Music, videos, and computers

Last Sunday, Zuleikha played piano together with some of her classmates of the piano teacher’s class at the local sports hall. Mitchie took it on video, and I recorded the piano (a nice sounding Yamaha Grand) with my Røde microphone, the Focusrite interface, and the company notebook (a Lenovo Thinkpad P50 running the IBM Open Client for the Debian Community, which is currently based upon Ubuntu 16.04 LTS).

Then I used every minute I could to learn new (to me) programs like Cinelerra.

In the end we’ve got a nice sounding movie with all the kids playing, and I also learned how to use fader automation in Ardour (tools like these weren’t even available while I was in the studios during my youth). Cool stuff, and the highlight for me personally was Zuleikha performing one of her own compositions – even some of the other kids were quite impressed by that. Cannot show the whole video here, but I’ll ask Zuleikha if she’ll put something online on her blog – maybe only some of her own playing (we’d have to ask too many parents to show everything here). If yes, then I can put up a link to it here.

On Saturday, June 17th, the latest and greatest version of Debian was released to the public, as promised. And I’ve got and installed it last night, just after finishing the video. It’s nice, and everything worked pretty much out of the proverbial box for me. I did an upgrade followed by a dist-upgrade like recommended, and the whole process didn’t last much longer than just half an hour. Nice.

And now, just a few minutes before writing this, I discovered a nice video on Youtube:

This is Adam Ben Ezra on his double bass.


Learning just another (filmmaking) program, while not forgetting about photography

Recently, Zuleikha had just another gig as a musician (playing piano), and we recorded it – Mitchie on video with her Olympus E-PL5 and the 45mm/1.8 lens (on her tripod of course), and me with my Røde NT-1A microphone, the Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 (2nd gen) interface, and the Lenovo Thinkpad P50 laptop/notebook which I’ve got from my employer.

Zuleikha’s piano teacher asked us to make a DVD from all the attendees’ performances, so we recorded everyone instead of just our own daughter. And since then (that was Sunday evening), I’m trying to learn just another video-editing program.

Why? Well because Ardour is more like Avid’s Pro Tools – a music studio inside of your computer, and OpenShot is a video editor which we’ve used previously, but which also gave me some headaches already – for bigger projects like a full-blown DVD, it’s not the most stable and full-featured one.

So at the moment I’m looking at the community version of Cinelerra, which seems to be great. There’s a very nice article on the German ubuntuusers wiki, with some additional nice links, like the one to Raffaella Traniello’s “Cinelerra for Grandma” – that answered most of my questions (and struggles) so far.

It’s still quite a lot to learn – these are not your basic editors, but full-blown and -featured professional programs like the commercial ones on other operating systems (and also a bit like Ardour vs. Pro Tools or Logic).

And with all that music- and video-related stuff, I’m still not forgetting about photography, even if I do that only for private and family “jobs” right now. So I’m still regularly reading the most interesting bloggers (and pros) like Kirk Tuck, or Michael Johnston’s “The Online Photographer” (and listening to Brooks Jensen’s “Lenswork Daily” podcasts).

I just answered one of Mike’s posts for instance, which was about his thought of a dual camera system (one his iphone, the other one maybe a Sony A7-2). My answer to that one, in case you don’t find it on his page, was:

“Love the idea, Mike.

I’ve got an Olympus OM-D E-M10 (first gen) which in cameras is in my opinion the equivalent to what our Corolla is in cars. It will do the job, and get you the picture. Not the best, but a quite acceptable one.

But the A7 Mk2 is the one that really interest me, even more so since I realized that both of our Olympus film bodies (OM-1 and OM-2) are having problems with their shutters, and ruin many potentially good (and expensive) film shots. So yes, a “digital back” for my OM Zuiko 50mm/1.4 would be great to have.

Or maybe an FM-2; could even be better. But that wouldn’t accept my Zuiko lens AFAIK.”

So beside my full-time professional job (still having to earn a living for us all), and beside my honorary work in the school’s parents’ association, I’m quite busy at the moment. Holding on to the next task, like: make a DVD for the parents of the other young and aspiring musicians – and for their teacher of course.

But being busy, and being together with the young ones keeps you young as well – or so they say 😉

Thanks for reading.

Please vote for the Nik collection to be open sourced!

Through an article on Imaging Resource I’ve learnt that Google will no longer maintain or “to update the Collection or add new features over time” of their Nik collection – which is a bit sad because they’re still awesome, and loved by many photographers either as plugins for programs like Photoshop, or stand-alone.

I don’t have Photoshop and/or Lightroom- and don’t plan to buy it – but still I have the Nik collection for some special effects on a Windows partition on my hard drive, so through their help center and forum I found this post from Paul Breslin, who volunteered to maintain it further after his retirement, and for which I “voted” already. And I suggest that you’d do the same; open-sourcing it would be the ‘proper’ way of dropping official support for a product.

And Google may even do it – they’re in some way still the “good guys”, with their initiatives like “Summer of Code” and so on and so forth. So if you also like or (occasionally) use the fine Nik collection, I’d advise that you do the same. If you haven’t heard of the Nik collection but have a Mac or PC with Windows operating systems, I’d suggest to try it out – it’s one of the best “free” (as in “no cost”) software packages there is.

My main interest in this? Well I’m still using real free and open source software on my Debian Linux machine, but who knows, maybe one day the Nik collection could be real free as well – it’s all a question of licensing. And there could even be a port for Linux, which would make that even greater as an artist’s platform as it already is (doing music and recording with it as well). It’s just a vote away, so what is stopping you?

Thanks for reading and/or considering.

P.S.: see also my comments here and here.

Debian Stretch Announcement

The release date for Debian’s next version called “Stretch” was announced on the mailing list yesterday. Release date will be Saturday, June 17th, 2017 which is less than three weeks from now.

So if you have your repositories pointed to “stable”, you’ll get the upgrade automagically – if it’s “Jessie”, you’ll have to change that if you want the newer stable version. And Jessie will be oldstable from then on, as usual.

Cool. Looking forward to getting it.

Thanks to Paul Davis, and to others

Just listened to a very interesting talk of about an hour or so from Paul Davis, (co-) founder and inventor of programs like Jack and Ardour.

Found the report and the video on the Libre Music Production site, here. The video is also available on Youtube, and Paul’s keynote speech starts at about 2:22:32 into the video below:

So thanks for everyone involved, and to Paul again for the tools he’s working on since so many years. And thanks also for pointing me to such interesting and exciting things like Faust, or the Sonic Visualizer (parts of which you might have seen in Ardour as well).

What makes this talk so interesting is also that you see this presentation of about an hour to understand the state of audio on all systems, not just Linux.

Oh, and thanks also for letting us know that even products like a Behringer X32 console are plug & play not only on a Mac with its Core Audio, but on Linux as well. Long live class-compliance!

Merçi encore to the Université as well.


Take Five backing track, version 3

Thanks to some help from finotti in the LinuxMusicians forum (and I didn’t even really ask for it, so I’m extra thankful), I’ve got my commercial xln audio Addictive Keys grand piano working in Ardour as well. And while Zuleikha was testing the sounds with my midi keyboard, I made a screenshot:

Screenshot from 2017-04-28 18:49:12

I’ve loaded the virtual instrument into Carla Patchbay, and after some manual configuration to hear the output, I could use the combination as an instrument within Ardour (which is still my favourite DAW (digital audio workstation) on Linux).

In the screenshot you see Ardour with the loaded “Take Five” song again, and I mixed that via Jamin into Audacity. The acoustic bass and the drum tracks both come via the Calf Fluidsynth and its included GM (general midi) soundfont. In the master track I also used a Calf Limiter; EQ and a bit of compression came from Jamin. The .wav file was then leveled to -23dB LUFS in Ardour, and with Audacity I converted it to an MP3 file again which you can listen to here:

This time I wanted a somewhat more warm and intimate sound, and the “Jazzish” preset of xln’s Studio Grand gave me exactly that.

That Steinway really sounds good, it’s the best piano we have in the house. But the Salamander Grand Piano V3, a Yamaha C5 recorded by Alexander Holm isn’t too far off – and it’s free.

Find many more tools for Linux music production on LibreMusicProduction if you like.

And like always, thanks for reading.

See what you can do with Ardour

Saw that cool video:

And remember, this orchestral sample library is loaded to the free Kontakt player for Windows, but together with Wine and Carla, it obviously works very nice within a free DAW in Linux as well.

Not everything will work tho – forget anything with dongles or other “security” hindrances. In that case, take really free (as in speech) things instead.

See also the German Howto about using Carla here. Thanks Felipe for this wonderful tool!

I’m cool with that decision…

from Mark Shuttleworth on 5th of April, 2017, here:

“We will shift our default Ubuntu desktop back to GNOME for Ubuntu 18.04 LTS.”

I didn’t like Gnome3 that much when it came out, but over time and on my Debian Jessie machine at home, it grew on me. Nowadays I find it much more usable than Unity, and I hope that Ubuntu will drop Unity’s keybindings – which are quite different from Gnome’s – as well. At work, where I am still forced to use Ubuntu instead of Debian, this would help. I’m also very much looking forward to getting rid of the many issues which only Unity has, compared to Gnome (and possibly other desktops, with which I’m not that familiar). And if Ubuntu finally looks like Debian (maybe with a bit of “polish”), then all the better for its mum 😉

So yeah, Mark, from my side at least I can applaud that decision. I might even start to like Ubuntu (I *do* like UbuntuStudio (“for creative humans”), but on that I’d also rather install Gnome than accepting the default XFCE).

As always, thanks for reading.

Playing around with Qtractor and ZynAddSubFX

Yesterday evening I played around a bit with Qtractor, and with ZynAddSubFX (and with a free sample of a drumkit called the “Black Pearl“).

Why did I do this? Simple: as much as I like Ardour, the free Pro Tools like DAW (digital audio workstation) software, it has the one disadvantage which bugged me a bit: it’s a bit too much “audio”-centric, with MIDI seemingly being an afterthought. So from Ardour you can’t export MIDI tracks like with other software like MusE, or Rosegarden, or Qtractor. And exporting MIDI is nice if you want to have other programs like MuseScore converting them more or less automagically into sheet music, like this:

So what does Qtractor look like? Look here:

On the upper left you see its editing (and “composition”) window, on the lower right its mixer window – and in between my file system. You see that I’ve made two tracks actually, the first using the “Echo Rhodes” preset from ZynAddSubFX, the second with just a single kick drum sound from the “Black Pearl” drumkit sample.

How does it sound? Awesome. I exported it as an audio file as well, and converted that .wav file to an .mp3 one with Audacity:

So in case you want to hear my breathtaking composition, here it is:

(Don’t send flowers, or ask where to get the CD yet – I’m still working on it) 😉

And as always, thanks for reading.

The state of Linux in music production

I’m having some troubles getting MusE to run or even start properly on my Debian Jessie machine, which also has the KXStudio repositories to get some of falkTX’s goodies like Cadence, Carla, and so on. Seems to be something between MusE and jackd – but all other programs run just fine, so I guess it’s more of the former than the latter. If I boot UbuntuStudio 16.04 from a USB stick and install it, it doesn’t show any problems together with QJackCTL (which is the frontend for jackd).

So I’m back to reading, and also to look for alternatives. And while doing so, I stumbled over some really nice examples of what can be accomplished right now, using only free and libre open source software – or FLOSS as the community calls it.

Here are two nice demo videos of Rosegarden and Qtractor, both made by Südwestlicht, and sung in German:

You can hear a bit more from Holger and Petra on MyOwnMusic if you wish. Awesome stuff.

And here are two videos from Yassin Philip:

You can also read an interview with him on LibreMusicProduction – an interesting page about everything free and open source and music; I’m subscribed to their Youtube channel. See everything about the tools we have on LMP’s “tools” section if you’re interested.

And as always, thanks for reading.