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    Copyright 2013 Christopher D. Whittum, M.Ed.

    Hydrogen -Open Source Drum Set

    hydrogen drum set,energize educationHydrogen is an open source drum set that runs on your computer.   We’re going to take a short look at this exciting piece of software.  For those uncertain as to what a drum kit is, just imagine a virtual drum kit (drums, cymbals, etc.) on your computer, but with an interface of sliders and knobs in lieu of actual drums.  Read on.  You’ll see.

    Graceful Interface

    Hydrogen presents an approachable interface that anyone familiar with audio-visual equipment, such as equalizers, should have little trouble finding his or her way around.  Hydrogen’s interface is modular and incorporates timelines, sliders, knobs, toolbars, tabs and menus to help users get the job done.

    hydrogen drum set, energize education
    Hydrogen Drum Set

    The screenshot gives you an idea of what to expect.  The screen is divided into panes, each one offering something special.  Some components, such as the Mixer, operate from their own window.  The upper pane is where compositions are created.  The lower left pane presents instruments in the drum kit.  The panel in the lower right allows users to toggle between modifications for the currently selected drum set and accessing the sound library.

    Features

    Hydrogen is replete with features.  One of these is a Pattern-based Sequencer.  Hydrogen is designed to work with patterns. To facilitate this, the developers have also included an integrated Pattern Editor.  Another impressive feature is unlimited instrument tracks.    That’s right.  A composition created in Hydrogen can have unlimited instrument tracks.  It’s almost mind-boggling.

    hydrogen drum set,energize education through open source
    The Mixer window -front and.. off center.

    Hydrogen offers support for QT5, MIDI and OSC file formats.  Hydrogen also provides support for sound library images.  If drums are not your thing, it’s possible to import different musical instruments.  There is support for managing different sessions.  Support for basic exportation to LilyPond is also available.  Playback capabilities and menu editing are two more useful Hydrogen features.  Hydrogen can be easily customized via the Preferences option under the Tools menu.  Tutorials and full documentation are available on Hydrogen’s Web site.

    What You Can Do With Hydrogen

    Arguably, users are limited only by their imaginations when using Hydrogen.  Compositions can be played back as desired and easily modified.  There are some pre-designed drum kits available for Hydrogen on SourceForge with which to experiment.  In short, users can create the musical composition of their dreams.  More advanced student programmers may interested in knowing that Hydrogen is written in the C++ programming language.  As it is open source, this opens up wonderful opportunities for collaboration between music and tech departments.  If properly implemented, students from the realms of computer programming and music could meet, share ideas and create that indispensable Hydrogen component.  How cool would it be if students from your school could make this claim?  Best of all, Hydrogen is available for Linux, Microsoft Windows and Apple MacOS, so it probably will run on the platform of your choice.

    Resources

    Hydrogen Documentation

    Hydrogen Web Site

    LilyPond -Music Notation for Everyone

    SourceForge Hydrogen Sound Libraries

    References

    Hydrogen [computer software].  (n.d.).  GNU General Public License.

    Piraino, A. et al.  (n.d.).  Hydrogen manual.  GNU General Public License.

    Rosegarden -Music Composition and Editing for Linux

    Rosegarden logo,rose garden,rosegarden audio mixer

    Getting back to educational technology, I’d like to focus on a tool that music teachers and their students will love.  Rosegarden is an open source application for composing, mixing and editing music and sounds.  It was developed around a MIDI sequencer with an understanding of musical notation and featuring support for digital audio.

    audio mixers,rosegarden,energize education
    Rosegarden struts its stuff.

    Rosegarden is feature-rich, although this depends on the available hardware resources.  The more recent or “cutting edge” the hardware, the more features  available to the user.  Rosegarden supports the importing and exporting of MIDI files.  One caveat regarding this is that the Rosegarden Manual states that information about the file in question will be lost if the file is not saved in Rosegarden’s native .rg format.  Such files are referred to as Rosegarden Project Files and contain all of the musical note information of the file in question as well as MIDI controller settings, plugin details and the names of any audio files included in the composition.  Other supported sound formats include, but are not limited to, Csound, Hydrogen and MusicXML.

    rosegarden,energize education
    The Notation Editor

    The default track-based overview allows users create sound “segments” by clicking-and-dragging or by double-clicking on the desired sound file.  Additionally, Rosegarden offers some powerful editing tools.  These allow users to get their ideas down and to tweak them as desired.  There are three editing windows -the matrix editor, the notation editor and the event editor.  These windows share a common interface for ease of use.  Musical notes can be entered using either a MIDI keyboard or a computer keyboard.  Furthermore, all editors offer unlimited undo and redo.  The pan and zoom interface near the bottom of the matrix and notation editors provides axis-independent zoom and fast navigation.

    rosegarden, energize education,rosegarden audio editor
    Rosegarden connecting with external apps via the JACK audio connection framework.

    Rosegarden offers many other features.  The notation editor allows users to view the musical notation of their work, which can provide an alternative view of a composition.  This editor can be used simultaneously with other Rosegarden components.  Rosegarden will automatically update the work, saving recent changes simultaneously in all instances of it running in other components.  Sheet music can be printed using LilyPond, an open source music engraving program.  In terms of audio, file creation is easy.  As mentioned previously, external sound files can be dragged from a file manager window and dropped into Rosegarden.  From there they can be moved, resized, repeated and more.  The synth plugin allows for accurate synthesis of MIDI tracks.  The full-audio-effects plugin allows for the addition of audio effects to the composition.  Add to all this the capacity to integrate Rosegarden with other Linux sound applications via the JACK audio connection framework and you have a very powerful and flexible sound mixing tool.

    If you’re serious about sound mixing, you should definitely give Rosegarden a test drive.  Rosegarden is available in English and, thanks to volunteers, in Russian, Spanish, Finnish, Japanese and Indonesian to name a few other languages.

    Rosegarden is currently available for Linux and Microsoft Windows.

    All images property of the Rosegarden Team.

    Resources

    LilyPond Web Site

    Rosegarden Web Site

    Rosegarden Handbook

    Rosegarden Tutorials

    References

    Cannam, C., Bown, R. & Laurent, G.  (2008).  The Rosegarden handbook.  GNU Genreal Public License.

    Laurent, G., Cannam, C. & Bown, R. (2008).  Rosegarden [computer software].  GNU General Public License.

     

    Ardour -the Digital Audio Workstation

    ardour,energize education through open source,energize education,christopher whittumTaking a break from my more traditional topics of STEM and programming, I’d like to put the Arts into the spotlight for a change and talk about Ardour, an open source application that allows users to create audio compositions.  Undoubtedly, music teachers out there are familiar with the proprietary, but WYSIWYG software, Accoustica Mixcraft.  Ardour is just as WYSIWYG, but, as mentioned above, open source.  Let’s take a look at Ardour right now.

    ardour,energize education
    A typical Ardour session

    Ardour is designed to be suitable for audio engineers,  musicians, soundtrack editors and composers, but it should be just as ideal an environment for young composers to create their masterpieces.  The interface is very similar to the aforementioned Mixcraft.  The Editor Window presents a menu at the top of the screen allowing for ready access to features.  Below this, the Transport Menu allows users to navigate (Play, Fast Forward, Loop, Record, etc.) through clips added to the Main Canvas below.

    .  To the right of the Transport Menu are the Clocks, offering four time formats.  Right of the Clocks are the Edit Modes and Cursor Modes controls, which allow users to edit clips.  Below this is the aforementioned Main Canvas in which sound and video tracks appear, each with its own track.  Each track can then be edited individually.  To the left of the Main Canvas is the Editor Mixer, which allows users to control volume and other features using slider controls.

    ardour,energize education
    Audio mixing is a breeze.

    So, what can you do with Ardour?  I’d venture to say that you could do just about anything that you could do with Mixcraft.  Rather than to compare the two, I’ll focus on Ardour’s features and what can be done with them.  First of all, Ardour supports importing of the following audio types: AAIF, BWF, CAF ,FLAC and WAV.  In terms of audio exporting, the following formats are supported: AAIF, BWF, CAF, FLAC, Ogg and WAV.  Ardour is not just limited to handling sound.  Videos can be imported and soundtracks extracted from them.  Videos can be displayed frame-by-frame on the Video Timeline for easy editing.  Users can add start/stop points to the video as well as blank frames and mix the video with the soundtrack of the current session.  An Ardour session can even be run simultaneously on multiple computers.

    ardour,energize education
    Easy video editing

    This all sounds great, but it gets better.  There are many plugins available for Ardour that enhance its functionality.  These are conveniently handled through the Plugin Manager.  Plugins allow users to create various audio or MIDI effects and to generate audio by functioning as “software instruments.”  Additionally, although Ardour does not include music/sounds of its own, these can be downloaded from sites like Freesound (see below) and then imported into Ardour.

    After reading this, I don’t know why you’re not downloading Ardour right now.  Your students may not thank you with words, but their compositions will speak volumes.

    Ardour is available for Linux and Apple MacOS.

    Thanks to Paul Davis of the Ardour Development Team for permission to use all images included in this article.

    Resources

    Ardour Manual

    Ardor Web Site

    Freesound Web Site

    References

    Ardour [computer software].  (n.d.).  GNU General Public License.

    Ardour Manual.  (n.d.).  GNU General Public License.

    Mixcraft 7 vs Ardour -audio editing comparison.  (2016).  Software Insider: Graphiq, Inc.  Retrieved from http://sound-editing.softwareinsider.com/compare/39-169/Acoustica-Mixcraft-7-vs-Ardour.