Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

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DavidScott
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Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

Post by DavidScott »

My name is David Scott, and I am a 36 year old musician from New Orleans, Louisiana.

I began using the computer as a compositional tool in 2002 after a friend of mine gave me a box of assorted music software as a gift. I was terrified at the thought of using my computer to write and record music, so I would occasionally dabble with the programs in between recording songs with my Tascam 8-track Portastudio. Shortly afterwards, I received an opportunity to write bumper music (the music before and after commercials on radio stations) for a local talk show and forced myself to learn the basics of electronic music production. It was enough motivation to get me started in the right direction.

Over the past 10 years, I have used the Windows operating system to compose music for small independent films, video games, and other assorted collaborations. My most recent release was a free album of electronic jazz music on the Acustronica netlabel. Since then, I had not been able to find anything to inspire me to take my music into new territory...until I discovered Linux.

A fellow songwriter was bragging about Ubuntu, and although I was curious, I refused to make the switch due to the incompatibility of most of my current software. However, my frustration with my complacency reached critical mass this past year, and I have decided to force myself into unfamiliar territory once again. I figured that writing music via Linux will make me just uncomfortable enough to start experimenting with sounds. To be honest, I'm just as terrified of the idea as I was ten years ago, sitting in front of a box of software while scratching my head.

Take this post as a warning...I will be asking lots of dumb questions in the weeks ahead. I just refurbished a laptop that was on its way to the trash and installed Lubuntu with the LXDE desktop on it. I have quite a few audio programs installed that I am tinkering with at the moment, and hopefully soon I will be making music again. I find it just as exciting as it is intimidating.

Here's a link to my album if you are interested in hearing some of my music:

http://www.acustronica.com/artists/85-theunjazz.html

I look forward to learning from you all.

slowpick
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Re: Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

Post by slowpick »

You'll maybe be surprised at the amount of youtube video available that shows off various
linux capabilities. Feed a search engine a software title and youtube, and start surfin' 8)

DavidScott
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Re: Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

Post by DavidScott »

Thanks a lot. I'll definitely watch some videos.

I'm interested in using LMMS for sequencing, Hydrogen for drums, and a few other assorted packages that I have run across. Are those two worth getting into, or would you recommend something else in their place?

I'm not sure if Hydrogen can handle the type of drum programming that I do. I had FL Studio, which I basically only used as a VST host while running other programs in it. It worked well as a sequencer for what I was doing.

SR
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Location: Houston, Tx

Re: Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

Post by SR »

There's no such thing as dumb questions.

LMMS is a fine tool and people do a lot with it, but if you choose to use it be aware that it does not cooperate well with JACK.

Hydrogen is great for programming drums. I use it with the kits from Analogue Drums and am able to get realistic sounding drums parts.

Qtractor is a great sequencer as are a few others.

A typical project for me will use qtractor, hydrogen, yoshimi routed into Mixbus.

You'll probably find that there's so many programs available that you won't have enough time to try them all out.

DavidScott
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Re: Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

Post by DavidScott »

I have read up on Jack, but I haven't been able to work with it yet.

What is its purpose, in layman's terms? (See? Stupid questions already!)

I'll catch on quickly, I just have to know where to start.

SR
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Location: Houston, Tx

Re: Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

Post by SR »

Jack will allow you to connect audio and midi outputs from one application into audio and midi inputs on another application. It also provides a transport that applications can sync to, so if I have a beat programmed into hydrogen and a melody programmed into qtractor their transports will be synchronized via jack so I only need to hit the play button in one app to start both of them.

There's a lot more to it than that, but that's the best description I can think of.

DavidScott
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Re: Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

Post by DavidScott »

That sounds pretty cool. I'll definitely put that on my list of things to read up on.

At the moment, I am somewhat overwhelmed at my options. Once I figure out what programs are the most useful, I can economize my workflow into something that is more efficient for the type of music that I write.

DavidScott
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Joined: Wed Feb 08, 2012 6:39 pm

Re: Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

Post by DavidScott »

Also, what is the best one to use for sequencing? Let's say I want to create an 8 bar pattern of bass notes with a few effects mixed into the signal...would LMMS be the best way to go?

SR
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Location: Houston, Tx

Re: Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

Post by SR »

It would certainly be easy to do this in LMMS. Qtractor as well.

DavidScott
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Re: Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

Post by DavidScott »

Qtractor looks very impressive. That may be the bulk of my setup once I really narrow down my options. I don't want to load my system down with unnecessary programs just because they're free, so I'm really looking for quality over quantity. I figure if I can become efficient with 2 (or even 3) programs, that will be enough to bring my ideas to life.

Thank you for the help. I feel as if I'm already on the right track.

slowpick
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Re: Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

Post by slowpick »

DavidScott wrote:Also, what is the best one to use for sequencing? Let's say I want to create an 8 bar pattern of bass notes with a few effects mixed into the signal...would LMMS be the best way to go?
Hydrogen can loop the beat while you place notes
in the grid, so it's easy to use, and midi keyboards can be used for extra flams
and flourish. Hydrogen can access ladspa fx in its gui
jack-rack is a separate rack gui for ladspa
audacity can apply them to .wav and mp3 during editing.

fil swh amb tap caps vco are ladspa fx in most distros

LV2 is a newer plugin format, calf, invada, mda, swh and others
are fine plugins. calfjackhost is installed by calfplugins, and
lv2rack host the others

Hydrogen lets you modify, and save kits. Load a kit, replace drum samples
one by one with whatever sample you desire, up to 32 in number, and resave
the kit with a new name.

qjackctl wiki has important tutorials for jackd setup, connection, and general use

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qjackctl

DavidScott
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Re: Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

Post by DavidScott »

I have already started working with Hydrogen, and it's just what I was looking for. Great sound, user-friendly interface, and it isn't too demanding on my system's resources (I am running it on an old laptop). Tonight I will begin working with sequencers...if I can only figure out how to open the piano roll in Qtractor.

SR
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Location: Houston, Tx

Re: Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

Post by SR »

DavidScott wrote:I have already started working with Hydrogen, and it's just what I was looking for. Great sound, user-friendly interface, and it isn't too demanding on my system's resources (I am running it on an old laptop). Tonight I will begin working with sequencers...if I can only figure out how to open the piano roll in Qtractor.
Just create a midi track and then right-click in it to create a clip. Double clip the clip to open it in the piano roll.

DavidScott
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Joined: Wed Feb 08, 2012 6:39 pm

Re: Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

Post by DavidScott »

Thanks for the info!

I found a site explaining it, but it seemed as if the writer had missed the step between creating a MIDI track and right-clicking to create a clip. It makes sense now.

DavidScott
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Joined: Wed Feb 08, 2012 6:39 pm

Re: Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

Post by DavidScott »

Wow...I get a lot of Xruns in QTractor! I opened a MIDI clip and the next thing I knew, the bottom of the screen was going crazy with red lines full of errors.

Is this usually attributed to hardware or latency settings?

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