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Linux for Musicians? Part 1

Flickr Image Penguin-65217341_c2b4333900_m License: by
Not a Linux Penguin

I’m not a Penguin, but sometimes I use Linux.

If you’re a PC (maybe even if you’re a Mac) I’m going to suggest something radical. You might want to consider using Linux and open source software that runs on Linux in some of your musician-esque tasks.

Before you either reject this as subversive or jump up to thank me, you should know my opinion on Linux and open source software.

Who doesn’t like something that’s free. I love free software if it’s useful to me. I use many free software programs. Some are free and open source software (FOSS). But I’m also picky. I don’t like compromising on a program that is just barely adequate to do something I am passionate about or is important to me – not when I can purchase a program that meets, even exceeds my expectations – presuming I can afford to purchase the commercial software.

So, Linux and open source software may not be right for everyone. And from that statement you can deduce I’m not one of those Linux or nothing type people. I’m sitting here writing this on Windows 7 Professional. I wrote my draft using Microsoft Word. (BTW, I’m not a PC. Nor am I a Mac nor even an Linux Penguin. I’m Dan! However, I am a geek.)

Why Consider Linux & FOSS?

The two main reasons are obvious. The first reason is Linux and FOSS are free. Most musicians do not have a lot of money. And if you are a student you probably have even less. There are all sorts of software you might like to buy – but you’d probably rather be buying new instruments and accessories. How to prioritize when some of the commercial software can go for $600 or more? If you had the money (which you don’t) you’d probably want it to go towards instruments not software.

The second reason to consider Linux is some of the software is quite good, easy to use and compares favorably to many commercial products. No reason to pay for commercial software if you are using a free program as good as anything available or if you are using something that meets all your needs.

Categories of Linux Software for Musicians

Here’s some examples of tasks a musician might want to do and a sampling of Linux software that can be used for the task:

Category Program Linux Only? Note
Notation Canorus
Graphical Notation Editor
Text Editor for LilyPond
Music Engraving
Graphical Notation Editor
Guitar Tab TuxGuitar No
Accompaniment Impro-visor No Some BIAB features
Recording Audacity No
Midi Sequencer Rosegarden Yes
Drum Machine Hydrogen Yes

The following sources provide a much larger selection of Linux software for musicians:

In part 2 I’ll discuss how to try Linux and give some reasons you might not want to try Linux.

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