Apr 072011

tux-nrosesI came across by chance in what I consider one of the more comprehensive guide to creating audio in Linux, and Stefano gave me the permission to republish his material that I consider really good and that he uses as musician.

Stefano it’s an Ubuntu user and his guide it’s based on this distribution, he’s really active in the Ubuntu italian community, if you want to make him a question regarding his guide, you can post in this thread http://forum.ubuntu-it.org/index.php/topic,278719.0.html, the language of the forum is Italian, but i’m sure that you’ll get some answers also if you ask kindly in English.

You can find the previous part  here :

Part 1 here
Part 2 here
Part 3 here

This is the last part i hope you enjoyed this tutorial.
The original article is in italian, you can send note about the Translation to me.

13.5 -Record MIDI tracks

If now you press the big red record button, you can also record and play back your performance, maybe changing the instrument later.
When you have multiple sources, it is normal that the volumes are all differents. Go in the mixer of Ubuntu (or type alsamixer in the terminal) and arrange it in the “Playback” until you get more or less the same effect when you listen the base with a single MIDI machine. For setting individual volume, mute the tracks you do not need (the yellow button next to “Untitled”).
This step is quite delicate and it completely changes depending on the sound card you have.
For example I have a Creative Soundblaster Live Platinum with external front: the volume of the pre-loaded banks into the memory of the sound card with the command awfxload is determined from the input “Synth”; the volume of Qsynth is determined from the input “Wave”; the volume of Korg connected to the two pins in the external front is determined from the input “LiveDrive 2”; “”Wave” and “Synth ” are in turn controlled by “PCM”, “PCM” and all the rest depend from “Master”, etc.
It’s fun to study how the sound card work. Once you understand how to control the volume of the music playback, then you must also understand how to control the volume of recording : take care, because some sound cards have switches that let you record a mix of what’s coming, or only individual inputs (in my case the switch “Mix”).

Of course, once decided the instruments, change “Untitled” and put the actual name of the instrument, perhaps by specifying the used MIDI machine name. For example, “Korg Bass”, “Qsynth guitar”, “Timidity Battery” and so on.

Change the base midi as you like, keeping in mind that you can also modify and even change the instruments later.

To change or enter notes by hand, use the guide of Rosegarden:

As you record notes, instruments and tracks on Rosegarden, go on Hydrogen to change the battery depending on your needs.

Record the audio tracks.

Now we can record the audio tracks with Ardour.

Ardour is very complex but for our purposes we will not use all of its many functions. The important thing is to do an overview of the functions of Ardour:

– The sound coming from external sources, called “System: Capture_1″and”System_Capture_2” (the microphone, Qsynth, the electric guitar through VST like Amplitubeas, etc.: all that you set in the section “Recording” of the mixer or Ubuntu alsamixer) enter into an audio track in Ardour.
– The sound of each track can be passed through a LADSPA effects (reverb, echo, chorus, flanger, etc.). Ie: you take the output of an audio track and send it to the effect, and the effect output is sent to “Master IN”.
– The “Master” takes the sources that we send to it and monitor their volume (and pan, that is balancing on the left and right channels) and by default sends everything to the speakers or headphones.
– When we export the final result of our composition, Ardour quickly plays everything that passes through the Master and send it to a file instead of the speakers.

Schematically, and in an extremely simplified way, the behavior of Ardour is:

Source → audio track → sound effects → Master → speakers or headphones

I suggest to take a look at this guide to learn a bit more about Ardour.

Create some audio tracks: the mono for the voice, stereo for every instrument that you’ll record for each MIDI machine, stereo for each instrument generated from a VST.
To be practical, let’s take a simple example: a mono track named “Voice “, a stereo track named “Guitar” and a stereo track named “Bass”.

Now open the real command center of Ardour: The mixer.
“Window” → “Show mixer”

As you can see, each track (each column) has an input, an empty space, a slider for the volume, another empty space and the output. On the right there is the Master.
In the column of the track “Voice” hit the top on “input” → “Change. ” As you can see, on the left you have the selected inputs, and on the right those selectable. It should already be set to “system: capture_1” but if it is not select it from the left and put it on the right. Also in the track “Voice”, select in the bottom “output” → “Edit” and choose “ardour:master/in 1” and “ardour:master/in 2”. It is normal that there is only one input and two outputs, as the microphone is mono but the sound is a stereo signal (which is the mono signal automatically split from Ardour).
At this point, on the left in the column “Master” at the bottom press “output” → “Change” and, if not already selected, say “system:playback_1” and “system:playback_2”

Ardour in

Basically we said to Ardour to record in the track “Voice” what comes from the sound card and send it to the Master, and then we told the Master to send all to the sound speakers.
system:capture → IN “Voce” OUT → IN Master OUT → system:playback

To better understand what we did, we can click on “input” at the top in the master track, and noted that as inputs are already selected (by default) all audio tracks, including “Voice” OUT 1 and 2. If we go to Jack Control and press “Connect ” we see graphically what we did.

But now we must tell to our computer what should actually get out of that elusive “system:capture” (which is our sound cards) that will end in our track “Voice”. In this case we have to leave only the microphone, because the track “Voice” should record only the voice self-evident, is not it?
Then connect the microphone to the sound card. Now you have to listen the base produced by Rosegarden with the other tracks of Ardour, but only record the microphone.
– Go into alsamixer, go into the Playback tab and pump up the volume of the MIDI instruments (in the case of Qsynth, is usually simply “Wave” or “PCM” if you have a Creative Soundblaster and have soundfonts loaded into memory with the command awfxload Typically, the volume is “Synth”).
– Do not raise the microphone volume in view “Playback” it is better not to hear the return of your voice as you sing.
– Exclude everything that you do not want to hear.
– If you want to listen to what you are recording, go to Ardour and press “Options ” → “Monitoring” → “Ardour does monitoring”.
– In alsamixer, go to the Capture view (tab key) and lower everything except the main volume of input (usually “Capture”) and the volume of the microphone (usually “Mic “, but in the external fronts of Creative for example, is “LiveDrive 1 “).
– In some sound cards you need to select a particular source, which excludes some other sources. An example in the Creative Audigy card and similar cards: the switch “Line” allows you to record from the front, but then you must also select “LiveDrive 1” and/or “LiveDrive 2” respectively for microphone or the two stereo pin . But if you turn the switch “Mix” then enable all possible inputs, including what you’re listening to,with the risk of creating deafening loop.
– by moving with the tab key select the playback or recording view, by moving to the left and right arrows select the desired source by pressing “M” to mute, press the space bar to select the recording.


To see if you are ready to record, just look at Ardour main window at the track “Voice” and check if the bar of the volume shows signs of life or not if you speak into the microphone. If yes, do some testing screaming into the microphone at full volume you think you can get the while recording the song, in the while lower the recording volume in the mixer of Ubuntu until you see no more red peaks in the indicator of the volume of the recording track “Voice”of Ardour.

Now press the red dot of the track “Voice”, the red dot in the upper left corner in the main control of Ardour and then play to record.


To change the volume of individual parts of the voice, to break the sound, to delete the parts with the silence and the like, I refer you to the official guide

13.7 – Adjust MIDI tracks

Of course, throughout all this process, you can change the drum track by moving on Hydrogen, but it is also likely that you want to change some instruments of the MIDI base, because when we made ​​it we have not taken into account the frequency of voice and guitar.
Let’s move on Rosegarden and change the base, changing notes, transposing octaves, changing instruments and/or machines that produce them, adding any other instruments, with great comfort to be able to hear the audio portion of Ardour always well synchronized.
Remember that to use in-depth Rosegarden you can follow the various official guides:


13.8 – Record in audio the MIDI tracks and the drum

At this point we need to record any MIDI instrument in a different audio track in Ardour. It is a rather repetitive and tedious task, which we’ll avoid when Ardour will have MIDI support and so we no longer even use Rosegarden.

As for Hydrogen, export directly to an audio file: “File” → “Export song” and import the .wav file in a new stereo track in Ardour.

For Rosegarden is harder. Let me give an example.
– Create a new stereo audio track in Ardour (in our example, we had already prepared a “Bass “).
– Go in Rosegarden and mute all tracks except the bass.
– Go alsamixer and choose the recording source: if it is an external module connected to the line choose “Line” if they are the soundfont Soundblaster choose “Synth “, if it is a VST instrument or Qsynth choose “Wave” and/or “PCM”, and so on (a tip: remove the effects of Chorus and Reverb from Qsynth or from the VST instrument).
– Put in recording the track “Bass” of Ardour and record.
– Do the same procedure for each instrument.

13.9 – Effects and downmix

Now we can close Rosegarden. Do not forget to save the Ardour session and we now proceed to put the effects.
Basically we have everything on audio, but sounds are dry, without reverb, chorus, compressor, equalizer, echo/delay and so on.
Go in the mixer window of Ardour. You see that for each column/track there is a empty space between input and volume, and between volume and output. It is in the empty space between volume and output that we will put the LADSPA effects, so that our scheme, for each track, becomes:
system:capture → IN Track OUT → effects → IN Master OUT → system:playback

In a true analog study they used a step further: they held the fixed effects for each instrument and then they decide “how much effect” to send to the mixer for each instrument. This is more intuitive and less complex than have a cascade of effects (each of which must be set) for each instrument, but leaves a lot less freedom. Because we can, let’s take some time and let’s use a study in which we have endless effects to be connected individually to each instrument (of course some tracks can be grouped together and behave as a single track, for instance by sending them to a virtual track with only effects, called the “Bus”, whose intensity can vary during playback, for more information about this check the official guide).

We can put the effects in two places:
1 – between the input and the track
2 – between the track and the master

Let me give an example to distinguish the two cases:

1 – Connect your guitar to your PC, put the distortion between input and track, record. On the track I will have a distorted guitar.
2 – Connect your guitar to your PC, put the distortion between the track and the master. I will have the clean guitar in the track, but when I put in play the song, i’ll hear the distorted guitar because Ardour distorts it “on the fly.” So in the final downmix it will be distorted.

The second method is much more professional, because you can vary the effect when you want, even after you have registered. It has the problem that takes up too much memory for each track if we need to keep active all the effects, the preview will be really bad for our poor PC. In my opinion you should take effect by the method 2 only in the case of simple things (reverb, chorus, etc.) while in the case of VST effects (wine takes a lot of resources) or other complex effects, you should register directly with the effect. Besides, in reality the guitarist records already distorted. In general if you do not like the distortion, then you record again the performance.

In Ardour, the two methods are graphically displayed for each track in the Mixer window like this:

In this example, you can see that for the “voice” track I’m recording directly with the effect “TAP Tube Warm” in the track (which is already registered with this effect applied to simulate a recording from a microphone of the 60 with valves) and then I connected to the “voice” a compressor (Calf) and a reverb (C* Plate) whose parameters i can vary, as i like, even after registration.

Now that we know the theory, we continue with the production of our song:
Press the right mouse button at the empty space between the volume and output, and choose “New plugin” → “Plugin manager”. There is a list of our LADSPA effects.
The most common are those that begin with “C* “. For voice, we need a reverb which has the mono input and the stereo output (one really good is “C* Plate”), while the instruments we need a reverb with stereo input and stereo output (hence in our example “C* Plate2x2). They go in cascade from top to bottom, so it’s up to you to decide if you prefer, for example, reverberate a sound with the chorus, or put the chorus on a reverbed sound. Very useful is also the equalizer: “C* Eq” or “C* Eq2x2” they are very common and versatile.
If you have read the guide of Ardour, you saw that you can change in a single track even the individual parameters of each effect, putting them in a graph. For example, we can increase during an acute voice the size of the room reverb effect, creating a typical effect “the room becomes a stage while I’m singing, ” or we can increase the Threshold of the flanger to create that effect of “sound that dirty and becomes more and more alien” used very often for example the Queen (in “The Miracle “at the end when he says “end to war” on the word “war”).

If you want to use a VST effect, run it with the method described in Chapter 10, then as effect in Ardour instead of “New plugin”, choose “New …”. delivery On the right you will find the loaded VST effect. Add to the fields “out 1” and “out 2” the two “in_1” and “in_2” in the usual way.

When you heard the final product, keep in mind that if you hear noise, they may be due to a defect in the registration or only in reproduction. If they are in the recording (just to make sure put in “solo” the track that seems have some defect and play it several times to see if the same defect is always in the same place) you need to register again. If they are in the playing, it’s not a problem because when we export the files, Ardour will do all calculations without having the problems of the realtime sync of the playback.

If everything seems ok, save and go to “Session”→ “Export” → “Export the current session as sound. ” You’re done.
The wav file produced can already be heard on any player, or converted into MP3 44100Hz 128k or any other format from any program like Audacity, or Rezound Sweep.

Appendix A – MIDI player

A nice program for karaoke? the better it is for Windows, it’s free, it’s called “Van Basco” and goes very well on Linux with Wine.

Downlaod van Basco from here:
Install it in the same way you’d do in Windows, by double clicking it (or right click, “Open with Wine”).
The program starts by itself. Right-click on a blank part of the player window, and choose “Settings”. Instead of “MIDI Mapper ” put the first “Timidity” of the list, or any other instrument (Qsynth if you’ve loaded, the wavetable if you have a sound card compatible with these functions, the output if you have an external MIDI keyboard or a related module rack, etc.) and then OK.

If you find free player, equally valid, for Linux native, please let me know.

And that’s all folk.
This tutorial in 4 parts end here, i hope you liekd it like me, and once again thanks to Stefano for this great guide.

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  2 Responses to “Music Production in Linux 4”

  1. In the earlier parts, you mentioned that there are appendices that contain information about soundcards etc. I suppose these are in the original Italian article by Droghetti. It would be nice to have them if you have time to translate these also. I suggest that this information goes into some form of wiki about music on linux. Please think about that.

  2. You can always record the audio & mix it all in Rosegarden (or the excellent Muse sequencer) rather than use two applications.

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