Renoise is the only Linux music production program that has made sense to me so far.

Prince - Sign O' The Times (1987)Renoise

So far, composing music on Linux is very, very hard.

I should mention that I was never really indoctrinated into the usage of such programs in Windows, and that I know nothing -- really, nothing -- about electronic composition.

I have tried many music production programs on Linux, and I've had success with virtually none of them. I'm not saying that the other programs that I can't seem to use are not good, but they definitely aren't good for me (not yet anyway). Renoise is a commercial product but recently they announced work on a Linux version and yesterday they released a trial version. It's simple to install provided that you have a few dependencies (and they're common to other music programs for Linux -- dependencies such as JACK). Once you get it up and running the interface seems fairly intuitive. I haven't tried making anything of my own yet, but I was able to make alterations to a sample song fairly simply. If I play with it more and really like it, well shit, maybe I'll even end up buying it; but in truth, it's far more likely that I'll use the trial to try to learn some things that can be applied to freer programs.

If you're like me insofar as you haven't had much luck composing music on Linux because of a lack of a starting place, download the Renoise trial and see if you can get it to work for you. One of the great downfalls of many otherwise excellent free/open source software projects is that the documentation is either scattered (this seems to be the case for many Linux music projects out there -- I have yet to see a cohesive documentation repository that tells anyone anything about how we can create music for fun on Linux), or it's written such that only the adept have a fair chance at understanding the documentation. There are no beginners guides! This latter issue is a problem in free software in general, but it is getting better overall with distributions like Ubuntu that welcome new users and have ways of educating them without forcing them to read tons of manpages. See Audio in Linux is awesome, a simple 39 step guide to editing an audio file in Linux for a pretty good illustration of the kind of frustration I'm talking about here.

The next step for me will be learning more about how computer music programs work so that I can use them to make things that I like listening to. I have a very strong suspicion that this wouldn't ever be as much of a chore if I actually had some kind of electronic instrument whose output I could feed into my computer...


David said...

Wow, that program looks pretty nice. It's like an old school tracker but judging from the screenshots, has some sophisticated synth stuff built it. Back when I did that sort of thing, I did all my beats in a tracker because I found that was the easiest way to mix synth with sample, or use the sample as a synth instrument (while using free software).

I have to say it would have been 10 times easier if I had a MIDI keyboard, instead of having to input every single note manually.

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