What is some good retro music production software?

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What is some good retro music production software?

Postby keenmaster486 » 2019-5-09 @ 20:51

I'm interested in getting into making some music on DOS or Win31 or Win9x computers.

I think what I'm looking for is something that lets me do sample-based music production, with the ability to use MIDI and even maybe USB keyboards, record and use samples (software synth is cool too but not necessary), play the song in real time in CD quality (assuming the PC is powerful enough), hear existing tracks while recording (assuming the sound card can do full duplex), and record vocals on top of it.

Most of today's music production software has user interfaces that I find very confusing, and have way too many features that I don't need and can't be bothered to mess with. I want simple, as in "here are the tracks, you can tell one from the next, each is associated with an instrument that you defined with a sample or synth using a button ON the track (dammit), and up top are your play/record/stop buttons."
(sorry, venting a little about UI design. I can't stand non-intuitive things)

Does anyone have any favorites they'd like to share?
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Re: What is some good retro music production software?

Postby xjas » 2019-5-09 @ 21:20

Do you like trackers? Impulse Tracker (DOS) has reasonably good MIDI support on an AWE64 or GUS PnP (you can use it with other sound cards, but only the drivers for those two support MIDI and samples at the same time.) It's a bit fiddly to set up, but once you're going it works really well.

On the Win9X side I've used Yamaha XGWorks and even Ableton Live 4.x a bit. XGworks is strictly for MIDI sequencing (no samples.) Live 4 is disturbingly similar to the current Live 9/10 versions, but I found it to be fairly unstable on 98SE. But there you get it all - good audio support, MIDI, slick interface with a really nice workflow, etc.

Hell, you might even look into current versions of Live. I still use 9.6 but I've heard 10 has a ton of worthwhile improvements. It pretty much works as you've described: "here are the tracks, you can tell one from the next, each is associated with an instrument that you defined with a sample or synth using a button ON the track (dammit), and up top are your play/record/stop buttons," but it might be more "modern" than what you're after.

As an alternative, Sunvox is a less "conventional" but still excellent modular synth/sequencer (and it's free!) I don't use it as much as I'd like, but I've done a couple full tracks with it and it always impresses me how much functionality is packed in. It's extremely powerful for such a small/light program.
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Re: What is some good retro music production software?

Postby leileilol » 2019-5-10 @ 00:19

I still use old versions of Modplug Tracker (2002 old etc)
by the way, DOSBox is not for running Windows 9x
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Re: What is some good retro music production software?

Postby oeuvre » 2019-5-10 @ 13:28

leileilol wrote:I still use old versions of Modplug Tracker (2002 old etc)


Can we hear what you've made with it?
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Re: What is some good retro music production software?

Postby BushLin » 2019-5-10 @ 18:12

Cubase existed throughout your chosen time period and I'm fairly sure early versions of Logic would run on Win9x. Both of these are / were industry standard music packages with all the features you desire if you're willing to learn how to use them and VST plugins are supported too.

If you want simple interfaces, Acid (sequencer) was first released in 1998 and SoundForge (sampler/editor) predates this with Win 3.1 support until version 3 and Win95 until version 5.

Old versions of Cool Edit might be what you're looking for, it was later bought by Sony and renamed to Audition. It's an all-in-one package for sampling, mixing and automating effects.
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Re: What is some good retro music production software?

Postby mattrock1988 » 2019-5-10 @ 20:54

What about Cakewalk Express? I know Creative used to bundle copies of it for free with their sound cards back in the day. You can even find Cakewalk Express 8.0 Gold out there if you want to nab an ISO and burn.
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Re: What is some good retro music production software?

Postby yawetaG » 2019-5-11 @ 07:54

Samples? Akai S3000XL or S3200XL, or S2000 if you willing to forego the internal SCSI option and a large screen. Older Akais are fine too, as are MPC-2000 etc. Just avoid the S01. You'll also need a PC with SCSI, preferably SCSI-2 or better, and the appropriate software. Roland and other manufacturers also made sampler, but they tend to suffer from awful user interfaces.

Actual sampling on a vintage PC? Don't bother, unless you can get a very high-end SCSI-only machine, and even then a post-2000 PC with SATA will be much better. Besides, you don't get the characteristic sound of the old hardware samplers

The bastardized "sampling" as used by trackers and the like? Can't help you there... :lol:
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Re: What is some good retro music production software?

Postby creepingnet » 2019-5-11 @ 08:06

Well, I use Cakewalk Pro 4.5 on my 486 in Windows 95 and can record multitrack digital audio on that setup so there's one.

I use Voyetra Sequencer Pro in DOS for MIDI, but I also like Presto Arrange as well.
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Re: What is some good retro music production software?

Postby keenmaster486 » 2019-5-11 @ 15:01

I'll try all of these out!

So far I have gotten sucked in to Sunvox, and it's pretty fun to play around with. The modular setup is kind of cool.
I flermmed the plootash just like you asked.

http://classictechnology.herokuapp.com
Vintage desktops: Pentium/MMX 200 (Win95), 286-12 (MS-DOS 5.0)
Vintage laptops: IBM Thinkpad A20m, IBM Thinkpad 560X, IBM Thinkpad 365CD
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Re: What is some good retro music production software?

Postby retropol » 2019-5-12 @ 08:27

you are looking for a software to do *.mod / *.s3m *.xm? as it was in early 90s on demoscene?

as i remember it was scream tracker by guys from future crew group (btw - the best group ever)

there was also xm tracker, but dont remember its name
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Re: What is some good retro music production software?

Postby retropol » 2019-5-12 @ 08:29

ok.... recall: fast tracker - it was also one of demoscene best music maker supporting xm files
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Re: What is some good retro music production software?

Postby keenmaster486 » 2019-5-12 @ 15:58

Mod trackers are cool, and I might get into those sometime, but right now I'm looking for something that can be used for the same purposes as Logic Pro X, Ableton, etc. just on a very small scale and with retro hardware.
I flermmed the plootash just like you asked.

http://classictechnology.herokuapp.com
Vintage desktops: Pentium/MMX 200 (Win95), 286-12 (MS-DOS 5.0)
Vintage laptops: IBM Thinkpad A20m, IBM Thinkpad 560X, IBM Thinkpad 365CD
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