Maybe you’ve heard about Linux but haven’t tried it. Maybe it’s something you will stumble upon later in your career. Or maybe it’s the operating system you’re already working with, unaware of the capabilities it provides for music production.
Linux is an operating system, like Windows or Mac OS, and some of the Linux compatible music software you might already be fimiliar with, like Hydrogen and Audacity. A large portion of the open source software generally derives from the Linux community. But you’ll also have to get used to a few new ones when if comes to Cubase, Pro Tools or Logic alike.
Linux used to be seen as a hacker tool. Which is still true because GNU/Linux is very configurable. Therefore it’s possible to tweek the system for your special needs. The free (as in freedom) software philosophy enabels the distribution of the modifyed software and packaging of applications made by individuals and organizations. This is why Linux exist in many flavors and that’s why they are called distributions. Since the rise of distributions like Debian and Ubuntu which are promoted as user friendly the word has spread and more people have let it into their lives.
Studio distributions like Ubuntu Studio and 64 Studio gives you a kick start into music production with Linux. These distributions are at the kernel level highly optimized for low-latency and real time use. But I think the main benefit is that they already have a pack of powerful music software preinstalled.
“Spectacle” is the first song I recorded and mixed in Ubuntu Studio. Which ever since has become my main platform for music production. Lets take a look at some of the applications I use.
Ardour is a digital audio workstation with multitrack recording capabilities an realtime effects. To this date Ardour can’t handle MIDI tracks. Though it’s expected to be implemented in the release of v3.0 which is the next expected release (currently in beta stage).
Ardour is the only community financed music software in the Linux world that through donations can finance a full time employee for development. There’s also a commersial version of Ardour available called Harrison Mixbus. The differance compared to Ardour is that Mixbus has a more anvanced mixer that emulates an analog console on your computer.
Rosegarden is an audio and MIDI sequencer that I use only for recording and editing of MIDI tracks. You can have Roasegarden and Ardour aswell as many other music applications synchronized like rewire through the JACK soundengine. This would make up for the lack of MIDI tracks in Ardour and the combination would be the equivalent to Cubase etc.
Audacity is a well known audio editor that is available for Linux, Mac OS and Windows. You can preview and apply effects in Audacity, but it doesn’t have realtime effects nor does it have JACK support. I think Audacity works well for finishes like fade in and fade out of a final mix or for recording and editing shorter audio clips.
Hydrogen is a drum machine with pattern based programming. Patterns can be made with mouse clicks or trough the MIDI interface. Hydrogen has support for multilayer drum kits and has functions like human velocity, time, pitch and swing.
Linux Sampler is a sampling engine that can be controlled through the graphical user interface of Qsample or Jsampler. Linux Sampler can handle samples in the Gigasampler format (.gig).
ZynAddSubFx is a software synthesizer with an integrated virtual keyboard. It has the usual set of features you’d expect fom a synth when it comes to effects and filters.