Alien Terms
A Short Glossary of Digital Music Terms

Hi, there, surfer! You say you got questions?

MODSpeak™ Live! knows that there are those among you who have never encountered mods, so here are a few specific definitions of terms which may be alien to you. We will assume that you are not actually from another star system so we will skip common stuff like music or digital. If you run into other terms not defined here - or if you just want to know everything there is to know about MODs - you can find all the answers in jester's world famous Mod FAQ, which you can find at .

As a matter of fact, I do: just what are these mod thingies?

Mod is a generic term for digital music files that play on just about any operating system - as long as you have a mod player. Mods are composed on mod trackers, which are available as shareware and freeware all over cyberspace. Many mods are created by obscure, talented musicians. Some are composed by folks with a knack for sound editing. There are mods of all varieties, from all musical genres: orchestrated "classical" and acoustic music, pop, jazz, metal, hard core thrash, funk and rap. Something for everybody!

OK. But.. I thought computer music was all beeps and whistles?

Dont get confused, now! We aren't talking about MIDI here! Mods are a totally different animal: digital sound samples of real and synthetic instruments, edited to produce real music, (as any mod author will tell you) not that elevator-dentist's-waiting-room stuff!.
MODs In The Key of X!

MOD Defs


mod - mod (plural mods; sometimes capitalized, as MOD(s)) is slang for module. "Modules are digital music files, made up of a set of samples (the instruments) and sequencing information, telling a mod player when to play which sample on which track at what pitch, optionally performing an effect like vibrato, for example. Thus mods are different from pure sample files such as WAV or AU, which contain no sequencing information, and MIDI files, which do not include any custom samples/ instruments. Mods are extremely popular in the demo world and offer a way of making music of an acceptable level of quality rather cheaply. With the advent of high-quality sound hardware, new generations of mods may even rise to a sound quality nearing that of professional equipment." There are loads of different file formats for modules. The wonderously overly complex tables below list the most common formats and minimal related data:
Extension Channels* Primary PC Tracker Players Other Systems
.669 8 Composer 669 MODPlug,CP,M4W O / U
.FAR 16 Farandole Composer MODPlug,IPLAY,M4W O
.IT 64 Impulse Tracker IT,MODPlug,MikIT M/U (w/MikIT)
.MOD 8 Various MODPlug.CP,M4W,MikIT A / M / O / U
.MTM 32 MultiModuleEdit MODPlug,CP,M4W A / O / U
.S3M 25 ScreamTracker MODPlug,CP, M4W,MikIT, A / M / O / U
.XM 32 FastTracker II MODPlug,FT2,CP, M4W,MikIT A / O
Various 64 ModPlug Tracker MODPlug, Windpws players  
* For more information, consult the MOD FAQ.


Key Player O/S Sound Cards Key O/S
CP Cubic Player MS DOS SB, GUS A Amiga
M4W Mod4Win Windows,Win95-98 Win95-compatible M Mac
IT Impulse Tracker MS DOS SB, GUS, others O OS/2
MODPlug MODPlug Player Win95-98, NT, XP Win95-compatible U Unix
MikIT MikIT Win95-98 (also Mac, Unix) Win95-compatible    
** These are top rated Intel-compatible players. For other O/S, consult the MOD FAQ.
*** There are other operating systems, but they don't count (yet).

mod player

mod player - "A 'player' is a program that decodes mods and ouputs these on a sound device." WinAmp plays most mod formats. The two most popular mod-specific players for PC are (historically) MODPlug Player (Win 95-98-NT-XP) and Cubic Player (MS-DOS). Mod trackers (see below) also serve as players, and, however impractical, many composers recommend use of their preferred original tracker for playback. Please consult the MOD FAQ for more information on what players are available for other operating systems.

mod tracker

mod tracker - A tracker is a mod editor/player. There are loads of these, but the most popular original PC trackers were: Scream Tracker - programmed by PSI of Future Crew; Fast Tracker - programmed by Mr H and Vogue of Triton; and the best tracker of them all, Impulse Tracker - programmed by Jeffrey Lim. The only tracker that ever worked well in most modern versions of Windows is ModPlug Tracker. Consult the Mod FAQ for more information on other trackers for Intel-compatible PCs and other computers.


demo - The term 'demo' can mean a [multimedia] presentation which includes mods. A 'demo group' is a bunch of artistically inclined computer people that get together and create a demo. Future Crew is a demo group. Archaic - 'demo' is sometimes a synonym for 'mod'.


sample - "A 'sample' is a digitized sound included in the mod, which serves as an instrument. As mods don't use a fixed instrument set (as General MIDI does), anything can be used as an instrument, including noises or human voices." Mod authors create their own samples, download them from various ftp sites, or simply "rip" samples from other mods.


track - "A 'track' is a module voice. The number of tracks denotes the number of notes/ instruments/ voices that can play simultaneously." The terms "track" and "channel" are generally regarded as interchangable.


lamer - 'Lamer' is a rude term used by some mod authors to segregate themselves from newer, inexperienced mod authors and the vast, unwashed masses of mod fans who probably are the only reason they exist in the first place. Chances are that if you see this term in use, you are reading something by somebody who is a hell of a lot lamer than you are. "There's no point to elitism, racism, or any other ism in cyberspace. All flames burn out eventually. Think about it!" - FLAtRich

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Except where otherwise noted, quotations above are excerpted from jester's Mod FAQ, and used by permission
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