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Rosegarden -Music Composition and Editing for Linux

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


LilyPond Web Site

Rosegarden Web Site

Rosegarden Handbook

Rosegarden Tutorials


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.