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