This article is an overview of software, it does not contain instructions on how to use the software. I will only briefly cover software that I use on a fully operational Linux mint installation in this article, there are detailed instructions in furthur sections.
Part 2 looks at connecting your equipment to your computer and shows how to do a simple recording in audacity.
Part 3 furthur looks at audacity and shows how to make a custom click track in Hydrogen
Part 4 introduces Ardour and JACK, powerful audio software indeed.
Installing Linux is not a painful process, speaking as one who has reinstalled windows countless times I can tell you that the process is so simple my 12 year old niece can do it. There are plenty of guides available so I wont get into the details here, I will say that the software I am talking about in this guide runs on Ubuntu and Linux mint. Of course it runs on other similar systems also.
No Licenceing Issues
If you are a struggling musician the chances are that you cant afford to buy legitimate copies of audio software. Before you get tempted to download illegal software there is a legitimate way for you to record with professional quality tools for free. Yes this is about Linux.
No no wait don't leave! please. I am using a home studio and I will never have to worry about licences or expense as far as software goes and you can keep Windows. Sorry Mac users, I am not into digital snobbery but if you have an apple computer I would not know where to start on how to get Linux on one of those without breaking it. Anyway in many if not all of these cases there is a version for MacOS anyway.
Icons of Awesome
So, the bedrock of any track is the drums. Most people do not have the luxury of a drum kit close to hand, or the expertise to play one. Hydrogen is a piece of free and open source software which will scare the pants off drummers everywhere. It has got lots of features and I have been using it personally for a long while. It comes with lots of drum sounds arranged into kits which are easily interchangeable, and you can grab particular drums and add them to any other kit. They include both real drums and electronic sounds. You can even add your own samples to make your track as unique as your music deserves to be. The Hydrogen site will tell you more about how to use it but that may not be necessary as it is very intuitive and all the controls you want are laid out before you. Hydrogen can export to MIDI and WAV format so it will fit well with other software applications geared towards music.
Audacity is a great recording program which can be used for multi-tracking and is free and open source. it may be exactly what you are looking for in terms of usability/performance. It has all the major features that you would look for in such a program and it is set out to make everything as clear as can be. it has a few basic effects that can be applied to a track that can really polish a recording. Its simplicity lends its self to doing the job a tape recorder used to do, i.e catching ideas that you play as it is running.
For a recording solution that is a bit more involved there is Ardour. Ardour is a digital audio workstation and my god it is AWESOME. It is easily comparable to other commercial software such as cubase but it is absolutely free. Ardour truly is a masterpiece of open source software and it runs on OSX so mac users will be able to see directly how it stacks up against programs such as Logic. It has hundreds of features including plugins and automation. One of its greatest strengths is its anything-to-anywhere signal routing which does exactly what it says, and will get you out of trouble many times.
The true beauty of these open source solutions is that if you make your music with them you will not need to worry about having the rights so release your music, so from a business point of view that is one major headache avoided. I really hope that you try some of these programs, I use them in my home studio and I am very satisfied, and for the price you can't go wrong. In future articles I will show you how to set up a computer physically and the things you will need to do it. the picture below is my humble rig. Part two of this series is now available in which we look into making connections between your music stuff and your computer so go check it out.