Category Archives: Audio

Making music, creating sounds, using Linux Audio Applications and Tools

(First) Linux Info Day in Ettlingen

On November 9th, the “Linux User Group Albtal” (LUG Albtal) which I am part
of held their first “Linux Infoday” in Ettlingen. While already having been founded 4.5 years ago, this was our first “public appearance”.

We manned a total of 6 “booths” with the topics “Linux in everyday life”,
“graphical desktops”, “virtualization”, “OpenStreetMap“, “Multimedia”,
“Games” and “Gimp“. Additionally, there was a PC for visitors to “fool around
with” so they get an idea of what Linux feels like, and some additional
systems hooked up to projector/TV to create some eyecatcher videos.

Visitors of the "Linux Infotag"
Visitors of the “Linux Infotag”

My booth was the “Multimedia” part, although it was really (obviously ;-)
mostly about sound&audio applications. Setting up the gear took a little while, but was well spent – everything was at some point during that day.

My gear for the "Multimedia booth". I admit a 5-octave keyboard would have been better at times..
My gear for the “Multimedia booth”. I admit a 5-octave keyboard would have been better at times..

Since this was a first-time for us and we essentially had no budget at all,
we had no idea how much audience we would be able to attract. We did some
advertising through free newspapers in our region and distributing self-made
leaflets to local shops, but we already knew that this would not be seen by

Ok, so to sum it up already now: We had visitors, but it could have been more.
In total, there were perhaps 15-20 attendees across the whole day.

However, the individual “visits” were few but long (30 minutes, or even up to
one hour), so there was neither a feeling of being really bored, nor of
“having a queue waiting”. For now, we proved that we can put this up together,
which was good, and we might do a similar thing again next year, but we will
perhaps need some kind of sponsor to be able to do more advertising.

Still, for me personally the whole event was definitely a success – I had started
early to put together some “demo material”, and due to that I was kind of “forced”
to actually use some Linux audio software more than I would typically do.
While doing that, I discovered some new applications I had never used before, I
found updates of programs that had been rotting on my harddisk for a while,
and I found some programs to be a lot more stable than my past experience
had taught me.

Most prominently, qtractor as my main MIDI/audio sequencer application, has
really matured during the last 1-2 years since I was actually able to put
together a small radio play with it (audio tracks only) without seeing
qtractor crash on me a single time within 2-3 days of usage. Way to go, Rui! :-)

Screenshot of qtractor while producing my first little radio play.
Screenshot of qtractor while producing my first little radio play.

The results of this work can be found below – but beware, it’s in German, and
there’s quite a bit of local gibberish in it. Inhabitants of Germany’s southwest
will easily recognize that I am not from around here (I am north-german
by birth), but I’ve tried to put in some Baden/swabian phrases that I learnt
since I moved here.

Sure, there are some weaknesses in there – pop sounds, cheap vocal performance – but it was big fun to put this together, and in the end that is still what counts most for me..for now.


So, bottom line is: While the event was not as much frequented as we had hoped,
I am perfectly fine with the results for now since I was able to establish a kind of
“workflow” for my own ideas, and that workflow proved to be pretty stable.
That means: The road is paved now for actually making music and producing a
first glass master ;^).


Hang Drum: An SFZ and a test

A friend recently pointed me at a french musician playing a short piece using a  Hang Drum virtual instrument on a keyboard which sounded really nice. I immediately wanted to do “something like that” too, so I searched the web for some free Hang drum samples.

I found some at the web site of german composer and sound artist Andreas Bick.They sound a lot different from what I heard in the video mentioned above since Andreas is using soft mallets, but they were sampled pretty decently at 12 velocities per key.

Enhancing these with some SFZ config files for instant playability in LinuxSampler wasn’t too difficult, so here is an attempt at doing that. I provide 3 files, first one being just the original keys (no key ranges) and in mono, second being the same but spread out from E3 to A5 using ranges, and the third one is an attempt at making a “stereo” instrument by placing the samples in the -20..+20 pan range of LinuxSampler (which is really solved in a poor way since some samples’ range is just 1 note while others span a range of 7 or 8 semitones).




Simply place these in the same directory where the WAVs are stored, rename the files to end in “.sfz” so LinuxSampler/QSampler actually offers them for loading, and off you go.

Certainly, there must be a thousand things to improve (compensate for loudness differences between samples, better velocity mapping etc.). But this is how I learn – by simply doing it, waiting for the flame^H^H^H^H^Hfeedback and making it better the next time.

Here is a small experiment with this instrument. Using Qtractor as my weapon of choice for a MIDI/Audio sequencer, LinuxSampler, several LV2 plugins from the highly recommended Calf plugin suite. Bass played by a Yamaha P90, Shekere from the “Ethno World Library Vol.2″ by Marcel Barsotti. I admit I got carried away a little with delay and chorus, but it was still fun :-).

Hapi vs. Xylophone by GoldBaby – SFZ file

The kind folks at GoldBaby have released quite a few free sample sets on their webpage (but definitely also check out the stuff they sell for money!). One particular sample set that caught my attention is “Hapi vs. Xylophone”, a blend of two similar sounding instruments.

The download consists of a 55MB archive and holds 26 high-quality samples (44.1 KHz, 24bit – no velocity layers, though) plus configuration files for EXS24 and Kontakt. I have written a small config file for SFZ which works nicely for me in LinuxSampler (simply download the file, remove the “.txt” extension, and place the .sfz file in the same directory as the samples).

Here’s a quick sound example; pad sound is courtesy of Yoshimi.



Linux Audio Conference: Call for Papers’ deadline coming up

Capturing the spirit (and ambient sound) of the LAC2010 in Maynooth, Ireland

The next (11th) Linux Audio Conference – or LAC#11 for short – will take place at the IEM (Institute of Electronic Music and Acoustics) in Graz, Austria, from May 9th to 12th, 2013.

As every ear, the Call for Papers and Call for Music has been sent out a while back, and the deadline for paper and music submissions is on February 4th. If you plan to submit a paper, use the remaining weeks (and, likely, weekends) to grab the paper template, write your paper and put it into a good shape, and then hand it in through the LAC’s participation page.

The range of available topics is wide, so anyone should find something that his paper fits into. Especially “user-view” papers have always been accepted with great interest, as in “this is how I use application xyz to produce this kind of sound/music”, or “here is my workflow based on these tools”. Besides papers, proposing a workshop might also be an alternative if you’re not that much into writing papers.

The LAC has always been a great event, not only due to the high-profile content of the papers presented, but also due to its social factor (spontaneous hacking sessions, getting into contact with developers and composers, and generally having fun together).

Don’t miss it!