Linux music software.
July 27, 2006 7:17 AM   Subscribe

So, what's the state of music production software in Linux? What are people using?

Music software is about the only thing that seems to be keeping Ubuntu off the default position on my GRUB boot menu - I have, up until now, done all my composition in Windows, using a wide range of software; Audiomulch, Modplug Tracker, Fruityloops, Audition, Orangator, SimSynth, others. What sort of equivalents exist on Linux? I live in hope that there is a great general-purpose sequencer / sampler / synthesizer in the vein of Fruityloops out there in Open Source land, But all I can seem to find are buggy alpha-stage single purpose synthesizers, text-mode software, MIDI sheetmusic composition software, and PD, which while allegedly an amazing piece of software, I've never been able to squeeze a soggy fart out of it. For multi-track mixing, Audacity does the job, but lacks some vital features, including such basics as being able to modify the sample rate for a track.

So, is anyone out there successfully using Linux as a music workstation? What secrets do you have? What software is the most complete, and offers the most creative freedom?
posted by Jimbob to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
From what I know...

There is actually a host of music authoring apps for linux. It's a really really big linux area actually, and it's a deep, deep rabbit hole.

I think the first resource you should check out is It's a rather comprehensive collection of audio apps and environments for Linux.

One thing that I know about Linux music authoring and audio is that it's a big-picture sorta thing. A lot of the applications tie together through a central sound server like ALSA, OSS, and JACK. I think JACK is an "audio connection kit" that connects audio between programs, sort of like virtually patching audio hardware.

Anyway, I'm not an expert on it but I recommend checking out that link for a good start.
posted by sprocket87 at 7:34 AM on July 27, 2006

I haven't really found the answer to this myself, but I took another step towards the switch by booting directly into Ubuntu and running Windows when I need to for things like Fruityloops and Reaktor in the free/awesome VMware.

From my experience the performance hasn't been perceptibly slower than running only Windows, and VMware's suspend/resume is a lot faster than a reboot, particularly since it's non-blocking and you can use your computer for other things while you wait for Windows to get itself situated. I like to set VMWare window full-screen and set the app I'm using in the windows guest full-screen as well, then with a multi-desktop system it integrates pretty transparently (Desktop 1 is windows, 2-4 whatever linux apps you like to have around, or w/e. If your WM allows you to scroll desktops with the mouse you can tell VMware to relinquish focus when the cursor leaves the window and scroll desktops unfettered.)

Sorry this isn't a direct answer, but I've had pretty much the same disheartening experience as you have from trying out native linux music apps.
posted by moift at 8:43 AM on July 27, 2006

PlanetCCRMA is an audio meta-distribution that sits on top of Red Hat-ish Linux distributions. It was put together by Stanford's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics for internal use so it's pretty hand-picked, yet also pretty broad. Here is a list of the packages it includes. It also includes kernels with improved real-time capabilities.

I don't do enough audio work or use the Windows programs you mention to suggest exact replacements, but I think PlanetCCRMA is your best starting point.
posted by mendel at 9:53 AM on July 27, 2006

You might try letting Audacity know what features you're interested in -- I know they try to write for what people want.
posted by Margalo Epps at 10:31 AM on July 27, 2006

Here's a music-oriented Linux distro - Musix.

The download is a CD image that's bootable and it has most of the major Linux audio/music tools already installed and configured. In other words, once you download the image and burn it to CD, you can boot on it and immediately start using the installed apps. This makes it super easy to get your feet wet with Linux audio without having to set up a new PC or drive, format, configure etc.etc.

If you want, later you can also install the Linux and the apps from the CD to your HD.

It has all the Linux audio hotness: ALSA, JACK, Ardour, Rosegarden, Audacity, etc.

This distro is free; just download, burn and go. It's at version .5 now. I last tried it in january when it was at v .3 or so, and it booted and ran fine on my 3 GHz Pentium 4 with a M-Audio 2496 audio card.
posted by Artful Codger at 1:05 PM on July 27, 2006

Ubuntu studio looks promising.
posted by Giant luck at 8:42 PM on February 17, 2007

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