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Ask Slashdot: An Open Source PC Music Studio? 299

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the make-some-noise dept.
enharmonix writes "I have a big decision to make. I am probably going to buy a laptop that I will primarily use for music. I would prefer an OEM distro so I don't need to install the OS myself (not that I mind), but I have no preference between open- and closed-source software as an end-user; I just care about the quality of the product. There are two applications that I absolutely must have: 1) a standard notation transcription program with quality auditioning (i.e., playback with quality sound fonts or something similar, better than your standard MIDI patches) that can also accept recorded audio in lieu of MIDI playback, and 2) a capable synthesizer (the more options, the better). If there's software out there that does both 1 and 2 in the same app, that's even better. I've played with some of Ubuntu's offerings for music a few years ago and some are very good, though not all of them are self-explanatory and the last time I checked, none of them really met my needs. I am not so worried about number 2 because I think I could pretty easily develop my own in .NET/Mono, which I think would be a fun project (which would be open source, of course). I am a Gnome fan so if I go with Linux, I will almost certainly go with standard Ubuntu over Kubuntu, but Gnome seems to rule out Rosegarden which was the best FOSS transcription software out there the last time I checked. The other solution I've thought of is to just shell out the $600 for Finale, which I'm more than willing to do, but I'm not so sure I want Windows 8 and I'm just not sure I can afford to go with a Mac on top of the $600 for Finale. I don't intend to put more than one OS on my laptop, either. Any slashdotters out there dabble in composing/recording, using MIDI, sound fonts, recorded audio, and/or synthesizers? What setup of hardware/OS/software works for you? Can FOSS music software compete with their pricier closed source competitors?" The KXStudio apps installed over Debian or Ubuntu tend to be pretty nice (better session handling that gladish provides at least).
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Ask Slashdot: An Open Source PC Music Studio?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 27, 2014 @11:13PM (#46087883)

    Someone's paired the wrong headline and summary.

    Ask Slashdot: An Open Source PC Music Studio?

    I have no preference between open- and closed-source software as an end-user; I just care about the quality of the product

    • by sk999 (846068)

      Dang - these are the kind of incongrenuities that I like to point out. Well done!

    • That was me. Both are poorly worded. The title I tried to keep short, but should have been more like "Is FOSS music software as good as closed-source for my particular needs?" As for the summary, given two applications with the features I need, I usually always pick FOSS over closed-source, even if the closed-source alternative. I use or have used Firefox over IE, OpenOffice over MS Office, Gimp over PhotoShop, Ubuntu over Windows, etc. I like FOSS. A lot, actually. The issue here is that I like music even
  • by D1G1T (1136467) on Monday January 27, 2014 @11:17PM (#46087909)
    Since music is a collaborative art, and you are going to want to share music, aren't you better off using what people in your "scene" are using, whether that's your school program or online forum or in the performance venues you frequent? I'd expect that would trump whatever software might look "best" if you were working alone.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 27, 2014 @11:43PM (#46088033)

      The Reaper is not open source, but comes in a free flavor. I'd recommend an x64 os, as lots of ram is a very good thing for projects as they grow.
      http://www.reaper.fm/ [reaper.fm]

      • by TwobyTwo (588727) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @12:30AM (#46088249)
        I agree: REAPER may or may not be quite what you're looking for, and it's not open source, but it's got a free distribution for experimental use and the fee for purchasing it for anything other than larger-scale use will be a small fraction of what you pay for that PC anyway. Surprisingly capable for the price.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Ableton Live is by far the most widely used nowadays for production. For recording bands, it's Pro Tools.

    • by ArhcAngel (247594)

      Since music is a collaborative art, and you are going to want to share music, aren't you better off using what people in your "scene" are using, whether that's your school program or online forum or in the performance venues you frequent? I'd expect that would trump whatever software might look "best" if you were working alone.

      Perhaps a program that actually facilitates said collaboration would be useful. Was just looking at some software on Steam earlier and this [steampowered.com] piqued my interest. It's Windows/Mac only ATM but the base program can be used for free.
      "Free version is limited to compressed audio export and 16 bit audio recording."

    • This guy hits the nail on the head.

      That being said, the other nail you need to hit is what you'll be doing with the software. From the emphasis on Finale in your post, it sounds as if you're doing composition. If your doing simple stuff and mainly want a nice playback of a score you might be able to cobble together an open source solution. However, you'd have many fewer headaches if you put together a Win7 box and put stuff that's not in perpetual beta on it.

      Similarly, if you're wanting to produce the music

  • by DavidinAla (639952) on Monday January 27, 2014 @11:20PM (#46087917)
    If you're making a statement of your religious faith OR if you're just tinkering, going to the trouble of finding something to run an open source package makes sense. If you're actually interested in the right tool for the job, then buy a real music studio with a Mac or a Windows PC instead. There's a reason that real musicians generally use real tools that suit professional needs.
    • Ya pretty much (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday January 27, 2014 @11:46PM (#46088039)

      There is just not much in the free software world, particularly for Linux, that is good for music composition. Just the way it is. If you want to do it well, you need commercial tools, generally for Windows or Mac.

      For what the original poster is looking for, I'd say have a look at Cakewalk Sonar X3. Sonar is real, real good at MIDI, knows how to deal with SoundFonts, has some built in synths that aren't too bad, and only runs $100 for the basic version. It's notation is not the best, but anything I can think of that is a reasonable step up is also quite a bit more money (like Cubase).

      However depending on what the ultimate goal is, the DAW can end up being the cheap part of things. High quality samples cost a lot, and there are few freebies. Reason is to make good samples you need to hire good musicians, a good recording studio/hall, good engineers, and then spend a lot of time on it. Gotta make that money back somehow. So if you want realistic sounds, you can easily spend far more on samples than the DAW/sequencer. I own Sonar X3 Producer, which is $500, but I've spent more than that on a single sample set, and I have multiple sample sets.

      Also if he thinks that programming a synthesizer is easy, he's got another thing coming. Making a competent synthesis engine that sounds good, is usable, etc, etc is not an easy task. Particularly since there are all sort of different kinds of synthesis one might wish to use, and each is implemented and controlled differently.

      So, like the parent said: religious statement or actual work? If you just wanna play around in Linux with free solutions, then go to it. No need to ask on Slashdot, just try stuff out. Wikipedia has a list of OSS music software, to name just one place. If you are asking because you want something that doesn't suck and can do some real work, then you'll need to stick with Window or Mac and drop some money.

      Like I said, I'd go for Sonar. There's a free trial, and the base version isn't that much and has good features and capabilities (it isn't crippled with regards to tracks and so on). You can always upgrade later.

      Other reasonably priced options to look at are Reaper and FL Studio Fruity Edition.

      • Due to the issues with soft synth's, don't overlook the option if going hardware for this. M-Audio makes several MIDI adaptors that are Linux compatible with AISO and or Jack. Don't skimp on a cheap MIDI keyboard. Get one with sampled sounds. If you find Rosegarden does not work on your fav Linux distro, pick up a recycled older PC to dedicate to your Digital Audio Workstation DAO. Using a distro optomised for audio work is recommended such as Ubuntu Studio.

        If you are recording a band, and don't need M

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by llamabot (525655)

        I would argue that audio production is the one area that Open Source truly excels in. I was very pleasantly surprised to find so many different tools available for audio production on Linux and the quality of the software.

        Of particular interest is the JACK (JACK Audio Connection Kit) which allows multiple software products to communicate seamlessly with each other. You don't need to hope that your primary production tool supports your plugin or tool, only that it supports JACK. The rest is transparent and y

      • I totally agree on Sonar. There tends to be a lot of "fan-boi-ism" that comes with the Pro-Tools crowd, or even the Logic crowd. Nothing wrong with either application, both are great, but they are not, repeat NOT, in any way, special or superior to many of the other commercial DAWs. I'm running Cakewalk X1 Producer, and I have to tell you, I can't imagine using anything else. Now, admittedly, I've been using Cakewalk's stuff for years, so I'm used to their particular workflow, but I defy any
  • CCRMA and Fedora (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bucketoftruth (583696) on Monday January 27, 2014 @11:30PM (#46087957)
    Our music studio only records live sound (no MIDI). We use CCRMA on Fedora20 [stanford.edu]. It has a ton of stuff you might find useful. We use it for the RT prempt capabilities so musicians can auto-punch-in/out during recording without have to go back and time-shift tracks later. Our "sound card" is a pair of Echo Audiofire 12's for the 24 mics around the studio.
  • by aitikin (909209) on Monday January 27, 2014 @11:30PM (#46087961)

    I have tried just about EVERY option I can find in FOSS and they do not quite hold up to the current commercial offerings. Frankly, both as an end user and as a pro audio salesperson, I've only ever had mediocre luck with Make Music/Finale. At the very least, with Avid's Sibelius, I've been able to get decent tech support. I haven't had as much luck with Ardour as I'd like, and Audacity doesn't cut it. Getting into a decent Sequencer without dropping a fortune, I'd get into Studio One personally.

    If you want more details and/or want to know more about my opinions on the matter, please feel free to PM me.

  • by raymorris (2726007) on Monday January 27, 2014 @11:40PM (#46088013)

    As a DJ, I've come across some tools and some complete distributions that will likely fit your needs, but I don't know quite enough to make specific recommendations. I do know that there are alot of Linux music production tools that are way above my head, pro quality stuff. The folks at Linuxmusician.com and Linuxaudio.org would know exactly what you're talking about and be able to make specific recommendations. I looked at a couple distributions that are complete audio workstations on boot. They included a lot of fancy tools that were way more than I needed.

    As you may know, music production on Linux uses JACK to hook together any software components you want. That means any editor tool can work with any midi source, for example, because they are plugged together using jack.

    Two popular software packages are Ardour and Traktion, but really the Linux music community at sites focused on music production under Linux will have much better answers for you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 27, 2014 @11:42PM (#46088029)

    I'm a gigging musician who's been doing digital audio for 20 years, and followed open source audio very closely for ages. Sadly, a purely FOSS solution will just hamper you. I tried for years, ( I played shows with 100% FOSS software) but honestly, I think a DAW is too feature rich for anything but a dedicated team to do properly. Now I use Reaper, which is as close to open source as you're going to get in a kick ass DAW. (Ardour will do for tracking and mixing, but not scoring or midi editing). It's got an unlimited un-crippled demo, cheap individual license ($40), cool company, and to be honest, it's so good I'd use it over Logic or Protools or Live even if it cost $500. It's incredibly well designed, and extendable in two scripting languages so there are loads of open source extensions and plugins for it. You can find tons of great FOSS environments to use *in addition* to your DAW ( PureData, SuperCollider, CSound, scads of open source plugins), but for your main DAW, the sweet spot IMHO is Reaper on a hackintosh.

    If you *need* it to be 100% open source, Linux + Ardour + PureData or SuperCollider is a good option, but I wouldn't recommend it over doing the same thing with Os X and Reaper instead.

    • by tigersha (151319)

      I use Logic Pro on a Hackintosh, and it is greaaat! i7 quad with 32 Gb RAM and a SSD boot disk.

  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Monday January 27, 2014 @11:46PM (#46088041) Journal
    1. It's the SOFTWARE FIRST ,the OS is (mostly) irrelevant.
    2. figure out WHAT you want to do in music and select the software that fits your needs from there.
    3. Buy the hardware that supports your software the best.

    Frankly, in terms of just "getting shit done" Windows (7) is basically as good as Mac. Linux isn't so friendly, but if the software you need to get shit done is only on Linux, then, you're on Linux.

    Now, there is a caveat with the software first thing, which is, your interface. If the audio in/out device you're using is Mac only, then you're using a Mac. Etc for the rest. So, for example for my home studio, I have a MOTU Ultralite MkIII hybrid running on windows 7 HP laptop. It's a bit quirky, but the sound quality is excellent and the preamps are smooth - for the price, it's hard to beat. There is better, but it costs more. Luckily, the MOTU is Mac/Win, and I happened to have this HP laptop not doing anything, so bingo: instant home music set up.

    For software I run Ableton Live Suite - the fullblown monster. Why? Because what I do is more performance /composition based. If I was in a band and I was recording through some big multichannel interface, I would go with ProTools, because that's what I learnt in school, and it's pretty much the "MS Office" of the audio world (in more ways than one...) I also use Audacity, which is the swiss army knife of audio editing (i.e., small, crude, but effective)

    For monitors at home I have a pair of EVENT PS8 monitors. They're a little bass heavy, but over all, very good sounding at a very reasonable price.

    I don't use a mixing desk, I have an AKAI control surface and a Yamaha (XS6) synthesizer. Between them, I have plenty of ways of making things happen.

    At work, things are very different - I have a ProTools C24 console and an SSL mixing desk with Bryston amps and Dynaudio 5.1 monitors and a Mac Tower running Protools, AVID, Audacity, Melodyne, Autotune, and a pile of other gear (compressors, processors, etc.) But that's almost half million bucks right there. So, "let's not go there" and let's focus on what you're trying to do.

    So, get yourself an audio interface and some kick ass speakers, FIRST. Then figure out what software you need, and that will guide you to the hardware. When all is said and done, what computer you use is trivial, both in terms of effectiveness and expense. I bought my HP laptop (an old i5 running win 7) for $300 used. It works FINE. Ableton Live Suite literally costs THREE times as much. My laptop is one of the cheapest pieces of gear I own (my speakers were $650). So, don't sweat the hardware. Figure out the kind of music you want to make and proceed from there.

    Here are some general suggestions
    1. Rock Music: ProTools / Logic / Whatever - Focus on microphones and a good compressor.
    2. Electronica: Ableton Live. Get a good control surface (I don't recommend Akai - mine sucks...) and a good keyboard
    3. Dance Music: I would suggest a combo of FL Studio and Ableton Live
    4. Composition: Finale and (whatever: Logic / Ableton / ProTools / Reaper / whatever) Your main point is to generate good composition - the software is just there to make it do something, so it will be more a question of what softsynths you use...)
    5. Experimental: Cycling 74 Max/MSP or Processing. You'll need to get a Mac for that.
    6. Jazz: See Rock.

    That should get you started. DON'T TALK TO SALESMEN. They will try to sell you things. Things you probably don't need. Focus on what your interests and skills are, and then build your studio around that.

  • by Phil Urich (841393) on Monday January 27, 2014 @11:48PM (#46088061) Journal
    These days, that an app is developed "for" KDE or GNOME or whatnot doesn't at all preclude running it elsewhere. I use many GTK and GNOME apps myself (in fact, the browser I'm typing this from at the moment---Chromium---is GTK) but run KDE since it's flexible and doesn't seem to want to remove features every release (sorry, sorry, not trying to start a flamewar), so I can't see why you wouldn't be able to run Rosegarden in a GNOME environment. The worst thing that can happen is the widgits and iconography might look a bit out of place, but who cares? And there are compatible themes that take care of even that. I'm honestly really confused by your statements, it's like saying you can't wear a striped tie because you have polkadot underwear on.

    But of course, since Ubuntu doesn't even use GNOME anymore as the default environment, I suppose it's possible you're simply asking a question from 2004, and I do remember back then apps looked kindof bad in the wrong DEs, and computers often didn't have enough disk space and RAM to want to bring in so many additional dependencies. Yeah, your question starts to make a bit more sense if we assume you're lost in time, although it still doesn't make a ton of sense. But anyways, considering it's 2014, who the fuck cares if you end up using an extra 100MB of RAM because you need to open the Qt libraries as well?

  • KXStudio is really the best choice if you want to give it a go on Linux. You can run whatever DE you want, gnome, kde, etc. Rosegarden will run just fine, even with a GTK DE (Gnome/Unity). So will QT based apps for that matter, just not as tight integration. I cant speak to transcription software, but Ardour is pro-quality multitrack audio, with decent and improving Midi capabilities. If you do opt for a Mac, I would highly recommend Reaper - for a $70 piece of software, it is quite amazing as a multitrac
  • Vote 1 Ubuntu Studio. Works great. Rosegarden works fine with it too (not loaded by default, post-install it).
  • You can use GNU/Linux, whether Ubuntu or even better, Trisquel. Another interesting one to try is Fedora: http://www.muktware.com/2012/0... [muktware.com] and they also have another. Almost any distro can handle audio, some do this better than others in terms of plugins. This article is a tad dated, but also informative. http://createdigitalmusic.com/... [createdigitalmusic.com] There is no need to go the proprietary route unless you are looking for something very specific.
  • by jddeluxe (965655) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @12:15AM (#46088205)
    BUT, that being said, I'm a musician in real life that prostitutes myself as an engineer during the day to pay the bills, for several decades now...

    I tried for years using various software packages on Windows and Linux, you name it, I've tried it... Bottom line is, I finally broke down and bought a MBP in 2011 ( cheap ass $1199 entry level one, maxed out the memory and shitcanned the HD and installed a 512 Gb SSD) I'll never look back and wish I'd done it a lot sooner.
    Everyone can spew whatever fanboi shit they want to, but Apple owns the music market. Even software that works in multiple OS environments like ProTools work better on a Mac and you don't run into hardware/latency/drivers/other issues common on other HW/OS platforms. Just go ahead and buy an Apple iMac or MBP as suits your environment; if you don't you can spend a lot of time/money/aggravation over a period of years, trust me, been there, done that, have the T-shirt and barbed wire ankle tattoo...
    • by Wumpus (9548)

      I went through the same process myself. I used Ardour on Linux for years, and didn't even realize how painful it was until I got my MBP.

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @01:31AM (#46088495)

      Most of the cross platform stuff works better in Windows. You can sniff around online for various tests, DAWBench has some good ones: http://www.dawbench.com/win7-v... [dawbench.com]. You also don't get away from driver issues if you are talking pro audio, since all the pro cards have their own drivers and many of them are... suboptimal to put it nicely.

      If you like using a Mac, that's fine, but don't try and sell it as "better" because objectively, you can get more polyphony, lower latency, etc on a Windows system using the same software. Not really a big deal these days as an i7 + SSD generally means your system has more power than you need for anything, but the data is what it is.

  • If you want to record audio, use synths, etc, I'd recommend sticking with one of the big boys: Ableton, Cubase, Sonar, Logic, FL Studio, Pro Tools. Compatibility is a big deal and unless you have a compelling reason to pick something more niche it'll likely cause you more pain than it's worth. Synths are all either VST for PC or AU for Mac, and they work in all the DAWs. You won't want just one, most of us end up with 10's or even hundreds. If you're looking to do anything realistic in terms of orchestral o

  • The move to Linux (Score:5, Informative)

    by mdwstmusik (853733) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @12:34AM (#46088261) Homepage

    I've been writing and recording since the early 80s. I own several computers and tonnes midi/audio recording software, (e.g. Protools, Cubase, Garage Band, Sonar, Sibelius...). I've also been using Linux on my desktop since Mandrake 7. Recently, I set up a computer with Ubuntu Studio, and I love it. I've barely touched any of the other systems since....mostly just to export tracks. There was a bit of a learning curve, but I'm finding that once I got the hang of using Jack, there was no turning back.

    Primarily, I'm using Ardour (http://ardour.org/features.html) for multi-track audio recordings (LV2, VST and LADSPA plugins are all supported), MuseScore (http://musescore.org/) for scoring, Timidity/Qsyth (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TiMidity%2B%2B) for MIDI tone generation.

    Also, I've never had any issues sharing tracks with users of other programs, nor have I had any issues exporting from other programs/platforms into those in Ubuntu Studio.

    • by MrKaos (858439)

      There was a bit of a learning curve, but I'm finding that once I got the hang of using Jack, there was no turning back.

      Absolutely, Jack a great audio platform, very tunable. I've been using it as the basis for recording...

      using Ardour (http://ardour.org/features.html) for multi-track audio recordings (LV2, VST and LADSPA plugins are all supported)

      for a few years and found it to be an effective platform for producing music. We mostly record live so it pushes the hardware a bit.

      MuseScore (http://musescore

    • by gatzke (2977)

      I have used MuseScore for a few simple things and I liked it a lot for making decent written scores. Plus, the community often has great stuff available to help get projects started.

  • by Osgeld (1900440)

    you want to run a recording studio on an OS that cant even mix a line input without dropping down to a command line and running a text based tool... have fun, but if I were you I would get something that requires less time dicking around and more time recording

  • by raymorris (2726007) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @12:35AM (#46088277)

    You mentioned programming your own synth, which would be open source. I'd bet there is an open source synth that is 98% what you want. Since it's open source, you can just do the 2% that it's missing - no need to write your own 100%.

    Several people mentioned Mac. I'm a hardcore FOSS guy. I used FOSS exclusively for 15 years. Mac devices like the iPhone reminded me why proprietary stuff can be so annoying. Then I was presented with a Mac Pro. Actually using the Mac changed my view. It's good, and it's what professional creatives use - for a reason. Don't let any negative experiences with iOS portable devices put you off of Mac computers. It's as if OSX and iOS are made by two different companies. Additionally, Mac OSX is Unix, so it'll run most any Linux programs.

    • by coolmadsi (823103)

      Don't let any negative experiences with iOS portable devices put you off of Mac computers. It's as if OSX and iOS are made by two different companies.

      I think the person asking the question wasn't looking at Macs due to a cost issue, not necessarily because of iOS

    • by tgv (254536)

      So there are open source synths that rival Kontakt, Diva, Zebra, Lush, etc.? I'm interested. Can you give a few pointers?

      • That's not what I said. What I said is that there is probably one (not "a lot") that the submitter would be happy with, based on their needs. For any given use case, there is probably one that is approximately as good as any you mentioned.

        Especially given that the submitter said would be happy with something they made themselves!

        > can you give a few pointers?

        See the subject line of my post, which you replied to.
        If you posted about your use case and what is important to you, the Linux music community co

  • If you're just working in your basement or making basic recordings/mixings, go with Garageband. Need more features and aren't afraid of paying a bit more look at Logic Pro-X. I like LogicPro for composing music while ProTools is better for editing and mixing.

    All of the above have a rich support for plugins.

    Conversely you could select Audacity [sourceforge.net]. Runs on windows/linux/mac and is pretty much free. It's a step up from Garageband, depending on exactly what you need to do. Definitely take a look at it.

    One co

  • by goruka (1721094) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @12:52AM (#46088321)
    I've been following this for more than a decade, even wrote a lot of audio software for Linux, and all my music is made under it, with my own apps. Yet I recognize the situation will never improve. Here's why:

    1) While the Linux kernel is perfectly capable of low latency, even on the shittiest of hardware, it does not provide the concept of primary and secondary buffers. If you want to use pro audio, you want to be able to mix the low latency, high sampling rate stream together with the regular OS/Desktop audio. Windows and OSX do this by setting the hardware for the realtime client, then also mixing the secondary audio over it, which comes from userland (or already mixed in userland). As a result, when using realtime audio in Linux, desktop audio dies or is hacked to route pulseaudio to jack and other stuff that does not really work well.

    2) It's impossible to write plugins similar to VST, because of the different way tookits connect to X11 (they won't share the connection). You can't mix and match toolkits so a host DAW will use different plugns. The only way is to use separate processes, but that makes programming complexity much higher and very few people bothered. Wayland seemed like it could fix this in the future, but other distros such as Ubuntu refuse to use it, so it doesn't seem good.

    3) Good programmers are not necesarily good composers. This is something that is much more important than it seems. Commercial companies are forced to listen to their users, but OSS developers mostly care about doing something good enough for themselves. Given the chance that a good programmer is a good producer/composer is super slim for the practical world, most audio software kind of sucks and feels incomplete. Ardour took more than a decade to implement MIDI and it still is horrible, because the main developers care more about live session recording. If they really had to use it everyday to make professional music, it wouldn't be as bare bones as it is now. At the same time, stuff that looks like a good idea (jack daemon) are terrible in practice because making music with a bunch of applications open is akin or worse to a live set of devices with cables connected.

    4) Finally, the biggest problem of Linux is that, unlike other software such as 3D or imaging, there is plenty of cheap and good Windows/OSX audio alternatives, so even if OSS software were to run properly on Windows/Mac, the incentive is still slow. It's not like Blender or Gimp, that it's commercial counterparts are in the thousands $.
    • by polyp2000 (444682)
      2) It's impossible to write plugins similar to VST, because of the different way tookits connect to X11 (they won't share the connection). You can't mix and match toolkits so a host DAW will use different plugns. The only way is to use separate processes, but that makes programming complexity much higher and very few people bothered. Wayland seemed like it could fix this in the future, but other distros such as Ubuntu refuse to use it, so it doesn't seem good.

      Its not "impossible" - difficult maybe - but
    • by dabadab (126782)

      It's impossible to write plugins similar to VST

      That's a very strange claim. It's not just possible to write plugins similar to VST (e.g. there is DSSI, which can also host VSTi plugins with the dssi-vst wrapper) but you can also build native Linux VSTs.

      Granted, your reasoning is hard to follow, so I may have missed something and perhaps you mean something else entirely.

      • by goruka (1721094)
        DSSI is an order of magnitude more difficult to write for than VST, and unportable, hence no one does and no one cares for complex plugins. In Windows/OSX world, it's very common to have apps that are 'VSTiszed', but this is also impossible with the DSSI model.
  • by MindPrison (864299) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @01:36AM (#46088509) Journal
    I'm kind of surprised no one in this long thread have mentioned Linux MultiMedia Studio yet, that software is actually very capable. http://lmms.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net] Enjoy.
  • If you want to use Linux Renoise is a great program - its interface is more like a tracker, but just as capable as a traditional DAW. Its crossplatform and inexpensive too! I've been writing music exclusively on Linux for a while now (I released an EP a couple of days ago).
    Secret Level EP [soundcloud.com] .

    Im very much looking forward to the release of "Bitwig Studio" - this will be the piece of software that may convince a lot of musicians to switch to Linux. Its written by the same guys who built Ableton Live and I
  • If you're into this type of stuff, please check out Rosegarden [rosegardenmusic.com], it's an incredible suite similar to GarageBand but more feature filled and mature IMHO.
  • by RoboJ1M (992925) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @05:58AM (#46089339)

    I wrote a longer post but I lost it, so here's the links:

    LMMS ("Compatible with many standards such as SoundFont2, VST(i), LADSPA, GUS Patches, and MIDI")
    http://lmms.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

    Ardour (A DAW, but maybe useful)
    http://ardour.org/ [ardour.org]

    Rosegarden (Best sequencer, with Lilypad notation support, has actual printed literature you can buy)
    http://www.rosegardenmusic.com... [rosegardenmusic.com]

    Audacity (PCM swiss army knife ;)
    http://audacity.sourceforge.ne... [sourceforge.net]

    The Cloudsto MK802IV LE, £80 ARM PC-onna-stick for doing music production on (Toys!!! *8D)
    http://www.sonicstate.com/news... [sonicstate.com]

    Who needs a Mac or a PC when you can run it all on the CPU your phone uses?
    Not tried it myself but for £80, I need to get one and have a go.

    • by Jahta (1141213)
      Another vote for LMMS here. It may not suit everybody, but it's still a capable music application.
  • by Tapewolf (1639955) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @06:24AM (#46089395)

    I do a lot of MIDI composition. Cakewalk was the first piece of MIDI software which I was really able to get to grips with, originally in Windows 3.1. I run an old version of SONAR now, under WINE. I use that for composing, but then export it into Rosegarden for recording. I did most of this in Windows until 7 came along and broke the 4x4 USB MIDI interface I was using - it was easier just to stay in Linux from that point on.

    For sound generation, I use hardware, mostly rackmount syntheszers. You can find these second hand on ebay quite a lot - the Roland JV series are pretty good general-purpose sound sources for starting out. They have the advantage that they are completely OS-agnostic, and apart from some weirdos like the Creamware ASB or the Receptor, they don't require online activation and they also won't die the year after the maker goes bust because OSX or Windows broke some API it uses. If you must use VSTs, Rosegarden and a couple of other packages will act as a VST host, probably using bits of WINE to do so. The MUSE Receptor does this as a hardware device (again, using a modified version of WINE) but although a Linux device, it is up to the hilt in DRM and remarkably expensive for what it is.

    Where it gets unusual is recording and tracking. I record quick demos of the piece using Audacity, but for the real thing I track it onto tape, using a timecode track to control the sequencer. This isn't a legacy system, it was a deliberate decision because I wanted to get some idea of how things were done before Protools became widespread.

    If I didn't do it that way, I'd either be looking at using a standalone DAW such as an Alesis HD24, or Ardour. I few years ago I scored a TASCAM 1" 24-track machine, and before that I was using a pair of synchronized 8-track machines, but to be honest that was a royal pain. I mix the 24-track tape down to a 1/4" stereo machine, and digitize the stereo master from that. I also have a 24-channel JoeCo recorder which I use to take digital safety masters of the multitracks.

    I am well aware that this is a weird thing to do in this day and age, but I figured I may as well throw it into the pot. In any case, there are people like Slugbug and Freelove Fenner who do the whole thing completely in the analogue domain, but that's not really what the question was.

  • by Qbertino (265505) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @06:55AM (#46089481)

    Just get a cheap netbook with a browser and use audiotool [audiotool.com]. ... No matter the OS, as long as it has Flash (Chrome has Flash built in).
    Honestly, I'm only joking a little here. The stuff these people did with audiotool is amazing right up to flat out insane. You really should check it out. I wouldn't be suprised if it fits *all* your needs.

    That aside, you get tons of tools in the closed and FOSS space. I'd go with what fits best. It may be that the available midi/audio to usb interfaces are most sophisticated for the mac vs. windows or x86 Linux.

    You also want to consider the hardware. The new Mac Pro (the round pipe-thing) has gotten raving reviews from audio professionals for its silent operation (1 fan only) in relation to its power and speed. Some even use it directly in the studio. If your on a budget, a linux laptop with supported audio hardware (supported seperate USB audio interface strongly recommended!!) will do just fine. Supercollider is one of the many FOSS audiotools (it's a synth) that are really great. There are ready-made Linux music+audio distros out there, even a specialized ubuntu variante, IIRC.

    Then again, do check out audiotool. Some musicians use it exclusively. A webapp. No shit. A friggin webapp. ... As I said: Quite amazing.

    My 2 cents.

  • by mendred (634647) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @07:22AM (#46089569) Homepage
    This is an example of the music I produce. It is produced using KXStudio and ardour with linuxsampler/hydrogen (running as an LV2 plugin via composite sampler)/linuxdsp/calf plugins. It shows that it is definitely possible to use opensource software to create songs. Of course i have also mixed in LinuxDSP (which is commercial) along with the calf plugins - they plays a big part in my sound.

    https://soundcloud.com/shadowo... [soundcloud.com]

    Most of the money I have spent is on the equipment I use to record (my guitars/ tube condenser mic/X-Station/headphones etc). But I have also spent a lot of time and energy accumulating free samples from different sources and kitting them together(the drum kit is an example - it is a hydrogen based Drumkit using the Colombo Acoustic Drumkit with other samples (e.g. the snare) from different sources - all free). I also use the excellent composite sampler to directly plugin the hydrogen drumkits as a lv2 plugin into Ardour's midi tracks, so I don't use anything over ardour really. I use a cheap BCF2000 in Mackie emulation mode with Ardour.

    I have also bought the linuxdsp plugins - I can honestly say that they are on par and sometimes better than commercial offerings (listen to the Linuxdsp Pultech EQ in action and compare that to the real thing - very close!) - the best part is that they are not restricted to linux - so you can use them where-ever. Also use the excellent calf plugins especially the saturator.

    It works for the kind of music I do - (a mix of classical/classical rock/blues/jazz) and the fact that I compose/record/produce/sing my music myself, but I have felt the pain in the past and it has often taken me a lot of time to produce the things the way i wanted it to sound (You can see some of my older pieces as well on soundcloud - you can see that the sound does gets progressively better - it was part of a learning process of learning to use the tools and learning music production! I am currently working on a new track which uses the sonatina orchestra which is a free orchestral sample released under creative commons and i think that definitely sounds a lot better than my previous ones. Also Ardour allows for midi editing on screen - i.e.. i can see all my tracks side by side with midi at the same track resolution- its very useful when i need to line up notes across tracks. Other DAWs tend to have a separate window come up when you need to have midi editing (or they used to..not sure if that's the case anymore!)

    If you go with a mac - chances are you will be doing what other people have already done and use the tools that they do - it does wind up costing more though- but if you are going to be producing music for other folks, time will be critical. Also there are probably more tools/options out there for the mac - e.g. I still can't find an auto tune equivalent for linux - however it is possible to run windows VSTs under emulation in wine as well - you can find videos in youtube.

    The key thing with the mac is that if you run into problems..chances are someone would be able to help you solve them - I know a friend who absolutely swears by his macbook for music production and he says that the support is amazing. Linux based DAWs have also grown in that sense - the Ardour community is large but I just get the feeling that the mac might be a bit more mature - although this could be a case of the grass being greener on the other side. It will now be a bit of a learning curve, I am way too used to the way Ardour/jack and how my tools work now that I have invested the time and energy in getting to know them.

    Also these tools have matured (i have been using them for over 5 years now). So a lot of the problems I faced in 2008 have been minimized. Suggest that if you do have the time, try giving them a spin with a simple project or something- spend a few weeks playing with it - if you like it use it. If you don't then you can always switch to commercial. The only thing you would have lost is time. That's what I did originally and didn't really look back after that.
  • by danboid (300692) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @07:24AM (#46089571)

    Long standing member of the Linux audio community here, with almost 20 years experience of recording under all 3 major platforms.

    Please end the Mac fanboism and answer this poor guys question!

    He's asking about LINUX BASED notation software and synths! I'm sure he's well aware of Macs, REAPER and ProTools etc - not that they do what he's after anyway!

    Musescore and Rosegarden have already been mentioned for Linux notation software but there is also http://laborejo.org/ , http://denemo.org/ and http://www.frescobaldi.org/ . Laborejo seems to be the most popular in the Linux world these days. I'm not sure which is the best as I don't do notation very often and I've not tried them all. The last few are basically lilypond GUIs.

    As for synths, the best (and most powerful) commercial synths for Linux is Loomer's Aspect. Its unbelievably CPU efficient too. As for open source, there is TAL Noizemaker (my fave), zynaddsubfx/Yoshimi, Amsynth and Triceratops are all worth checking out.

    Another good free synth (but not open source yet) for Linux is Tunefish - thats my 3rd fave after Noizemaker and Aspect.

    The best Linux Audio distros are KXStudio and AVLinux. As for DAWs (which he wasn't asking about, but just for my 2p) Ardour has lots of fans and many people use REAPER under Linux as its officially supported running under wine but my fave Linux DAW is qtractor. Its the fastest and most lightweight modern DAW. It lacks some whizz bang features of the popular commercial DAWs but you may find it does everything you need it to.

  • Buddy, if you can keep track of MIDI channels, wires and software, you arent going to have any trouble installing a distro like , Ubuntu Studio.
    Plenty of the programs you want and much more.

  • by frog_strat (852055) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @12:47PM (#46091559)
    I was just talking to a friend who owns a Protools studios, he just went through some nasty downtime. I was also called to help troubleshoot a Sonar studio a while back. I have been using Linux / Ardour / Rosegarden / Hydrogen for years and pretty much have it down. Running a pro studio with it would require ready backup machines, (probably should be done with any OS). Here is a prog rock song, using 42 tracks in Ardour, Hydrogen. Mesa Boogie Mark IV into an SM57. Custom fanned fret guitar, Roland RD digital piano. http://www.think600.com/647mix... [think600.com]

What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite. -- Bertrand Russell, "Skeptical Essays", 1928

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