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Music Media Software Linux

Linux as A Musician's OS? 309

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the but-there's-no-protools dept.
lazyeye writes "Keyboard Magazine has an in-depth article about the state of music production on Linux. While it does introduce Linux to the average musician, the article does get into some of the available music applications and music-oriented Linux distributions out there. From the opening paragraph 'You might think there's no way a free operating system written by volunteers could compete when it comes to music production. But in the past couple of years, all the tools you need to make music have arrived on Linux.'"
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Linux as A Musician's OS?

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  • by dsginter (104154) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:53AM (#19021807)
    As a musician, I prefer Windows Vista Musician 64-bit System Builder Edition.
  • slashdotted (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:56AM (#19021839) Journal
    No comments and it's already slashdotted. Ah well. What are your thoughts on these products?

    RoseGarden [rosegardenmusic.com]
    Ardour [ardour.org]
    CSound [csounds.com]

    Do you really need anything else?
    • Re:slashdotted (Score:4, Informative)

      by guruevi (827432) <<evi> <at> <smokingcube.be>> on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:04PM (#19021995) Homepage
      You're forgetting the actual Jack tools (not the command line, the graphical ones), wonderful especially if you have large setups with lots of inputs/outputs
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by X0563511 (793323) *
        Wake me up when we have something like Reason or FLStudio...

        I don't have, nor want, real instruments...
        • Re:slashdotted (Score:4, Insightful)

          by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Monday May 07, 2007 @06:41PM (#19028773) Homepage
          You are either brave or foolish. I also rely extensively on virtual instruments and sampling, writing pure virtual music software is how I started out in the 90's. Still, you can't go anywhere without getting blasted by audio hippies claiming "that's not real music!". The fact is, recording is the easy part! Multitracks and sequencers are to music what Windows Explorer is to files. They just move them around, cut/paste and a few simple tricks. There's very little computing involved.

          I get quite irritated when people spend a small fortune on an "audio workstation" then use it like a glorified mixing deck. They'd be better off spending the cash on real gear, because it works in real-time, doesn't crash or become obsoleted by software upgrades, and the interface is a zillion times more natural. Instead there's a perverse market of Virtual Studio which ignores computing paradigms in order to faithfully reproduce a picture of a real mixer on-screen, and then you have to go out and buy a USB Control Surface that's basically a mixer with a USB port, to control the on-screen mixer. Yeah the mouse sucks, maybe they could have considered that if they had designed an actual computer interface.

          What's next ? A virtual wah pedal that's operated by a real-looking USB wah-pedal-controller ?
    • by Lockejaw (955650) on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:07PM (#19022077)
      RoseGarden fills one big gap (score editing, like Finale and Sibelius), but what I'd really like to see is an alternative to SmartMusic (practice music with the computer playing the accompaniment). Bonus points if it will playback scores prepared in RoseGarden.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by drinkypoo (153816)
        I second that, actually what I want is an application that provides a singing tutor. I have a pretty good voice, but I flub quite a bit of notes and my sense of pitch could be better. I've seen them for sale for Windows, but who wants to pay for software? :)
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Coryoth (254751)

          I second that, actually what I want is an application that provides a singing tutor. I have a pretty good voice, but I flub quite a bit of notes and my sense of pitch could be better.
          I suspect that Solfege [solfege.org] may be what you're after. It's a nice little program that can test you on recognising and singing various intervals etc. Definitely worth checking out if you want to improve your ear.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by phliar (87116)

          ... actually what I want is an application that provides a singing tutor.

          You need ear training. No need to buy an expensive tool for that, here's a flash program to practice intervals:

          Interval Trainer [musictheory.net] (Yes, it works under Linux.)

          The site has a bunch of other flash tools, but I think the interval trainer is the most useful.

      • Score editing was going to be my big question, so thanks for pointing that out. Any other recommendations for that area? Anyone?

    • Also Jokosher (Score:4, Informative)

      by Marcion (876801) on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:07PM (#19022079) Homepage Journal
      Also Jokosher ( http://www.jokosher.org/ [jokosher.org] ) is on the verges of having a stable release, for people that use a Gnome based system and want something as simple and easy as Garageband then it could be just the thing if Ardour and some of the others are too much like Darth's Vador's bathroom.

      (BTW, I have no association with any of these projects).
    • by mtaht (603670) on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:17PM (#19022269) Homepage
      One of the marvelous things about most Linux based music apps is that they run on any architecture. This might seem like a no brainer to some, but as someone that has struggled with 64 bit issues on another (to be unnammed) platform, Linux+Music on x86_64 is pretty impressive. What's even more impressive, to me, is how Ingo's RT patch is working on x86_64 these days. I've had a week of solid uptime since the 2.6.21-rt1 patch.

      Rosegarden: Pretty good.

      Ardour: The 2.0 release (just out last week) is AWESOME! Get it!

      CSound: I like to leave my programming mind behind when I'm working on music.

      Sooperlooper: very cool

      Freewheeling: also cool

      Music distros this summer ought to be pretty good - with new releases scheduled for many of the music distributions.

      What bothers me the most these days is plugins and soft synths. There are not enough plugins, the ones we have (like swh-plugins, tap-plugins, caps-plugins, and cmt) aren't heavily optimized for modern architectures (I just spent a weekend working on that) and not enough people out there do dsp programming (myself included) to really gain critical mass for the "perfect EQ" or the "perfect reverb". Still, the plugin solutions are adaquate, just not generally something to rave about. If you know a dsp programmer bored in his day job, show him 64 studio [ferventsoftware.com] or Studio to go [ferventsoftware.com] and try to enlist his/her help!

      Soft Synths are coming along. Linuxsampler [linuxsampler.org] is very nice. Bristol is coming along. There are quite a few more.

      I think Linux music is on the brink of plausible promise. I've got 16 tracks of live audio working almost flawlessly right now.

      • by mtaht (603670)
        A few other cool things: Ardour under the 3d window manager, beryl [ardour.org]. Jamin [sourceforge.net] - mastering software. Bristol [sf.net] - softsynth.
      • Ardour: The 2.0 release (just out last week) is AWESOME! Get it!

        What's the hardware support like in Ardour for multitrack interfaces? I've always been intrigued with it (sent them some money once, just because I thought the project sounded cool) but IMO, the success or failure of a DAW is driven not only by its functionality and ease of use, but also by its compatibility with hardware. First, there's the I/O itself, but then things like control surfaces and MIDI.

        With Garageband or Logic, it's pretty easy to
        • by norkakn (102380)
          Last time I looked, there was one for JACK. I used Ardour a bit with my Delta1010LT and it worked fine. Jack can output to Core Audio, so most things should work. (Except maybe protools crap)
      • Is there a website for music-noob like me? I have a piano with some kind of spdif port (I think*) and want to record high quality music into my computer as wavs or mp3s. I am good with linux, but certainly not with any musical software/hardware. Where is there a complete noob tutorial for it?

        1. So I install ubuntu since it has good sound support?
        2. Next???
        • by iwan-nl (832236)
          2. Install the JACK system. It's used as a hub to connect multiple audio sources, programs and outputs. It's in the Ubuntu repositories so you can install it using synaptic.

          3. Install a multitrack audio recording/editing program. Jokosher, Ardour and Traverso are the most populair ones i think. I don't know what's available from the repositories.

          That should do it for recording music from an external source.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Ardour: The 2.0 release (just out last week) is AWESOME! Get it!

        Binaries are available only for OSX. For those not on OSX, you can build it yourself. See http://ardour.org/building [ardour.org] for build instructions, or http://ardour.org/building_vst_support [ardour.org] for building it with support for VST plugins. You can currently get the VST 2.3 SDK from a link on Steinberg's 3rd Party Developers [steinberg.de] page.

        Ubuntu users should read UbuntuStudioPreparation [ubuntu.com] ("Setting up your system for an audio workstation...")

        I built with scons VST

    • Re:slashdotted (Score:4, Informative)

      by CowboyBob500 (580695) on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:42PM (#19022725) Homepage
      As a musician myself, I really wouldn't bother. Each shows promise, but all of them have fatal flaws that make them useless for anything but the most basic recording - the most obvious being stability in the case of Rosegarden, and the poor quality of the plugins across the board. There's no equivalent of things like guitar amp simulations, or professional grade mastering tools such as Ozone that I could find.

      None of this software comes anywhere close to stuff like Cubase, Logic, MOTU Digital Performer and the like. Even Garageband is superior IMO. I have a Linux machine for everyday work, but a Mac for music related stuff.

      Bob
      • by delire (809063)

        Each shows promise, but all of them have fatal flaws that make them useless for anything but the most basic recording
        What a flailing exaggeration. You haven't actually tried Ardour [ardour.org] have you. What are these fatal flaws you speak of? Let's hear it.
        • What a flailing exaggeration. You haven't actually tried Ardour have you. What are these fatal flaws you speak of? Let's hear it.


          Yes I have. And of all the Linux DAWs, Ardour has the biggest flaw of them all - no MIDI editor.

          Bob
          • by delire (809063)
            Right, so having no MIDI editor makes it - in your own words - "useless for anything but the most basic recording".

            Many people like to use a DAW to record, arrange, mix and produce music. Protools didn't have a MIDI editor yet for years it was an industry standard. What do you use a DAW for exactly? MIDI arrangement? Seems like an odd dealbreaker to me.
            • Re:slashdotted (Score:4, Insightful)

              by CowboyBob500 (580695) on Monday May 07, 2007 @02:37PM (#19024831) Homepage
              No, 90% of my stuff is real instruments. However, in my apartment I have neither the room nor tolerant enough neighbours to record live drums. Programming drums without a MIDI editor is next to impossible. Hence it's a definite dealbreaker.

              Now I know you're going to say I can use something like Hydrogen to do the drums and export it as an audio track into Ardour, but I tend to cut stuff up and re-arrange a song after it has been recorded, and it becomes a real PITA if the drums are not in MIDI format (cymbal crashes crossing bar borders for example).

              Bob
            • yeah, no MIDI editor = useless for me and almost every musician I know.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      you'll need Jack and JackQT, the gui frontend to jack. also, as far as i know, unless you use a music-specific distro, you'll have to tweak the kernel to allow low-latency realtime operation. in short, linux is far from an "out of the box" solution for musicians, however it's becoming a viable option for those of us who enjoy such tweaks. IMHO, linux is not an acceptable environment for pro production. it is however, a hell of a great solution for the weekend warrior who wants to do basic tracking and re
    • Last time I tried CSound, I couldn't really get into it, but Pd [puredata.info] is nice. The learning curve is admittedly something of a learning cliff, but I think the interface it presents -- a blank canvas on which one draws networks of operators, subpatches, unit generators, etc. -- is close to ideal for this kind of work.

      I've still found it to be too much work to build, say, an entire softsynth in Pd (although people have done so), but I've had a lot of luck creating nifty effects boxes, delay units, and audio/data ga
    • I've played with Rosegarden a little, and I like it, but I can't say I've thoroughly tested it. One of the things I really like about Rosegarden is that it's just a sequencer--not a sequencer, soft-synth, digital audio recorder, eye-candy-gee-whiz-I-can-take-over-the-world-with - this-software application like a lot of the commercial products. I'm using pretty light-weight hardware (700MHz Celeron on my Linux box, OS-X 400MHz G4 on my Mac), so I don't want a lot of fluff or extra features--I just want to s
  • My bro tried this (Score:4, Informative)

    by rsilvergun (571051) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:57AM (#19021855)
    and the problem he ran into was the lack of inexpensive hardware that worked on Linux.
    • What kind of hardware was too expensive? An Audigy card with a breakout box can be had for $99, and any new pc can handle the computation.
      • it's not that well supported. Works fine as a sound card, but it's a bitch getting all the inputs working. Also, he's got a cheap 'Guitar Pod' I think it's called that works great for recording, but doesn't work under Linux. There's a ton of cheap USB input and mixer devices out there that don't work in Linux.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mauriatm (531406)
      "the problem he ran into was the lack of inexpensive hardware that worked on Linux."

      Out of curiosity, does that imply that there is expensive hardware that does work with linux?
      • by mtaht (603670) on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:48PM (#19022863) Homepage
        This is my ardour setup:

        RME-Audio Multiface - up to 14 channels of sweet sounding 96khz/24 bit converters - 8 line inputs + ADAT + SPDIF
        Prosonus Digimax FS - 8 nice pre's with an ADAT out.
        Dual processor opteron (3 years old) - with 3GB of ram. Given the huge samples I use (bardstown bosendorfer being one), I have linuxsampler compiled for 128 voices, and configured to use up 1.6GB of ram all by itself.
        4 drives in a striped terabyte.
        System works way better than my motu ever did under the evil os - works like a champ at latency levels down to 1.5ms. I generally run at 5.2ms however, as I tend to run linuxsampler+rosegarden+ardour+hydrogen a lot. One day soon I hope to get a dual core with 8GB of ram.
        The RME-audio design might be 5+ years old, but it's still superior to "normal" firewire, IMHO. The fact that I have both PCI and PCMCIA cards for it means I can take the gear on the road easily...
        Rest of the machine: a bunch of edirol midi converters (they just work), a roland XV88, and PodXT (fully supported by rosegarden) - the M-audio keyboard.... Dual heads provided by a 19 dollar matrox M450 card. I tried the latest nvidia card in this machine, could never get it to work...
        Last important note:
        [m@mingus ~]$ uptime 09:23:22 up 12 days, 6 min, 11 users, load average: 1.39, 1.31, 1.33

        • by norkakn (102380)

          4 drives in a striped terabyte.
          EEP! Put some faster drives in with a RAID 5 card.
      • I know you are joking, but there are _really_ expensive [rme-audio.com] cards/dsp boxes out there with terrific alsa support.
        • by guinsu (198732)
          Umm..RME is actually mid-level. There's WAY more expensive out there. Given that, I love RME products and the Fireface rocks.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    "But in the past couple of years, all the tools you need to make music have arrived on Linux.'""

    Cubase?
  • Well ... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:00PM (#19021921)
    this is music to my ears!
  • I'd like to run music software on my *nix systems - I have three - but have yet to be able to successfully get JACK to start a server. Somehow it seems that - if I'm going to run music software such as Rosegarden or Ardour - that I shouldn't have to setup a server to do it. Though I'm a huge Linux fan, I have found that Wintendo makes things easier with software such as Acid, on which I did this: http://www.perfectreign.com/stuff/kai-groundforce s .mp3 and this: http://www.perfectreign.com/stuff/kai-giddyup.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Somehow it seems that - if I'm going to run music software such as Rosegarden or Ardour - that I shouldn't have to setup a server to do it.

      You actually don't need JACK running to use Rosegarden at all (at least in the Ubuntu build it's never required). But from the way your post reads, it seems as though you don't quite understand the benefits of running JACK. The JACK server provides low-latency audio routing between different JACK-enabled applications and sound hardware. This means that every JACK-enable

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by filesiteguy (695431)

        You actually don't need JACK running to use Rosegarden at all

        I guess I don't know JACK.

        In my systems - all running SUSE 10.1 or 10.2 - the JACK server is required. I'll try one of the pre-setup systems.
      • by Ant P. (974313)
        Without JACK, Rosegarden is just a MIDI sequencer. On the other hand, having JACK running screws up Timidity on my machine (either no sound or a full second of lag).
  • The problems comes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by falcon5768 (629591) <Falcon5768 AT comcast DOT net> on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:07PM (#19022093) Journal
    With tracking down things that work. Hell even on the Mac I hit this issue recently because there was a shift going on a few years back to the PC that only recently has shifted back to the Mac. While if you where geeky enough you could fiddle around and get it working, most musicians I know want it to JUST WORK out of the box no questions asked, and get annoyed if it doesn't since for a lot of people musical inspiration is a hit or miss opportunity (I know friends who keep digital recorders on them at all times because of how often they hummed something out and forgot it 2 hours later)

    I would love for free and cheap solutions to present themselves, i think musical programs as well as most programs are overly expensive for what they are, but given the choice between a 600 dollar mac mini with garageband, or fiddling around in linux to get something to work, a lot of the type of people I know musicians to be are going to go with the former.

    • by garcia (6573)
      While if you where geeky enough you could fiddle around and get it working, most musicians I know want it to JUST WORK out of the box no questions asked, and get annoyed if it doesn't since for a lot of people musical inspiration is a hit or miss opportunity (I know friends who keep digital recorders on them at all times because of how often they hummed something out and forgot it 2 hours later)

      This isn't limited to musicians and, in fact, it's not even limited to those that have been running Linux for 10+
    • I note that even more popular than Ardour 2 on linux is Ardour 2 on Mac OSX. It works pretty good on a mini - Aside from getting X installed, which seems to be a painful process for some users (answers for this are on the forums)
      Ardour [ardour.org] is much more sophisticated than garageband. For me, the killer app in ardour is the anywhere to anywhere routing model.
      • by delire (809063)

        I note that even more popular than Ardour 2 on linux is Ardour 2 on Mac OSX.

        Eh? Ardour has only just been ported to the Mac. Many people have been running Ardour on Linux for years.

        Regardless, I wouldn't want to run a DAW used for production on an Aqua, Gnome or KDE desktop environment. The ideal is a low-latency Linux kernel, an RME Hammerfall and a light WM/DE like Fluxbox or XFCE - that's before we start talking about the metal (fast IDE transfer, RAM and PCI (or firewire) bus speeds).

        While Ubuntu St [ubuntustudio.org]

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pisco_sour (722645)
      Legitimate question:

      Isn't the point, or rather than the point, the by-product of free software like Linux to turn software deployment into a service? I understand how for a musician, it's preferable to just get a Mac because it just works rather than to fiddle around with Linux for a week. But shouldn't that create a market for cheaper-than-macs, semi-pro systems custom-made by Linux geeks? I can see a service where a programmer or developer could specialize in audio hardware and software for Linux, and m

  • Site is slammed (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Dramey (1098829)
    I'm not able to read the article, the page getting is slammed. I'm curious about driver issues, I have had several audio interfaces over the years, and don't remember seeing any Linux divers for any of them. I'm using a MOTU UltraLite ATM and they cant even get their Windows drivers to work right. That doesn't give me a lot in the way of hope. I'm also curious if any plugins I already own (VSTs and the like) would work under Linux? That would be a deal breaker as I have so much money invested in them :/
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by filesiteguy (695431)
      Google to the rescue...

      http://72.14.253.104/search?q=cache:Zo5bcBIDaccJ:w ww.keyboardmag.com/story.asp%3Fstorycode%3D17973+k eyboard+magazine+linux&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us&cl ient=firefox-a ...tinyurl to the rescue...

      http://tinyurl.com/2n65uq

    • by mtaht (603670) on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:27PM (#19022469) Homepage
      I used to own a motu 24i and run Sonar - and tascam gigastudio on a different machine. Sonar 1 and 2 was unreliable as hell, I could never record at low latency, and sonar over the course of 3 versions kept crashing - permanently - so it would not restart without a complete reinstall, and I was always misplacing the license key.

      I had this happen in the middle of a critical, paid gig, and I lost not only a lot of money, but a lot of respect from the customer. I was incredibly angry, as you might imagine, and resolved to never again be dependent on code I couldn't fix.

      100 bucks a year for sonar upgrades wasn't worth it as my bugs weren't getting fixed.

      So... After begging the motu guys *for years* for specs for their board so I could write a driver for linux, and/or begging them for a driver, and getting the same "hell, no" response over and over again...

      1) I researched companies that had a good history of linux support, and chose the RME-audio multiface.

      2) Publically denounced motu's squareheadedness as loudly and bitterly as possible. I sold my motu 24i's to a dedicated mac-head.

      3) Threw out my windows PC and Sonar and upgraded to a dual opteron 64 bit linux box...

      ... And, today, admittedly after some rough spots - I couldn't be happier. Ardour2 ROCKS! It works great 64 bit Linuxsampler does a great job with gigastudio files And I just added a digimax FS (via ADAT) to the rme-audio multiface, giving me 12 tracks of 96khz audio or 16 tracks of 44.1 - and it sounds great.

      I sold the used Motu 24is for something like 400 dollars each. I haven't upgraded my sonar in a few years - so I've saved at least 300-400 bucks in upgrade fees, just on sonar. Gigastudio has come out with a few new versions (but is worth buying just for the sample libraries). There's a new windows version out - doesn't work terribly well for 64 bit, and costs some serious money.

      So, all in all, throwing windows out of the studio entirely has resulted in:

      1) Vastly improved reliability, with an os (linux-rt)truly targeted at multimedia
      2) A huge cost savings in software, letting me buy much better hardware
      3) I can run all my applications on a single dual-core machine with very low latency
      4) A sense of satisfaction of "sticking it to the man"
      5) The ability to participate in the process at any level you might choose. In my case, I've been speeding up plugins lately...
      A windows based platform costs a lot more than linux platform. Windows + Sonar + Gigastudio is nearly a thousand dollar investment just in software. Linux + ardour + rosegarden + linuxsampler are subscriber supported.

    • by growse (928427)
      I echo this. No drivers exist for my M-Audio FW410, which is one of the few things preventing me going fully to a linux desktop on my main PC. That said, M-Audio havn't released any Vista drivers either, so I'm presuming their driver team only work weekends, or something.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by drinkypoo (153816)
      you can build ardour with VST plugin support. http://ardour.org/building_vst_support [ardour.org]
  • Two Notes (Score:4, Funny)

    by Roger W Moore (538166) on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:12PM (#19022155) Journal
    It can at least play C and C#.
  • Why bother when most I/O devices on the market come with 'Lite' versions of already tried and proven software from MOTU, Albleton, Steinberg, etc? For just the purchase price of a cheap USB or Firewire box you've got a really good software and hardware solution for creating music.
  • My Linux Audio Setup (Score:5, Informative)

    by phatmonkey (873256) on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:13PM (#19022183) Homepage
    I have just recorded and mixed a live album with this software on Ubuntu Feisty:

    http://ardour.org/ [ardour.org]
    http://jackaudio.org/ [jackaudio.org]
    http://www.ffado.org/ [ffado.org] (aka Freebob) with a Mackie Onyx desk & firewire interface
    http://jamin.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

    Very very good indeed, I vastly prefer it to my previous Windows based Cubase setup.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:15PM (#19022209)

    wget is patient... :)

    Linux: It's Not Just For Computer Geeks Anymore

    By Carl Lumma [keyboardmag.com] | May 2007

    You might think there's no way a free operating system written by volunteers could compete when it comes to music production. But in the past couple of years, all the tools you need to make music have arrived on Linux.

    For years, Linux has enjoyed market leadership as a server operating system -- Google's servers run it, for starters -- while struggling with the stigma that it isn't polished enough for desktop use. Those days are over, and word is getting out. Linux is quickly becoming the OS you'd set up for your grandmother, with no fuss over activation, software updates, or viruses. Unlike any version of Windows or Mac OS, Linux is open-source. What does this mean to musicians? For starters, there are no company secrets to keep or non-disclosure agreements to sign, so software developers and users alike can get on the same page very quickly, speeding the flow of bug fixes and feature additions.

    Linux demands more nuts-and-bolts computer knowledge for pro audio than for web browsing, but if you've ever tried to troubleshoot a latency or driver issue on a store-bought laptop, you're probably still listening. If you upgrade your hard drive, you won't have to reactivate all your apps due to the hardware change, and when you discover a cool tool or workflow, you can share it with friends without them shelling out hundreds of dollars or resorting to piracy. With the exception of Linux versions that include commercial tech support, most everything in the Linux world is free for the asking, Many developers accept voluntary donations, which we encourage you to make.

    HOW IS IT DONE?

    Let's look over the shoulder of Aaron Krister-Johnson, the keyboardist and choir director at Temple Sholom in Chicago. He also composes incidental music for local theater, and is half of the electronica duo Divide by Pi, Keyboard's June '04 unsigned artist of the month. The core of his home studio is a PC running Linux (see Figure 1).

    To obtain Linux, you download a particular distribution or "distro," which is a particular version of Linux someone put together, for free or a donation. Some distros are available boxed at very low cost. Ubuntu (www.ubuntu.com [ubuntu.com]) is popular for home-computer tasks, but Aaron uses Zenwalk (www.zenwalk.org [zenwalk.org]). Software compiled for a particular distro will only run on that distro, so most come with several free applications that you can install along with the basic OS. We recommend Fedora (www.fedoraproject.org [fedoraproject.org]), because you can then install the Planet CCRMA package (ccrma.stanford.edu/planetccrma/software [stanford.edu]), which includes just about every Linux audio application in existence.

    Speaking of music applications, the most popular DAW for Linux is Ardour, and Aaron also uses JACK (see "You Don't Know JACK?" below), a soft synth called ZynSubAddFx, and an arpeggiator he wrote called Pymidichaos. Some distros come with binaries -- apps that have been compiled, i.e. converted from the programming language the developers used to the ones and zeroes computers understand at their innermost level. Three such distros are meant to provide install-and-go solutions for Linux-curious musicians: Studio to Go (www.ferventsoftware.com [ferventsoftware.com]), Musix (www.musix.org.ar/en [musix.org.ar]) and 64Studio (www.64studio.com [64studio.com]).

    But sooner or later (most likely sooner), you're going to have to take some groovy, free program you've downloaded and compile it yourself. This is where musicians used to commercial software might get scared off. Fear not, and remember that all the actual pr

  • MIDI (Score:4, Insightful)

    by camperdave (969942) on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:16PM (#19022253) Journal
    Around the turn of the century, Atari STs were the computer of choice because they had a built in MIDI interface. I imagine that musical instruments are making the move to USB, or some sort of USB/MIDI hybrid. That being the case, the choice of OS is going to be chosen by how technologically comfortable the musician is, with my guess leaning towards "not very" and thus Windows.
    • by Gordonjcp (186804)
      USB MIDI is not supported in any version of Windows. No matter what device you try, it asks for some kind of driver.

      On Macs and on Linux, you plug it in and it works straight away with no faffing about with silly control panels and installers and other tedious, productivity-killing shite.
    • You're off by about 10 years.... Around the turn of the century, USB MIDI was on the scene and parallel/joystick port MIDI was widely available. Protools LE was released, Cubase and Logic were both over 10 years old and were mature on both PCs and Mac, and affordable high-resolution, multi-channel DACs (e.g. MOTU 2408) were appearing on the market. Anyone still using an Atari ST at this time was living in the past.

      -Chris
  • Free as in beer (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CokeJunky (51666) on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:19PM (#19022313)
    One notable flub in the article: There is a terminology section following the article. It takes the time to discuss free (as-in-speech) vs. free (as-in-beer) -- this is a good thing. However it suggests that pirated commercial software is free-as-in-beer, albeit illegal... That's like saying knocking off a beer store with pantyhose over your head nets you free beer. The article misses out on software that is free-as-in-beer, but not free-as-in-speech (i.e. some hardware drivers, etc.)
  • Still not ready. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by qweqwe321 (1097441)
    There's two reasons for this. First, getting a software synthesizer to work was a royal PITA. MIDI isn't supported out-of the-box, and the directions online are both contradictory and useless. I know there's probably a way to get it to work, but for now it's a hell of a lot easier just to boot into Win2K and use Sibelius. The second reason is that the notation software itself isn't exactly the best-- I'm more into writing choral music, and Linux has yet to produce any software notation that matches Sibe
  • As a musician myself (no kidding! I actually made music for some obscure PC and cellphone games, what i consider "extremely lucky" ;) ) , I am actually surprised by the progress most of these projects have achieved. I remember the times when not even making, but GETTING sound on Linux was troublesome - and that was, what, about five or more years ago? Now I see not only sound support has gotten good enough to actually be idiot-proof (myself-proof too actually ;) ), but the software evolved from a bunch of u
  • Ugh. Not again. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SocialEngineer (673690) <invertedpanda@NoSPam.gmail.com> on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:35PM (#19022595) Homepage

    I've been an independant recording musician/songwriter for a number of years now, and have worked under Linux and Windows.

    Linux is certainly a usable platform, but it can't do everything. Ardour is great (from the screenshots and reviews I've seen, at least - never been able to actually INSTALL the sucker, because of the dep. hell), but as far as synthesizing goes, the choices are less than ideal (in my opinion).

    I use Windows for my needs, primarily, and it has served me well. There are a variety of great resources available - sure, for a cost - but the quality is superb. I use Reason 3.0 to sequence simple orchestral work for my new albums, and can do strings, piano, synthesizers, anything, with a rich, controllable sound quality. Not to mention the fact that there are a number of EXCELLENT refills/samples available for it. I also use Reason to sequence my percussion - ranging from funk jazz to industrial.

    I use Cooledit Pro 1.2 - an old multitrack recording program - to record and mix. It's cheap, and it works very well without being resource intensive.

    I'm not a fan of Csound, nor do I really like much of the other alternatives in the Linux market. I did use Audacity to record and master some monologues for a play a while back, and Rosegarden to do some sequencing/songwriting. Rosegarden is actually a superb piece of software - for sequencing. IIRC, that's all it can do. If you've got your external instruments hooked up properly, I'm sure it'd be perfect. I can't afford to buy all the outboard gear I'd need to match what I have with Windows based softsynths.

    • Shameless plug for attention on my add-free blog: I wrote about almost getting Reason going on Linux [jonathanfilbert.com].
    • Ardour is great (from the screenshots and reviews I've seen, at least - never been able to actually INSTALL the sucker, because of the dep. hell)

      My experience was different. Is this a case where you shouldn't be blaming Ardour but be blaming your Linux distribution or the way you've installed libaries? Having installed the Ardour release candidate about a month ago, I had no problems getting the dependencies installed. The installation page describes exactly what dependencies are needed http://ardour.org/bu [ardour.org]
  • I know this sounds like a dumb little issue, but it was actually one that kept me from playing around with music production on Linux: finding MIDI-interface hardware that is known to work well under Linux.

    I've got several MIDI keyboards that lack decent sequencers and sound patch managers. So being able to manage those details from a host computer (running Linux in this case) would be great. But when I asked around the message boards, I couldn't find anyone saying, "Yes, I use product XYZ to let my comput
  • by General Lee's Peking (954826) on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:38PM (#19022647)
    I think you should be able to read it here [72.14.253.104].
  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:49PM (#19022897)

    I was looking forward to Ubuntu Studio [ubuntu.com] for Ubuntu 7.04 to pull together a useful collection of packages related to music production. But despite a website that shows a lot of polish, it's at least a month out of date (the homepage still says, "Coming in April").

    Does anyone know what's up with that project?

  • by mrjb (547783) on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:55PM (#19022989)
    It's not there yet but it's getting there. Last time I still needed to recompile my kernel, but that supposedly won't be needed anymore. Right now I'm waiting for ubuntustudio. Yes, it's late a bit. The team is not making estimates about how much longer it will take but I've overheard them saying 'maybe this week'. Ubuntustudio will include the Ingo Molnar low latency stuff by default. Most of the last bit of work is being focused on Ardour- the rest of the packages is already available on Feisty. There are a few tricks on getting audio to work properly on Linux. It helps to get a proper, supported sound card (EMU10k1-based sound cards such as the Audigy that are internally locked to a 48kHz sample rate will cause you a lot of frustration). It helps a LOT to have synaptic and/or apt-get. That said, I'm still running Dapper, which has been a big step forward since anything before it, but for actual recording work I'd still recommend a stand-alone solution, then mix the recorded audio 'in the box'. My Behringer DDX3216 and Alesis ADAT HD24 do the trick for me for recording purposes- but mixing on Ardour instead of the Behringer gives better sounding results. For all you HD24 users out there, go grab a copy of hd24tools.
  • by mrcdeckard (810717) on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:57PM (#19023051) Homepage
    just some of my experiences as a musician and engineer:

    i bought a 12" powerbook with the motu traveler, and it was a rock solid set up. i recorded and mixed a few albums [pitchforkmedia.com] on it last summer, and it stood up, and this is with 20+ tracks and effects (including altiverb) -- although there were a few times i thought the laptop was gonna melt. these ppc chips run hot.

    this is why i won't be going open source for a while -- when you're with clients, it's a problem if you say, "oh hold on, i have to recompile the kernel". macs, for production, are solid -- which is not surprise since it's one of their major demographics.

    but as a musician, i get the sense that linux is there. it would be nice if there was something like reason for linux, but that is asking quite a lot. otherwise, the freedom and programming-friendly environment of linux is very conducive to music-making (assuming electronic-based music, of course).

    on windows, soundforge is the greatest 2 track editor evar. (problem is, you can't let anyone touch the machine, just looking at a windows box will get you a few viruses) i havce yet to use a 2 track editor as responsive as souindforge. i use audacity now, and it sucks for editing. also, it wants to save project files, which is ridiculous for 2 track files. it would be nice to know of a stripped down 2 track editor that let you zoom in to a sample level and out immediately, allowed for fades, crossfades, and basic stuff like normalization -- support for audio units, and that's it. i spent so much time just editing mixes -- it's nice to have a program that just let's you do that quickly.

    i will say this, i had a PII 266 about 8 years ago, runnin linux 2.2 kernel with a low-latency patch. i could get audio in and out of that box in 8ms -- it still amazes me (i was using csound). i think this is where linux could shine, as real-time effects boxes -- you can strip all the other stuff away.

    anyway, more and more i'm thinking of putting together a linux workstation, especially after reading about blender yesterday. i wonder how video is on linux?

    mr c
  • by justindnb (1098861) on Monday May 07, 2007 @01:03PM (#19023135)
    One of the major problems (for me) with MAC/Windows audio software is it's high price, which is unusual considering that most musicians are poor and starving. For this reason, I've dropped Sony Soundforge and now use Audacity as my primary wave processing tool. However, Audacity only supports VSTS under Mac/Win and until there is stable VST host support in Linux and a sequencer comparable to Cubase/Logic/Sonar, it will not good enough to run a modern, competitive, software-based DAW.
  • I'm sorry but Rosegarden and Ardour are not able to replace Cubase or Ableton Live for me. No, not LMMS either. If they were able I seriously wouldn't have switched back to this horrible piece of shit windows OS. Jack is the only thing that Linux has that I have used and thought was useful. I have been a Linux User for probably 8 years, but when I started making music, it had to go, and don't think I didn't try for a solid year to produce music with Linux before I gave up. Linux can potentially do ever
  • Hardware? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NEOtaku17 (679902) on Monday May 07, 2007 @01:09PM (#19023253) Homepage
    Isn't finding Linux drivers for your high-end audio hardware the real problem with making music on Linux, not the lack of sound editing programs?
  • pymidichaos... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by advocate_one (662832) on Monday May 07, 2007 @01:19PM (#19023431)
    I'd like to see the guy who was interviewed put his python program up on sourceforge... it's neat and small and could do with more exposure... currently, there are precisely 4 links on Google for it, and one's in the article and I haven't a clue what licence he's got for it as there's nothing mentioned in the actual code or anywhere... I really want to know what licence he plans to let us use it under before I start messing with it myself...
  • drums++ (Score:3, Informative)

    by naken (132677) on Monday May 07, 2007 @01:26PM (#19023579) Homepage
    I use drums++ (http://dpp.mikekohn.net/) to do my drum programming on Linux and record with either Timidity or a Dr. Rhythm drum machine into a Tascam digital 8 track.

  • I recomend Musix (Score:3, Informative)

    by razpones (1077227) on Monday May 07, 2007 @01:59PM (#19024213) Journal
    I like to play music with my friends as a hobby, and looking for free options i stumbled upon Musix [musix.org.ar] . Having used a mac with Reason [propellerheads.se] and found it a little lacking and a bit expensive, i found Musix very usable. Not only it had most things that Reason had, but also came configured to use jackd server [jackaudio.org] with a bunch of applications with no real work involved. Using it in a laptop I did have to use the command line to configure the wireless card but it was easy. I have to say that Linux is ready to be in the studio, yet as all things linux most of the software is in beta stage so bugs might appear. Just don't be afraid of the command line and you will be fine.
  • Linux will be a musicians OS at some point in the future after they include MIDI support in the kernel. For some audio programs I had to recompile the kernel with a faster clock resolution. Not to mention the mess (mind you, a functional working mess) that is Jack. Simply put: 3-5 hours of work to get a midi keyboard to play a note is unacceptable.
  • Hardly (Score:3, Insightful)

    by petrus4 (213815) on Monday May 07, 2007 @02:46PM (#19025011) Homepage Journal
    For multimedia *playing*, Linux is mostly there these days, although there are probably people who would even disagree with that assertion.

    Saying however that Linux is remotely close to being suitable for people to *produce* multimedia with is almost exactly like saying, "You too can live in the vastness of space! All you need is an oxygen tank and space suit!"

    In other words, although it might be entirely inhabitable by the terminally autistic, this is one environment which still requires terraforming on a rather massive scale before it's ready for life as most of the rest of us know it to be able to move in. ;)
  • by kruhft (323362) on Monday May 07, 2007 @03:00PM (#19025267) Homepage Journal
    I've been using linux for music production for over 5 years, have produced about 5 albums and EP's and am starting to get into scoring films. The Linux audio domain has shown a huge amount of improvement over that time. Ardour has evolved from a crash-happy hair-tearer to a stable recording and mixing package. The number of sound editors out there is astounding and each has their own strengths and weaknesses that you can exploit. But then there's the command line, which let's you do things like this:

    for i in *.wav; do out=${i/.wav/_mono.wav}; sox $i -r 44100 -b -c 1 $out; normalize $i; done

    which will convert all samples in the current directory to mono and normalize them in no time at all.

    The amount of audio software for linux is astounding, from programmer synths/sequencers like ChucK, Common Lisp Music, and CSound, to modular synths like Alsa Modular, PD and the super powerful keykit (the Emacs of MIDI sequencers). There are command line sound mushers and generators, mixers and so many effects it's hard to know where to start. But there really are no limits, if you're willing to put in the time and learn the system and how to tie everything together...

    As a side note, I volunteered to help setup a new Pro-Tools setup at the local Film Pool, and after a week of trying to get all the licences in order, I wondered why anybody would pay for it at all. That was my first time using Pro-Tools for real, and it was just astounding that *every* (extra) plugin had to be registered, you still had version compatibility hell (could only use this driver with this version of PT, etc) and even after a week the system still didn't work right. After using Pro-Tools I'd take Ardour any day, if only for the lack of registration hell (which an audio engineer friend of mine teaches a day long course in; not how to use Pro-Tools, just how to register it!) and the massive amounts of high quality, free LADSPA plugins that are available.

    Right now, Gentoo is my distro of choice and it has a huge amount of audio apps in portage as well as a Pro Audio overlay that's available through layman. Needless to say, I would concur that Linux is ready for the audio desktop workstation market, and has been for some time.

    The only thing that linux is lacking is "instant gratification" music apps (although the playfield is getting better with LMMS and such programs). The tools available take some time to learn, but that's also half the fun of it, since once you learn the basics a whole new world opens up as you learn more and more about what's available. Jumping in takes a while to learn how to swim, but the only limits on how far you go depends on the amount of time you put in...
  • Musician's OS my ass (Score:3, Interesting)

    by suv4x4 (956391) on Monday May 07, 2007 @03:09PM (#19025427)
    Musicians rely heavily on their tools (Pro Tools, pun not intended) and software intstruments (VST/VSTi, which are normally released for OSX and Windows only) to do what they do.

    Now, music is an art, you can do music with a garbage can and chicken bone if you want. Thus Linux could be used for that, but no serious musician would inconvenience himself and forget about the plathora of processing plugins, instruments, effects, sequencers, remixers, audio editors on Windows/OSX to go for Linux.

    For the most part, musicians use computers to make music, not follow misguided attempts to prove Linux best in everything.
  • by paulbd (118132) on Monday May 07, 2007 @06:59PM (#19028949) Homepage
    Its clear from listening to the multitude of anecdotal, ignorant, out of date, always wrong, partially wrong and flat out whining comments that the posters here don't read Windows/OSX music forums (product specific and otherwise).

    Is it really hard to get pro-audio working on Linux? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, its basically impossible. Is it really hard to get pro-audio working on Windows? Sometimes yes. Forums are full of people for whom stuff just didn't work. Is it hard on OS X? Well, easier than Windows or Linux, for sure, but there's still a rich supply of problem cases on the product and general forums (e.g. gearslutz.com) many of which are replicated by the more substantive criticisms here.

    It is frankly amazing that a community like Slashdot, which frequently yields many interesting technical insights and ideas (at least if you browse at +3), is so predictably ignorant when it comes to commenting on audio software on Linux. Every time Slashdot runs a story on this topic, the same stupid ignorant out of date and often simply wrong comments surface. And invariably, there are only a couple of people around to correct the nonsense. If there was a post on /. that criticized the kernel or Firefox or Apache or Python in the same inane and utterly ridiculous ways that people criticize audio stuff, there would be a flood of informed, witty, and incisive corrections to the point that frequently the original post is lost. But not audio ... with this stuff, the ignorant get rated +5, the experienced post comments that receive little attention, and the misinformation continues to spread. Sigh.

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