Mac and Windows users have it good when it comes to laying down a rough mix, some vocals or a tasty bassline. With apps like Garageband, FLStudio, Sonar and Reason, the ability to create professional recordings is limited only to expertise and creative flair.
Linux musicians have to compromise. The industry does not see Linux as a money-spinning venture, and thus the best tools for the job happen to be free. Whilst you won’t need to spend a penny; you may have to compromise on features, support and plugins.
That said, there’s plenty of quality freebies to help you on your way. Here’s six tools to get your Linux music career off to a flying start.
One of the most feature-packed and up to date application on the list, the Linux Multimedia Studio is a free and powerful suite for both Linux and Windows operating systems. Providing some features usually reserved for paid software, LMMS gives you a complete set of tools for the job.
The song editor can be used to compose, there’s a beat and bassline editor, a piano roll for creating melodies, effects (with 64 FX channels) and the studio is compatible with a large number of standards (including SoundFont2 and LADSPA).
LMMS is compatible with MIDI keyboards (of course) and there’s plenty of built-in sounds and synths at your disposal. If you’ve done any production in the past, the ability to import MIDI and FruityLoops (FLP) files will probably be of interest too. Everything’s tied together in a clean, modern interface. An incredible package for the (lack of) price.
Another suite with plenty of punch that’s similar to LMMS, but aimed mainly at composing. The powerful notation editor will please those who enjoy making music using a score, with quick and easy ways to share and print (using LilyPond).
Rosegarden boasts some fairly intuitive MIDI management, with over 100 devices supported out of the box. If your device isn’t supported you can manually configure and export the settings to help the community.
There’s also a capable audio editor and sequencer, piano roll, built-in synths and multi-language support.
JACK is not a music creation tool, but a tool to facilitate the creation of music through the use of other software. It essentially acts like a big virtual mixer, allowing you to take audio from applications of your choice and re-route it into other applications.
If you intend to do any music creation and would like to use multiple applications in the production process, then you’ll want JACK. You might also just want it as a considerable amount of software supports it in some way or another.
Primarily a tool for creating drum beats and loops, Jackbeat is a free audio sequencer for Linux, Windows and Mac. The application uses a drum machine interface that promises to cater to both composers and live performers.
Jackbeat functions best alongside other software and can be integrated using the JACK and OSC (OpenSoundControl) standards. The whole interface is intuitive and straight-forward, meaning you’ll be up and running in no time.
Be sure to check out the keyboard shortcuts onto speed up your Jackbeat workflow!
Another feature-packed offering, Muse is more than just a MIDI and audio sequencer combining recording and editing abilities into one package. The interface dictates that simplicity is key to this multi-track virtual studio which is only available for Linux.
There’s full MIDI import/export support, editing via piano roll, drum editor or list view, internal and external synth plugins and JACK support for integration with other programs.
Look out for the up and coming Muse 2 (pictured), which the development team have said will see a stable release in the near future.
There were a couple of apps that didn’t quite make the top 5, and those were:
A drum loop sequencer with a sleek interface and distinct lack of updates since 2009, which is why it didn’t make the list. Might be worth a look if none of the rest answers your drumming needs.
A very simple audio editor and recorder which we’ve covered here. Perfect for small tasks such as sampling but lacks any of the major features that the other suites have.
The software on offer here hasn’t had thousands of dollars pumped into its production but has been crafted by volunteers in their spare time. Suites like LMMS give some of the paid virtual studio software available for other platforms a run for their money. If you’re interested in creating music on the Linux platform be sure to check a few of these out.
Have any readers created any music using these (or other) free tools? Will you try any out? What other software do you use for this task? Let us know in the comments.
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