History of Electronic Music: Music Trackers explained

Wether you’re new to making electronic music or a seasoned pro it’s really helpful to have a good understanding of the craft. In recent years the history of electronic music has becoming increasingly well documented by both industry insiders and enthusiastic amateurs so there’s a treasure trove of brilliant documentaries out there to explore.

Sit back and enjoy this fascinating and comprehensive overview of the tracker music scene – this soundtracker documentary will hopefully prove to be a fascinating watch for anyone too young to have used trackers and 16 bit computers to make music and it will also no doubt provide a lovely nostalgia hit for all you older producers and musicians out there who did try to make music with your Amiga 500 and some cracked software, back in the day!

The history of trackers – a soundtracker documentary

If you’ve not come across tracker based music before then you need to know that trackers and the 16 Bit home computer revolution of the late 1980s and early 1990s played an important role in the development of electronic music thanks to an army of “bedroom musicians” who were creating music which was often directly inspired by the underground dance music scenes of Chicago, New York and the U.K. in particular.

What exactly is a Music Tracker?

A music tracker (sometimes referred to as just tracker for short) is a type of music sequencer software for creating music. The music is represented as discrete musical notes positioned in several channels at discrete chronological positions on a vertical timeline.


This fascinating video from Ahoy does a fantastic job of exploring and explaining the tracker scene and covers the dawn of 16-Bit computing, early Amiga software, the Demoscene, the most important tracker software of the era, chiptunes, famous tracker musicians and much more besides. And, of course, there’s plenty of fantastic music to enjoy too!

Video timeline:

0:00 Introduction
0:50 The Dawn of 16-Bit Computing
3:08 Multimedia Powerhouse
4:20 Early Amiga Music Software
6:40 SoundMonitor
8:40 The Ultimate Soundtracker
12:08 ST-01 Samples
13:24 Soundtracker’s Commercial Fate
14:02 The Demoscene
16:00 Early Soundtracker Clones
19:21 Noisetracker
20:14 Tracker Musicians
21:36 Doskpop
21:56 Chiptunes
23:15 Protracker
24:03 MED / OctaMED
25:28 Trackers in the Mainstream
26:45 Later Amiga Trackers
27:48 PC Audio
28:37 MIDI Soundcards
29:34 Screamtracker
30:54 Second Reality
32:02 FastTracker
32:45 Impulse Tracker
33:29 The Advent of CD-ROM
34:26 Epic MegaGames
36:38 Contemporary Trackers
38:28 The Sound of 16-Bit
39:16 Finding Out More
40:42 Credits

If this video wets your appetite for trackers then watch out for my next post in which I’ll be exploring the best tracker software you can download today and the awesome hardware based Polyend Tracker which is really helping to inject new life into the tracker scene!

More Tracker related content: