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Free music composition software
larienna
Member #3,185
January 2003
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Many years ago, I tried to find a music composing software that would allow non-musician with no keyboard dexterity to compose music. But my search were unsuccessful. It seem that the solution was only to wait.

10 years later, not only there are many software that does the job, but there is actually an open source version of these software called "MuseScore"

http://musescore.org/en

I gave it a try a few weeks ago and it gave interesting results. That could be a solution for those who want to make their own music for their video games.

Arthur Kalliokoski
Second in Command
February 2005
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I tried the Windows version for a few minutes, a bit confusing at first, but I got it to play a C scale. Not bad!

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Bob Keane
Member #7,342
June 2006

I got it a while back. It took a bit of learning, but seems okay. I haven't used it for sometime.

By reading this sig, I, the reader, agree to render my soul to Bob Keane. I, the reader, understand this is a legally binding contract and freely render my soul.
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Hi Randall Monroe.

larienna
Member #3,185
January 2003
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There are video tutorial on their site that seems to teach the basics pretty well.

Tobias Dammers
Member #2,604
August 2002
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Isn't musescore for writing, well, scores? If you just want to make something that sounds nice, you're better of with a tracker, a loop-based audio something, or even a DAW suite.

Ardour is very powerful, professional-grade, and free, but being a professional tool, it has quite a learning curve; and you'll have to combine it with something that produces actual sounds - instrument plugins, jackd sound generators, etc.

There's also LMMS, but I have no idea what the status of that one is. I haven't tried it, but from what I read, see and hear, it looks like it's less professional than ardour, but also easier to get started with, especially if you don't have a background in audio recording.

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Me make music: Triofobie
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"We need Tobias and his awesome trombone, too." - Johan Halmén

Gideon Weems
Member #3,925
October 2003

The installation of Ardour fails for me, as aptitude recommends uninstalling the very packages Ardour depends on... ?

MuseScore is nice. ModPlug Tracker is, too. I use the original open source release, before the groundlings got a hold of it. I'm still waiting for a Linux IT tracker that doesn't think early 90's paradigms are the pinnacle of interface design. ::)

jhuuskon
Member #302
April 2000
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Free music programs have always and will always suck. If a free program stops sucking, it'll also stop being free.

You don't deserve my sig.

Johan Halmén
Member #1,550
September 2001

MuseScore is for writing scores. Although it creates good sounding wav files, too, depending on what soundfonts you use. I've even imported midi files into MuseScore and exported it to a wav file without almost any changes. I write all my scores with MuseScore, though I could use Encore or even Sibelius, too. If I would earn my living writing scores, I'd immediately switch to Sibelius. I depend on Encore only because I have hundreds of Encore files that I still need occasionally.

Making music is never straight forward. You have to define what you want to create. There has to be an idea. And there has to be an end product. Is the end product a sound file or a midi file? Or a file in some other format? Maybe some music snippets that can be concatenated dynamically according to the gameplay? Is the principal idea a tune that you want to arrange? Should the end product contain recorded audio where you sing or play some instruments? Or do you want to click each note on its place or glue together 1, 2 or 4 bar loops on different tracks to create the audio? Creating a tune using a loop library is not always very "creative". You are forced to use already composed snippets and already composed chord progressions etc.

Here's something I found: http://soundation.com/studio
(There's probably not very much you can do without a premium account.)

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Years of thorough research have revealed that the red "x" that closes a window, really isn't red, but white on red background.

Years of thorough research have revealed that what people find beautiful about the Mandelbrot set is not the set itself, but all the rest.

Tobias Dammers
Member #2,604
August 2002
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The installation of Ardour fails for me, as aptitude recommends uninstalling the very packages Ardour depends on... ?

Dunno, worked fine for me. Both the version from debian and the one I compiled myself.

jhuuskon said:

Free music programs have always and will always suck. If a free program stops sucking, it'll also stop being free.

Wow. Such wisdom.

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Me make music: Triofobie
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"We need Tobias and his awesome trombone, too." - Johan Halmén

type568
Member #8,381
March 2007
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Wow. Such wisdom.

Yeah I'm also amazed. Guess I should quit using Netbeans, and I should uninstall VLC immediately. Oh God, and I'm afraid now I'll end up being stuck with IE :-/

larienna
Member #3,185
January 2003
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I tried using trackers but it seemed very complex and the lack of instrument library was very frustrating.

Else, back then most software were time based, so you have to input the notes with a musician's dexterity which I did not have. Now with musescore, I can wait after each note and I can adjust the note after placing it which is good for me since I do not have yet enough practice to know how each note sound.

As for the format, considered it's already instrumentalized, saving it as a MIDI and play it with DIGIMID, or as OGG could be perfect for video games. If you want to add special effects (like echo), then I imagine you could use WAV and convert it as MP3 for the finished product but making larger files.

The only drawback so far is that it use real music notation which I do not entirely know because I am not a musician. But that is something that could be learned eventually. It's not like if the documentation was lacking. Not all symbols would also need to be learned.

The other thing is that the instrument back does not seem to match the 256 midi instrument. So the selection of instrument might be more limited, but I am not really sure.

Johan Halmén
Member #1,550
September 2001

Commercial programs have always and will always suck. I never lose my nerves, when a free program fails for any reason. But when a commercial program, for which I've paid money, fails, I get annoyed to an extent that prevents my creativity from flourishing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Years of thorough research have revealed that the red "x" that closes a window, really isn't red, but white on red background.

Years of thorough research have revealed that what people find beautiful about the Mandelbrot set is not the set itself, but all the rest.

Mordredd
Member #5,291
December 2004
avatar

For quite some time we are using Ardour for music recording on top of the JACK audio server in our band, which works great. Of course, this is a professional program, so you need to get into it, but once you get the hang of it it is not that hard. However, Ardour is not available for Windows. For now, I got so used to it, I decided I better donate the money to the Ardour project for development that I would have spent otherwise for buying some crap proprietary software.

For stunningly real drum beats you can use the Hydrogen sequencer which comes with high quality drum samples (also on top of JACK). Check out the AcousticsKit samples, you need to switch over to them manually after you have created a new project. Of course, you can make your own or import samples in order to make any music you want. Again, on Windows, Hydrogen apparently is very buggy, but runs perfectly reliable on any free OS.

jhuuskon
Member #302
April 2000
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I didn't know netbeans qualified as music software.

You don't deserve my sig.

Mark Oates
Member #1,146
March 2001
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jhuuskon said:

Free music programs have always and will always suck. If a free program stops sucking, it'll also stop being free.

Well I agree. :-/ I think eventually things will turn around, but for the time being this is the case.

Michael Faerber
Member #4,800
July 2004
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For the sake of completeness, may I kindly propose Lilypond. It is the LaTeX of music score creation, and you can also create MIDI files with it. That said, it does not come with a GUI, so if this is not your cup of tea, then move along, please.

I have used it in several projects to create music scores and have been very happy with it. Usually, however, I drafted my pieces on paper before setting them with Lilypond.

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Mark Oates
Member #1,146
March 2001
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I give mad props to the developers of Lilypond. It's impressive work and attention to detail. It does take some work and tweaks if you want to get the output "just right" but the cool thing is that it can actually do that.

Finale, Sibelius, MuseScore, Notion all produce good output. But something lacks for each. Finale notation comes out a little bit too sterile, Sibelius scores have the appearance of being a little too proud of themselves, MuseScore's looks like a noob, while Notion outputs like a talented college freshman.

Nothing looks as good as engraving, though.

video

It may have something to do with the way the ink bleeds in micrometers after pressing; I've even gone as far as envisioning a ink/paper physics simulation to see if I could get it all to look just right. But, LilyPond is just close enough to it that I'd be happy with all music being set in Lilypond for the rest of existence. In the notation composition programs I've written so far, I output to Lilypond for printing.

gnolam
Member #2,030
March 2002
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Finale, Sibelius, MuseScore, Notion all produce good output. But something lacks for each. Finale notation comes out a little bit too sterile, Sibelius scores have the appearance of being a little too proud of themselves, MuseScore's looks like a noob, while Notion outputs like a talented college freshman.

If this is what people care about instead of usability, it's no wonder that all music software sucks. :P

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Gideon Weems
Member #3,925
October 2003

Hahaha... touché touché touché

... Can you see the "é?" Because I can't.

touché

EDIT: Woah, post form only.

Mark Oates
Member #1,146
March 2001
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gnolam said:

If this is what people care about instead of usability, it's no wonder that all music software sucks. :P

For professionals, music publishing is about quality.

larienna
Member #3,185
January 2003
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I just had an idea about music composition for non-professional. When I listened to the "master of magic" sound track, I have realized that most of the music are actually short samples of less than 30 seconds.

The reason why is that you have 3 long music, for the main screen, which gets interrupted by short event musics through the game. This ways, it prevent the need to compose a lot of music. It might not be suitable for all type of video games, but for strategy games, it could work.

Another thing they did is they made a unique 15 seconds intro for each character and then stick the same combat music afterward. I don't really like the idea, but it's another methods to have variety with little work.

So non-musician, could use similar techniques to reduce the amount of music composition required for their game without being too much noticeable that there is only 1 music for the whole game.

beoran
Member #12,636
March 2011

That's the idea behind trackers.

http://www.milkytracker.org/

Milkytacker is a nice open source tracker. If you take some time to learn it, you too can make decent enough music with it.

Michael Faerber
Member #4,800
July 2004
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If you would like to try something tracker-like, I warmly recommend SunVox. This is a powerful tracker with an incredibly cool interface.

--
"The basic of informatics is Microsoft Office." - An informatics teacher in our school
"Do you know Linux?" "Linux? Isn't that something for visually impaired people?"

Todd Cope
Member #998
November 2000
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Reminds me of Buzz.

Tobias Dammers
Member #2,604
August 2002
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gnolam said:

If this is what people care about instead of usability, it's no wonder that all music software sucks.

Actually, LilyPond leads the board in terms of usability if you ask me. It doesn't have a fancy GUI like the rest of the pack (in fact, it doesn't have a GUI at all), but then, the GUI of every other music notation solution is horrible (violates every UI convention on any given platform, requires truckloads of repetitive manual work, what you see isn't quite what you get, etc. etc.) and utterly non-customizable. With LilyPond at least I can use my favorite text editor and get lightning-fast precise input for free, together with a whole zoo of scriptable text processing tools that I can hook into my editor, a makefile, or whatever I need.

And I maintain, not all music software sucks. Ardour is pretty damn awesome, though not entirely on par with expensive proprietary solutions (ProTools, Logic, what have you) - but then, those cost an arm and a leg, and you never know when support is going to cease and you'll have to cough up for the next version, and then you have to pray your stuff still works. Jack is a heavenly gift, absolute awesomeness, and I have yet to see something comparable on Windows or Mac (although I hear Jack does run on those, I doubt the experience is really the same). Linux itself (the kernel) is also quite a powerful beast; with realtime patches applied, it can deliver ~2 ms latencies over USB, with hardware that maxes out at 20 ms on Windows. The Calf and Invada plugin suites are pretty damn good; the UI is kind of spartan, but they sound nice. Linuxsampler, while kind of buggy, does sound great.

What I really miss is:

  • A killer session manager library to end the bickering and clumsiness - ideally, I want something that fires up all the programs I use in concert for one project, make them reload their state, and then connect everything in Jack. Lash is supposed to solve at least part of this, but not everything supports lash, and I haven't really gotten it to work reliably.

  • A decent MIDI sequencer. Everything I've tried so far is either a usability disaster (rosegarden, ardour's MIDI support, ...), an amateurish pile of bug-ridden feces (won't call names here), horribly under-featured, or a step sequencer. I'll just have to make something myself some day - how hard can it be?

  • A better selection of good plugins, especially instruments. I'd probably even pay for those.

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Me make music: Triofobie
---
"We need Tobias and his awesome trombone, too." - Johan Halmén

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