This page is supposed to present my views of what this project could or should
evolve into. It's about how I came to think of this, what vision for the future
I have, and why I am doing this. It's a mixture of facts and dreams, but I
still hope you like some of the ideas - and, if so, you might want to join this
project once I manage to get a first version out into the public and announce
it on Sourceforge.
My musical education is not really all that great - I learned to play an
electric organ when I was 11 (back in '79), dropped the lessons after about
three years when I started to discover computers and their fascinating
abilities, and re-discovered musical instruments when I played on a Roland D-50
synthesizer at a local music instruments shop in my old home town, Stade.
That was in about 1988, and it changed a lot. Up until then, I just knew
classic electric/electronic organs with their very own, typical sound (I still
have the old Hohner Tivoli at home) and had just gotten a little impression of
what synthesizers can do (the Korg DW8000 also had caught my attention about
one year earlier).
But this was different! The sound of the D50 was so warm and smooth that it
immediately amazed me, and I started planning on how I could afford that
synthesizer (price at that time: about 3500,- Deutschmark). One year later, in
summer of 1989, I had a job at the local mail office where I washed cars for 4
weeks. That earned me a lot of money, and right after the job, in September
1989, I drove to Hamburg to buy a D50 for 3200,- Deutschmarks. I loved (and
still love) it, but I also realized that it cannot do any reasonably usable
drums - so the next logical step was to arrange some MIDI eqipment (my old
Amiga 500 at that time) and use the computer for drum sounds - very poor, I
One year later I again earned some money and could afford my first expander - a
Korg M3r (smaller rack version of the famous M1 with fewer smaple ROM). Now I
had everything I needed for making music - but no more time to do so because my
studies of computer science, which began in October of '89, caught most of my
Today my equipment looks like this:
There are certain synthesizers/controllers and other cool products on the
market I've thrown an eye on, but couldn't yet make up my mind to actually buy.
- Roland D50 synthesizer
- Korg M3r expander
- Behringer 12-channel mixer
- Akai S2000 sampler, extended to 32 MB RAM
- 1 Ghz AMD Athlon PC, 256 MB RAM, 30GB IBM disk
- A bunch of sampling CDs
- lots of ideas, and too little time.
This is my vision: I want to make music where I am able to control each and
every step of the creative process, even if this means going through lots of
text-based tools, shell scripts, cumbersome programs or whatever.
I do not like Windows. It gives me problems, it does not let me easily find the
possible reason for problems, it appears much more unstable to me than Linux,
and it's less flexible - most of the application for it are supposed to be used
with the mouse, but a good terminal emulator and a bunch of tools can be much
more powerful and flexible.
Obviously, my operating system of choice is Linux (as it has been for the last
6 years). Also, the software that I want to use with it should (wherever
possible) be Open-Source software. I do understand that commercial companies
cannot hand out the source of their valuable products, but they also have to
understand that I prefer software that I can debug myself if I feel the need to
The person who is going to make music this way will have to be not only
creative, but also a well-experienced Linux user to make full use of the
potential of the system. I can imagine that this will block your creativity
sometimes, but once you dominate the system (and not the other way around), you
have fantastic possibilities which are much more flexible than a standard sound
software package for a commercial operating system.
This is the process I imagine:
They represent the start of your project - besides a creative idea to produce a
certain type of music piece.
I see these possible sound source:
- ROM preset sounds from synthesizers, expanders, keyboard
- synthesizer sounds downloaded from the net (there are lots out there!)
- self-programmed sounds for synthesizers/expanders
- samples from sampling CDs (mostly drums!)
- samples collected from the 'net (some are even good! :-)
- self-recorded samples
- synthetically created samples: csound and other generators.
This also includes software synthesizers a la "ES-1" for Emagic Logic -
but this whole area is still very new to the Linux community, and it
also requires a good deal of CPU horsepower.
Using tools or applications from this stage of the process, you modify the
sounds you have got so far and prepare them for optimal playback.
- Ideally something like Soundforge or WaveLab, which don't yet exist
for Linux. Right now it looks like Glame, Audacity and
others could be what I need.
- Programs that can do effects of all kind: reverb, phaser/flanger, echo,
distorter/limiter/compressor, you name it...
Some small tools like sox can do part of this, but there is still no
really easily usable application for this. However, with the advent of
LADSPA and plugins for it, things are starting to shape up nicely.
Here is where you enter your musical score, be it by live recording of MIDI
events, direct sampling of an instrument you play (guitar, flute, whatever),
by using single-step entering of data into piano roll-type editors, by
using drums pattern editors, by writing .sco files for csound or whatever else.
- Foremost, MusE is currently my MIDI sequencer of choice; it is
written for the Qt GUI toolkit, has a pretty nice feature set,
and once it becomes more stable it will be a real killer application for
- Brahms might be good too. I need to test it more.
- Also, the tracker-style sequencers like SoundTracker or
CheeseTracker might be interesting, though they limit your
creativity a bit (IMHO).
Playing and recording
In this phase you are ready to play your composition - either for the purpose
of recording it on tape, sampler, etc, or for playing it to live audience.
I'll stick with the recording part for now.
- If your PC's soundcard is not used in your composition, you can use it
to record whatever comes our of your mixer. There are several programs
for recording whatever comes into the soundcard through its LineIn
plug, like DAP, bplay's brec or maybe a thousand others.
If your soundcard is also used for the project and you still want to use
it for recording _at the same time_, it will have to be able to work
in multiplexing mode.
It has to be kept in mind, however, that a poor soundcard will add
a certain amount of noise to a signal - so if possible, use only high
quality soundcards with good shielding against the "electromagnetic
storm" inside a PC.
This is a chapter I have only little knowledge about so far - I know it's
about things like "getting more loudness out of your signal" by using
compressors. It's also about surround sound editing - another chapter I'd
like to know a lot more about but still have to read.
Burning Audio CDs
To create an audio CD, everything one needs should already be there: Get
a decent CD writer and use a combo like cdrecord or cdrdao
together with a decent GUI like XCDRoast or GCDmaster
to write your own audio CDs.
The times are changing, and we all see the increasing need for other
distribution ways of music than just through CDs. MP3 is well-known, and
with a good encoder (I tried gogo and lame, and was quite
happy with them when I turned on the 'Variable Bitrate' option) you
can easily create small, portable and good representations of your
Of course, an even better way is to go for Ogg/Vorbis, another
lossy audio compression system comparable to MP3, but without any
licensing issues attached to it.
No matter how you create your music pieces, in the end, you put them
onto your homepage or get it into some archive like
www.mp3.com to become
Copyright © 2002-2004 Frank Neumann
(franky at users dot sourceforge dot net)
Last changed: Sun Feb 8 2004