Beginners

Help! -  What's a Tracker -  Choosing a Tracker -  Getting Started -  Ordering your resources -  Let's go -  The Effects Commands -  Sampling -  Ripping -  Copyright -  Releasing - 

Help! I don't know where to start!

Being at the beginner stage is possibly the most difficult part of tracking, and it's where most people give up. The key is perseverance and practice. Listen to what others have to say about your initial attempts, but only listen if you know you'll get an honest opinion from them. Take on board any criticism, and use it to your advantage. Practice makes perfect, the more modules you compose, and sampling you do, the better you'll get, simple...

Erm, just what is a tracker?

A tracker is a piece of software that allows music to be made using only a computer and some sound samples. These sound samples are then played back at varying pitches and with various effects so as to produce music. The musical data used to describe how to play each note is arranged in a list like form, as shown below.

   Note   Instrument   Volume   Effect command   Effect parameters
    C#5        1          40            1                01

        C#5 1 40 101    F-6 2 38 330    G-3 3 20 F05    ---   -- 000
        ---   -- 102    ---   -- 300    D-2 3 24 A0F    C-4 4 -- 472
        C#5 5 -- E93    ---   -- 300    --- 3 P0 A0F    ---   -- 400

This data scrolls up the screen, and when it passes the cursor it gets processed and played. Not all trackers have this same layout; I've used FT2 above.
Trackers produce files called modules, which is usually abbreviated to MOD. The term MOD originally meant a SoundTracker module, but over the years it has become a generic term for any type of module. MODs are a sort of hybrid MIDI/sample file. They contain sequencing information as well as the instruments (samples) that are used for playback.
It's actually quite hard to give trackers and MODs a 'definition' that can be understood by everyone. If you have Internet access then do a search for 'MOD Trackers' and quite a number of definitions should pop up.

Choosing a tracker

May as well start at the beginning I suppose...

Choosing a tracker to begin with is probably the most important choice you can make as you start out, some trackers have extremely difficult interfaces to learn. Which, if you are only just starting out and have never used a tracker before, pose an extra challenge that will need to be undertaken.

There are six systems with trackers that I know of, classified as -

Obviously the system you own dictates what you can use, but the Amiga, Atari, and Mac based trackers are split up into a few different areas, depending on your hardware.
Whatever tracker you decide on using, before you even start tracking with it, be sure to read the manual. Load a few already made modules in so you can play around with the various features and find out how they work. Spend a day figuring out every feature of the tracker.
The only way to find out what tracker is best for you is to try out a few and then decide. I would recommend that you choose a tracker that produces a standard module format for the platform you are producing on e.g. if you own an Amiga a MOD based tracker would be a good choice, on a PC an IT or XM tracker would be a good choice etc.
Don't use a tracker just because someone else does, or because it offers more features. Choose a tracker for its interface every time. There's no point having something hugely powerful but not being able to use it.

Choosing Hardware

The basic hardware requirements to track are: -

A computer - You probably already have one of these. If you don't, then how on earth are you reading this! Your computer MUST have some sort of digital audio capabilities. If you have an Amiga, Atari, or Mac then you should be okay for now. If you have a PC (and by that I don't necessarily mean an IBM compatible) without a digital sound card of some description, then you're finished before you've even started. Go out and get one now!

Monitoring Equipment Ė All thatís needed is a pair of speakers and/or a pair of headphones. Since we're talking about basic requirements here, practically anything will do to get you started.

Getting Started

Ok, so you've got hold of a tracker that you like the look and feel of, the next thing to do is to get hold of some samples and/or modules. These should preferably be in a style that you like and be of a reasonable quality. Just go to the Internet resources section for a list of places to look. If you don't have Internet access, then any local shareware libraries or BBS system should be able to sort you out with some. Samples are preferable to modules, but it's easy enough to rip the samples out of modules.
Alternatively, you could sample your own sounds, but this can be quite difficult to do if you don't know what you generally use or need. As you don't yet know how to track properly yet, I would recommend you choose which to learn first, tracking or sampling. This will ease the learning curve. If you want to learn the key points to good sampling, skip to the sampling section. When you've finished that, come back here.

Ordering your resources

First of all you'll need to set up a few directories in which to store your music stuff. There are many different ways to do this, but I'll describe mine for you to have a base to build on. Obviously you don't have to follow this. It's just to give you an idea of a structure.
I use a separate partition or CD-ROM for my music stuff. This brings benefits such as easy organisation and security from corruption on other disks/partitions.
The structure of this is as follows: -

E:\FT2                                 - Fasttracker II and its utilities
  \HANDBOOK                            - The Trackerís Handbook
  \INSTR                               - Instruments
  \IT                                  - Impulse Tracker and its utilities
  \MODULES                             - Other trackers modules
  \MYMODS                              - My modules
         \8-BIT                        - 8-Bit versions of my modules
  \PATTERNS                            - Saved Pattern data
  \RESOURCS                            - Holds tracking guides etc.
  \SAMPLES                             - Hmm, I wonder...
         \309                          - Quasimidi Rave-O-Lution 309
         \BASS
         \BRASS                        - Brass Instruments
         \BREAKBTS                     - Breakbeats
         \DRUMKIT
                 \BASSDRUM
                 \CLAP
                 \CLOSEHH
                 \CRASH
                 \MISC                 - Shakers, tambourines
                 \OPENHH
                 \RIMSHOT
                 \SNARE
                 \TOM
                 \TR-606               - Roland TR-606
                 \TR-808               - Roland TR-808
                 \TR-909               - Roland TR-909
         \DSS-1                        - Korg DSS-1
         \FX                           - Sound Effects
         \GUITAR
         \JP8000                       - Roland JP8000
         \JUNO60                       - Roland Juno 60
         \MC-202                       - Roland MC-202
         \PADS                         - Looped synth and string sounds
         \PIANO
         \SH-101                       - Roland SH-101
         \SYNTH                        - Synth stabs and hits
         \VOCALS
         \WIND                         - Wind Instruments
  \TRACKS                              - Saved Track data
  \UNFINISH                            - Unfinished Modules

This allows me quick access to the samples I want (I can remember what most of them are called and sound like, damned good memory!). I also regularly clean out my sample collection by getting rid of any that are bad quality - clipped, noisy etc. Any that I'm unlikely to ever use, or I have already used and don't want to use again are also got rid of.
In every directory there is a text file called DETAILS.TXT. This lists each file contained in the directory, along with where I got it from. When you have thousands of samples, and you're trying to credit the authors, it saves a lot of time and much hair pulling to have the information in one place.
I would recommend you start off by creating some sort of structure, it'll stop your disk getting cluttered and enable you to work more efficiently. If you're running off floppies then use separate disks for different types of samples, and regularly defragment and check for errors (this also applies for hard disk owners).

Let's go

By now you should have a tracker you're happy with, some samples, and/or some modules. You're ready to begin being a tracker.
I'm going to teach you how to produce a simple tune, and this should hopefully guide you as to what you should be doing.
This can be done in two ways, either in step-time or in real-time. The majority of modules are produced in step-time, maybe with a small amount of real-time just to see roughly where the notes need to be placed. If you have a MIDI keyboard connected to your sound card, then you could use that to input the notes. Generally though, due to the harsh amount of quantisization that occurs with a tracker you are better off doing it in step-time.

I would recommend that you try producing a few 4 channel modules first, use one channel for drums, one for bass, one for lead, and one for chords. This should help as you'll always be able to see what's going on, on the screen. If you find you do want to use more channels to begin with, then by all means go ahead, but bear in mind that most of the great tracker musicians today started on 4 channel modules...

The best way to learn how to do something is to watch someone else do it. This applies to tracking as well. You can learn a lot just from listening to the great ones in the scene. If you come up with a tune idea and you know what you want it to sound like, it helps a lot to look for a tune from one of the masters that sounds similar to what you want to write, and listen to their tune over and over again. Look for the things they do with their tune that sets that tracker apart from the others in the scene, and if you can adapt their techniques into your song in an original way, do it.
Start by writing music that you really like listening to - don't try and write an orchestral piece if you don't listen to it - it'll show.

If you want to make a tune realistic, try to imagine how the instrument would be played. Pretend you are a musician when you write a part. Also, if you use an instrument such as a piano, try to use more than a single piano note - a real piano will have more than one note playing at a time - use some chords etc.
Originally, people used to sample whole chords to save sample space. Now we've got these wonderful trackers with gazillions of channels. Constructing chords from notes because you have the space to do so gives a better and more a professional sound. However, be very careful! If you decide to construct a chord rather than use a single sample, some musicianship is required.
Simple major chords are easy, but inversions really add to a piece. If you are able to do it this way, you'll get a professional, crafted sound. But it does take a long time before you'll get a smooth flowing part.
For a nice fill to the sound, try to balance the usage of low and high frequencies, tunes with too much bass and too little treble sound rough, tunes with too much treble and too little bass sound insubstantial.

The Effects Commands

By now you should be wanting to experiment with some effects, to make your music more interesting and more professional. Before we start, lets just get something straight. Effects should only be used when they are needed. Using effects just because you can doesn't automatically improve the quality of your music.
This section will only cover effects with letters/numbers that can be used in ProTracker MODs. Practically all trackers support these basic effects. However many trackers use different letters/numbers to represent the same effect, so check before trying anything. If you try an effect listed here and it produces a result completely different to how it is described here, then consult your trackers manual.
Effects are typed into the rightmost column of each channel in every tracker. They consist of an effect command and a value. Different trackers have different letters and numbers for the same effect command. But pretty much all of them can work with hexadecimal for the value. If you don't know what Hex is, then the following extract, taken from the Impulse Tracker manual, should help.

"Instead of using a decimal system (i.e. base 10), it is more natural for the computer to work with hexadecimal (often abbreviated to simply 'Hex') - numbers which operate in base 16. The first 9 numbers in Hex are denoted by '1' to '9' and the next 6 are denoted by 'A' to 'F'. So if you count in Hex, it will be as follows: (0), 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, A, B, C, D, E, F, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D, 1E, 1F, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 2A etc.
To convert a Hex number to decimal, multiply the 'tens' column by 16 and add the value of the second column i.e. 32 Hex = 3*16+2 = 50 decimal. 2A Hex = 2*16+10 = 42 (because A = 10). The maximum number that you can represent with two Hex digits is FF = 255 decimal."

Let's start with the most basic effect, the Set Volume command: C. Input a note, then move the cursor to the effects command column and type a C. Play the pattern, and you shouldn't be able to hear the note you placed the C by. This is because the effect parameters are 00. Change the two zeros to a 40(Hex)/64(Dec), depending on what your tracker uses. Play back the pattern again, and the note should come in at full volume.

The Position Jump command next. This is just a B followed by the position in the playing list that you want to jump to. One thing to remember is that the playing list always starts at 0, not 1. This command is usually in Hex.

Onto the volume slide command: A. This is slightly more complex (much more if you're using a newer tracker, if you want to achieve the results here, then set slides to Amiga, not linear), due to the fact it depends on the secondary tempo. For now set a secondary tempo of 06 (you can play around later), load a long or looped sample and input a note or two. A few rows after a note type in the effect command A. For the parameters use 0F. Play back the pattern, and you should notice that when the effect kicks in, the sample drops to a very low volume very quickly. Change the effect parameters to F0, and use a low volume command on the note. Play back the pattern, and when the slide kicks in the volume of the note should increase very quickly.
This because each part of the effect parameters for command A does a different thing. The first number slides the volume up, and the second slides it down. It's not recommended that you use both a volume up and volume down at the same time, due to the fact the tracker only looks for the first number that isn't set to 0. If you specify parameters of 8F, the tracker will see the 8, ignore the F, and slide the volume up. Using a slide up and down at same time just makes you look stupid. Don't do it...

The Set Tempo command: F, is pretty easy to understand. You simply specify the BPM (in Hex) that you want to change to. One important thing to note is that values of lower than 20 (Hex) sets the secondary tempo rather than the primary.

Another useful command is the Pattern Break: D. This will stop the playing of the current pattern and skip to the next one in the playing list. By using parameters of more than 00 you can also specify which line to begin playing from.

Command 3 is Portamento to Note. This slides the currently playing note to another note, at a specified speed. The slide then stops when it reaches the desired note. The best way to describe this is to give an example.

   C-2 1 000 - Starts the note playing
   ---   000
   C-3   330 - Starts the slide to C-3 at a speed of 30.
   ---   300 - Continues the slide
   ---   300 - Continues the slide

One thing you can note about this and many other commands are that they have a memory. Once the parameters have been set, the command can be input again without any parameters, and it'll still perform the same function unless you change the parameters. This memory function allows certain commands to function correctly, such as command 5, which is the Portamento to Note and Volume Slide command. Once command 3 has been set up command 5 will simply take the parameters from that and perform a Portamento to Note. Any parameters set up for command 5 itself simply perform a Volume Slide identical to command A at the same time as the Portamento to Note.
This memory function will only operate in the same channel where the original parameters were set up.
There are various other commands which perform two functions at once. They will be described as we come across them.

The next command we'll look at is the Portamento up/down: 1 and 2. Command 1 slides the pitch up at a specified speed, and 2 slides it down. This command works in a similar way to the volume slide, in that it is dependent on the secondary tempo. Both these commands have a memory dependent on each other, if you set the slide to a speed of 3 with the 1 command, a 2 command with no parameters will use the speed of 3 from the 1 command, and vice versa.

Command 4 is Vibrato. Vibrato is basically rapid changes in pitch, just try it, and you'll see what I mean. Parameters are in the format of xy, where x is the speed of the slide, and y is the depth of the slide. One important point to remember is to keep your vibratos subtle and natural so a depth of 3 or less and a reasonably fast speed, around 8, is usually used. Setting the depth too high can make the part sound out of tune from the rest.
Following on from command 4 is command 6. This is the Vibrato and Volume Slide command, and it has a memory like command 5, which you already know how to use.

Command 7 is Tremolo. This is similar to vibrato. Rather than changing the pitch it slides the volume. The effect parameters are in exactly the same format.

Command 9 is Sample Offset. This starts the playback of the sample from a different place than the start. The effect parameters specify the sample offset, but only very roughly. Say you have a sample which is 8765(Hex) bytes long, and you wanted it to play from position 4321(Hex). The effect parameter could only be as accurate as the 43 part, and it would ignore the 21.

Command B is the Playing List/Order Jump command. The parameters specify the position in the Playing List/Order to jump to. When used in conjunction with command D you can specify the position and the line to play from.

Command E is pretty complex, as it is used for a lot of different things, depending on what the first parameter is. Let's take a trip through each effect in order.
Command E0 controls the hardware filter on an Amiga, which, as a low pass filter, cuts off the highest frequencies being played back. There are very few players and trackers on other system that simulate this function, not that you should need to use it. The second parameter, if set to 1, turns on the filter. If set to 0, the filter gets turned off.

Commands E1/E2 are Fine Portamento Up/Down. Exactly the same functions as commands 1/2, except that they only slide the pitch by a very small amount. These commands have a memory the same as 1/2 as well.

Command E3 sets the Glissando control. If parameters are set to 1 then when using command 3, any sliding will only use the notes in between the original note and the note being slid to. This produces a somewhat jumpier slide than usual. The best way to understand is to try it out for yourself. Produce a slow slide with command 3, listen to it, and then try using E31.

Command E4 is the Set Vibrato Waveform control. This command controls how the vibrato command slides the pitch. Parameters are 0 - Sine, 1 - Ramp Down (Saw), 2 - Square. By adding 4 to the parameters, the waveform will not be restarted when a new note is played e.g. 5 - Sine without restart.

Command E5 sets the Fine Tune of the instrument being played, but only for the particular note being played. It will override the default Fine Tune for the instrument. The parameters range from 0 to F, with 0 being -8 and F being +8 Fine Tune. A parameter of 8 gives no Fine Tune. If you're using a newer tracker that supports more than -8 to +8 e.g. -128 to +128, these parameters will give a rough Fine Tune, accurate to the nearest 16.

Command E6 is the Jump Loop command. You mark the beginning of the part of a pattern that you want to loop with E60, and then specify with E6x the end of the loop, where x is the number of times you want it to loop.

Command E7 is the Set Tremolo Waveform control. This has exactly the same parameters as command E4, except that it works for Tremolo rather than Vibrato.

Command E9 is for Retriggering the note quickly. The parameter specifies the interval between the retrigs. Use a value of less than the current secondary tempo, or else the note will not get retrigged.

Command EA/B are for Fine Volume Slide Up/Down. Much the same as the normal Volume Slides, except that these are easier to control since they don't depend on the secondary tempo. The parameters specify the amount to slide by e.g. if you have a sample playing at a volume of 08 (Hex) then the effect EA1 will slide this volume to 09 (Hex). A subsequent effect of EB4 would slide this volume down to 05 (Hex).

Command EC is the Note Cut. This sets the volume of the currently playing note to 0 at a specified tick. The parameters should be lower than the secondary tempo or else the effect won't work.

Command ED is the Note Delay. This should be used at the same time as a note is to be played, and the parameters will specify the number of ticks to delay playing the note. Again, keep the parameters lower than the secondary tempo, or the note won't get played!

Command EE is the Pattern Delay. This delays the pattern for the amount of time it would take to play a certain number of rows. The parameters specify how many rows to delay for.

Command EF is the Funk Repeat command (Huge thanks to T-Jay for this info!). The command needs a short loop to work. It moves the loop through the whole length of the sample, e.g.:
You have a sample that is 10000 (decimal) bytes long. You have set the sample loop to 0-1000. When EFx is used, the loop will be moved to 1000- 2000, then to 2000-3000 etc. After 9000-10000 the loop is set back to 0- 1000. The speed of the loop "movement" is defined by x. I don't know exactly how the speed is specified, but E is two times as slow as F, D is three times as slow as F etc. EF0 will turn the Funk Repeat off and reset the loop (to 0-1000).
Some information can be slightly wrong, e.g. the loop MAY be moved from 0- 1000 to 1002-2002, but it isn't important. Very few trackers actually support it.

Sampling

Theory

Let's talk about all the business that goes on before a sound ever gets to your computer's memory. Sound in the air is continuously changing, and when it gets converted to an electrical signal the changes are still continuous. Your computer, however, can only store numbers using a limited number of digits or precision. Continuously varying sound is called an analogue signal. Once the computer grabs the sound, it doesn't have enough precision to store all the information about the sound in order to perfectly reproduce it. What the computer has stored is called a digital signal representation.
Your sound card captures information about an analogue sound signal by measuring its intensity at a given instant. This corresponds to one single point on the waveforms we've been looking at. In order to capture an entire waveform, the measurement process must be repeated at a high rate, usually thousands of times a second. Since the hardware has limited speed and memory capacity, there are only so many points it can capture. Any information between those points is lost forever. This process of capturing the sound in small intervals is called sampling.
To play back a sound, we just reverse the process and convert the digital samples back to an analogue signal. Of course, the new signal will probably retain some of the staircase effect, so the reproduction won't be perfect.

There are four main things to consider when sampling. The sample resolution and frequency, amplitude, and copyright (very important). The sample resolution is another term for the number of bits a sound is sampled at. All trackers can handle 8-Bit samples, and most modern ones are able to use 16-Bit samples as well. Sampling in 16-Bit will render the better quality sound all the time. 8-Bit samples can be difficult to distinguish from 16-Bit samples, if they are recorded with good hardware. But most people would advise 16-Bit samples all the time.
The main problem with a lower resolution is that you are likely to get some or a lot of noise, depending on the quality of your source. The only trouble with 16-Bit samples is that they are twice as large as 8-Bit ones. A good trick to use is to sample in 16-Bit, do all of your editing in 16-Bit, compose with 16-Bit samples, then for the release convert the all the samples to 8-Bit. You'll find you can halve the size of your MOD this way (But make sure you keep a copy of the 16-Bit version). The listener may lose a small amount of quality, but this is usually masked by the mixing routine of the player. This may also deter some rippers from using your samples.

More important than the resolution of the sample when determining quality is the sample frequency. The sample frequency refers to the number of "snapshots" of the incoming sound taken per second. The higher the sampling frequency, the better the reproduction of the sound is.
So just how many snapshots do we need? If you look at audio specs much, you've seen CD sampling rates of 44.1kHz, or 44,100 samples per second. That's a lot of snapshots! A well-known signal processing theorem (Nyquist Theorem) says that to accurately reproduce a signal, you have to sample at a rate at least twice the highest frequency component in the signal. So the CD sampling rate of 44.1kHz will capture frequencies up to 22.05kHz.
You might be wondering what happens if you don't sample at a high enough frequency. Well, what you get is something called aliasing. This sinister sounding term just means that since the sample points aren't close enough together, it looks as though you sampled a lower frequency that really wasn't part of the original signal. Alias frequencies are like ghosts - poltergeists really - you can't see them but they make a lot of noise. So by sampling at too low a rate, not only do you miss some of the high frequencies; some of them get thrown back into the mix as unwanted guests at lower frequencies. They are audible as background noise and distortion.

Monitoring the volume of the incoming sound is vital to produce a good quality sample. If your sampler uses oscilloscopes to "view" the sound then make sure the waveform gets as close to the top and bottom of the window, without flattening out (clipping). If your sampler uses volume meters instead you want to get the sample as near to 0 dB as possible, without going above.

Practical

Okay, you're probably fed up of reading about sampling and actually want to do some for yourself. First of all you need some sampling hardware; on a PC virtually every sound card in existence can do some sort of sampling. On an Amiga or Atari you're going to need some extra hardware on top of the built in chips.
Sample editing isn't really that hard, it's mainly lot of trial and error, searching for the precise point where a sound begins and ends. It takes a long time before you'll be able to read a waveform like a book. This is where tracking scores 100% over MIDI. MIDI samplers will rarely have an accurate, easy to see waveform display, and they don't have mice either. One of the few reasons I use Windows 9x is for its sample editors and a nice high resolution screen.
Start by centralising, and then normalising the sample. Then, starting at the end of the sample zoom in and look for a point on the centre where you think your sample ends. Always work from the end first, as any computer will find it easier to fill an area of memory with 0s than shifting a large chunk of memory around. If youíre using virtual memory this can speed up editing by a huge amount. Zoom back out to the whole view, does it look like you've marked the right place, if it does then mark from that part to the end of the sample and delete it. Play back the sample. If it gets cut off too soon, then either paste the cut part back in, or use the undo function built into many sample editors.
Centralise, and normalise again. This is because the part you chopped off may have been off centre and/or louder than the part you want. Zoom in, and look for where your sample begins. Cut off anything before that. Play the sample to check you cut off the right part, not too much and not too little. If you cut off too much, then simply paste the data back in.
Keep on cutting bits off, and playing the sample back, until it sounds how you want it to sound. Do a final centralise and normalise, and save the sound to disk. Give it a meaningful name. If the sample was from a synthesiser preset or a Sample CD then the name from there would be a good choice. If you use a DETAILS.TXT or similar then update it to include this new sample.
Take the time to tune all your samples as accurately as possible. To do this, play a long, clear, looped sample, then move to another channel and tune ALL your other samples to this one sample (so they all have the same reference). Many potentially excellent modules have been spoilt because they were poorly tuned. Of course, this doesn't count the cases where samples are intentionally slightly sharp or flat for effect (which should be a rarity instead of a rule).

Overusing Voice Samples

An extremely common mistake made by even some experienced trackers is finding a voice clip that they think sounds absolutely great or hilarious, and sticking it into their latest song approximately 87 times. People often do this with dance tracks. This very frequently kills what would otherwise be some truly great songs. No matter how funny or cool something sounds the first time you hear it, there are only so many times you can hear and still enjoy it. Also, music is about hearing a melody or grooving to a cool beat, not hearing somebody say the same thing over and over again, so your song shouldn't rely on voice clips to sound good. If you delete the voice clips from one of your songs and find that it sounds terrible without them, that means that you relied too much on the voice clip and don't have enough music. Using a truly funny or interesting voice clip once or twice can make a good song great, but it can't make a bad song good.

Ripping

There are a number of very important points that should be kept in mind when ripping samples. Look for samples that sound clear and don't have any clicking sounds at the point where it loops. If you're looking for a sample of a real instrument, make sure it really sounds like the instrument or else it will sound stupid. Also, the newer the sample, the better. And finally, if you rip samples, it helps a lot if you e-mail the person who made them to get permission to use them, but if you don't get permission, at least thank the person in the Sample Text. That's just basic politeness.

Copyrights

Following on from ripping comes copyrights. If you're not planning to ever release a tune commercially then use samples from wherever you like. It's extremely unlikely anybody will bother chasing you when they know you won't be making any money from it.
If however, you eventually want to be able to release your music, then pay close attention. If you sample individual sounds, such as a single bass note, you should be able to get away with it (especially if you hear the sound in a few commercial tunes). When you sample large and/or easily recognisable parts of any tune, get the samples checked out before you even think about releasing yours. After all, I don't expect you fancy paying out large sums of money just because of one simple little sample.

Releasing

Once you've produced a tune you like, you'll probably want other people to listen to it, give you feedback etc. The most important thing to remember at the moment is NEVER to publicly release your first couple of tunes. There are very few people who are gifted enough to really make a quality tune the first time - it's all practice and experience! Once you have finished a tune, listen to it a couple of days after... see whether you can view it from another point of view. Get a couple of friends to listen to it and ask for some constructive criticism. You know, what's good as well as what's bad about the tune.
When you feel ready to release a tune, probably the best way of doing so is via the Internet. There are a number of good FTP sites which will allow you to upload to them. Unfortunately most of them are incredibly busy, making them very slow. If you don't have to worry about the telephone bill, then by all means use them. If your phone bill plays a part, then probably the best way of releasing is to post your tune to alt.binaries.sounds.mods. You could also set up your own web site if you have some web space. This could be either on your own ISP, or on a free site provider like http://www.geocities.com, http://www.fortunecity.com and http://www.crosswinds.net.