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Linux as A Musician's OS? 309 309

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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  • 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.
  • Re:slashdotted (Score:4, Informative)

    by guruevi (827432) <evi.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
  • Also Jokosher (Score:4, Informative)

    by Marcion (876801) on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:07PM (#19022079) Homepage Journal
    Also Jokosher ( [] ) 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).
  • 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: [] [] [] (aka Freebob) with a Mackie Onyx desk & firewire interface []

    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 [] | 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.


    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 ( []) is popular for home-computer tasks, but Aaron uses Zenwalk ( []). 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 ( []), because you can then install the Planet CCRMA package ( []), 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 ( []), Musix ( []) and 64Studio ( []).

    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

  • 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 [] or Studio to go [] and try to enlist his/her help!

    Soft Synths are coming along. Linuxsampler [] 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.

  • Re:My bro tried this (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:20PM (#19022323)
    Ever heard of M-Audio. I use the Audiophile 192 under linux for my music productions. It works great. And only cost $150 shipped to my door. Quality is outstanding. Better than any of the creative junk I've heard. I have also used the Delta 66 card(also $150 shipped) it also is a great performer under linux.
  • Re:Site is slammed (Score:3, Informative)

    by filesiteguy (695431) <> on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:21PM (#19022349) Homepage
    Google to the rescue... eyboard+magazine+linux&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us&cl ient=firefox-a ...tinyurl to the rescue...

  • by Xtense (1075847) <> on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:22PM (#19022393) Homepage
    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 unusable dependancy-hell ridden projects to quality studio equivalents. Even my favored tracking type of software is developing nicely, although i always have some buts and mehs that keep me from using them and in the end i end up using the old ones with DOSBox instead.

    All in all, there still aren't "good enough" alternatives to make me revert from my windows-based software (FL Studio, Adobe Audition, Reason... and Impulse Tracker, just for the hell of it ;) ) in full, but i do see some interesting concepts that may make me shift my workflow to a double-boot system. And, keep in mind, as an amateur (or semi-pro ;) ) musician, my needs are quite low, considering, so it's a tough road ahead to get to the true professionals.
  • by General Lee's Peking (954826) on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:38PM (#19022647)
    I think you should be able to read it here [].
  • 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.

  • by Coryoth (254751) on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:45PM (#19022803) Homepage Journal

    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 [] 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.
  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:49PM (#19022897)

    I was looking forward to Ubuntu Studio [] 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.
  • Not a Musician's OS (Score:2, Informative)

    by Safiire Arrowny (596720) on Monday May 07, 2007 @01:07PM (#19023229) Homepage
    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 everything, but it cannot actually do everything yet, it is no musicians OS.
  • Re:slashdotted (Score:2, Informative)

    by robbiethefett (1047640) on Monday May 07, 2007 @01:09PM (#19023259)
    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 recording, and doesnt want to break the bank. if you want to produce professional tracks, my preference is a mac running logic 7. aside from a decent interface, thats really all you need.. i even sold off some of my highly-prized analog gear because some of the built-in vst effects in logic are actually better, and offer more customizable sounds. now dont get me wrong--i love linux--but as far as creating music with it goes, it's more of a fun, geeky way to play around, rather than a serious production environment. but look at the bright side.. i know of exactly 0 pro shops that use Vista, and at least 2 studios in my area have a running linux box intended for tracking and recording. they are.. let's say.. "under-loved" but hey, at least they are there.
  • drums++ (Score:3, Informative)

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

  • Re:Site is slammed (Score:3, Informative)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <> on Monday May 07, 2007 @01:39PM (#19023817) Homepage Journal
    you can build ardour with VST plugin support. []
  • 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 [] . Having used a mac with Reason [] 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 [] 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.
  • Re:not there yet (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 07, 2007 @03:05PM (#19025359)
    "when Linux gets stable ASIO support, and they port propellerhead's Reason to Linux, I'll switch"

    Why would you need ASIO on Linux?

    A little history... ASIO came about as a workaround to bypass the terrible latency and 16bit limitations of the Windows MME subsystem.
    On linux, the generic Alsa drivers are capable of high bit depths and low latency by default, so workarounds are not required.

    As far as Reason goes, I can't help. Does the music you make in it sound good?
  • by MPolo (129811) on Monday May 07, 2007 @03:55PM (#19026199)

    If you are both a programmer and a musician, you will probably like Lilypond a lot (most things that it doesn't do by itself can be tweaked by writing Scheme scripts), but it probably will not be popular with the average musician. The system is much like (or better, is built out of) TeX -- you prepare a plaintext file with the appropriate commands, then run lilypond on it and get a finished MIDI and/or PDF (and DVI, if you want it) file. If you're a programmer and don't know music theory, you'll likely be bogged down by the required terminology -- you indicate the key with commands like "\key a \major", so unless you know that 3 sharps is A, you're out of luck. There are some frontends, but I haven't used them extensively. I can generate a score very quickly and with high quality in Lilypond, so haven't really looked any further.

  • by phliar (87116) on Monday May 07, 2007 @08:00PM (#19029563) Homepage

    ... 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 [] (Yes, it works under Linux.)

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

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