[clug] September - Recording a Rock Band with Linux by Big Cool Guy - Martin Schwenke

Martin Schwenke martin at meltin.net
Sat Sep 26 11:33:25 UTC 2015

I On 21 September 2015 7:50:14 PM Steven Hanley <sjh at svana.org> wrote:

>  Time:         19:00 - 21:00 (or when it finishes)
>  Speaker:      Martin "BCG" Schwenke
>  Abstract:     Recording a Rock Band with Linux (Again)
>                Do you want to create music with open source tools. Record a
>                Rock Band or simply be awesome with Linux sound software.
>                Martin has presented about this in the past (10 years ago).
>                We will learn how he does awesome sound things with Linux
>                (including recording a rock band that performs live at
>                various venues)
>                Experience with the various tools to do this and how Martin
>                has used the tools and things that have improved over time
>                or still can be improved.

Notes about things I demonstrated and things I forgot to mention.  I'll try 
to be brief.  Apologies for dodgy formatting - written on my phone while on 
vacation... :-)

My studio machine is an early i5 box with 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD. USB audio 
interface is a Focus rite Scarlett 18i6 - still early days for Linux 
driver: I did original quirk and then a mostly working mixer arrived in 
3.19. The box runs Debian stable.

Really need low latency kernel. Real-time is the best option:


Debian uses 3.16 and rt kernel development didn't happen for versions 
around that time.  Tried Liquorix.net kernel:


Not very successful. So use rt kernel from Debian testing.

Next layer is JACK, which provides audio/MIDI routing and transport control.


Configure and start it with qjackctl :


Used it for a while to connect a lot of applications but now try to use  

Main tool is Ardour:


For multi-track recording, MIDI,mixing, ...

With plugins, Ardour saves all settings, as opposed to using JACK  
applications as inserts.

Plugins used include guitarix, fluidsynth, calf stereo delay. Also use 
commercial LinuxDSP plugins for EQ and compression, though I'll do some 
comparisons to see if they can be replaced with equivalent quality free 
software.  Old LADSPA style plugins were hard to use but newer LV2 plugins 
are a revelation with nice  GUIs.

Overall stability is workable but not rock solid. Ardour 4 is a revelation 
compared to earlier versions.

I didn't get to mention JAMin, a great free mastering tool:


For professional quality recordings a friend has Mac with Protools, which 
is hard to compete with.  Killer features are high quality virtual 
instruments and beautifully tweaked plugin presets. I didn't mention the 
audio quantisation features the other night - very good!

I use Ardour a lot for demos, songwriting and recording individual tracks.  
However, I don't have the desire to spend time on software development 
there.  I'd rather make music, so I'm happy to also use proprietary tools 
to get a better end result in less time.

Although mixing metadata can't be exchanged between the various tools, the 
underlying audio and MIDI files are open and portable, so all is not lost 
by copping out.  ;-)

There was much discussion about the lack of good virtual instruments and 
certain other plugin features in the free software.  The market is large 
and mature, with many non-technical users.  The software is also relatively 
cheap, especially compared to an old-school recording studio.  There are 
obviously some people with an itch, but not enough for free software to 
take over... yet...

peace & happiness,

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