I have always been a FOSS/Linux/Community Dev fan but never got into anything much in the creative space using Linux as a platform until recently.
Normally I would go straight to my Mac for anything audio or video, but he’s getting a little old to run the current software nicely. Besides, I have licensing issues with Cubase, plugin limits with Ableton Live, and problems with the audio driver for my Scarlett 2i2 interface freaking out and crashing, but only for playback and only under Garage band. And editing 720 hi-def video (or higher) in Finalcut Pro is quite slow due to its outdated specs. But its completely forgivable, its been my weapon of choice since late 2006, still does 95% of what I want, and is still of better build quality than most new laptops out there. Of course there are many options like upgrade the RAM, swap out the hard drive for an SSD, buy a new Mackbook Pro, or just borrow my wifes faster Airbook. But when I already have an i7 8GB lappy in the briefcase being all sensible and bored, dutifully running Windows during my hunt-and-gather hours, I thought why not put this guy to a more exciting purpose?
I have learned a lot about the different Linux distributions on offer, the configuration needed, and some of the different ways of doing things. Don’t expect your Windows or Mac experience to transfer 1:1… No, there are different methods and paradigms you need to learn. And no doubt you will need to get comfortable with the command line interface. But once you do, you can do far more things faster and more reliably than clicking your way around.
Now, I could write a post on each one of the following and I would barely scratch the surface. But I don’t have the time and I’m still noob status, so here are some surfaces I can suggest are worth scratching:
- KXStudio – A Linux distribution based on Ubuntu. It runs a low-latency kernel and has some nice features like Cadence for managing Jack.
- Jack – An audio server. Transports audio from your interface to your applications, and also between your applications and plugins… Very cool once you see what you can do with it.
- Ardour – A professional grade multi-track recording application. Really nice, very impressive.
- Calf Plugins – Among the plethora of free plugins on offer, I have found the Calf suite to absolutely brilliant.
- Hydrogen – A midi based drum program. You can easily use the mouse to build beats and percussion even without any midi instrument interfacing.
- Guitarix – A guitar amp and effects simulator. Some really hot tones when you figure out how to work it.
- Audacity – Probably the most respected Swiss army knife of audio tools. Anyone from the Windows or Mac world have probably used or at least heard about this.
- KDENLive – A very cool and easy to use video editor.
Here’s a little backing track I made for a video using Ardour, Hydrogen, Calf plugins and Guitarix. It’s definitely not perfect, it was a case of ‘aim for almost perfect, take forever, and never finish’ or ‘get it done as good as possible within realistic constraints’. I would like to re-record it when my guitar skills are back up to scratch, but as background music it’s fine for now. The rhythm guitar is using an AC30 type amp sound through Guitarix and I have to say, I really like it.
Here’s a backing track without the lead part if you would like something in Dmajor to jam along to, or if you want to upload your own version, that would also be cool. Very cool.