I'm a complete music newbie.

I'd like to create some music for small, totally aficionado videogames.

My sound requirements are:

  • Small file size (less than an mp3 or ogg)
  • Playable via libmodplug (list of supported file formats on that link)
  • I don't mind "chiptuneish" sound, but I need something with better quality than midi. At least something that sounds the same from computer to computer.

So I've concluded that I need a tracker program. With that in mind, I can center my search a bit more:

  • I'm looking for free or very cheap alternatives. Definitively not going to buy anything with a pricetag of more than two figures.
  • I'd be great if it worked on Linux, but that isn't a requirement.
  • I'd like something whose sourcecode has been touched at least once in the last 2 years.
  • I need something that a music-newbie can use!

So far I've found SoundTracker, ChibiTracker & MilkyTracker (from this wikipedia list. Sunvox also appeared on that list, but it only exports to midi and wav). The only one that doesn't look abandoned is MilkyTracker. I've tried it, but it's interface is non-understandable to me. So many buttons!

Is there any other software there that I should know about?

4 Answers 4


SunVox is actually really good and is under active development (latest release as of the time of this writing was 4 Feb 2014). It is also supported across all desktop platforms and mobile devices. So you can compose anywhere, when the mood strikes.

As for the formats it exports, it's pretty darned trivial to convert a .wav file to an .mp3! So really not sure what the issue is there :)

I do have to say that although SunVox is pretty cool anbd very powerful for its simplistic interface, it's probably not got as much learning material as a product like Renoise, which actually has its own youtube channel for learning the application.


You've found all the big modern trackers. There isn't nearly as much development as there used to be, mostly because it's now almost trivial to compress and distribute a traditional waveform recording using lossy codecs like MP3 or AAC. Tracker music in wavetable modules like the ones libmodplug can read are mostly just for enthusiasts now.

If you don't mind having to export to audio, but still want to use a tracker to compose, Renoise is quite popular, since it can act as a host for plugins like a DAW but still uses tracker notation to control them. It's presently within your price range and does work on Linux.

You're definitely going to have to learn a few buttons and somewhat obscure commands if you want to use a tracker. Fortunately, the concept isn't that hard, so long as you have a good grasp of music. If you can write a tune on a piano, you can certainly transcribe that into a tracker without too much trouble. But if you're new to composing music at all, you might find trackers to be a bit much at first since it takes longer to experiment.

Does your game have to use libmodplug? If you have the resources to use recordings, you might find that a lot easier. And there's a lot more modern software that you can use to compose and record.

  • Hi there! Thanks for pointing out Renoise. I'm so used to commercial software being so expensive that I dismissed it automatically, thinking it'd cost me $2000 or something. Anyway, I want to make games using the LÖVE platform. As far as I know, it admits modplug, mp3 and ogg. I'm hesitant to use mp3 because the complete size of my games (without music) will rarely surpass 200kb. Adding an mp3, even a small one, will increase their size by a tenfold.
    – egarcia
    Jan 5, 2011 at 17:48
  • Oh, yeah, for a small-filesize project like that, it would certainly be cool to use modules to keep the size down, just to say you'd done it if for no other reason. I don't think Renoise can write those files, so you're probably stuck with the ones you already listed. But they seem to be pretty solid from what I hear! Best of luck :) Jan 5, 2011 at 17:55
  • Oh and regarding the musical knowledge - mine is pretty rudimentary. I know what a scale, and the names of the notes. I can't name a note I'm hearing, just by hearing it. I know what chords are, but I don't know them by heart. I can reproduce any song melody on a piano via key trial-and-error.
    – egarcia
    Jan 5, 2011 at 18:01
  • If you stick to samples rather than VST instruments and save as a MOD or XM file, you should be able to use libmodplug
    – Rob Cowell
    Mar 14, 2011 at 11:36

You should look in to Audacity. Free, open source, very capable multi-track software for audio production. It is a much better platform for producing any kind of audio than something like SoundTracker. You'll want to pair Audacity with some software synthesizers and score MIDI in Audacity that plays the software synthesizers. You can write your score in Audacity this way and then bounce the final score to a stereo MP3 file, all from within the software.

There are a literal ton of free virtual instrument synths to choose from. The best place to find them is via KVR Audio's VSTi search engine. Just filter your search so it only shows free plugins that support the platform you're running Audacity on.

  • Thanks for your answer Ian. However I was looking for something with a smaller footprint than mp3. The software synthesizer world does look ... complex.
    – egarcia
    Jan 5, 2011 at 17:00
  • @egarcia - misunderstood your question. I thought you were okay with MP3-sized audio. That being said, Audacity can export a good number of formats on Linux. It can also export WAV, for you to covert as you please.
    – Ian C.
    Jan 5, 2011 at 18:15

I don't know if Anvil Studio would be what you're looking for:

(source: anvilstudio.com)

It's not free, but there is a demo:

"The standard, free version, of Anvil Studio only records one audio track for one minute, but you can use it to see how it works with your setup."

It seems to support exporting/importing of MIDI files.

  • Thanks for your feedback. However, I'd rather use a mod-like format instead of midi - because midi files sound different depending on the host computer's configuration (at least with my engine of choice, LÖVE)
    – egarcia
    Jan 10, 2011 at 17:46
  • @egarcia: Perhaps you could convert the MIDI files to a different format after.
    – George Edison
    Jan 10, 2011 at 17:48

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