Free, Open Music Tools for Producers, Players and Listeners

by Ostatic Staff - Aug. 22, 2013 has a very thoughtful, extended piece up on the present and future of open source music. It delves into whether new kinds of listeners and distribution models can create a brand new future for open source music, or whether they're already creating meaningful change.

One thing is for sure, there are many free and outstanding open source tools for anyone interested in producing, making or listening to music. In this post, you'll find our updated collection of some of the best ones.

Music making technology has improved dramatically in recent years, and software and hardware tools even play a bigger role in the production processes of huge bands ranging from Coldplay to Metallica. Free and open source music making and production technologies have also become very sophisticated, and are worth looking into. If you play and produce music here are some great free tools that you can leverage. 

Audacity. We've covered Audacity on a number of occasions.  Audacity is an audio propduction platform that compares very well with software used in professional environments, including tools for silencing ambient noise, combining, cutting, moving, and mixing tracks. Its mixboard and equalization features are awesome, and it's also a great podcasting platform. You can find a free guide to using it here. Of all open source tools for working with audio, this is probably the most useful.

Hydrogen. Hydrogen is an incredibly sophisticated Linux drum machine platform.  It lets you program cool beats, and includes tools for sample editing. You can also find good videos showing how it works on YouTube.

 Rakarrak. Are you a guitarist? If so, you're probably familiar with how sophisticated pedalboards and stomp boxes have become. Rakarrak is a powerful multi-effects processor emulating a guitar effects pedalboard. It's available on SoureForge and you can listen to demos of its flexible capabilities here. It's designed for Linux distributions with Jack Audio Connection Kit, which you can get here.

Sonicvisualiser.  Sonicvisualiser has become a very popular tool for studying what's actually inside digital audio recordings. It was developed at the Centre for Digital Music, Queen Mary, University of London. It's available for Linux, OS/X, and Windows, and lets you see visualizations of your music recordings including synthesized annotations and more. This is a fun tool to tinker with for musicians.

Cross-Platform Libraries, Plus Extensions. For a well-liked, cross-platform application for playing and managing music libraries, try Songbird. It's out in a new version, and is based on open source Mozilla code. You can get it for Windows, the Mac and Linux. Like Firefox, Songbird takes advantage of extensions, such as this one for instantly getting lyrics to songs you're listening to. You can also bring your existing iTunes library into Songbird

Open Source Music. We've talked about many types of media players and music library organizers on OStatic, but not so much about where to find open source music. One of the best sites is named Open Source Music, which Lisa wrote about here. It's worth visiting for getting free, unrestricted tunes. Also, check out Lisa's post on the Moovida music player. 

 Indaba. Indaba is an open, online collaboration network for musicians and producers that is worth looking into if you want to connect with others in the creative process. The site follows open source and social networking principles to make connections between musicians and is very popular. Through Indaba, you can also compete with other musicians in producing compelling remixes.

Are you interested in a more expansive collection of open source music tools? Alfred Music Publishing's book Your Free Open Source Music Studio isn't free itself (it's $29.95), but it is a very comprehensive survey of all the free and open source tools you can leverage in a home studio. You can learn to create great, multi-track recordings and the book also includes tutorials on the software tools that are recommended. 

Also see our previous post on free digital music tools, and this online collection of free and open source music production and composition tools.