Thursday, August 18, 2011

Patchstorm #1.

About Patchstorm

Patchstorm is a collective patch-making recurring event. Goal is to create patches for softsynths or samplers, on a certain theme/restrictions. At the submission date, the patches would be made public from this wiki page for anyone to use.
Patchstorm is similar to Tunestorm, but unlike it, there are no restrictions on sharing of in-progress work and you are welcome to submit a patch even long after the deadline.


Patches are to be used on free open source software, running at least on GNU/Linux, for example Yoshimi/ZynAddSubFx, Petri-Foo/Specimen...
The submission must be licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, equivalent or less restrictive, of course the work must respect the licenses of resources it is based on.


Finished submissions are to be sent to <contributions AT>, please use "Patchstorm" in subject of the email.
Submit as many patches as you want, each in archive file (zip or tar.gz), containing the patch files, installation instruction, license information and a demo sound file (ogg, mp3, flac or wav). Plus points for source file (midi/whatever) of the demo sound file :)

Current Patchstorm (01)

Theme is nice fat yet ripping distorted sound :) Deadline 2011-9-17. (If working with sampler, make it loopable - not fixed length)

Learning and previous parts

Monday, August 8, 2011

Does FL/OSS Have the Tools to Compete?

Some topics get talked about so much that the rhetoric becomes the topic.  FL/OSS versus proprietary audio is like that to me.

However, in this blog I would like to explore (and maybe inspire discussion) about FL/OSS and proprietary audio systems by comparing critical functionalities throughout the typical audio chain. Note that the comparisons will exclude hardware that does not interface with the OS or audio applications.

Q: Why functionalities?

A: Because I believe it is more important for people to understand what is possible rather than if FL/OSS mimics the same methodology or work flow. The question should not be Does FL/OSS have the foomatic-2000 reverb? but rather Does FL/OSS have a good reverb?

Interfacing the Problem
The first step of the audio chain is the audio interface which converts analog sound into digital bits, also know as the analog digital convertor (ADC). A low quality ADC can adversely affect sound by coloring it, introducing artefacts, or even inaccurately converting it. Closely comparing the original analog sound and the "converted" digital sound can reveal these issues. One term that is used often to describe quality ADC's is "transparent"; you don't hear the conversion, you just hear the original sound.

Luckily, and speaking holistically, audio interfaces with quality ADC's are available for the inhabitants of FL/OSS environs. From the very expensive (and very good) stand-alone rack converters to PCI cards, such as the RME series, quality converters are quite available.

Quality ADC's can be prohibitively expensive for many, but the goal of this discussion is to compare the functionalities available, not as a budget guide.

Lastly, I will mention bit depth and frequency only to explain that I will not mention them. If we are discussing transparency and high end converters then we have long crossed the threshold for adequate bit depth and frequency.

Now that the analog sound has been transparently converted to digital we would expect it to be recorded.

Work flow aside, I would posit that any modern DAW will properly record incoming digital signal to hard drive comparatively and adequately.

Plugging In
Disclaimer: this is a subject for which I am neither an expert nor have moderate experience with proprietary plugins.

The next major stage that effects the audio signal are plugins.

Thousands of proprietary plugins exist and more are being made every day. I would like to exclude the "black box" plugins (those that just "make your music sound better") for this discussion and focus on the "classic" plugins like reverb, delay, flange, etc, although I concede that this is slightly unfair for comparison purposes.

Hundreds of LADSPA and LV2 plugins are available for free to the FL/OSS musician. Additonally, many are available for purchase, like the excellent LinuxDSP plugins. VST plugins are also available, both free and purchased, although some DAW's may require hand building them with VST support enabled.

FL/OSS plugins might not have the numerical advantages and the breadth of spectrum that proprietary plugins have, but the base line functionality is definitively available.

Mixing and Mastering
I will define mixing as the consideration and manipulation of signal levels, frequency, dynamics, and panoramic position between instruments on a particular track.

Can FL/OSS applications handle this?  Absolutely.  Ardour, for example, does this easily.

I will further define mastering as the consideration and manipulation of signal levels, frequency, dynamics, and panoramic position between tracks on a particular album.

Again, can FL/OSS accept and defeat this challenge?  Again, absolutely.  Using JAMin coupled with Ardour is a very powerful, yet uncomplicated, method to accomplish this.

So here's the summary where I ask a probing and insightful question all while summarizing the blog and finalizing it with a witty answer.

If FL/OSS operating systems and audio applications can provide the same fundamental functionality as their proprietary counterparts, then why aren't more people using them?

I believe the answer is multifaceted, yet simple, and includes people and knowledge.

If Bob Katz was using FL/OSS to master albums I believe many would have already explored this options as well.

But what if a well recorded, mixed, and mastered album was made with FL/OSS and actively and robustly publicized as such? Would that be enough to quieten the naysayers and energize others to explore it?

Would you?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tunestorm #6

We ended up with 9 fantastic entries for Tunestorm #5 and I want to come back and hit it hard with another one. I might keep the Tunestorms at one a month if people don't revolt or attempt to rise up and kill me. I want to stress that Tunestorm is a great way of fine tuning your work flow and allowing you to be more productive. Don't feel like you need to write the next hit for every Tunestorm, just take the idea write a concept and the most important is to finish your work and get it turned in.

The theme of Tunestorm #6 is "FREEDOM". Write a tune that represents freedom to you. Could be "free as in freedom", could be "free as in beer", could be anything.

Deadline for this Tunestorm is September 3rd.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Tunestorm #5

So, it's been a bit since we've done a Tunestorm and I'm jonesing to see some of you people's creativity. This Tunestorm is as simple as simple is simple. The one rule for this Tunestorm is...

Record a 15 second tune.

Dead line for this Tunestorm is August 1st. As always, please don't tell anyone what you are working on and send a detailed email of your process along with your track or a link to it to contributions at All submissions must be released under a Creative Commons BYSA 2.0 or higher compatible license.

After the submission deadline keep a look out at for the reveal show. We will record the show live and the time and date will be on our calendar at

Happy Tunestorming!


For more information on this Tunestorm, previous Tunestorm and what Tunestorm is. Go here...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Artistic Collaboration in F/LOSS

 In my first blog for OSMP, I want to explore collaboration within the F/LOSS* culture specifically for music and art.
"what's the point of being F/LOSS if you're not collaborative" - ginger coons, May 11, 2011, Libre Graphics Meetings, Montreal
To me, it seems that artistic collaboration is anemic within the F/LOSS culture.

That's a bold statement for someone without vast historical or contemporary background in open source proejcts.  Furthermore, I base this solely on my own experiences within a very, very specific niche within the F/LOSS ecosphere.

I have tried unsuccessfully (mostly) to cultivate a collaboration with several people in order to create music and art and have found the result very disappointing with both the lack of involvement and the results.  This was especially frustrating and bewildering given that GNU/Linux is a collaborative effort and those involved usually follow in kind (see Creative Commons).

I felt very strongly that if the same people were living in the same neighborhood, nothing would have kept them from getting together to make and/or play music.

Then why was this failing?

I am going to suggest two reasons; culture and tools.

I'm not sure that a vibrant, healthy culture actually exists for art and music collaboration yet.  The tools (not the ones I mentioned above) we use to create our art are still maturing.  Perhaps the culture hasn't had time to properly coalesce.  Perhaps given time, one will exist.  Perhaps it will be dynamic, vibrant, robust, and productive.  Perhaps.

But perhaps not without the right tools.  Tools for collaboration.

I imagine that when some of the giants (upon whose shoulders we stand) were developing the software we love, they created and used tools to help them collaborate with development.  Where are our tools for artistic collaboration?  Do we need to adapt some, create others?

Can we use git for music and artwork?  Would a custom GUI help with this?  Has anyone thought about using Gobby for collaborating on lyrics?  or a wiki? Is there a good way to publish the collaborative works?

Would it be possible to record an idea in Ardour, use another application to push the Ardour files to a git repository, then email your friend a link to it?  Would it then be possible for your friend to use the same application to download the Ardour files from git and replace any copy you had on your machine?  The process reversed so you can share your changes back to your friend?

What if several people collaborated on lyrics in Gobby?  And then used a wiki to share a goal or subject of the song along with links to the git/Gobby and also note a history of what changes have made?

Can we do this?

Maybe we should see if we can.  Collaboratively.

* Yes, I've been converted.  I want to include the term libre because I feel it more adequately describes our software.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Donate and win a professionally mixed music track.

The OSMP community has a friend who has been around since the beginning but who has been hard hit by the economy. He's a professional mixing engineer with 14+ years of experience working in studios. He's been unemployed for a while now and it's getting harder and harder for him to make his bills. He's mentioned many times that whenever he can get his hands on a new computer he would like to start a small business mixing using a Linux machine and Ardour. But things haven't turned around. So, some of the members of the OSM community decided to try to put together some money to get him a computer and help him get started mixing again. He has said he didn't want direct donations as he would have to put it towards other bills and he wouldn't ever get the computer.

So, here is the plan. You head over to and click the Paypal Donate button and send me some cash. For every $10 US you donate you will get entered into a drawing to have a music track of yours professionally mixed using Ardour and Linux. When we have enough donations I will buy the components to build him a capable mixing machine, configure it so it's all ready to go and send it to him. You send him your track, stems or Ardour sessions welcome, and he will send you the final mix in a complete Ardour session ready to be mastered.

So, that's it! It's win/win for everyone. He gets a start at mixing again, some luck guy gets a track mixed and everyone will have a Linux friendly mixing engineer when they need him.

Thanks in advace for your support.

PS. Here is an example of his mixing.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Is GNUGuitarINUX a FOSS Gateway Drug?

Recently I heard an interview on Frostcast specifically this episode where the host Jonathan Nadeau interviewed Victor Rosales the creator of the GNUGuitarINUX linux distribution.
What is GNUGuitariNUX you ask? Well, it is a live boot only (not installable) FOSS Linux distribution with a focus on a minimal speedy environment for guitarists to jam out, study or make music in. Basically it's something you can put into your computer without changing your existing operating system to try out some great FOSS music tools for guitarists.

Hardware you will need in advance:
a 1/4 inch male phone jack to 1/8 miniplug male jack to put in your Mic in or Line in input on your PC - looks like this or a USB audio device that looks like this. There is a great article on the Rakarrack web site that covers the hardware in detail - click here. Otherwise if you already have a USB external soundcard then it will be a question of configuring it.

So where are we going to now? This means that someone with an old laptop P3 or above can download and write this ISO image to a USB stick /SD card using Unetbootin or to a CD-R using these steps or using the tutorial directly from the GNUGuitarinux web page. After getting the image onto the bootable media, you will need to reboot your PC and press whatever key that allows you to choose the boot device (device to look for an operating system on). Examples are F12 or F9 or F10 - read the screen on boot and it should mention which key - in the case of my HPMini 110, its F9 to choose the boot device. Once you see the GNUGuitarINUX bootsplash screen, press Enter on Default. You should now after a time be seeing the pretty guitar wallpaper and some icons on the left of the screen - it should look like this.

Now that your here - lets take a look at the main apps and describe what they do:

Rakarrack: (sound of pic on strings) - this is the guitar effects box in software form.
Guitarix: another guitar effects box in software form.
Sooperlooper: create, layer, trigger loops to play along with.
TuxGuitar: tablature editor and player - Guitar Pro compatible import/export.
Jackd2: the patchbay to route your signal into the programs that will shape your sound.
Jack Capture: Record to WAV or OGG/MP3 what is going through the jack patchbay.
Hydrogen: Drum machine you can program and play along to.
gNinjam: A server you can join to jam along with other musicians across the internet.
GNU Solfege: Ear pitch training software.

Many of you reading this may be starting to nod off - you already know the apps, you already know the distro ... I don't want to preach to the choir. For you, I have something different in mind.

Let's suppose we demonstrate or give away a sd/usb/cd of GNUGuitarINUX to a Windows using guitarist friend with a laptop... What would happen? Would it get used as a general copy device or would it inspire and delight? Could GNUGuitarINUX be a soft drug on the way to becoming a hard core FOSS enthusiast?

Let's find out. If you do end up giving away or showing GNUGuitarINUX off - I'd like to hear about it. Please comment.

To find out more about GNUGuitarINUX visit the sourceforge web site for the Project.
To find out more about Frostcast and Frostbite media visit and