Ubuntu Studio: A Distro for Recording

If you’re a musician or an audio engineer, the standard for digital recording has long been Pro Tools running on a Mac. If you don’t want to spend the kind of money on setting up a digital studio or don’t want to use a Mac for some reason, you should check out Ubuntu Studio.

Ubuntu Studio is a customized Ubuntu version geared for creative work: audio, video and graphics.

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The maintaners explain it this way:

Our goal is a stable, usable OS with flexibility and integration during the creative process. If you can imagine a configuration, chances are Ubuntu Studio can do it. The design philosophy is one of many software components that all integrate with one another.

The distro has a lot to offer to people doing audio work on Linux.

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The first major component is the JACK audio server. The term sounds odd for people who only associate the term with networking. The server offers audio services in real time on the computer, which is important for people doing music and other sound work. There just isn’t any allowing for latency. It allows several audio applications to share the same audio interface.

The major attraction for people doing audio work is Ardour, an open source Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), similar to Logic and Pro Tools. The advantage of this package is that it gives you the tools of a professional recording studio right on your Linux PC, all for free.

There is an option for those who want to pay, however. Harrison Consoles, a major manufacturer of mixing boards for real recording studios, has released a modified version of Ardour called the Mixbus. They’ve made the interface easier to use and made other improvements. They even keep most of it open source. It’s really cool that a company has decided to support a free and open source project the way Harrison has.

There are some other neat tools, like a Qtractor, A DAW that works with MIDI. If you want lay down some fat beats, you can do so with Hydrogen drum machine and sequencer. If you want to create your own crazy synth patches, the Yoshimi software synthesizer is what you want.

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If you want to rock out with your electric guitar, there are a couple of amp emulators available: Rakarrack, which is pre-installed, and Guitarix. These two apps will let you simulate a stack of classic Marshall amps. You can route them to your headphones so they won’t annoy your neighbors.

If your audio goals are much less lofty, you can use Audacity to do some basic audio editing and sound generation. Audacity is pretty simple to use on its own, but it allows for some powerful audio effects. If that’s not enough, you can use Lisp to generate your own effects if you know how to code. You can also code some effects using programs like supercollider, csound and chuck

This is a whirlwhind tour, but this article should show that you can do pretty much anything you want in Linux that you’d do on Mac or Windows systems. The Linux world has a lot to offer musicians and other people who work with sound.