When people think of typical Linux users, they probably think of programmers, system administrators, and other techies. While Linux operating systems can certainly be great for this type of user, that’s far from the only type of person they’re good for. Linux is just as good for creatives as it is technical types.
If you’re a musician on a budget, Linux might be attractive as there is a wealth of music production apps available. Whether you’re composing a score or mixing an album, there is software available to help you out.
Ardour is a Linux-native digital audio workstation (DAW), the equivalent of an app like Pro Tools or Logic Pro. It works with any sound card or audio interface that your operating systems supports, making it very flexible.
You get an unlimited number of tracks, with the only limiting factor being how powerful your computer is. The app also features non-destructive editing, letting you experiment as much as you like without worrying about ruining your recorded tracks.
If you don’t need all the features of a DAW, something like Audacity might be for you. While it can do multitrack recording and editing, Audacity also has a simpler interface. This makes it more suited to quick editing jobs that might suffer from overkill with something like Ardour.
In addition to basic editing features, Audacity features in-depth analysis with a spectrogram view mode. It also has support for effects including LADSPA, LV2, VST, and even macOS Audio Unit plugins.
The above apps effectively turn your computer into a multi-track tape machine, mixing board, or both. Hydrogen, on the other hand, turns your computer into a drum machine and sequencer.
There are more advanced apps available, but Hydrogen should be one of your first choices if you’re making beats on your Linux computer. It features an easy to use interface, tap tempo, and support for up to sixteen samples per instrument per play.
If you start to run into the limitations of Hydrogen, it might be time to look into LMMS. This app lets you compose, mix, and sequence music all within one easy-to-use interface. It’s also great for Hydrogen users, as it supports the import of Hydrogen project files.
You can also import MIDI files. Speaking of MIDI, LMMS features support for MIDI keyboards and other devices. You can use these to control the sixteen built-in synthesizers. If they aren’t enough, you can add other instruments with the included 64-bit VST instrument support.
So far, the apps on this list have focused on the audio aspect of music creation. If you’re used to composing music more traditionally, Rosegarden is the app for you. This is a music composition and notation app that lets you compose anything from a simple tune to a complex symphony.
The app has basic audio support, but it isn’t as rich as the other apps on this list. To take your music from concept to production, you can export MIDI files and import them into an app like LMMS.
If you miss using hardware where you can plug one piece into another and see what happens, JACK is exactly what you’re looking for. Like plenty of other Linux apps, the name is a recursive acronym, standing for JACK Audio Connection Kit. This is an entire subsystem that lets you take the output of one app and feed it into another.
Many of the apps on this list can use JACK. Ardour, for example, relies heavily on it. This isn’t an app you use on its own, but combined with other music apps, it can add major flexibility to your setup.