klystrack tutorial - config options

Some would say I should have started with this tutorial first, but some should learn to keep quiet about such things, 'tis what I say. No but seriously, I know it's a little late to deal with those but I figured most people would either have already done that, or they have gotten used to the way klystrack is set up by default.

While I know that Klystrack follows much of the modern tracker standards, I'm an old man and I was raised around coal-powered computers. Because of that, I just couldn't deal with a lot of the default configuration. I will not go over every single option in the menus and all the things you can do to customize Klystrack to suit your own needs, but I will go over those that might be ambiguous as well as show you how I personally have it set up. 

Now, if you click the shiny Menu button, or right-click anywhere in the software you will bring up the menu bar. If you wonder why it's on the right click, then you probably were not born in the Amiga days. Do yourself a favor and get into the Amiga. Right meow. AMIGA FTW.

Ok partisan bullshit aside, once you have the menu bar displayed, you'll want to head to the Prefs menu. This is where the basic customization begins and we shall go over each options, or at least those I understand. 

Theme is where you select what Klystrack looks like. For this series of tutorials, all screenshot were taken under the Blacklyst theme because those colors fit best with the colors of my blog, but normally when I'm composing I favor the Golden Brown theme. This is just a matter of personal preference of course but I find that Golden Brown and Blacklyst offer you the best clarity and are not too aggressive on the eyes.

Keymap is where you select how certain functions are mapped to the keyboard. By default, you'll have a choice beween Default for those used to modern trackers, AZERTY for some of our European friends and FT2 which basically just adds changing channels with the TAB key to the default layout. There is a way to configure your own personalized keymap but I will come back to that later as I go over my own custom layout.

Pixel Size will change the display size basically. Klystrack was meant to feel and look oldschool and to be able to adapt to a variety of screen resolutions. On most modern computers (and by modern I mean, built after the cold war) you will probably want to use 2x2 pixel size. It will give you a "320x200" type of look which is exactly what tracking is all about. AMIGA FOR THE W--- sorry. You will probably find 1x1 too small, and 3x3/4x4 way the hell too huge. Again, personal choice...but everybody I know, their moms, and the various horses they rode in on all use 2x2 because it's what the cool cats do.

Full Screen is self explanatory enough. Suffice to say, I never work in full screen because I hate to alt-tab from a full screen program and since I use two screens, I don't want my mouse cursor be to locked to a single screen. I just maximize the window size on whatever screen I am using and it works just fine.

MIDI contains all the MIDI options. If you don't know what MIDI is, then you probably don't need it so skip ahead. If however you were planning on using it, well skip ahead anyways because it's kind of not working too great at the moment. As of this writing (v1.6.0 r1219) the MIDI support is quite buggy and can sadly not be used to do anything worthwhile. It hurts if you, like me, are using a 5000$ Nord Stage as a controller. Eighty-eight weighted keys of wasted potential....*cry*

Keyjazz is an option that you can only really appreciate in the Instrument Editor screen. At any moment, on any screen, using the letter keys on your keyboard will trigger notes, which is useful for jamming melodies on the fly, or testing out changes you make to an insutrment's settings. Normally each new note you trigger this way will cut whatever note was playing before. However, if you have Keyjazz turned on and you are in the Instrument Editor screen, then you will have polyphony. Each note will use a separate voice and you'll be able to hear chords. I am sure there's a limit to the number of notes that can be played simultaneously but whatever it is, it's high enough that you probably don't need to worry about running out. If you are dealing with infinite sustain instruments, this option will kind of get in your way because notes will not fade out or be cut by new ones. In such cases, press the spacebar to stop all sounds.

Follow Song Position will make your patterns scroll across the screen when you press play. I have no idea why anyone would want this off as it's confusing as all hell, but if you have masochist tendencies, give it a try. Otherwise be sane, and leave it on.

Animate Cursor will make your edit cursor glide from one place to another. For example pressing Enter when you are in the pattern editor will transport you to the sequence editor. With this option on, you will see the cursor move from one place to the other. With the option off, the cursor will jump right to its destination.

Hide Zeroes will simply hide all the pattern effect data that is empty (0000). Oldschool trackers used to always display the zeroes, but everything looks so much cleaner when you are not shown this pointless information. I recommend turning this on at all times.

Protracker Style Delete is one of the most useful option that is strangely not turned on by default. When it's turned on and you are editing a pattern, pressing the delete key will simply delete whatever data there is at your edit cursor's position as if it was entering an "empty note". If it's turned off, it will delete whatever data is at your edit cursor's position, and move everything that is underneath one row up. This will mess up your pattern big time, especially if you're just punching in data. I strongly suggest you turn this on, leave it on, and go around town to convince all the neighbors to also have it on at all times.

Toggle Edit On Stop is my fault. I kind of told the dev that some weirdos, like me, prefer to use the spacebar to stop the song instead of reaching way the hell up to the F8 key. But since the spacebar is also the key to toggle edit mode on and off, it used to do both. Stop the song, and toggle the edit. This drove me nuts and I suggested to Kometbomb that the edit toggle should be an option. So there it is now. The way it works now is simple, but apparently complicated to explain. With the option off, pressing Play will turn off the edit mode while the song plays. If you then press the spacebar, then the song will stop without turning the edit mode back on. You will have to press the spacebar one more time to toggle editing. When the option is turned on, then pressing the spacebar while the song plays will stop the song and also toggle the edit both right back on.

Center Pattern Editor is a mystery to me. I can't tell what it does, whether it's turned on or off. If you figure it out, feel free to point at me and laugh.

Decimal Numbers is for people like me who can barely manage hexadecimal without breaking a limb. It won't change everything to decimal as a lot of tracker functions are based around hexadecimal, but it will at least make the position row of every pattern display in decimal, as well as the position indicator in the sequence editor. I always have it on because that's what I am used to and it enables me to quickly locate the quarter-pattern position (16), the half point (32) and the three-quarters point (48) in my 64 row patterns. This is a personal setting, but years of counting beats in normal-people number left me unable to use hexadecimal for this.

Default Pattern Length has two settings, a toggle option called Same as Step and a selection of four default pattern lengths. As stated in my first tutorial, I recommend using 64 row patterns all the time. Unless you need shorter patterns for different time signatures, there is almost no reason to use other lengths. If you have the Same as Step option toggled on, then at any time in your editing, if you change the Step setting on the main screen, the next pattern you create will be create at that length. So for the best of both worlds I recommend putting Same as Step to on, and setting the default size to 64. What this will do is set up Klystrack to 64 row patterns by default all the time, with the option of changing it on-the-fly with the Step setting. Remember to set your Step back to 40 (64 rows) when you're done though.

Reverb Length in Ticks is the option you toggle if you want the delay taps in the FX section to be displayed in ticks instead of milliseconds. I use milliseconds because it's how I learned to use time-based effects, but I realize ticks might be more appropriate for some people. Your call, it doesn't affect anything except the display of the data.

AHX Style Sequence Edit is another useful option is strangely turned off by default. This option affects how pattern numbers are entered in the Sequence Editor. When the option is off, a single key is all that is needed to enter a pattern number. For example keys 0-9 and A-F will enter pattern numbers 00 to 0F. To enter patterns numbers above that, stick to the alphabet. G will input 10, H is 11 and so on. This is a quicker method of entering the pattern numbers but it breaks when you reach pattern 23, entered with the Z key. If you want to use patterns above that you'll have no more keys to enter the numbers. Oh noes! This is where AHX Style Sequence Edit comes in handy. Instead of having a single key to enter a pattern number, you will only have to use keys 0-9 and A-F but you will need to enter both digits manually in the sequence editor. To punch in pattern number 53 for example, you need to put a 5 in the first column, and a 3 in the second. A little more time consuming, but infinitely more practical. If you're anything like me, breaking past pattern 23 happens on every single song so there's no point in ever having this option off.

Disable Nostalgy will simple disable the "decrunching" visual effect visible when you first start Klystrack. Granted it's only three seconds of your time, and yes the first time I saw it I smiled and nodded in approval. But by now it's lost its novelty effect and I just turn it off because I want to get to the music right away.

You can edit your own keymaps and store them in a simple text file with the extension .key in the KEY folder. What this file does is not define a keyboard layout, it remaps the default keys to new places. So for example if you want your Play key (default F5) to be the Z key, you will have to create a line like this in the .key file:

K_Z = K_F5

This means that KEY Z is now replacing KEY F5. Now, what about keys that use modifiers such as shift, ctrl or alt? Let's say you want to remap the Play (F5) function to left-ctrl-w for some obscure reason. Then the line you need to input is:


Additionally, you can define keys according to what screen you're on, or what section of a screen your on. You do this by indicating the place where the key remapping is to take effect. If you like to use the TAB key to move your edit cursor to the next channel (default is ctrl-right) for example, you need these two lines:


The sections which are available to you are as follows:

[global] for keys that work in every screen.
[pattern] for when you're in the pattern editor
[sequence] for when you're in the sequence editor
[screenname] for keys to be mapped only in a certain screen, like instrument, or wave.

Lines that start with a # are not processed and can be used to leave notes in the text file for ulterior reference. For a list of all the valid key definitions you can use to edit your own keymap, please consult this link.

Now here's a copy of my own keymap, annotated with the reasons why I put these keys in these places.

# n00bstar's convoluted keymap
# inspired by protracker and fasttracker
Nowadays it's common to have the F5-F8 keys used for such functions as play/stop, but for me these functions will forever be associated with alt and ctrl. Why? Well because that's the way Protracker set up the standard years ago, and even when I switched over to Fast Tracker 2 later on, these keys were still the default. To me they are a natural choice because since you will be using the arrows keys a whole damn lot while composing, your thumb will naturally rests above the ctrl key, making it an obvious choice for the Play From Cursor function, which plays the song starting at the beginning of the pattern you're at. If I want to loop the current pattern I'm editing, then its the alt key, just a centimeter or two away. And when I want to play the song from the top, I use left-alt + right-ctrl. It might seem awkward at first, but when you get used to it its really much more comfortable.

K_F5 = K_F2
K_F6 = K_F4
Since I got rid of all the play functions associated with the F keys, I remapped them so I can access every editor screen with out having to use the shift key. F2 is my main editor, F3 is the instruments (as it is by default), F4 opens the FX editor, F5 opens the full screen pattern editor, F6 is the full screen sequence editor and finally F7 is the wave editor. No more shift key for this fella, no sir.

#tab move
#tab move
Again, this is an old Protracker/FastTracker standard. I like to be able to use the TAB key to move a full channel to the right, and Shift-TAB to move a full channel to the left in both my pattern editor, and sequence editor.

mix rate and buffer
In your Documents and Settings folder (well.. at least in Windows, I wouldn't know for Macs because I don't use Macs because they suck and if you disagree then you are retarded and deserve death) you will find a file called .klystrack. This is a standard text file you can edit in Notepad and you will notice it contains pretty much all of the options we've just went over and what they're set to. There is however two extra lines in that file which you cannot configure from the software itself, the mix rate and the mix buffer. 

The mix rate is the default sample rate at which Klystrack will be mixing its sounds at. By default it is set to 44100, which gives you a resolution of 44.1khz, the "CD quality" standard. There are no real reasons to go above or below this sample rate and there's even a fair chance of making Klystrack crash if you set it at nonsensical numbers. But you know, if you want to play around with it...there it is.

The second line is the mix buffer. By default this is set to 2048 samples, which means that every sound that Klystrack makes is delayed by 2048 samples before being actually output to the speaker. The default value is just fine and you should not feel too much of a delay between then moment when you press a key and the moment when the sound is played. I use 1024 because years of using professional equipment and ASIO drivers have made me very sensitive to latency. Anything lower than that, you risk running into overheads, which will translate if aggressive glitches in your output. This is however very dependent on the computer you are using so feel free to experiment. The worst that can happen is your computer will explode and you will die a horrible fiery death.

Every time you use the file requester in Klystrack, you will notice a little heart icon that is grayed out. If you click it, it will light up, marking the current folder you're in as a favorite. You can then press the favorite button at the bottom of the file requester to recall a list of all your favorite folders. If you're an organization whore like me and you've got everything neatly stored in 800 carefully named folders, this will make your life much easier. These folders are saved in the .klystrackfavorites file located in your Documents and Settings folder (again... fuck you Mac users nobody cares about you, you fucking hipster).

There it is folks. Next time I promise we'll get into fun stuff. No more of that user-manual crap!