First impressions of MusE 2.0

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danboid
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First impressions of MusE 2.0

Post by danboid »

MusE, dating back to '99, is one of the most mature MIDI sequencers available for Linux. After over a decades development we have seen it evolve into a fully featured DAW and the project finally made its big 2.0 release at the end of June although you're unlikely to have heard anything about it unless you monitor the Linux audio scene closely. This is a shame as with version 2 MusE deserves a lot more attention than it seems to be getting so I'm hoping to rectify that slightly by explaining why I think this is the dark horse of FLOSS DAWs and one of the most promising Linux audio projects going.

I'm a subscriber of the Linux Audio mailing lists so I heard about MusE 2.0 as soon as it was released and I promised the project member who made the announcement, Robert Jonsson, I'd be taking a look soon. Sadly it took over 2 months before my curiosity got the better of me and I regretted waiting so long after trying it. Muse 2's feature set sounded good and it looked promising in the screenshots but there were two main reasons I didn't hurry to try the new release. The first and main reason was that I had tried previous 1.x releases of MusE and I had been underwhelmed. I wasn't a fan of Rosegarden's QT 3 era UI but Muse 1 made RG look nice. Rosegarden is also partly to blame for me taking my time in trying the new MusE. Rosegarden, the other long-standing Linux/Qt FLOSS sequencer, predates MusE and as I've just mentioned I'm not so keen on its GUI which is way too cluttered for my liking so when they made the transition from QT3 to QT4 a few years ago I had my fingers crossed it would bring with it a redesigned and more slender UI but it was not to be. Thankfully MusE's transition from QT3 to QT4 was much more fruitful as I now feel comfortable with the MusE GUI which strikes a good balance between having no icons on screen and the full-on icon overload of Rosegarden.

If you can live with its interface Rosegarden is a powerful and full-featured sequencer with most of the features familiar to users of commercial sequencers and in this respect MusE fares just as well if not better as it does so without the clutter. I really appreciate that Muse lets you draw lines within its MIDI controller lanes to quickly define fades as this is a feature I have long wanted in qtractor and is also missing from Rosegarden. qtractor lets you draw MIDI automation curves but these are treated separately from any MIDI controller data you record. You can draw 'freehand' on qtractor MIDI controller tracks and it has a resize tool for MIDI events that lets you select a range of controllers then enter its start and end values but this isn't as intuitive or as easy as being able to draw straight lines to define controllers like in MusE. In this respect its only equal in Linux land right now is Ardour 3.

UPDATE 1st Dec '12: qtractor svn now has the ability to draw lines to adjust selected MIDI controllers so this will be no longer an issue for qtr 0.5.7+

My Linux sequencer of choice at the moment is qtractor but I was keen to see the state of MusE because, as I highlighted in my recent qtractor review on KVR, qtractor lacks a couple of features I feel a bit lost without. The worst of these for me is qtractors lack of support for 'tempo ramps' as Rosegarden calls them or 'crescendos' as they're referred to in MusE-speak. A3 also currently lacks the ability to set gradual changes in tempo and this is a shame as they're quite common. My other big irk with the current state of Rui's DAW is the inability to copy automation but there is no such problem under MusE or A3.

One of the new features in MusE 2 is a score editor, something entirely absent from Ardour and qtractor although personally I'm not concerned with having a score editor integrated into my DAW as I rarely notate music. MusE's current support for musical score appears basic and doesn't compare with Rosegarden's integrated score support. FLOSS score creation is being handled very well by MusE's sister project so I'm not sure why they bother to be honest as I can't see it catching up to musescore unless the two merge.

Enough about MIDI, what about audio? Reading the Ardour forums and having spent much time in its irc channel, I know that one of the most frequent feature requests is integrated wave editing and I'm sure Rui has had more than a few requests for such a feature in qtractor too so I'd say one of the biggest selling points of MusE is that it would seem to be the only Linux DAW to offer integrated audio editing. The editor is basic but it has the most commonly used audio editing features so chances are you won't have to use an external editor much, which is something else MusE supports, should the internal editor not cut it. At this point I'll mention that the only real bug I seem to have found in MusE so far is the audio editor doesn't work for me under 64 bit Deb Wheezy although it works fine under 32 bit Wheezy and Robert says it works for him under 64 bit Kubuntu too.

I had trouble working out how to record audio into Muse at first as it wasn't documented at the time but the docs have been updated to cover this since I raised it as an issue. Just looking at this process, compared to Ardour and qtractor Muse is the least user friendly when trying to set up a track to record but once you know how its done its not a prob and this was the only aspect of the program that had me scratching my head. Otherwise I think MusE is the most user friendly Linux DAW and I didn't have to inquire about or refer to the manual for anything else. I was also disappointed that MusE 2.0 doesn't currently support the creation of mono audio tracks although you can change stereo to mono tracks and creating mono tracks is to be added soon. MusE allows the easy drawing of automation curves for gain, pan and LADSPA FX and apart from the two slight probs I've mentioned, it looks like I should enjoy working with MusE for audio as well as MIDI.

Observant readers will have noticed that despite my praise for this new MusE I said "My Linux sequencer of choice at the moment is qtractor" because it supports native VST and LV2 plugins, it is more stable and lightweight than A3 and it will likely remain my choice until the big MusE showstopper gets resolved - plugin support. Like Rosegarden, MusE currently only supports LADSPA and DSSI plugins which is fine IF you don't use MIDI, you only use external MIDI sound modules OR you are happy with MusE's integrated synths / the very few DSSI plugins available / LASH sessions. You could use Windows VST plugins via DSSI-VST with it but that isn't an option I'm interested in nor would anyone else who is concerned about plugin performance and stability care much for DSSI-VST.

Although native VST and LV2 support is planned, no-one is working on it yet which is a great shame as without such support this very promising DAW isn't usable for me yet. When MusE does gain such functionality I think there's a very real chance it will become my DAW of choice and I highly recommend others give it a go especially if you're looking for a Linux sequencer for MIDI hardware.
Last edited by danboid on Sat Dec 01, 2012 10:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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bhilmers
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Re: First impressions of MusE 2.0

Post by bhilmers »

Good review, I am in agreement. MusE is my Linux DAW of choice because of the ability to manipulate both MIDI and audio files (like Qtractor), but also because it has a few internal synths. While not the most advanced synths, they are very usable and keeps down resources. The soundfont loader and the 'drum machine' are very helpful too. The built in audio editor is a great bonus, though a few more features would help. From what I can see, MusE is the closest Linux DAW that is comparable to commercial software like Ableton Live, an that is pretty amazing. Support for more plugins and effects automation, plus a bit of GUI tweaking and MusE will be the big dog. I have high hopes for the future of this wonderful program.

danboid
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Re: First impressions of MusE 2.0

Post by danboid »

Hi bhilmers!

Now that you mention it, I realise I should've said a bit more about MusE's included synths as that is another of the 'Top 5 most requested features for Ardour' and I don't think Paul has any plans to start writing synths for inclusion with Ardour.

I could see me making use of MusE's integrated soundfont player sometimes but the only Linux synth plugins I deem usable and pro-sounding are Aspect and Noisemaker - see my thread on 'Welsh's synth cookbook for Linux users' in the Hints and Tips section of this forum for why that is. Despite that, it is still cool to have something in the way of integrated synths in your DAW if you don't have any fancy requirements and it makes things easier for those finding their feet too.
Are you new to Linux Audio? This manual explains how to install KXStudio, set up and use JACK, mimimize latency, lists the best Linux AV apps and much more all in a concise and easy to understand format.

http://wiki.linuxaudio.org/wiki/kxstudio_manual

Tim E. Real
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Re: First impressions of MusE 2.0

Post by Tim E. Real »

Hi, it's Tim here (MusE dev terminator) - first post ever here.

Thanks for the kind words and suggestions, here and in LAU.
Want to try and quickly respond.

I primarily use MusE for audio recording (for guitars and vocals) and use
the MIDI features for adding programmed or performed keyboards,
and programmed drums before or after. "I am not a drummer" (TM). Ha.
Some of our users are strictly MIDI and don't use the audio features.
One's whole studio used only MusE MIDI features until recently I think.

I've said before the audio editing side of MusE has been sorely neglected.
Nothing's really changed in the Wave Editor for years. Awful.
Until now.

It needed a makeover. Here's what's new in last few weeks in the SVN trunk:
New Improved Wave Editor:

The old rudimentary WaveView class is gone, replaced a true WaveCanvas class.
This means Wave Events in the Wave Editor can now be selected, moved,
created, deleted etc.
Mono and stereo waves can be shown at the same time now in the editor,
just as the Arranger always has done so.
Part backgrounds are coloured as they are in the Arranger and Wave Events
have dashed boundaries showing you where they begin and end.
And most important so far, a few days ago I added a menu item which lets you
adjust the position, in samples, into the actual wave file.
One use for this is crucial basic latency compensation of recorded waves.
One simply dials in the number of Jack samples in a period (or more) and then
the recorded Wave Event will be aligned properly with the Time Scale.
Psyched, I am looking forward to recording my tracks using long Jack periods now,
allowing more time for all the plugins and apps (multiple Guitarix's) to run at once.

In... several hours perhaps, I will commit the Copy On Write stuff I spoke of.
Yep, MusE will now offer to copy over to the Project Directory any wave you try
to modify which is not writable. It will also copy any wave you try to modify which
is shared by other non-clone Wave Parts. This means 'copying' a Wave Part
truly will make a copy now (if modified). Before it never did that, it only created
a reference, and modifying one part changed the other as well.
After that I will try to sandwich in a small piece of code from old muse_evolution
dealing with sample rate conversion upon wave file importing, giving some very
basic sample rate relief there.

Currently MusE has only one Time Scale mode: Bar:Beat:Tick.
I have started a new branch dealing with three more modes:
Ticks, Samples, and Minute:Second:Frame:Subframe (in units of chosen MTC fps).
Also we were discussing the long unused 'Time Lock' column in the Track List.
We came up with a plan to use it to allow any Part to be in units of Samples or Ticks.
That is, 'pinned' to a specific sample (or MSF), or aligned to a Tick (or BBT).
In other words with these changes, users who need to work in 'linear time' rather
than 'musical time' will be catered to. They don't care about BBTs, Ticks, and tempo.

Got cluttered icons and toolbars?
Individual toolbars can be hidden by right clicking the menu region and choosing
what to show. IIRC RG is the same, being Qt, or no? (Not installed here ATM.)

About the MIDI notes not sounding when moved: I think when the 'speaker' icon is on
they sound when clicked but not moved. Wondered a few times about this too.
Likely easily added. File a Feature Request or give us a hollar in a while if not added.

About the Native VST: I looked into it about 1-2 years ago and I was specifically
looking for some kind of API that we could use but could find nothing.
All I could find were the end results - the Native VST plugins themselves.
So puzzled on how exactly to open these things I asked on our lists but nobody knew.
But Dan you gave some resources (an API?) and contacts, super, I will try to look into it.

Thanks.
Tim.

antiesen
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Re: First impressions of MusE 2.0

Post by antiesen »

Maybe falktx could help with native vst?
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danboid
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Re: First impressions of MusE 2.0

Post by danboid »

Hi Tim!

I'm glad you decided to sign up here and give us an update, it looks like MusE is advancing rapidly and I'm delighted you're going to have another look into adding native VST support as I absolutely can't wait to use Aspect under MusE and start writing stuff packed full of tempo changes as I'm one of the severe musical attention disorder types who's addicted to stuff like Secret Chiefs 3, aPatT, Renaldo and the Loaf, Residents, Cardiacs, tRANSELEMENt etc. - no bounds music requires this!

The new wave editing stuff sounds cool and I've just lodged a feature request for sounding notes on creation which could've just as well have been reported as a bug IMO as that is what I'd expect the 'Play Events' (speaker icon) to do when active so thanks to Lorenzo for highlighting that for us!

I've already asked falktx about his VST code that he wrote for OOM but he says it wouldn't be much use to MusE. As you know he already runs about 400 differents projects so it'd be a lovely surprise if he decided to do the same for MusE but he's already a very busy man and I expect he would've announced any intentions to work on this already if it was something he was interested in. F?
Are you new to Linux Audio? This manual explains how to install KXStudio, set up and use JACK, mimimize latency, lists the best Linux AV apps and much more all in a concise and easy to understand format.

http://wiki.linuxaudio.org/wiki/kxstudio_manual

danboid
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Re: First impressions of MusE 2.0

Post by danboid »

falktx:

I already recommended the muse devs look at your Carla VST code as a good working example of a native Linux host over on the muse forum but thanks for highlighting those docs too - I'm sure they'll find that very helpful!

Tim:

Please let us know as soon as you have any native VST or LV2. I'm subscribed to the muse users list but I'd like to stay off the dev/svn list until VST support arrives.

Thanks both!
Are you new to Linux Audio? This manual explains how to install KXStudio, set up and use JACK, mimimize latency, lists the best Linux AV apps and much more all in a concise and easy to understand format.

http://wiki.linuxaudio.org/wiki/kxstudio_manual

spamatica
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Re: First impressions of MusE 2.0

Post by spamatica »

Hi guys,
danboid wrote: I've already asked falktx about his VST code that he wrote for OOM but he says it wouldn't be much use to MusE. As you know he already runs about 400 differents projects so it'd be a lovely surprise if he decided to do the same for MusE but he's already a very busy man and I expect he would've announced any intentions to work on this already if it was something he was interested in. F?
Could you falktx (or anyone) expand on why this OOM solution would not be applicable to MusE? Has OOM really diverged that much from our codebase?

Regards,
Robert

spamatica
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Re: First impressions of MusE 2.0

Post by spamatica »

I see, thanks for filling in the blanks!

/Robert

danboid
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Re: First impressions of MusE 2.0

Post by danboid »

falktx says he's "still learning how to handle VSTs properly" which may well be so but Aspect seems to run perfectly under Carla and that is very likely the most advanced and powerful VSTi for Linux so I wouldn't worry much about borrowing what you can from Carla's VST code for use in MusE.
Are you new to Linux Audio? This manual explains how to install KXStudio, set up and use JACK, mimimize latency, lists the best Linux AV apps and much more all in a concise and easy to understand format.

http://wiki.linuxaudio.org/wiki/kxstudio_manual

danboid
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Re: First impressions of MusE 2.0

Post by danboid »

"I actually have plans to make my own sequencer, but first I have to finish other things. I don't want to give out any info because it might simply not happen due to lack of time."

What will your new sequencer do that qtractor, Muse and A3 etc can't? Why not just add / fix up whatever you're missing into one of the existing sequencers or maybe even do a fork of one of those? Why re-invent the wheel for the zillionth time when you know what a lot of work these things are to get right?

Why oh why oh why??

:!:
Are you new to Linux Audio? This manual explains how to install KXStudio, set up and use JACK, mimimize latency, lists the best Linux AV apps and much more all in a concise and easy to understand format.

http://wiki.linuxaudio.org/wiki/kxstudio_manual

spamatica
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Re: First impressions of MusE 2.0

Post by spamatica »

falkTX wrote: I already have Carla which can make sounds, so the sequencer just needs to handle MIDI in a proper way and I'm all set.
There are many aspects to making things, not the least the personal satisfaction, so of course you are free to make your own sequencer.
Maybe you will even succeed but it seems a lot of work if all you really need is an alternative way to manage parts/patterns.
I'd advice you to join an already existing effort.
We in the MusE team would definitely welcome you. ;-)

Regards,
Robert

danboid
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Re: First impressions of MusE 2.0

Post by danboid »

I subscribed to the MusE svn list a couple of weeks ago and haven't seen any evidence of native VST support being worked on yet so I was just wondering if any preliminary work has been done yet?

You'll gain a fair bit of promotion and lots of bug testing and new feature suggestions from me as soon as this VST support gets in - hopefully you'd see that as desirable?

:D
Are you new to Linux Audio? This manual explains how to install KXStudio, set up and use JACK, mimimize latency, lists the best Linux AV apps and much more all in a concise and easy to understand format.

http://wiki.linuxaudio.org/wiki/kxstudio_manual

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Re: First impressions of MusE 2.0

Post by bluebell »

falkTX wrote: my main big reason is jack-midi. Qtractor doesn't do it and has no short plans for it. MusE kinda does, but I can't get a hang of its interface for me (I still want something like a step sequencer). Other jack-midi sequencers are Ardour3 (hate how the MIDI is done there), epichord (simply unfinished) and non-sequencer (used it once, lacks too many features).
I like seq24 a bit, it has good ideas. I want something like that with a little nicer interface and proper jack support (transport & midi). Forking it is no option, as I personally hate Gtk...
It has come to my mind forking OOMidi, but it's probably not worth the effort in the long term.
I already have Carla which can make sounds, so the sequencer just needs to handle MIDI in a proper way and I'm all set.
Rosegarden's matrix and drum-editors are fine. I like them. Unfortunately Rosegarden doesn't do Jack-MIDI and LV2. It would be perfect if someone would add them *hint* *hint* :D
Linux – MOTU UltraLite AVB – Qtractor – https://soundcloud.com/suedwestlicht

spamatica
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Re: First impressions of MusE 2.0

Post by spamatica »

danboid wrote:I subscribed to the MusE svn list a couple of weeks ago and haven't seen any evidence of native VST support being worked on yet so I was just wondering if any preliminary work has been done yet?

You'll gain a fair bit of promotion and lots of bug testing and new feature suggestions from me as soon as this VST support gets in - hopefully you'd see that as desirable?

:D
Yes, I agree on many levels it would be desirable, not the least that I'd want it for my own usage, hehe.
Apart from looking at some example sources nothing has happened though so it won't happen today, maybe tomorrow ;)

Regards,
Robert

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