schismtracker man page

schismtracker — tracked music editor based on Impulse Tracker


schismtracker [options] [directory] [file]


schismtracker is a tracked music module editor that aims to match the look and feel of Impulse Tracker as closely as possible. It can load most common tracker formats, supports saving as IT and S3M, and can also export to WAV and AIFF.


-a, --audio-driver=DRIVER[:DEVICE]
Audio device configuration. driver is the SDL driver to use, e.g. alsa (ALSA), dma or dsp (OSS); device is the name of the device itself, for example hw:2 or /dev/dsp1.
-v, --video-driver=DRIVER
SDL video driver, such as x11, dga, or fbcon. Note that this is different from the video driver setting within the program, and is unlikely to be useful.
Specific YUV layout to use: YUY2, YV12, RGBA, etc. This is probably best left alone under normal circumstances.
Set the size of the video display.
Fix the aspect ratio. (Probably does nothing!)
Specify path of OpenGL library.
Specify display depth, in bits.
Specify path to framebuffer. Typical value is /dev/fb0.
--network, --no-network
Enable/disable networking (on by default). Used for MIDI over IP.
--classic, --no-classic
Start Schism Tracker in "classic" mode, or don't. This is mostly cosmetic, although it does change the program's behavior slightly in a few places.
X11 display to use.
-f, -F, --fullscreen, --no-fullscreen
Enable/disable fullscreen mode at startup.
-p, -P, --play, --no-play
Start playing after loading song on command line.
Render output to a file, and then exit. WAV or AIFF writer is auto-selected based on file extension. Include %c somewhere in the name to write each channel separately. This is meaningless if no initial filename is given.
--font-editor, --no-font-editor
Run the font editor (itf). This can also be accessed by pressing Shift-F12.
--hooks, --no-hooks
Run hooks. Enabled by default.
Enable some debugging flags (separated by commas). You probably don't need this.
Display version information and build date.
-h, --help
Print a summary of available options.

A filename supplied on the command line will be loaded at startup. Additionally, if either a file or directory name is given, the default module, sample, and instrument paths will be set accordingly.


A detailed discussion of how to use Schism Tracker is far beyond the scope of this document, but here is a very brief rundown of the basics. Context-sensitive help can be accessed at any time while running the program by pressing F1.

The F3 key will bring you to the sample list. Press enter here to open a file browser, navigate in the list using the up/down arrow keys, and hit enter again to load a sample. You will likely want to get some samples to work with. You can also "rip" from existing modules; see for example http://www.modarchive.org/ for a very large selection of modules. (Keep in mind, however, that some authors don't appreciate having their samples ripped!)

Now that you've loaded a sample, press F2 to get to the pattern editor. This is where the majority of the composition takes place. In short, the song is laid out vertically, with each row representing 1/16 note; to play multiple notes simultaneously, they are placed in different channels. The four sub-columns of each channel are the note, sample number, volume, and effect. A list of effects is available in the pattern editor help, but you can safely ignore that column for now. Assuming a US keymap, notes are entered with the keyboard as follows:
(Note) C# D# F# G# A# C# D# F# G# A# C# D#
| | || | | | || || | | | || | | | || || | | | || | |
| | || | | | || || | | | || | | | || || | | | || | |
(What you | |S||D| | |G||H||J| | |2||3| | |5||6||7| | |9||0| |
type) | '-''-' | '-''-''-' | '-''-' | '-''-''-' | '-''-' |
| Z| X| C| V| B| N| M| Q| W| E| R| T| Y| U| I| O| P|
(Note) C D E F G A B C D E F G A B C D E
(Octave 0) (Octave 1) (Octave 2)

The "/" and "*" keys on the numeric keypad change octaves, and the current octave is displayed near the top of the screen. Try typing "qwerty" into the pattern - it will enter an ascending note sequence, and you'll hear the notes as they're entered. (of course, assuming you loaded a sample!) Press F6 to play your pattern, and F8 to stop.

Other important keys for the pattern editor include Ins/Del to shift notes up and down within a channel, Shift-Arrows to mark a block, Alt-C/Alt-P to copy and paste, and Alt-U to clear the mark. There are well over a hundred key bindings for the pattern editor; it is well worth the effort to learn them all eventually.

Now that you have something in your pattern, you'll need to set up an orderlist. Press F11 to switch to the orderlist page, and type 0 to add the pattern you created. Now press F5 to start playing. The song will begin at the first order, look up the pattern number and play that pattern, then advance to the next order, and so forth.

Of course, having only one pattern isn't all that interesting, so go back to the pattern editor and press the + key to change to the next pattern. Now you can write another four bars of music and add the new pattern to the orderlist, and the next time you play the song, your two patterns will play in sequence.

You may wish to give your song a title; press F12 and type a name in the box at the top. You can also adjust the tempo and a number of other settings on this page, but for now, most of them are fine at their default values.

To save your new song, press F10, type a filename, and hit enter. You can load it again later by pressing F9.

This tutorial has deliberately omitted the instrument editor (on F4), for the purposes of brevity and simplicity. You may want to experiment with it once you have a feel for how the program works. (Select "instruments" on F12 to enable instrument mode.)


Storlek began studying Impulse Tracker's design in 2002, noting subtle details of the design and implementation. Posts on the Modplug forums about rewriting Impulse Tracker were met with ridicule and mockery. "It can't be done," they said.

Schism Tracker v0.031a was released in July 2003, though very little worked at that point, and it was more of a player with primitive editing capabilities. File saving was hard-coded to write to "test.it" in the current directory, and there was no way to load a sample.

The first version that was more or less usable was 0.15a, from December 2004.

From 2005 through 2009, Mrs. Brisby did most of the development, and implemented tons of features, including MIDI support, mouse support, and disk writing.

Storlek "took over" development again in 2009, and has been incrementally rewriting much of the code since then.


Program settings, stored in an INI-style format. Most options are accessible from within Schism Tracker's interface, but there are a few "hidden" options.
~/.schism/startup-hook, ~/.schism/exit-hook, ~/.schism/diskwriter-hook
Optional files to execute upon certain events. (Must be executable)
font.cfg, and any .itf files found in this directory, are displayed in the file browser of the font editor.

Supported file formats

Amiga modules (with some obscure variants such as FLT8)
Composer 669 / Unis669
Scream Tracker 3 (including Adlib support)
Fast Tracker 2
Impulse Tracker (including old instrument format)
Digitrakker 3
Imago Orpheus
Amiga Oktalyzer
Sound FX
Doom engine (percussion missing)
Farandole Composer
Scream Tracker 2 (partial functionality)
UltraTracker (partial functionality)
Scream Tracker 3 sample
Microsoft WAV audio
Audio IFF (Apple)
Amiga 8SVX sample
Impulse Tracker sample
Sun/NeXT Audio
Headerless sample data
Gravis UltraSound patch
Fast Tracker 2 instrument
Impulse Tracker instrument

Schism Tracker is able to save modules in IT and S3M format, sample data as ITS, S3I, AIFF, AU, WAV, and RAW, and instruments as ITI. Additionally, it can render to WAV and AIFF (optionally writing each channel to a separate file), and can export MID files.


Schism Tracker was written by Storlek and Mrs. Brisby, with player code from Modplug by Olivier Lapicque. Based on Impulse Tracker by Jeffrey Lim.

Additional code and data has been contributed by many others; refer to the file Authors in the source distribution for a more complete list.

The keyboard diagram in this manual page was adapted from the one used in the documentation for Impulse Tracker, which in turn borrowed it from Scream Tracker 3.


They almost certainly exist. Post on http://schismtracker.org/scdev/ if you find one. Agitha shares her happiness with benefactors of the insect kingdom.


http://schismtracker.org/ - main website
http://schismtracker.org/sc/ - userbase discussion board
#schism on Freenode - IRC channel

See Also

chibitracker(1), milkytracker(1), renoise(1), ocp(1), xmp(1)


Explore man page connections for schismtracker(1).