Group: GNU Multimedia

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I am new to GNU. I have read pretty much the whole website. I do use free

software, but I have to use non-free software as well. Why? Because free software directory cannot offer the functionality.

I am a musician. I require sequencers and VST plugins in order to compose music. Unfortunately, all the free sequencers available are too simple and undeveloped - so much that to start using them is making a huge step behind - like 10 years back in time. VST are also not supported by the Free World as it is a proprietary format. But it is like saying that one cannot use piano, so common VST are.

What should one do in such a situation? I am not a coder. If I don't use a non-free sequencer, it may seem that I've chosen my freedom. But instead I will loose any possibility to write music which I can write now. So turning to my freedom will take away my freedom - freedom of self expression which will be restricted by lack of software. How many years will go into the writing of serious software? I am not a coder.

I think this is the real problem nowadays. GNU world is well equiped with text editing software but is very weak with multimedia. How can one willingly cut himself off from the multimedia advantages of non-free computing and step ten years back? And this is not a question of short-term convenience. In many aspects it is restricting one's freedom of self expression.

So each time any of my friends encourage me to install free OS, I have to say 'no' because I will not be able to perform a whole class of tasks which are very important to me - not from the point of convenience, but from the point of possibility.

Free software is extra important. But people have to get interested, not all will make it through the complex net of free world philosophy. I think

multimedia projects should be top priority.

Note from Louigi Verona: this was a letter I wrote to FSF and to my great joy it got a response and made its way into this wiki. I have been told that the priority on multimedia in general is not an official priority of FSF - at least not yet. I really hope that the arguments I present on this page will change that. Please read the "things that need work" section for more details. This page is closely monitored by me and I am still in the process of updating it, if you have any questions, comments or suggestions, contact me directly at

Possible solutions?

1. It may not be useful for everyone, but I use ABC notation (abc2midi) in conjuction with Timidity++ and soundfonts from FreePats to create music. Work is currently going on with each of these projects (ABC notation, Timidity++ and FreePats) to continue to improve these tools and formats. These projects could also use volunteers to help with development and people to spread the word about using these resources in your own projects.

Things that need work

1. First of all, the world of libre software needs music tools which musicians can use to make a living - and that is music performance tools. As music distribution becomes less and less a business, musicians turn back to the roots of the musician profession - and that is doing gigs, performing. But in order to perform one needs adequate software - sequencers like Ableton Live, dj tools like Traktor. Currently the situation is disastrous - musicians are not able to use free software to perform electronic music. Moreover, using free software only means that a musicians is not able to perform live. So this can be considered an issue which requires most work and most priority. The basis is strong - JACK sound system is low latency and can easily route sound between applications - something that MacOS has too.

2. Development of free VST-like plugin standard: an interface for integrating software audio synthesizer and effect plugins with audio editors and hard-disk recording systems. Existing systems LADSPA, DSSI and LV2 have very limited possibilities or number of actual plugins due to various reasons. Those that do exist are very difficult to use and are usually slow. (For instance, I downloaded every effect plugin available from the repository and I couldn't find a delay plugin which would synchronize with the host tempo in LMMS - moreover, the only plugin that seemed to work at all gave out pretty ugly results and seemed to have no control over the feedback of the delay.) It is unclear whether it is more reasonable to start developing an interface from scratch or seriously rework and/or finish existing ones, since this might require programming insight and also understanding of the base of already available plugins.

3. Development of free DAW - Digital Audio Workstation - an application that will allow musicians to create music and allow them to use the plugin standard mentioned above. Existing DAWs are either very simplistic and don't yet offer full possibilities to create electronic music or use non-free components or have a very complex and non-friendly user interface. Serious applications include Rosegarden, MusE and LMMS. The problem with LMMS is that it is not completely free, it has non-free components and the team behind it does not seem to be focusing on free philosophy, but rather on zero price. LMMS is compatible with non-free formats like VST. Rosegarden is more focused on classical music - that is, sheet music, note music. It is difficult to use it if you want to work with sound music - which is nowadays developing into a sophisticated and beautiful form of art, composed by many musicians. However, it looks very good and I will continue testing it, additional info on my analysis will follow up in April 2009. First impression is that it is a strong tool in the free software world. I currently have not much info on MusE, review coming up in April as well.

Note: I am now in the process of research to find out in great detail what existing software can do and what it lacks from the point of view of a musician - notably, a musician who is more focused on electronic, sound music rather than the usual classical music which is note based. That focus includes djing software. However, my experience with free music instructional software (LMMS, Rosegarden) is enough to say that we do need a higher priority for these projects - a much higher priority and support. Most notably for music performing software.

Related Sites

  • is working to assemble information, reviews, and tutorials regarding multimedia production and distribution in the spirit of the GNU GPL.
  • Audio tools page lists over 150 GNU/Linux audio tools.
  • Video page contains several dozen links to video related software for GNU/Linux.
  • LinuxAudio is a not-for-profit consortium of libre software projects and artists, companies, institutions, organizations, and hardware vendors using Linux kernel-based systems and allied libre software for audio-related work, with an emphasis on professional tools for the music, production, recording, and broadcast industries.
  • LinuxSound has a comprehensive list of GNU/Linux audio production tools.
  • Wikipedia: Linux Audio List contains links to dozens of GNU/Linux audio tools.
  • Wikipedia: Video Editing: Open Source has a few video editing options.

Things that have no free software support