Computer music with linux
January 21, 2013 11:24 AM   Subscribe

I just discovered the wealth of audio programs for linux, and it's very exciting except I don't know how to use any of it. I'm learning linux, computer music composition, and music programs all at once.

Which programs are the easiest to use/best to learn? I am interested in composition/loops/sampling/drums etc.
What basics should I know? Are there any youtube tutorials that are good?
(Either on electronic composition or the programs themselves would be great.)
What are some requisite programs? (I've heard of JACK, but I don't know what it's for.)

So far, I have tabs open for amsynth, amuc, hydrogen, breakage, seq24, LMMS, cheesetracker, and some other stuff. I'm very confused.

I'm using Ubuntu 12.10 on an Acer Aspire One 722. I don't have any external instruments, so everything would be using the computer (e.g. synth input etc.) I do know music theory etc. though but I don't really know how to translate that to the computer I guess.


PS I'm using linux on principle because I like open source, so I don't want suggestions for FL or anything! I know there are a lot of free programs out there...I just need some advice on how to use them.
posted by lhude sing cuccu to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I can't say much about this because it's about a decade since I dabbled in it, and things can change fast. But I did notice that Rosegarden was missing from your list -- it's a stalwart of Linux music composition which might fit your needs. Also there's Ardour, which I found by googling "rosegarden vs".

I would just dive in and start trying to use anything that looks promising. If you can't install it in ten minutes, flag it and move on to the next. At least initially, focus on applications and ignore back-end stuff like Jack. Start by hoping that things will Just Work; if it does, you've saved time. If it doesn't, googling and forum questions will swiftly lead you the appropriate bit of Jack/ALSA/pulseaudio/whatever that you need to start prying into.
posted by pont at 12:07 PM on January 21, 2013

Best answer: This Ars Technica article looks like a really good place to start. It explains JACK, touches on ALSA, and gives you a rundown of the rock-solid basic programs you'll be working with.
posted by carsonb at 12:07 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here's a list of linux distros put together for music making. I'd suggest grinding through the descriptions to figure out what programs you need, along with finding
review articles like these slightly dated ones, to figure out the few different core configurations people use.

I might also dive into irc once in a while, and see what people's workflow is like.

I don't have any external instruments, so everything would be using the computer (e.g. synth input etc.) ... I do know music theory etc. though but I don't really know how to translate that to the computer I guess.

I wonder if you may want to save up for a basic keyboard or something? Lease a good one, or buy a cheap one.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:31 PM on January 21, 2013

Best answer: You mention that you're running Linux, so I won't suggest Ableton Live (which only runs on OS X and Windows), except that there is a program in development called Bitwig that is quite Ableton Live-like, which will run on Linux. You might investigate running a beta version.

Despite Ableton Live's very simple interface, it can be a great way to learn the basics of electronic music making: basically learning MIDI, synthesizer/effect plug-ins and sequencer mechanics. Bitwig may help you do some of the same things on Linux without as much of a learning curve, as well as negotiating some the spaghetti-like mess of audio drivers etc. required to get things working on Linux.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:39 PM on January 21, 2013

Dave Phillips had an interesting keynote at last years Linux Audio Conference titled "A rambling history of Linux audio development and some of its notable participants" if you're interested in some of the history. The archives of the conference sessions are well worth checking out also.
posted by TwoWordReview at 3:54 PM on January 21, 2013

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