Where can I find good free samples for making music? What is good freeware for it?
January 12, 2005 10:04 PM   Subscribe

In the past I've had some fun with making music using tracker programs to make .mod files (and .s3m, etc). I'm guessing this is probably a bit outdated now, so my question is really twofold...[more inside]

Question 1 - (This is my primary concern) Where can I find samples to use in such a program? I once found a site with collections in .zip files, with hundreds of instrument sounds, vocal sounds etc. I've looked around but have been unable to find much.

Question 2 - what software is good for this sort of thing? Freeware by preference. I used to use Modplug tracker, but I guess this may be outdated?
posted by tomble to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
1. I used to buy Future Music magazine, which included a cover CD with dozens of samples, mostly techno-y. I think there are a few other mags with similar deals, as well. If you're looking for single-note samples rather than loops, try googling or p2p searching for "soundfont". If you're after acoustic drum sounds, ns_kit by Natural Studios is crispy clean & modern sounding and free, and MeanBeat's got some beautifully funky lo-fi/vintage kits.

Incedentally, anybody know of a batch-conversion program that can render .MOD/.S3M/.XM files as mp3s? I've got loads of 'em sitting on my drive that iTunes and my RCA Lyra player have no clue what to do with...
posted by arto at 10:26 PM on January 12, 2005

Thanks for the info... Modplug tracker has a `convert to mp3' option, but if you're using a Mac then I don't know...
posted by tomble at 10:33 PM on January 12, 2005

Give Renoise a try. The freeware version is pretty neat, yet it lacks the render-to-mp3 functionality, for which you have to register for a small fee.
posted by swordfishtrombones at 11:09 PM on January 12, 2005


1. You can rip samples from existing existing mod/s3m/xm/it files using most any tracker. Though, if you're planning on releasing any music, you'll probably want to ask for permission before you do so. You can also make your own using software synthesizers, record them through a mic, or whatever. You'll probably want them to be tuned to C.

2. I'm not much of a tracking dude myself, but most of my friends agree that Impulse Tracker 2 is the best tracker there is. It's pretty old, it runs in text mode DOS and will probably not work at all in a modern PC or in windows xp. You can maybe use something like vdmsound to emulate old soundcards for DOS, but if your motherboard lacks EMS (which it probably does if you bought it in the last couple of years) then you're probably out of luck. There was this EMS emulator I saw a while back, but it looked pretty old and used a hard disk as the place to store data. If you used a ramdisk or something and assigned it to that physical partition, you might get decent speeds. I'm likely crazy, though. You're better off emulating the entire thing in something like dosbox, if you're going to go that route. Latency and performance in dosbox is probably not going to be optimal, though. I know at least a couple of people that keep old computers around running windows 98/DOS specifically for the purpose of using impulse tracker.

Other popular tracking software includes Fast Tracker 2 (DOS), Scream Tracker (DOS), and Modplug, which you already use, reading over what you said again. "Outdated" is sort of a silly thing to say in regards to tracking software, since tracking died like 200 years ago. There are "modern" trackers like Renoise and Skale Tracker, but those are more oriented towards being a full-fledged music sequencing/production platform, rather than a way to create chiptunes (xm/it/s3m/mod files). Renoise can't even export in any of those formats.


If you're on windows, try foobar2000. For mac, there's CocoModX.
posted by tumult at 1:35 AM on January 13, 2005

A friend of mine used to play text files as sounds in a tracker. Don't remember which program. It was pretty crazy. They'd make really odd noises.
posted by geekhorde at 1:52 AM on January 13, 2005

I second Fast Tracker 2.

There's also mad tracker which is quite similar.

For rendering mods to mp3, you just need to convert them to wave files - which almost all trackers will do - and then use lame (or whatever you use for CDs) to render the mp3s.

It might be worth it to check out Maz Sound tools

Back in the day, Maz had a ton of samples for download. Now it looks like he's selling them on CD, but you may find something usefull.
posted by jaded at 6:11 AM on January 13, 2005

I've never been any good with trackers, but if I were to use one I'd probably use Buzz as I've heard it's great and it's also a sampler/synth.
posted by soplerfo at 6:11 AM on January 13, 2005

tomble, if you're already used to the style of music writing with a tracker, you're a step ahead of everyone else just starting out. A lot of "professional" techno/mashup writers utilize trackers, since the principle is exactly the same: use a bunch of audio samples and loop them. Just for example, Sony's ACID Music Studio works this way.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:47 AM on January 13, 2005

I second Buzz. Its Matilde Tracker generator functions identically to an old-style tracker with all the effects you're used to, but then you can slap all kinds of delays, distortion, vocoders or what-have-you into the signal chain. It's not the most stable of apps, and unless you really grok sound engineering it's a lot easier to make things that sound interesting than things that sound professional, but you can't get much more versatility for free.

As for samples... I'd be glad to hear otherwise, but I think your options pretty much amount to
1) Steal the best ones you can find
2) Make your own
3) Pay for 'em

Good luck!
posted by squidlarkin at 8:43 AM on January 13, 2005

I'd say stick with modplug tracker. Newer versions include better VST support and it's still being maintained frequently. I still use it.
posted by mnology at 11:55 AM on January 13, 2005

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