Original URL: http://friendly.netppl.fi/~galahad/manual.html


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If you wish to contribute anything to this document, send your stuff to Galahad or Crux Humanus

1.First words/New things in version 3.0

2. Making samples

2.1 Bitrates
2.2 Sample frequencies
2.3 Minimizing samples
2.4 Sample timing

2.5 Quality tips

2.5.1 General
2.5.2 Vocals
2.5.3 Guitar
2.5.4 Bass
2.5.5 Drums

3. Composing

3.1 General

3.2 Each instrument

3.2.1 Vocals
3.2.2 Guitars
3.2.3 Synths
3.2.4 Bass
3.2.5 Drums

4. Last words

5. Credits


Supplement A : Tab to mod, a way to cover?

Supplement B : The theory of sampling

Supplement C : A theoritician's view of metal

Supplement D : Chord leading : a theory behind riffs

Supplement E : Metal styles

[1. First words/New things in version 3.0]

I've collected all this info to share with anyone interested. The main goal of this document is to help everyone (including me) in the metaltrackers-scene to improve quality. If you have more ideas on certain topics in this document, feel free to mail me. This document contains quoted hints by trackers. You might find them contradicting, but remember they come from various people. Try them your yourself. Use your brains&ears to achieve that sound you're looking for. Whether it is an evil blackmetal-sound or a soothing balladsound. I do NOT consider myself an metaltrack-guru!! But I'm very enthusiastic about the possibilities. I truly believe that when we stand together, we will make the metalmod-scene a respected one because the quality of the mods is high! I want this document to be dynamic. In other words : when you read this document after the first official release (v1.0) and you want to add something, please mail them to any member of the Metalscene Central staff, having 'Tracking Manual Tip(s)' in your e-mail topic.

The main goal is, I repeat, to help everyone to improve the quality of their metalmods. Please do not criticize anyone's tips, but submit constructive tips yourself. It will be printed in the next version, with your name mentioned, of course. This document doesn't lean towards any metal-style, I have to confess the truth : I like extreme metal. Despite this, the document should be useful for nonextremists too. The info might be useful for other musical styles, I like several musical styles. But I LOVE metal. So metal is the main thing in this document. This is not a manual for IT, FT2 etc. These manuals are included with the corresponding programs. If you're a real novice, you should choose by trying out, which tracker you want to use. Fast Tracker 2 and Impulse Tracker are most commonly used. Both programs have their strong and weak points. Both programs are dos-based. In the future there will be REAL windows-based trackers.(Or not, anyway, I'm a firm believer.) The upcoming (is it?) Impulse Tracker 3.0 is gonna be Windows 95 based. I don't know anything about trackers on other platforms. If anybody has something to submit to this document about mod-software/tracking on other platform(such as the Apple Macintosh, the Amiga, Linux, OS/2 etc.), please let me know.

Version 2.1 offers supplements with heavy musical theory concerning metal and some guitar music theory in general. Much of this will be of no use for beginning trackers, but experienced trackers should recognize the value of this information, especially those who play an instrument. Some tips coming from Betrayer are added too. Also, as it is noticable, the whole manual is now using referants, which will promtly take you to your desired topic. Referants were implemented to ease the use of this rather lengthy document. Oh, and a I've solved some stupid grammar-mistakes. (Mostly mine.)

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[2. Making samples]

To make a metalmod acceptable it's necessary to make the guitars sound real. Metal is guitar-based music. It would be the best thing to sample an entire riff/solo. To make things really hi-fi you should sample everything at 44,1kHZ 16bits which takes appr. 12Mb per minute. But don't be discouraged, there are some useful tricks to avoid above-50Mb mods. To keep your file downloadable you should make all recordings 11kHz 8 bits, preferably. The drawback with this is the numbness in the sound and the mod will still take up about 2 Mb of memory. A comprise can be to sample the riff and analyze it and use 2 or 3 short samples to reproduce it. This is a good method hence :

- you play guitar yourself

- you don't use to many riff's/solo's

- you can live with a lo-fi sound

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[2.1 Bitrates]

To make songs compress better with PKZIP etc. you can convert loud sounds (guitar, screams) to a lower bitrate. Here's a table, how to get different bit depths :

4bit: Change volume to 6%, then "get maximum scale" as many times as you can

5bit: -||- to 12% -||-

6bit: -||- to 25% -||-

7bit: -||- to 50% -||- (Cadaver)

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[2.2 Sample frequencies]

Acoustic & bass can often be downsampled to 22kHz with no noticeable loss of quality. (........) Distorted guitar & screams can be dropped to 11kHz or even lower if you're after an evil lo-fi black metal sound. (Cadaver)

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[2.3 Minimizing samples]

In true black metal when there's fast strumming of a chord you can record a little bit (8 or 16 strokes again) and then make a pingpong loop. It will often sound very natural. (Cadaver)

When a song is finished, it's recommended to look if an intire wave is used in the whole song, maybe you could cut it off at the end or use looping. This can reduce the total mod-size with app. 100 to 200k (depending on how much samples used.) (Palergir)

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[2.4 Sample timing]

This is a bitch... I record a drumtrack to a tape (It's easy because I use a tape recorder's line-in for the soundcard output) and then play along to that. But often I have to adjust the tempo to make it time exactly right, perhaps the tape recorder is to blame. (Cadaver)


A: A sample offset (command 9) is used to start the sample a little bit "into" the sample instead of from the beginning. For example, if you record yourself saying "Hello, this is NiC", and playback that with a sample offset, you would only hear "this is NiC", or "is NiC" depending on how large you set the offset. When I record a guitar solo sample, I often edit the sample so a little noise is heard in the beginning (from the pick). Then, when I go track the song, maybe I want to do a fast solo part with hammer-on's, or pull-off's for instance, and in that case I don't want to hear the noise from the pick, right? So I set the sample offset with a command like 902 or 904. That way, the noise isn't heard but the rest of the note is... (Betrayer)

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[2.5 Quality tips]

[2.5.1 General]

I often use the following technique to get loud samples; for instance a sample my guitar, leave it in 44,1kHz 16bits. Import it in FT2 and place the sample in 8 bars and save the xm as wave. This will result in a 44,1kHz 16bits wave with a real loud sound which can be converted to any sample format. To prevent aliasing, filter your sample before downsampling. This should be filtered with half the frequency you're downsampling to. For instance : filter with a border of 11kHz when you want to downsample to 22kHz. Keep reducing 16bit to 8bit for the end. (Palergir)

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[2.5.2 Vocals]

Unless you are a qualified vocalist/singer/choir person(!), you will probably need to practice every pitch of each syllable in every word thoroughly, and for this I HIGHLY recommend using a tape-recorder, so that you can listen to the parts where your vocals disappear (and there will always be a patch somewhere). This way, you can get all the parts of the song just right, bit by bit, performing transferring your vocals to tape (via simple cable connection). You must use a high quality mic for this, otherwise you will record a lot interference in the transfer. If you are worried about vocal sample size, you could quite easily reduce the quality to 8 Bit, once you have polished the samples in an appropriate manner. (Violator)

When recording screams put the mike close to your mouth to get aggression. Distortion/clipping is not so bad at all. Reverb adds evil to the voice. (Cadaver)

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[2.5.3 Guitar]

Guitar samples (especially distorted) can sound unnatural if played on different pitches than the original recording pitch. (....)If you cannot do that then use a different sample at every 3 or 5 halfsteps or so. Sample them from approximately the same fret position to avoid changing the tone.(.....) If you make fast palmmuted riffs then record a different sample for upstroke and downstroke. Try to cut a bit from the beginning of the sample to make it sound more natural, or use the Sample-Offset command. You can also record for example 8 or 16 strokes and loop them. (.....) Use a microphone when recording guitar samples. In my opinion line- out/ speaker simulator sounds too trebly & unnatural. (.....) Record guitarfeedback & pick slides and other noises for garage feel.(Cadaver)

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[2.5.4 Bass]

For bass guitar using direct line-out from the amplifier can be good (more low frequencies) (Cadaver)

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[2.5.5 Drum sampling]

(.......) you can EQ the samples with some program. To make kickdrum more effective add frequencies at & below 100 Hz and some high (1000 Hz or so) too. To enhance snare add frequencies between 500-2000 Hz. For hihats & cymbals you can add high frequencies & remove lows. (Cadaver)

(............) Well for sampling I have not much to say. Good microphone would be good and drums of course. With good software like Cool Edit Pro you can then edit them and you have pretty good drum sample set ready. Most people underestimate the meaning of drums which are actually very important instrument in metal. No matter how good guitar samples you have without good drum samples the song just sucks. I have heard many tracks which have this mistake in them. So when you make a drum sample set you better use a high sample rate. At least 22khz for snare, tomtom and bass drum. For hihats and cymbals it's even higher like 32khz. Now you complain the size of these samples but that is the sacrifice we must do if we want at least average drums. (Galahad)

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[3. Composing]

[ 3.1 General]

About arrangements, I think the three most important parts of tracking are: 1-THE MUSIC (if you compose) or THE ACCURACY (if you do covers), 2-THE SOUND (which might be the key factor on a big project) 3-THE STYLE. About the music/accuracy it is more in the eye of the beholder and has to do with the spectator more than the artist. (......) about the sound : First of all, you have to hear each instrument in the song. DRUMS, BASS, GUITAR, VOCALS and KEYBOARD (if it applies). In metal, you also have to be loud. (This was my main weakness when I started out). Let's say you play a mod and the sound is very low. Any metal lover instinctively cranks up the volume. And any metal lover almost never turns down volume, so if the next mod is very loud, well it just KNOCKS the listener out of his freakin' seat. If your mod benefits from this advantage, you might get lucky. (......) Don't be afraid to repeat an intrument in two tracks, to give it more impact. I sometimes overuse this technique. Most of my songs have from 16 to 18 tracks. When there are strong keyboards, I can bounce to 24 tracks. But in metal, you shouldn't exceed 32 tracks, unless you do BLIND GUARDIAN songs :) Lastly in this aspect, the right dosage of LEFT and RIGHT is important to simulate the stereo effect, since the samples are all mono. You can have stereo guitar, but normally there's one guitar left, one right. For other instruments, you must let your ear be the judge. About the style. It's important to find your own style, and not imitate the style of others. You can imitate techniques or sound arrangements, but you have to have a personal touch to your work. Also, for example, if you do DEATH or BLACK METAL, and wanna do a cover of let's say, IRON MAIDEN or KISS, it would be so cool if we could hear the DEATH or BLACK version of the song. You have to adapt anything you do to your style, and vice-versa. And you also have to evolve, and not always do the same old thing, otherwise you'll be the first to get bored and you might bore others. Also, don't do only covers, or only originals. But mainly, don't do only covers, cause they're damn hard and much more time consuming, since you don't decide when to quit... (Dragon)

I prefer one loud rhythm guitar + one loud bass guitar and then perhaps lead guitar/keyboards over that. I think keeping an arrangement simple makes it more powerful. Bass guitar is most powerful when it plays the same rhythm as the kick&snaredrum. (Cadaver)

Q: HOW DO I CREATE AN INSTRUMENT? A: First, you need to know the difference between a sample and an instrument. A Sample is ONE particular sound, and an Instrument is a collection of Samples (maximum 16). First, choose which Instrument position you want to edit, and then load a Sample (WAV or IFF) into position 00 in the Samplewindow (NO, not the Sample-Editor stupid!). Then switch to position 01 (still in the Sample-window, not the Editor) and load the next Sample. Continue until you have filled the Instrument with the Samples you want to use. Now, go to the Intrument-editor (the window with the keyboard picture in it). Choose which key on your computer keyboard that should be used to play Sample number 00. Use the "tone-relative" key to the right to tune the sample correct. Next, click at Sample number 01 (in the sample-window) and choose the key on your computer keyboard that should be used to play that Sample. Press the key and you will see which key on the keyboard picture (Instrument-editor) that flashes. Click at that key with the mouse and you will notice that instead of the "0" there is now a "1" on that particular key. Use the "tone-relative" key to the right again to tune the Sample correct and continue as above with Sample number 02 and so on... (Betrayer)

Do not overestimate the influence of effects. Effects can be used for subtle alterations to the piece, not for changing the way it sounds altogether. A 32-channel tune is no better than a 4-channel tune if it is mixed badly. Instruments at lower volume won't be heard, subconsciously or otherwise, if they are drowned out by the other instruments in the song. So get rid of them and use the channels for something more useful. You could use climaxes. Climaxes make great songs, but require patience to write. They're built on stress... The tension between two forces (styles) in a song. The harsher, heavier side is trying to break free of the other. (SOME TRACKER-TUTORIAL ON THE WEB)

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[3.2 Each instrument]

[3.2.1 Vocals]

Once the bass is in place, add the vocals. These are unlike any other samples, because if they are distorted (e.g. growling/screaming) they will probably not be harmonic in the sense of the music... when you practice and record, you should sing/scream while playing the track... train yourself for the timing, make appropriate pitch changes so that your voice does not disappear behind some notes of the guitars or drumming. You may have to dim some of the cymbals or double the volume/ lines of your vocal samples in order to be heard. (Violator)

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[3.2.2 Guitars]

the lead guitar is the start of the song (this may seem obvious, but it is important). (Violator)

I also use at least 2 tracks for both guitar and bass. I've been doing it like this for two years now and it works very well. If you are Impulse Tracker user I recommend using virtual channels for drums so the number of physical channels needed is not so big. (Galahad)


A: Fairly easy. It's all depending on which "tempo" you set in the song. (command F) I always start with the tempo set at 06. That way I have the most possibilities to change the appearance of the track later. So, with the tempo set to F06, each row in the tracker is one 16th note. In other words one quarter note is four rows and one whole note is 16 rows. Now, how do I create a triplet? Well.. by changing the tempo to F04, a quarter note becomes six rows, and one whole note 24 rows. Now when the quarter note is six rows long, you can play the triplet by inserting the notes at row 1, 3 and 5. Each note will be two rows (2 rows times 3 notes equals 6 rows...) and you have a triplet played in the same duration that it will take a "normal" quarter note played at tempo F06... geez, that was deep, eh? ;) Another solution, if you just want to have the triplet in one channel, is to use the 'note delay' command. Again, the tempo is set to F06, and you want to do a triplet where the other channels play a standard quarter note (4 rows). It's done like this: You play the triplet's first note at row one, the second note at row 2, with a note delay of 1/3rd (ED2) and the third note at row 3, with a note delay of 2/3rds (ED4). Leave the 4th row clear. Done! (Betrayer)

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[3.2.3 Synths]

If you want to use synths on top of the guitars, these should also be placed before most of the drumming has been laid down... this is so you can have a clear, sharp sound of the harmony you want before the drumming clouds it out. (Violator)

To keep the modsize within a decent size, it might be an idea to mix synth-samples together, when they are (always) used at the same time. (Palergir)

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[3.2.4 Bass]

Unless the bass has some special function, e.g. some black-metal styles, leave it until last. (.......) it is preferable to use more than one bassguitar sample, but not essential... some notes will just NOT sound right, and you should be able to hear straight away if there is a clash (Violator)

Another sound notion is the right dosage of BASS and TREBLE. Normally, I say you must have a strong pumping BASS, but you can't muffle the TREBLE, especially in cymbals, hihats, snares or lead guitars. (Dragon)

When writing not to fast material, you can double a bassnote one line later with half the volume to make a really fat basssound. (Palergir)

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[3.2.5 Drums]

Once you have laid out all your patterns of the riffs you want in the song, in order, you should work on the basic percussion, i.e. snares and bass-drum/speed pedals. Once you have perfected the basic timing you want in your track, add the smash cymbal. (.......) Don't add any drumtricks/one-off variations until you have finished all the basic drumming... makes for clearer thought.(for me anyway) Add any hihats/ride cymbals/crash cymbals that are necessary for secondary timing. When these are in place, add the drum tricks/variations... they should fit in with minimal difficulty. (Violator)

(.......) Here I advise to think that a drummer has only 2 feet and 2 hands, so during a fast drumfill that requires both hands there cannot be hihats etc. Listening closely to drums on a record helps (.....) When tracking drums use Note Delays/small volume changes to make them sound natural. Especially in doublebassdrum passages a Note Delay of 1 here and there sounds good. (Cadaver)

Many mods are dead accurate, original and in a great style, but they turn me off cause the CYMBALS or HIHATS sound like they are TRAPPED UNDER ICE (nice METALLICA allusion here). The drumsound is important, it dictates the quality of good metal. (Dragon)

(....) What to say about tracking drums so that all beginners would understand it too. After all drums are such instrument that most veterans don't need advices for them anymore. So I go for short. Depends on your number of guitar and bass tracks the number of drum tracks you need. Very often drums are left for one track while guitar roams with two or even three tracks. Result of this action is that drums disappear almost entirely while guitar covers all other sounds. So one basic rule is: use the same number of tracks for drums and guitar. If you use only one track for guitar and bass both then the minimum number of tracks used for drums is 3 tracks. One for bass drum, snare and tomtom, one for hihats and one for cymbal. Many trackers use two tracks for bassdrum, snare and tomtom which is a good solution in many cases since you get more live play feeling on them. I personally use about 6-8 tracks for drums because I double everything to make it sound more powerful. (..HOW TO PREVENT NOTE CLASHES) This is a thing where I can't really help you a lot. If you are so new tracker that you can't do drums without note clashes it would be better that you don't spread your songs around yet because all mistakes in drums can be heard very well from the tune and usually if drums are messed you have messed everything else too because very often drums carry the song forward. So learn all the basic parts of metal before you release the song to the public. Too many trackers start releasing their stuff way too soon and the first tunes sound like shit. (Galahad)

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[4. Last words]

I'd like to encourage everyone to keep investing in the metaltrackers scene. Achieve as much experience as you can get!! Let's not bash or ridicule each others style, but try to lift the quality of metaltracking on a higher level. For beginners. Don't be intimidated by the load of new information in this document. You should download some mods (or an entire musicdisk like Tracked Aggression, to get a good picture of the whole scene. This can be done at MTiS) and analyze and listen to them closely. Oh...and eh, welcome to the scene. Comments, questions, hints? Mail them.

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[5. Credits]

This document wouldn't be here without the great help of the following people. THANKS GUYS!

Betrayer - homepage : http://welcome.to/betrayer

Cadaver - homepage : http://www.student.oulu.fi/~loorni

Crux Humanus

Dragon - homepage : http://www.netrover.com/~rickhal/rickhalm.htm

Galahad - homepage : http://metalscene.tsx.org/ (and the Red Rain-crew)


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[Supplement A: TAB-to-MOD, a way to cover]

NOTE : This is only for tracking cover-mods, or converting a riff you've created on your guitar.

When you got tab from your favorite band and want to make a cover of it this can be of some help. Tab represents the fretboard of a guitar. 6 lines, representing six strings. Understanding tab comes down to the following diagram :














NOTE 1 : keep in mind that the concerning band might have used down-tuning. Especially deathmetal bands have used this. In this can simply be done in a mod, by downtuning the sample. When the guitars need to be downtuned in B (5 steps), tune the sample 5 notes down.

NOTE 2 : tab gives no info on tempo(changes). For the reproduction of a riff, listen closely to the original and compare your version to it until they're the same. (as good as)

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[Supplement B: The theory of sampling]

NOTE : This info might only be useful for people who want to uplift their samplequality to ultra-maximum.

(taken from 'The Tracker's Handbook')

As you probably know from physics, sound is essentially made up of waves travelling through the air sound is merely vibration caused by some object or another. Of course, that isn't entirely accurate, as sound can pass through solids and liquids as well (in fact, the denser the medium, the better the sound is conducted - that's why whales can communicate with each other over distances of miles, because water is denser than air.) The medium through which the wave is travelling doesn't actually move, either, or at least not much more that it takes for one molecule to bump into the next one (think of a Mexican wave at a football match, and you'll get the picture). The vibrations remain vibrations until they come into contact with something that can hear, i.e. an ear (but *not* a microphone, because a microphone merely captures some of the vibration and sends it down a wire). The faster the vibration, the higher the frequency, the higher the pitch of the sound; humans can hear from about 20hz to about 20,000hz (although the more you abuse your ear by pumping high decibel sound into it, the less high the frequency you can hear). There isn't much, musically speaking, between the 12Khz to 20Khz ranges - you would notice the difference if you compared a song through 12Khz and 20Khz ears, but there wouldn't be much. It is claimed by many that we are sensitive, although not actually aware, of sound well above 20Khz and below 20hz, and this is why professional equipment will have such a wide frequency response.

The intensity of the sound wave determines the loudness of the sound (the harder you strike a drum, the bigger the oscillation of the skin, and hence the louder the drum - the frequency is unaffected), and sound is traditionally measured in decibels. Literally, 0 decibels (0 dB) is equivalent to an sound pressure level of 20 microPascals, which is the lowest possible level of sound that your average Joe will be able to hear. Clearly, this is a relative figure, as everybody's hearing is slightly different. The decibel scale is logarithmic, because that is the way our brain interprets a change in sound level (for example, the brain reckons that 40,000 mPascals is only twice as loud as 4,000 microPascals; the figure in decibels represents our perception of it.) Now you are likely aware that computers operate entirely digitally (with the only possible numbers at the lowest level being 1 or 0, one of two states, on or off).

So how do we translate an analogue vibration into an internal, digital, package of data? Well, imagine the sound coming into the computer on a conveyer belt, and every few thousandths of a second the bit coming past is chopped off, and measured. Got it? That is essentially, the way a computer samples a sound - a wave file on disk is essentially a large stream of numbers, each representing the level that was measured in that particular time interval. That time interval is what we are referring to when we talk about sampling at 11.025kHz, 22.05kHz, 44.1kHz, or even 48kHz. The number refers to the number of times the knife comes down on the wave, chops off a slice, and measures it; accurate sound reproduction requires a sampling rate of around 40kHz, CDs are done at 44.1kHz, and DATs at 48kHz. Generally the sampling frequency is around twice the highest frequency that can be represented, so if you sample at 22.05kHz, you are restricting the discernible sound to between around 20Hz to 11.025kHz. Which is why the lower your sampling-rate is, the lower the quality of your sound. Of course, sometimes you actually want it to sound that bit rougher. Also, if you know that your sound won't use higher frequencies at all, then it is fine to sample at a lower rate, and you'll be hard pushed to spot the difference. But as you'll know, if you've used Cool Edit or something similar, you also get the choice between sampling it 8-Bit or 16-Bit.

So what difference does that make? Well, if you know anything about binary numbers, you'll probably be way ahead of me here, but just in case: A decimal number is made up of units, tens, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands and so on, in effect powers of 10 (10^0, 10^1, 10^2, 10^3, 10^4, etc.). So when you write 3252 you are in effect saying 3 thousands, 2 hundreds, 5 tens, and 2 ones or 3 10^3s, 2 10^2s, 5 10^1s, and 2 10^0s (any number to the power 0 is always 1). Similarly, a binary number is made up of ones, twos, fours, eight's, sixteen's (or 2^0s, 2^1s, 2^2s, 2^3s, 2^4s, etc - 2, because there are two possible states, 1 and 0). For example, the binary number 1101 is in effect 1 2^3, 1 2^2, 0 2^1, and 1 2^0, or 8 + 4 + 0 + 1, 13. An 8-Bit number can represent 256 ((2^8) - 1) different states (0000,0000 through 1111,1111), and a 16-Bit number 65,536 ((2^16) -1) different states. You remember earlier we said that when the computer measures the level of the incoming wave on the conveyer belt, it stores it as a number. With an 8-Bit sampling resolution, it has to choose that number from 256 possible states, so if the wave happens to fall between 2 of those 256 numbers at that particular time interval, the computer has to choose the nearest. You've probably seen the same thing happen in primitive graphics packages - draw a diagonal line, and you end up with a stepped line. 16-Bits, therefore, provide a lot clearer sound quality, as you have more levels to choose from; even 16-Bits, however, are not perfect, and studios commonly work with 20-Bit resolutions, which provide 1,048,576 different possible levels, or 24-Bit resolutions, which provide 16,777,216 different levels. Similar to there being a relationship between sampling rate and the frequency response of the sound, there is also a relationship between the dynamic range (the possible variation in level of the sound) and the sampling resolution. A 16-Bit resolution gives a dynamic range of 96dBs, or 6 times the resolution. Don't worry about why, just accept it. When we say a dynamic range of 96dBs, we do not of course mean that the loudest possible level is 96dB, we simply mean the range of possible levels is 96dB wide (any amplifier can make something louder or quieter quite easily.)

One thing you should ensure when sampling, then, is that your source is within the dynamic range of at the resolution you are sampling at. As an experiment, shout or scream into the microphone at 8-Bits, and then repeat at 16-Bits. When you look at the 8-Bit one, you'll notice that the wave is cut off at the highest possible point, it is just a straight line or block going as high as the top of the screen. What this means is that there were sounds at higher levels than the resolution allows, but the computer couldn't cope with them because it was only sampling at 8-Bit; thus it assigned them to the nearest level, which was the highest possible one. This is known as clipping. Your 16-Bit sample will probably still have some clipping, but considerably less. To get round this, either use a compressor, so that all sounds are restricted to a certain dynamic range, or adjust your gain and input levels. If you know you are going to be recording a very loud noise, drop the gain right down, to keep it all within the range. Of course, if you are looking for weird effects and so on, you may wish to try ignoring the guidelines for good quality sounds; things sampled at low resolutions, frequencies or with clipping can sound interesting. It is important that you understand what they mean, though, as you can only properly experiment with something that you understand.

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[Supplement C: A theoritician's view of metal]

NOTE : It's not necessary to understand this theory, to create a metalmod. The reason for putting this supplement in the document is only for the sake of mostly the experienced trackers/musicians.


This is a talk about what metal music is, in relation to other kinds of music, because I've never really seen a document that compared it to legitimate and/or non-popular music styles (e.g. jazz and European classical music) as if it were an equal art form. Whether it is or not is up to you. I don't even know myself, so don't ask. But for the sake of having something to write about I'll treat it as though it is for right now.


The first, and biggest difference, I notice when comparing metal to other more conventional forms of music is the mixture of harmony and melody. Musicians versed in the vocabulary of metal know that it is mostly made up of what are called riffs. In this document I will use the word cell to refer to what would usually be called a riff. Cells in metal are of three basic types: Melodic Harmonic Rhythmic Mixed And let's define a piece (song) is a combination of these types of cells with a certain amount of repetition and variance.

MELODIC cells consist of single note lines, that is, lines that do not include polyphony harmony. (Ex. 1) Sometimes a melody will be doubled by both guitars, but played separated by a certain interval (usually a P4 or P5). (Ex. 2) I still consider these to be melodic cells, whereas if the intervallic distance between the voices changes over the course of the phrase I would consider it to be more of a harmonic cell as this is usually an attempt to approximate some kind of harmony (e.g. black metal). (Ex. 3)

HARMONIC cells are those that consist of polyphonic textures (i.e. more than one note sounding simultaneously). The harmony can be as simple as a two note interval, or as dense as a major seventh chord with several upper extensions. It is usually considerably less complex since extended harmonies are usually lost to distortion, and are less stable and less "heavy" than smaller structures like the P5 chord. The P5 chord (e.g. E5) is probably the most common harmonic element in all rock music today. (Ex. 4) It is a triad with the third omitted, thus depriving it of any tonality major or minor. However, these chords can be made to seem like they are functional by playing them from potent roots in a scale. A good example is that you will notice a blues played with only P5 chords will still be identifiable as a blues even though all the tonalities of the chords have been removed. (Ex. 5).

RHYTHMIC cells are composed of a single sound, not necessarily a tone, with the importance placed upon the rhythm with which it is played rather than the pitch of the sound itself. My friends and I often refer to this sort of cell as "the E bangin' section." (Ex. 6) And finally,

MIXED cells are those which contain elements of two or more of the above ideas. (Ex. 7) In addition to all these metal music will occasionally break down into sections of conventional harmony. These sections are used to provide contrast to the heavier, louder, more dissonant parts of songs. These occur most often as introductions or out vamps, or slightly more rarely as middle sections to songs. (Ex. 8) Anything you hear in metal music can most likely be broken down and fit into one of these categories.


A special word has to be said about the tonality of modern metal music. In stark contrast to European classical music a staple of the metal idiom is the tonicization of diminished chords. Most songs by the band Cannibal Corpse are made mainly of diminished chords/scales spelled from the lowest note of the guitar. (For the sake of those with locking tunings all examples will assume E to be your lowest string/note.) E, G, and Bb and the P5 chords built off of them are almost certainly the most common notes played in metal music today. For more "thrash" oriented metal we can add the note A to that, as this style is based more on the pentatonic blues scale (From E = E G A Bb B D) and tonality rather than the diminished or whole tone scales/tonalities of most death metal. Compare the tonalities Cannibal Corpse implies against the tonalities implied by the cells and solos of Pantera's Dimebag Darrel to hear diminished/whole tone tonality versus blues (respectively).


The rhythmic pulse of metal takes after European classical music. In a bar of 4/4 the strong beats will be heard as 1 and 3, with the bass drum almost always reinforcing these beats. Even without this reinforcement though the 1 and 3 pulse is still felt. Sixteenth and eighth notes are straight (i.e. not swung), the only exception to this rule being some hiphop/metal crossover pieces. Since the beginning of metal as such, which this document will treat as the first recordings of the band Black Sabbath. The rhythmic element of the music has been of prime importance.

Even the early recordings of Black Sabbath features manic drumming (for that time) and numerous tempo and feel changes. Bands in the '70s like Rush, King Crimson, and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, used odd meter frequently in their compositions. And during the '80s bands like Metallica used odd meter while delivering uncompromisingly heavy music. Now as the '90s progress bands like Death, Suffocation, Pantera, Deicide, and Meshuggah, push the limits of the contemporary metal rhythm section. Metric modulation is the process of adopting some subdivision of the macro beat as the new macro. The term metric modulation was used by Elliot Carter to describe a method of changing tempo by equating a particular note value to a proportional value of that, or another, note value (p.533 Tonal Harmony, Kostka and Payne).

The band Death is a good example of a group that uses many metric modulations. Polymetrical playing is another area where modern metal bands have made considerable advances.

The band Meshuggah is the best example of this concept available. Almost everything they play is polymetric, with the guitars playing in an odd meter or with odd groupings of triplets atop a traditional 4/4 back beat provided by the drummer. In this way they are able to use odd meter and still be able to nod their head to their music most of the time. We'll talk more about the head nodding factor in the section on aesthetics. :)


There are several levels at which you can examine form in metal music. You can analyse form from cell to cell, or you can expand the analyzation to the broader picture of form. We'll examine the song Satan Spawn the Caco Daemon by Deicide. (Ex. 6). My cell by cell analysis is this - intro A B C D E B C D E F(solo) A Although this analysis does not indicate it, the cells of the song are repeated multiple times (usually four or eight) when they occur. In more traditionallooking form notation, this piece is basically binary, or A B A B', with a verse then a chorus followed by another verse and chorus. The piece has an introduction (the "intro" and "A" riffs in the cell analysis, but the truly important elements of the form are indicated by the vocal part. The verse falls over the B C and D cells, while the chorus is over E. When you examine the music this way you can see that it doesn't take a great deal of material to produce a good piece of music. This song is composed of six basic cells. The difficulty lies in executing the cells and their meter changes. The A cell (repeated 4 times) is made up of three bars of 6/8 followed by a bar of 10/8. The B cell (repeated 8 times) is in 13/8.


Instrumentation for the modern metal ensemble usually consists of two electric guitars, bass guitar, drum set, and vocalist, although some bands such as Fear Factory, and Dream Theater are now starting to include synthesizers in this mix.

Guitars, usually tuned (from lowest string to highest) E A D G B E are frequently detuned a whole step or more in the search for the heaviest sound possible. Some guitarists tune only their low E string down a whole step to make it easier to play P5 chords and so they don't have to detune the rest of their guitar. This can be useful if you aren't tuning down for every song. Ibanez guitars began producing seven string guitars (with an additional low B string) several years ago and with the growing popularity of five and six string basses it was only the natural progression for metal musicians to adopt these instruments in their quest for the ultimate crunch.

Bands like Cannibal Corpse and Meshuggah play seven string guitars on some songs and even tune them down a half step. After tuning the guitar signal is processed almost always by a distortion effects unit, either rack or pedal. These pedals take the waveform produced by the quitar and alter it to be more like a square wave. After this the signal is equalized and usually has lows and highs boosted while the middle frequencies are almost removed. With the amount of detuning and distortion going on it's important for certain other instruments to alter the way they sound as well. The kick drums of any modern metal band you listen to that plays fast sixteenth notes will almost always be tuned very tight and/or fitted with triggers to a drum sound module capable of producing a clicky sound. The high pitch and clicky sound are required to help bring out fast notes played on the guitars which, by themselves, are occasionally too low and distorted to be understood. But with the addition of the tightly tuned sixteenth note double bass, the rhythms are immidiately audible. Snare drums are tuned very tightly, gated, and even triggered as well as they have to cut through the din of the distorted guitars and bass. Tomtom drums are typically tuned quite low and equalized to add even more low end.

The bassist in a modern metal band today will often play a variety of extended range instruments. Alex Webster of Cannibal Corpse plays a 36" scale Modulus graphite neck instrument. The extra inches in the scale help to keep the tension up on the B string, which aids in playing faster as well as producing better tone. The graphite neck also produces a very present sound, desirable when attempting to cut through the noise of two low, distorted guitars. Some bassists may use distortion on their instruments as well, and follow generally the same equalization patterns as their upper octave brethren. Vocalists range from throaty screams to full on sub-low, gargling-with-broken-glass growls. Vocals will typically be layered in certain sections to build and release tension.


Aesthetics are an important part of metal. Probably one of the most common misconceptions about metal is that it is easy to execute and perform. Actually it is one of the most difficult musical styles to produce a good presentation of. Looking at a score for a piece of metal one may or may not see many difficult passages, but it is not always the amount of notes, velocity, or rhythm that makes metal difficult. Affecting a convincingly "heavy" sound while incorporating appropriate stylistic elements of stage presence is the truly challenging part of playing metal music. The modern metal musician must be more than just a musician, he/she must be an athlete as well. Due to the intensity, volume, and complex rhythmic style of the music it is necessary for the musicians to convey to the crowd, through bodylanguage A) where the time is, and B) the mood of the music. This is most often accomplished by "headbanging." Anyone who has played rhythms in odd meter (like 7/8) knows that it is a challenge to headbang to them because they typically "flip" from one repetition to the next. This is difficult because in most cases the quarter note is the division of the beat that is headbanged to.

(c)1997 Deadthing All documents distributable for non-profit educational purposes only.

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[Supplement D: Chord-leading : a theory behind riffs]

NOTE : It's not necessary to understand this theory, to compose metalmods. The reason for putting this supplement in the document is only for the sake of mostly musical-educated trackers.

CHORD PATTERNS APPENDIX. There are two main chord construction patterns. I'll call them the E major and the A major patterns or simply "E" and "A", because these are the chords in the first position.

Triads on the fretboard "E"-PATTERN The E major chord (E) consists of root E, major third G# and perfect fifth B. The following six-string chord is a way to play E:

e R|----|----|----|... E B p5|----|----|----|... B G | |-M3-|----|----|... G# D | |----|--R-|----|... E A | |----|-p5-|----|... B E R|----|----|----|... E 1st 3rd fret

On the right of each string we write the note. On the fret we write the interval. Try to learn which interval you have on each string. This will help when you build complicated chords. If you leave the 3rd string unfretted then you get a G natural instead of a G#. That will make a minor third and consequently the E minor(Em)chord:

e R|----|----|----|... E B p5|----|----|----|... B G m3(----|----|----|... G (== D ||----|--R-|----|... E A ||----|-p5-|----|... B E R|----|----|----|... E 1st 3rd fret

The signs "(" or ")" in the place of a fret indicate which note should be lowered or raised from the original major pattern to obtain the desired chord. To get the augmented E (E+) you should begin with the E major and raise the fifth a fret. The fifth is B and it appears on two strings: the open second and the fretted fifth. You should raise both of them:

e R|----|----|----|... E B |)-#5-|----|----|... B# (== G ||-M3-|----|----|... G# D ||----|--R-|----|... E A ||----|----)-#5-|... B# (== E R|----|----|----|... E 1st 3rd fret

That's really difficult and impracticable to play as a six-string chord. You should either play only the 4 notes starting from bass, or the four higher strings starting from the D-string. To get the diminished triad E (Eb5) you should begin with the E minor and lower the fifth a fret. It is impossible to lower an open string so this will only work on the 4 top strings (B should not sound!):

e R|----|----|----|... E B X|----|----|----|... G m3(----|----|----|... G D ||----|--R-|----|... E A ||-b5-(----|----|... Bb (== E R|----|----|----|... E 1st 3rd fret

Well if you transpose these patterns and use your first finger as a barre you can play the F chords (barre on 1st fret), the G chords (barre on 3rd fret) and so on... That's why I call it a pattern. "A"-PATTERN The A major chord consists of A, C# and E. (Note that we leave the first string be- cause be strumming all the strings, three fifths (Es) in the chord will give it an E chord character. In fingerpicking however one can play it)

e p5|----|----|----|... E B ||----|-M3-|----|... C# G ||----|--R-|----|... A D ||----|-p5-|----|... E A R|----|----|----|... A E X|----|----|----|... 1st 3rd fret

Well now you know how it goes... Fret C instead of C# to get the minor chord (Am):

e p5|----|----|----|... E B ||-m3-(----|----|... C (== G ||----|--R-|----|... A D ||----|-p5-|----|... E A R|----|----|----|... A E X|----|----|----|... 1st 3rd fret

Take the major and raise the fifth to get the augmented A (A+):

e ||-#5-|----|----|... E# (== B ||----|-M3-|----|... C# G ||----|--R-|----|... A D ||----|----|-#5-|... E# (== A R|----|----|----|... A E X|----|----|----|... 1st 3rd fret

Take the minor and lower the fifth to get the diminished triad A (Ab5). Notice the X's!:

e X|----|----|----|... B ||-m3-(----|----|... C G ||----|--R-|----|... A D ||-b5-|----|----|... Eb (== A R|----|----|----|... A E X|----|----|----|... 1st 3rd fret

Transpose these patterns and get all the chords you need... (...........) One important part of music theory is the idea that certain chords lead to other chords. As you already know, chords in each song revolve around the tonic chord of the key. This chord shares the name of the key, so in the key of G the tonic is G. But when we say "revolve" what do we mean?

Well, in a way, each of the other chords are floating out in space trying to get back to the tonic. Some of them do not lead directly to the tonic, but get there through other chords. This sets up the chord progression of a song: which chord does the current chord lead to? I'm not saying that these chords must always follow each other,but chord leading is a very power- ful technique that can give meaning and resolution to a chord progression. All of the examples I use on this page are in the key of G. So when I mention a chord, I am referring to its position in the key of G. Chords That Resolve to the Tonic (I) The second most important chord in any song is the dominant, or fifth (D in the key of G). This chord resolves to the tonic because it contains the leading tone. For example, in the key of G, the dominant D chord contains D, F#, and A; the F# leads to the G. Obviously this does not mean that the dominant can only move to the tonic, it means that to end a piece of music, a V-I progression is a very good choice. Try playing D-G over and over to see how well D resolves to G.

The dominant seventh chord (V7) also resolves to the tonic, in fact it resolves better than the dominant alone. This is because while the leading tone (in this case F#) still resolves one half-step up to the tonic G, the seventh (C) resolves down one half-step to B, which is the third of the G chord (G, B, D). Play D7-G several times to hear what I am talking about. One thing to mention: when resolving D7-G, play the G like this: 320003, because then the C-B resolution can be heard better. Chords That Resolve to the Dominant (V) The second (ii) leads very strongly to the dominant. This is because of an abstract theory idea: just as the dominant moves to the tonic, the second (which is the "dominant" of the dominant) moves toward the dominant. Therefore, Am-D-G is a very solid ending and is used very frequently in music. Play this several times to see how it sounds. The fourth (IV) also leads to the dominant, but not as strongly as the second.

Play C-D-G (IV-V-I) and you will find that it sounds very good. Chords That Resolve to the Second (ii) The sixth (vi) is the only chord left with any reasonable leading tendencies. The sixth leads to the second, for the same reasons cited before for other chords: it is the "dominant" of the second. A good way to resolve the use of an Em chord is to follow it up with an Am chord. The Remaining Chords The only chord left is the third (Bm in G). The leading qualities of this chord are very limited. Basically it can move to any other chord, and is not frequently used. The Tonic? You may ask: what happened to the tonic in all this? You have all these chords which eventually lead to the tonic but what happens once you get there? Well, anything can happen. The tonic leads to any other chord. Since it is the center of stability in a key, any other chord will be less stable and therefore you can progress anywhere from it.

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[Supplement E: Metal styles]

NOTE : Don't be dazzled by all the semi-intellectual gibberish in this supplement. It's metal viewed in an artistic/technical way. Written by a reviewer. It gives further insight in the feelings provoked by metal-music.


SYNCOPATION By playing off of internal rhythms, metal bands achieve syncopation -- the inversion of stress in a passage. Normally strong beats are weak and the weak are strong; this effect is often achieved through polyrhythmic overlay by double-bass in death metal bands or by the chaotic, threshing blast beat of blackmetal drummers. The variation enables an excited internal sub-rhythm to drive the song, as many bands do with double bass drums, letting snare and high hat/cymbal disassociate for key structural textures. Slayer - "Hell Awaits" and beyond featured the granddaddy of double-bass technique.

POLYRHYTHM Using multiple rhythms to enhance layering effects bands create multiple dimensions of rhythmic space, using a normally linear framework in new shapes and often long or indeterminate phrases. This can occur in the dominant rhythmic instrument (guitars) or the background rhythm (drums/bass). Some bands have taken this to extremes of chaos piling into itself, revealing an inner consistency and beauty, where others have interpreted this in the way of more contemporary ambient composers and have layered counterpoint or complementary rhythms in complex neo-electronic compositions. Immortal "Pure Holocaust" features raging chaotic polyrhythm and ambient melody.

PERCUSSION Explosive or definitive notes in a phrase are accentuated by percussion in drums or stringed instrument. Most often in guitars this occurs in the bands who muffle chords and strum staccato or interplay phrasing for conclusive effect, more than open-ended styles. Metallica - "Master of Puppets" used emphatic muffled chords for percussive centering in riffs. Sepultura - "Beneath the Remains" combined speed metal percussive strumming and death metal speeds.

TEXTURE Often bands give texture to rhythms by playing multiple levels of rhythm. For example, a guitar changing chords has a dominant rhythm in the beats on which the change occurs, but the chords themselves have a layer of rhythm in the speed with which they are strummed, or in death metal technique, at which their two most essential notes are varied through strumming or hammering. Even further, often the strumming itself has an independent texture which moves with the composition as a whole. Slayer - "Haunting the Chapel" invented the flying wrist technique of achieving hummingbird tremolo strumming.

CONSONANCE "Normal" melodies are used by older styles of heavy metal and sometimes by progressive bands integrating a jazz or rock influence. They are built around the scales used by these forms of music historically and in present essence, and as such are more easily recognized by listeners familiar with more mainstream music. Metallica - "Kill 'Em All" brought metal's separate blues legacy into focus with new styles and heavy metal essence.

DISSONANCE Using dissonant alignment of notes in melodies produces a mournful yet technical sound, so many bands use this technique in both melodic and harmonic construction. Immortal - "Pure Holocaust" and "Blizzard Beasts" feature dissonant melody and use of inversion contra rhythm.

ATONALITY Atonal arrangements of notes produce bizarre and perverse melodies, causing instigation of uprising in the mentality of the listener. The "not tonal" nature of this etymology comes from the lack of a fixed scale, or use of an cycling scale of arbitrary tones. Most metal musicians use this style of composition in conjunction with chromatic scales, dynamically acquiring tone centers through counterpoint and experimenting with classical music theory in key-less anti-melodic architectures. Morbid Angel - "Altars of Madness" through "Covenant" used atonal solos to great effect over dissonant compositions.


CLASSICAL Classical harmonic formations stay within the same key and manipulate different registers of mode or tone. The chromatic scales and intricate arpeggio formations of death and black metal lay their ancestry here and develop into a more direct sense of musical motion. Morbid Angel - "Altars of Madness" evolved this technique into fastpicking and ambient relationship to beat, accentuating it with atonal lead guitars.

JAZZ The freedom and complexity of jazz harmonics attracted many metal composers, who have worked in that area to create bizarre and startling freaks of brutality.

ROCK Oftentimes rock-n-roll influences creep into metal bands and are easily identified by their influence on the dominant rhythms, and by the more mainstream tonal ideas of the pieces. Since rock is essentially blues filtered through the cowboy hobo country music eyepiece, these bands often bear a lot in common with jazz-influence acts.


CYCLIC Most rock songs come of the verse-chorus tradition and consequently so does unstudied death and black metal, as well as most grindcore. The tedium of this technique is sometimes temporarily alleviated by adding another structure or riff pattern on top of the double elements of cycle but even this is transparent.

NARRATIVE When many riffs are joined to form a progression of ideas not as much concerned with creating a piece but a sequence of moods a narrative composition occurs; others call this "riff salad" or "grab-bag metal."

ARCHITECTED Music created with massive conceptions in mind often builds entirely unconventional structures to serve the individualized needs of each song. At this level of composition, nothing is as fits the norm as each piece has an entirely custom use in unique and intricate compositions where details matter. Metallica - "Orion" from Master of Puppets introduced this technique to the metal community at large.

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