HEX.

For example, here's a "bloopy" ornament which can be used for a lead track:

00 | +06
01 | +00 **< place loop here**

And the same thing, but which goes from six notes below rather than six notes above.

00 | -06
01 | +00 **< place loop here**

Then there's, of course, chord emulation. Here's a really ass crazy one for major 7, feel yourself free to shorten it:

 00 | +00 **< place loop here**
 01 | +04
 02 | +07
 03 | +12
 04 | +07
 05 | +04
 06 | +00
 07 | -04
 08 | -07
 09 | -12
 0A | -07
 0B | -04

A really widespread ornament among the former USSR aym composers is the orchestral hit, which best goes with TNe samples (which, in turn, also have to fade to silence really quickly):

00 | +48 **< place loop here**
01 | +36
 02 | +24
 03 | +12
 04 | +00

Speaking of orchestral stuff, here's a choir ornament that Tayle uses semi-frequently.

00 | +12 **< place loop here**
01 | +00

Gettin' Drummy (Edit)

Coming soon!

Advanced Tutors (Edit)

Generalz (Edit)

The hardware envelope is the biggest distinguishable feature of the AY. In addition to the saw/tri bass &amp; ring modulation, I think it's worth reminding you that you can also choose to shape the noise with a tNE sample. And since it controls the volume output of each channel individually, you can still get some sort of volume control despite always being 0 to F by duplicating the envelope in multiple channels for louder volumes and fewer for quieter envelope.

Clocking (Edit)

The AY and its sister chip (or knock-off) by Yamaha were used in quite a lot of computers. If you go to File&gt;Options and then click the Chip Emulation tab, you can see the four common ones. The YM2149F has an optional clock divider, meaning everything goes down an octave, noise frequencies too! I'm not entirely sure how to get VTII to do this though. You can also use custom values in that tab like YM2149F @ 1789773hz clock with interrupt frequency 60000mhz and compose for the Famicom's Sunsoft5B expansion.

TurboSound (Edit)

While BotB-wise, it's more on the Wildchip territory than it is on the actual aym, TurboSound is a sound (duh) board that contains an additional AY chip and basically allows playing two modules at once - i. e. giving you an ass-whooping bunch of six channels at once! And we're not talking about two different Of course, with greater power comes greater responsibilty - both modules are played separately from one another, so make sure they're both synched and actually sound convincing enough for the multi-channel music's standarts. Or else... >_<

Activating the TurboSound mode is simple enough, however - you should have both modules opened. Click the "2nd soundchip is disabled" button in the pattern editor and select the song you want to plug in. After you're done, you've gotta be aware that the saved .pt3 module will contain both parts of the song - and you might need a special emulator to render it!

See Also (Edit)

Replay on your ZX Spectrum (Edit)

from Thank you FrankT and Utz.

Export for .tap file from vortex tracker.

Create this .bas loader file:

100 LET l=USR 49152
110 PAUSE 1: LET l=USR 49157
120 IF INKEY$ ="" THEN GO TO 110
130 LET l=USR 49160 

Line 100 initializes the player. 110-120 calls the play routine if no key is pressed. 130 stops the tune.

Then generate the tap file for the loader above with:

zmakebas -a 10 -o loader.tap loader.bas

Then concatenate the 2 files together, the loader.tap being the first:

cat loader.tap VT.tap > final_tune.tap

You can also export to .ay with vortex tracker, then convert the ay to tap with which can be found there:

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