Impulse Tracker

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Impulse Tracker
Impulse Tracker 2.14 screenshot
Impulse Tracker 2.14 screenshot
Developer(s)Jeffrey Lim
Initial release1995; 26 years ago (1995)
Stable release
2.14 Patch #5 / 8 April 1999; 21 years ago (1999-04-08)
Repository Edit this at Wikidata
Written inAssembly language
Operating systemDOS
LicenseBSD license[1]

Impulse Tracker is a multi-track digital sound tracker (music sequencer). Originally released in 1995 by Jeffrey Lim as Freeware with commercial extensions, it was one of the last tracker programs for the DOS platform.

In 2014, on its 20th anniversary, Impulse Tracker became open-source software and the source code was released.


Impulse Tracker was authored by Jeffrey "Pulse" Lim for the DOS/x86-PC platform.[2] Impulse Tracker was coded in Assembly language,[3] and the GUI was heavily influenced by that of Scream Tracker 3.[4]

The first version was released in 1995 and included example music, provided by Jeffrey Lim and Chris Jarvis. The software was distributed as freeware, though extra features, such as support for stereo WAV output and a personalized version of the driver for co-editing songs over IPX networks, were provided for a fee. After the stereo WAV writer plugin was publicly pirated,[5] the original author announced that he would discontinue development after version 2.14. The latest version was v2.14 Patch #5 released on April 8, 1999.

On February 16, 2014, Jeffrey Lim announced that he would release the complete source code of Impulse Tracker as part of its 20-year anniversary.[6] On October 19, 2014, the first part of the source code was released on a Bitbucket repository. On December 25, 2014, the missing parts (sound drivers) were added and the code was officially released under the BSD license.[1]


Like in most module editors, music is arranged on a grid of channels. Each supports note on and note off instructions similar to MIDI. Impulse Tracker modules use the .IT file extension.

New Note Actions (NNAs) is a feature that handles commands received on the same channel as another instrument which is still playing. NNAs allow the user to customize the subsequent action:

  • Cut: The new instrument replaces the current instrument.
  • Continue: The old instrument continues to play using its ADSR curve.
  • Off: The old instrument begins the release section of its ADSR curve.
  • Fade: The old instrument fades out to 0 volume at a designated rate overriding the ADSR curve.

Impulse Tracker supports hardware MIDI channels on the Gravis Ultrasound, InterWave and Sound Blaster 32 card families (provided enough RAM is available).

IT file format[edit]

The .IT file format is the format native to Impulse Tracker. It is similar to older formats such as .MOD, but features new additions such as new note actions which allow the user to customize subsequent actions on receiving commands from the same channel as the one playing.

Some[which?] player software supports the .ITZ format, which is a renamed zip file that contains a .IT file.

Compatible software[edit]

Other music-playing software that supports the IT file format include Cowon jetAudio, Windows Media Player*¹, Media Player Classic*¹, MikMod, ModPlug Tracker, OpenMPT, Renoise, Schism Tracker,[7] ChibiTracker,[8] SVArTracker,[9] XMPlay, TiMidity, VLC, Winamp, and XMMS.[10]

*¹ - Supported only on x86(32bit) versions of application.

Usage and impact[edit]

Erez Eizen of Infected Mushroom and Shiva Shidapu composed his first trance music on Impulse Tracker.[11] Ian Stocker used IT with other software in his collaboration for the music in the Nintendo DS version of The Sims 2.[12]

The video games Pocket Tanks and Grid Wars use the IT format for some of their songs.[13] Various games by Epic Games such as the first Unreal and Unreal Tournament as well as Deus Ex used the IT format in a "UMX" container format.[14][15]

The video game composer and demoscener Andrew Sega (Necros) used Impulse Tracker extensively in his demoscene days.

Trance producer Sean Tyas began his music production career using Impulse Tracker.[16] Electronic rock musician Blue Stahli has revealed to have used Impulse Tracker and other trackers in the past.[17]

Deadmau5's career began in the mid 1990s with a chiptune and demoscene movements-influenced sound with Impulse Tracker.[18]

Machinedrum used Impulse Tracker for many years before switching to Ableton Live.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b License of Impulse Tracker on bitbucket
  2. ^ Leonard, Andrew (April 29, 1999). "Mod love". Salon Media Group. Retrieved 2010-05-17.
  3. ^ Lim, Jeffrey. "Impulse Tracker". Retrieved 2010-12-07.
  4. ^ Lim, Jeffrey. "Features of Impulse Tracker". Retrieved 2009-04-07.
  5. ^ Lim, Jeffrey. "Impulse Tracker Changelog". Retrieved 2010-07-17.
  6. ^ Lim, Jeffrey (February 16, 2014). "20 years of Impulse Tracker". Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Matsuoka, Claudio (2007-11-04). "Tracker History Graphing Project". Retrieved 2011-01-29. Tracker History Graph
  11. ^ Sean Davidson (Jan 3, 2003). "Trance Mushrooms to infect Pune". The Times of India. Retrieved 2010-05-16.
  12. ^ Andy Jones (January 10, 2006). "From a Distance: The Virtual Collaboration that Helped Score The Sims 2 DS/GBA". Gamasutra. Retrieved 2010-05-16.
  13. ^ Pocket Tanks intro on SoundCloud
  14. ^ Information on how to extract IT files out of UMX containers
  15. ^ "Interview with Alex Brandon". Retrieved 2009-01-10.
  16. ^ Sean Tyas interview
  17. ^ Blue Stahli twitter profile
  18. ^ Burns, Todd L. (2008-09-30). "Deadmau5: It's complicated". Retrieved 2014-09-03. I was in my Mom's basement tooling away on Impulse Tracker on a 386 just doing Nintendo music until some Loop Library company hired me as a producer.
  19. ^ xlr8r Machinedrum interview

External links[edit]

Sound examples[edit]