Remember the *.mod

FastTracker 2

I was reminded of Mod files a while ago.

From Wikipedia

Module files (MOD musictracker music) are a family of music file formats originating from the MOD file format on Amiga systems used in the late 1980s. Those who produce these files (using the software called music trackers) and listen to them, form the worldwide MOD scene, a part of the demoscenesubculture. Module files are often chiptunes.

The mass interchange of “MOD music” or “tracker music” (music stored in module files created with trackers) evolved from early FIDO networks. Many websites host large numbers of these files, the most comprehensive of them being the Mod Archive.

Nowadays most module files, including ones in zipped form, are supported by most popular media players such as WinampVLCFoobar2000AmarokExaile and many others (mainly due to inclusion of common playback libraries such as libmodplug for gstreamer).

Great thing was you could consume them but it was super easy to just remix them and play with them. The player was the maker; consumer/maker in one package.

Module files store several “patterns” or “pages” of music data in a form similar to that of a spreadsheet. These patterns contain note numbers, instrument numbers, and controller messages. The number of notes that can be played simultaneously depends on how many “tracks” there are per pattern. They also contain digitally recorded samples as well as coding for sequencing the samples in playback. The programs that are used to create these files provide composers with the means to control and manipulate sound samples in almost limitless ways to produce music.

Even if you didn’t understand what all those numbers and patterns were, you could play and try without worry or judgment. Similar to the Sonic PI?

A disadvantage of module files is that there is no real standard specification in how the modules should be played back properly, which may result in modules sounding slightly different in different players. This is mostly due to effects that can be applied to the samples in the module file and how the authors of different players choose to implement them.

Oh boy this was a killer…

I used Protracker originally (mod format), then switched to fast tracker 2 when I made my first PC (xm format). It would import mods but saving them out as mod wouldn’t be compatible with other players.

Theres certainly something about *.mod which seems to be missing in the modern times.

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.

1 thought on “Remember the *.mod”

  1. Ha! I still have a couple of CDs laying around of mod collections and sample packs, my tracker of choice was Impulse Tracker (but I played with FT2).

    There are still a couple of mod-style trackers floating about (MilkyTracker is probably the most active/popular, and will look very familiar to you as a former FT2 user). Are you familiar with Renoise at all? It’s a modern, cheap DAW, built upon the principles of old-school trackers. I dare say though, it doesn’t have the inherent remixability of MODs that you alluded to in that last sentence.

    Myself, I still hobby-track using LSDJ on GameBoys, and related devices/emulators. There’s something appealing about stretching legacy 4-track hardware to its limits.

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