[LAU] [RFC] A “poor man’s”, yet professional level studio setup

Francesco Napoleoni mlists at cosmic-odyssey.net
Sun Feb 21 17:15:23 CET 2021

Hi everyone

Following my question about JACK and tempo transmission over a network, I felt 
the time is right for me to share some ideas about possible setup(s) of a 
studio mainly based on free software. The key idea is that such a studio is to 
be distributed among many hosts connected together with a fast local network.

While the infrastructure should run primarily on FLOSS software, we should not 
shun proprietary tools, allowing a certain grade of interoperability between 
different systems (OS and applications).

I don’t really know if I’m telling nonsense, but these ideas stem from my own 
experience over the years: the main use case for me is to make music for 
videos, being assisted in score and parts preparation, as well as 
“quick” mockup creation.

Since money has always been tight for me, but I am a musician with enough 
curiosity and a certain experience with computers, I have been fiddling with 
Linux and music software for many years.

What I’m trying to demonstrate is that the effort of integrating FLOSS and 
proprietary s/w with the great possibilities of modern and inexpensive h/w 
could give a professional great flexibility and relative ease of use, while 
keeping “low” costs and minimizing licensing and forced obsolescence woes.

Basically, what I am trying to achieve is a network mainly made of Ethernet 
cables (while minimising audio cables), with the following nodes:
* a master (or maybe better, a “conductor” ;-) ) machine controlling and 
transmitting the transport information, ideally a tablet or a minipc with a 
touchscreen showing the “big clock” and the “big buttons” (transport controls)
* another machine (the router) with audio h/w and a DAW, receiving audio data 
from the network. The same machine could also host a notation software, 
* optionally, a machine showing a synced video
* N >= 1 hosts running synths, virtual instruments, rocket launchers, 
microwave ovens getting the lunch done while I’m thinking of these things... 

On the FLOSS side, I think there are many of the right tools to implement my 
idea, I’m using them since many years. Here’s a incomplete list of them:
1) JACK (obviously ;-) )
2) Cadence/Claudia
3) Carla
4) Qjackctl (gives me the “big clock” and the “big buttons”)
5) Ardour
6) MuseScore
7) Xjadeo

While all of these tools do a great job (*really* great), there is still a big 
plumbing and tuning work to do. Actually this is the hardest part.


Personally, being a classical trained musician, I tend to compose using a 
notation software, with close attention to score neatness: I still prefer my 
music being played by humans rather than virtual gizmos. But I’m a “poor man”, 
so my great score is also to be “hashed” into a MIDI file, whose tracks are to 
be assigned to virtual (grrrr...) instruments, which in turn are to be mixed 
together, and the whole composition synced to a video.

Since I cannot afford buying an expensive Mac nor can I pay for a plethora of 
licensed software, the challenge is to achieve similar results with 
alternative means.

With this post I hope to start a constructive discussion about the potential 
of FLOSS music software and practical uses of it, instead of or in conjunction 
with other kinds of software, in professional environment.

Francesco Napoleoni

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