Make Beautiful Music with Linuxsampler – An Open Source Audio Sampler

Sound-sampled music is old news, it’s true, as musicians have been sampling sounds and playing them as music for literally decades. This technology being in the hands of ordinary citizens is something relatively new, however. Samplers used to be hardware-based and expensive; now you can even get one for free.

Linuxsampler, despite its name, is actually a cross-platform and open-source sampler project which covers Linux, Windows and Mac OS X.

In this article, we show you how to sample and configure instruments with Linuxsampler, and as a bonus cover the creation of a retro drumbox instrument.

In this instance we are installing Linuxsampler on the Mac, but the process is similar for other platforms.

Linuxsampler is not one program but a suite of programs all running at the same time. First you need to install the JACK2 binaries which you can find here. JACK2 is a routing program which helps route the sound from the sampler.

linuxsampler-jacklogo

Next install “Not A Hat” MIDI Patchbay from here. This will help you route any MIDI devices you have to and from Linuxsampler.

Now the important bit. Download and install the Linuxsampler backend binaries from here. Once you have all of the backend installed, you can get the Fantasia front end binaries from here, unless of course it is already included with your install.

linuxsampler-logo

The installation includes VST and AU (on the Mac at least) plugins so you can tie Linuxsampler in with your DAW software for making music.

It’s not a one-shot deal. You have to run all the software programs at the same time starting them in the right order. First run JACKpilot and leave that running in the background.

linuxsampler-jack-running

Next open a terminal and type:

sudo linuxsampler

You will be asked to input your admin password, and then the backend will run and stay running in the background. Take a note of the LSCP network server address as it goes by. The default is 0.0.0.0:8888.

Now you can run Fantasia, the front end. You will probably get a message saying you can’t access the instrument database. That’s outside the scope of this short tutorial. For now just click OK.

Click the cog button next to MIDI devices and create one. Do the same to audio devices. Just accept the system defaults.

linuxsampler-midi-audio

Then run MIDI Patchbay and set up the MIDI input as your USB MIDI keyboard and MIDI output as Linuxsampler.

linuxsampler-midipatchbay

Now back in Fantasia, you can load an instrument into Linuxsampler by clicking on the cog icon in the channel/instrument panel in the centre. Click the Load Instrument button above the channel. Navigate to where you have some GIG, SF2 or SFZ instruments stored and load one.

linuxsampler-load-instrument

When you play on the keyboard, the instrument should play. Depending on the size of the samples, the speed of your machine, etc., latency is a bit of an issue, but you get the idea.

linuxsampler-all-ready

Note: if MIDIpatchbay is a problem for you, and you want another way to tie a MIDI keyboard to the sampler, there’s a useful guide here.

The first step in making your own instruments from samples is to run Gigedit, part of your Linuxsampler installation.

To make a retro drumbox, first find some samples. The Machine is an archive of just about every electronic drum machine ever, so you will almost certainly find something there that will excite you. Find the archive here.

For this experiment, we will create a replica of the Roland CR-68 CompuRhythm, an ancient retro drumbox which would cost you a lot of money if you wanted to buy one. In Gigedit on the Instrument tab, double-click the name “Untitled Instrument” and rename it “Roland CR-68 CompuRhythm.”

linuxsampler-gigedit-rename-group

Now click the Samples tab and right-click on the area underneath the group name and select “Add Sample(s).”

linuxsampler-gigedit-add-sample

Navigate to the directory where your samples are, in this case The Machine directory under “R” for Roland CR-68 CompuRhythm. Select all the samples by clicking the first one, holding down the “Shift” key and clicking the last one. Press OK.

Now select a key for each sample. Right-click in the grey box over the keys on the screen and select “+Add.” This will add a keymap.

linuxsampler-gigedit-keyboard-region

The sample field in the top right will now say NULL. Drag your sample to this field, and it will be assigned to that key. Repeat for all samples, choosing keys in a row along the keyboard to represent each sample of the drumbox.

linuxsampler-gigedit-all-done

When you are finished select “File -> Save As …” and save the file to the directory where you store your GIG instruments. Load it into Linuxsampler as detailed above, and you can play the drumbox on the keys you assigned. Sequence them using DAW software like Reaper and you can make retro dance music!

Have you had any experience with Linuxsampler? Are there any more things you’d like to be able to do with sampling? Please let us know in the comments below.