As a Fedora developer and amateur musician, I really couldn't recommend Fedora (or Linux in general) for music. The DAWs I've tried are terrible. They all have horrible UIs, trouble doing basic stuff and are crash-prone (hint to developers: the DAW should nevereverever crash!) My band uses free GarageBand on Mac which is not very good but night and day better than any of them I've tried. Setting up Jack instead of Pulseaudio is horrible and invasive. Routing USB midi is an exercise in command line randomness.
Can we make this better? Probably. And I guess I should work on it. But right now it's not there.
Things have come leaps and bounds on Linux in the past 5-ish years. Linux is now viable (if not recommendable) for professional audio production. It wasn't before.
Not only has Ardour gotten better, but also Bitwig is available, and Reaper too. Bitwig has the most polished UI, but Reaper has a particularly dedicated user base and is very extensible, if a little hard on the eyes.
Routing MIDI is mostly a matter of using QJackCtl, which isn't pretty, but it gets the job done (and really, MIDI routing isn't pretty on any platform).
Again, I wouldn't recommend someone building a system from the ground up for music production to go for Linux, but for someone who's already a long-time Linux user, it is now finally possible to do music production at a non-toyish level without switching OSes.
As a side note, loads of audio "devices" (synths, grooveboxes, etc.) these days are just ARM devices running a modified Linux audio stack.
I use Fedora to jam online several times a week and to record a few times a year. The open source Linux music software ecosystem is behind proprietary software available on Windows and macOS but it can do what I need.
Audio system: JACK
DAW: Ardour 5
Pianos: PianoTeq 6 (proprietary)
Drum machine: Hydrogen
The lack of good drum kits and patterns is my current pain point.
I haven't tried Reaper or Bitwig on Linux yet, but they should be decent if you are willing to use proprietary software.
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 USB soundcard that I use is a class-compliant USB audio device and I've never had trouble with it.
I would agree, re: rough edges, if we were talking about Ardour 2 or 3, which both missed some important features and weren't as stable as I'd like. But in the last few years, ardour has improved. I do most of my work in it now. Would recommend it to anyone who wants a FLOSS DAW and isn't too dependent on mental models from other audio software.
If anything, LMMS has the rough edges. The interface lacks polish and consistency. There are some awkward things about using it (why do I have to make a blank bar before I copy and paste a bar into it?). And I've noticed some glitchy behavior - for instance, I just made a ZynAddSubFX patch that sounded different as a plugin in LMMS than when I used it in Zyn's own application. Strange behavior like that, but fortunately it's rare.
But all that considered, LMMS is still great, and I appreciate the work it's authors put into it. I don't think of it as a daw; more of a sequencer. But if your music is 100% digital synths and samples, it serves all your needs.
Right now I'm using: LMMS (sequencer), Ardour (daw), JAMin (mastering suite), and Audacity (swiss army knife). I like Reaper. I've used ableton live many times, and I still don't get it - I guess the workflow is optimized for live mixing? I found it less than ideal for recording in a studio.
>> "Would recommend it to anyone who wants a FLOSS DAW and isn't too dependent on mental models from other audio software."
I recommend against this kind of framing. It comes off as judgmental. My mental models form based on my needs and experience. They're just as valid as your mental models, needs, and experience. Your way of seeing my perspective leads to faulty assumptions about my experience and models.
>> "I would agree, re: rough edges, if we were talking about Ardour 2 or 3, which both missed some important features and weren't as stable as I'd like. But in the last few years, ardour has improved. I do most of my work in it now."
I tried 5 from Mint's repos. Yesterday. I try every version to see if it'll work for me. Ardour continues to be critically lacking for me, based on my needs. Take a step back any time you want to assume someone's view is based on not knowing something you know. It's much more likely you don't know what they know.
> My mental models form based on my needs and experience
Except that the workflow for e.g. Live or FL Studio or Bitwig is entirely different from the workflow for e.g. ProTools or Logic or Ardour.
So the extent that your needs and experience dictate a Live-style workflow, then sure, you're right. But if you don't actually know what you're doing or alternatively actually need the linear-timeline recording model of PT/Ardour, then there's no judgement here, just a correct observation.
I think we agree, and you should heed your own advice not to assume what someone else thinks.
What I mean by mental models: Some producers rely on their favorite DAW's workflow. I'd never tell someone to ditch the DAW they're more productive in.
This is not a judgement. I'm not implying you don't "get" Ardour. On the contrary, I'm endorsing your approach: choose the DAW that meets your needs.
I said Ardour had improved a lot for me. I never said it would work for you. My comment was for the benefit of other people here. Giving a counterexample to your experience. No DAW is good for everyone. Ardour doesn't work for you. It does work for me. And if someone's looking for a DAW, I think Ardour is worth trying. I wouldn't tell you to try it.
And you already know it doesn't work for you, so you don't need to try again. I support you in sticking to the tools that you're most productive in. Nothing is more annoying than someone dictating what tools you use to do your job.
I love LMMS cause it's like FL Studio. I used to use FL Studio (pirated when I was a teenager) to make rap beats and even once a dubstep beat, though it crashed and I lost all my progress.... LMMS is awesome cause it's free so I can just experiment with it. I havent found the time to make some serious tracks though.
Also where do you get audio samples for LMMS? This is mostly my dilemma.
> The lack of good drum kits and patterns is my current pain point.
True. But I have little tip for you: There's an experimental feature in Carla that lets you use Plug-Ins that rely on wine. Currently I use this feature with MT Power Drum Kit (decent sounding - still not ideal) and some other free Plug-Ins.
But I will agree that this increases the fiddling and virtual wiring. As Carla is able to save all that, it's still quite handy.
By the way: I use the Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6, works like a charm (and only uses hardware switches).
Do you use Gen1 or Gen2 of the Scarlett? - I've heard of some issues with Gen2.
Edit: I use the drums for making Metal music. Might not be ideal for other genres.
Thanks, I have heard that MT Power Drum Kit is nice and have tried some Windows VSTs like TAL NoiseMaker and U-NO-LX successfully.
I use the Gen1 Scarlett 2i4 and have also heard that later generations have some issues. My understanding is that the latest generation Sclarett devices are class-compliant USB audio devices but also rely on vendor software to enable certain features.
I looking for acoustic drums that have multi-layer samples so you can get the dynamics and detail of a real drum kit. A basic sampler instrument plays the same sample at different velocities (volume levels). Advanced samplers have multi-layered sample libraries so there are separate samples for different velocity levels and other nuances (they even have scripting engines so sample library authors can add logic for selecting which samples to play).
Have you Tried Bitwig? I have found it works pretty damn well, and is the most polished interface. It's just expensive.
I've tried numerous packges, and MIDI devices etc. and I agree that things can be hard and decisions like "do I set up low latency kernel etc." have implications if you're using your machine for work other than music production, but I think things are better.
I've tried Bitwig with external midi keyboard, USB keyboards, and Ableton Push - It's probably not my suggested setup for most musicians, but it's not a bad one.
Do you mean that the Linux versions of DAWs are worse than their non-linux counterparts, or just that some linux-specific DAWs are worse than DAWs that are not linux specific?
Because Bitwig for example is amazing, and it supports Mac/Win/Linux - but I haven't used it outside windows. I'd worry about sound drivers and plugin support (I doubt plugin makers spend a lot of time on linux GUI support) but I'd trust the core functionality to be the same across all platforms.
The second - I only tried free software DAWs on Linux. I've not tried proprietary DAWs on Linux, because if I'm going to do that I might as well go all-in on the Mac (not least because Macs and Windows don't have two competing sound systems that you have to switch between to use a DAW and do regular stuff like watching videos).
Windows actually does have two competing sound systems. ASIO is, even in the far future of 2020, an absolute bear. My Windows machine has an audio interface with headphones and a separate set of speakers to play stuff while Ableton or Reaper is open.
(Nobody really uses WASAPI. They should, though. It's great.)
You can actually do a lot with FOSS music production software like Ardour these days, although I’ve been using Ableton for over a decade so it’s unlikely I’ll be taking the time to learn another DAW any time soon. But if you’re interested, check out unfa  on YouTube. He puts out a lot of tutorials on free / libre audio production.
I tried Studio with a MIDI keyboard for input, but getting it to register the input was still a hassle to figure out. Had to go through JACK and explicitly wire the inputs and outputs of the various devices and apps to get everything working, which on a hack-everything level is kind of cool but on the other hand I just wanted to jam on a keyboard, not fiddle with a network of devices and applications.
I can say, though, Studio is a huge step up from trying to get this sort of thing working in stock Ubuntu.
Gotcha, I have used Studio but in my case I havent wired up my Piano / Keyboard. I mostly use LMMS cause I dont have space for my Keyboard, and cause it's a free rendition of FL Studio which I love to be honest. I dont do a whole lot though, just things here and there.
Good to know your side on it though. I think that might be the best thing till someone streamlines some of these libraries / programs is to focus on a Distro that makes it as seamless as possible, and push the fixes back to the original projects.
Funny, I never had issues with my Midi-Controller. It's a USB-Class Compliant Controller. At least in Ardour its a simple task to do that. Haven't tried in Reaper so far.
And also, I never found it difficult to connect devices, at least when using Claudia.
Pretty sure I tried out LMMS, but don't recall anything specifically. The main ones I looked at and stuck with for a while were Ardour, Rosegarden, plus Audacity which is more of a sound editor. Just found out on this very thread about Non, which looks promising, so that's one I'm going to try next.
I want to say the main problems are: having to set up Jack and switch between that and PA - why isn't there one sound system? - the whole USB midi routing situation, software with obscure UIs, and software that crashes. Apart from the first one these are all fairly easily solvable.
These days I mostly write stuff using synths. The Deluge for example has enough built in that you don't need to use a DAW at all.
Be warned that this guide was written in 2013 for Fedora 18. A few months back, I tried using this guide with Fedora 31 and I found things have evolved since the guide was written. For example, I gave up on installing the Planet CCRMA packages separately and just used the Fedora repository version. For some programs, in order to get a recent version, I installed from source code. Etc.
Also, there is currently no Fedora Jam Audio spin, so be prepared to fiddle around a bit if you want to use Fedora for music.
Music production software is the only thing keeping me from going 100% Linux. Unfortunately this guide doesn't help me much with the key issues
I don't know any production-grade sound cards that have Linux drivers (my RME ADI-2 Pro certainly doesn't) and the DAW that I use (Reaper) only has experimental Linux support. I would guess the Linux compatibility of other DAWs is worse. Audacity can only get you so far.
I would guess many of the audio plug-ins I rely on within Reaper would also have issues running on Linux.
Many studios use USB interfaces these days and the majority of them work on Linux. I'm the lead developer of Ardour and for the last couple of years I've been using a MOTU UltraLite AVB, which works out of the box (24 channels of I/O, and a totally web-based configuration utility).
Many, many production-grade devices (another example: the Behringer (Midas) X32) work right of the box. The fact that the iPad did not allow drivers forced almost all audio interface manufacturers to clean up their act and get fully compliant with the USB audio specification. The side effect of this is that they Just Work (TM) with Linux too.
(*) the one issue is that this particular device requires a specific version of the firmware to avoid a bug that only shows up on Linux. This is not true in general.
I just wanted to thank you for all the effort that legends like you, Rui Nuno Capela, Nasca Octavian Paul, and others have put into getting the Linux music ecosystem to where it is. Thanks for helping us play music (when we're not programming)!
Interesting I will look into this more now. Given the other comment suggesting that Reaper is stable it looks like two of my main impediments to using Linux may be voided. Plug-in stability and cross-compatibility is my last unknown then.
If you have 3rdparty professional-grade plugins from NI (Massive, FM8), Xferrecords (Serum), Fabfilter (some of their amazing data vis use win/mac native graphics libraries), Arturia, etc, then you still aren't going to be able to use Linux as they don't build plugins for that platform.
I'm a professional developer and amateur musician. Honestly, I believe this is a case where the "Apple tax" is well worth it. You can get far with GarageBand and where that falls short you can use Logic Pro, which for $200 is still a far sight cheaper than the other commercial DAWs. Interested in hearing other people's experiences.
Reaper is neither free nor open source. Cockos (the company behind Reaper) has several open source libraries used within Reaper, but Reaper is proprietary software that costs $60 for a personal license. The developers don't believe in wasting time on anti-piracy checks, so it's very easy to use Reaper without paying. Kind of like Sublime Text.
Reaper is a great DAW, and I would recommend it to everyone. Whether a beginner looking for their first DAW, or a pro with a million dollar studio. Just pointing out it's not free/foss because that's something I've seen people claim about Reaper for over a decade.
Ok so many people are commenting that this article is out of date.
I've been searching for what the best out-of-the-box music Linux distro would be, so I can dual boot that for any music work. Namely it must have:
- jack set up and default for everything
- complete DAW solution: synth set up etc
- updated, stable software
- MIDI set up fully
- real time kernel is definitely a plus
- acceptable performance on modest hardware
A lot of the recommendations online like Musix are not current at all! I wonder if Ubuntu Studio is the answer, just purely based on the website being updated and professional-looking. I've considered KXstudio but cannot confirm that it is a distro rather than a software repo. AVLinux?
Any firsthand experience?
I will test Ubuntu Studio today and report back
So after trialing a few of the "audio-centric" distro-flavours I couldn't find any that were particularly compelling (most, Ubuntu Studio included, were installing huge quantities of tools that I was never likely to explore).
I've ended up using Manjaro, with Jack, Reaper, Renoise, Airwindows plugins, a real-time kernel and very little else. It's pretty good.
KXstudio is now a software repo only for "Any Debian or Ubuntu based system, running GNU/Linux. For Debian, version 10 (Buster) is required; on Ubuntu, 18.04 (Bionic)."
I was able to use the KXstudio repos on Devuan ASCII 2.0, if anyone is wondering about Devuan compatibility.
Here's some thoughts: The current resources aren't entirely better but you can absolutely get things done now. There's more software choices than offered here and more developers willing to build worthy native plugins for the platform, Bitwig is absolutely comparable to Ableton with the addition of various modular tools that wipe the need for at least a few plugins a lot of my EDM buds rely on, and on the more unstable end of things, Wine + LinVST does work. Spire works, Serum works, Omnisphere works, NI Reaktor and Kontakt 'works' (it's painful), there's a decent list of VSTs that are either performing near-natively or just 'works' using frameworks like LinVST and Airwave. Midi works like any OS and you actually do not need the use of a real time kernel these days from my own usage. it all bubbles down to a decently useful workstation.
Distro wise, I've hopped from 'media' centric distros, Arch to Pop-OS and now considering Kubuntu, and my experience has been fairly the same:
- Install the KxStudio package repo
- Install cadence and it's dependencies which includes jack2 from the repo (I'm not going to go into the mess between choosing jack1 and jack2)
- Install Bitwig
- Install Wine and LinVST to my binaries
which alone is more system fiddling than macOS, but I think you just simply expect it though. Cadence and it's suite of routing and config tools would help make up the loss of any ASIO panel, it's more in line with how audio setup on macOS is.
Biggest problem right now to me is hardware support, and Linux support goes from cheap and not enough, to really expensive and not specific towards me. Finding an interface to fit my eventual needs... 6+ ins and 6+ DC coupled outs, 2 XLR ins, possibly some type of ADAT, and maybe a word clock... these are Universal Audio or Focusrite type of needs. I own a MOTU Traveler and I'm lucky that the built in MOTU driver 'works' but it's sort of messy. MOTU's lack of interest in sharing the interfaces' beans doesn't help and it's nearly the same story for every interface manufacturer: it's a trade secret risk to let the community build a driver, and or there's just no money to come out of allocating resource towards an official driver. It sucks, but with my Traveler, I've managed to have some fun when everything is stable which is at least more than I expect. There's days where I look at Universal Audio hardware and want to end up buying a Mac and a UA interface.
I wouldn't recommend it because workspace and consistent stability is incredibly important if you're full time, but you CAN make it work if you're curious like me and be fun. I've managed to cut a few dance records for some labels on my build but issues do arise which I think may get in the way in the moment my workload would have to speed up or expand to recording more than a microKorg and using native vsts and Wine, and for that moment I'm always down to Hackintosh or just buy a real Mac. I love linux development and making music on it feels nice until those issues arise.
Ugh. I've been using Linux since the .9 kernels/SLS distro days (1995 or so), and I've been producing albums for 13-14 years and recording longer than that, and I wouldn't even consider doing real music production in Linux. It is absolutely not worth the bullshit and the spoons. I want to be recording music, not putzing around with device drivers or scrounging for plugins that don't completely suck.
I mostly use Reaper on a Mac, and pay a monthly subscription for Plugin Alliance plugins. It's well worth the money, because it works, sounds great, and is straightforward to use. Given a choice between spending two hours improving the eq/compression/reverb of a mix and two hours trying to figure out why no sound is coming out, I know which one I prefer.
It's closed-source, but Bitwig Studio is probably the best DAW that supports Linux natively since its initial release in 2014. At least for electronic music production, it's considered on a par with Ableton Live.
Making electronic music is so much more than just operating system support.
You need a DAW and most of the ones that you get on Linux are horrible, except Bitwig. So you would be forced to use only one DAW.
Most of the well known plugins like Serum, LFO Tool and Massive are not available either so you would be limited to the ones included in Bitwig or the basic VSTs that you find for Linux.
And while JACK is pretty good at low latency audio you would miss out on the ASIO control panel provided by your sound card driver. While its possible to get asio working on linux using wineasio, it's a cumbersome process since you need to compile the asio dlls which have licensing restrictions.
You would have a much better experience if you just install Windows on KVM and use PCI passthrough for your sound card.
> Most of the well known plugins like Serum, LFO Tool and Massive are not available either
Though everything that those VSTs can do, can also be done in Bitwig Studio starting from v3.
> miss out on the ASIO control panel
What does this add that the usual tools in Linux can't fix? Also, it's recommended to go with class compliant USB audio interfaces or otherwise interfaces that are supported on Linux. Going with MOTU gear for example is a bad idea.
"Can do" is not particularly useful. You "can" sit there and sequence thousands of sine waves in audacity to create any sound that you want... but nobody wants to do that.
Bitwig's grid is capable, but the ease of access for particular workflows is burdensome. Replicating Serum in the grid isn't possible practically, both because of filter designs and the wavetable capabilities, and getting close requires some significant acrobatics.
Massive... much easier. LFO Tool, basically impossible to replicate in Bitwig because the main draw is the _workflow_.
Bitwig is a very capable, fun and useful product for electronic music creation but I think your response to the OP is correct on a very technical, and pedantic level, but extremely unhelpful regardless.
Complaining about some missing functionality is also extremely unhelpful. Those of us who've been doing it for years know what the state of things is, and the developers of those closed source plugins know what their stance is. You ask them to do a Linux port and they say "no that would cost too much money and we can't support it". You ask them for source so you can port it yourself and they say "no you're going to steal it". You try to clean-room reverse engineer and write a clone of the plugin and they still get angry at you for "stealing". I don't bother anymore. People just have their workflow that they learned on plugins from 10 years ago, they aren't going to change unless something breaks horribly, and that's that. Those who are brave can still fiddle around with running VSTs in Wine.
USB devices _do_ incur extra latency. The USB apollos do suffer from this. The firewire and thunderbolt do not.
Whether a devices is internal or external is irrelevant. There are "Internal" devices that are PCI based which have excellent performance, and external devices that are Thunderbolt based with equal (and better!) performance characteristics.
I believe you're talking about onboard sound, not "internal", in which case you're correct. However, that's not what the link is talking about.
Props to Fedora for their thorough documentation, but to a musician looking for a prospective Linux distro to serve their needs, this looks dense as all hell.
I wonder if they might be better served taking a page from something like Ubuntu Studio, and just making a spin that tries to preconfigure all of this stuff out-of-the-box for the end-user, so that they can simply install the ISO and get going.