Can we make this better? Probably. And I guess I should work on it. But right now it's not there.
Not only has Ardour gotten better, but also Bitwig is available, and Reaper too. Bitwig has the most polished UI, but Reaper has a particularly dedicated user base and is very extensible, if a little hard on the eyes.
Routing MIDI is mostly a matter of using QJackCtl, which isn't pretty, but it gets the job done (and really, MIDI routing isn't pretty on any platform).
Again, I wouldn't recommend someone building a system from the ground up for music production to go for Linux, but for someone who's already a long-time Linux user, it is now finally possible to do music production at a non-toyish level without switching OSes.
As a side note, loads of audio "devices" (synths, grooveboxes, etc.) these days are just ARM devices running a modified Linux audio stack.
Audio system: JACK
DAW: Ardour 5
Pianos: PianoTeq 6 (proprietary)
Drum machine: Hydrogen
The lack of good drum kits and patterns is my current pain point.
I haven't tried Reaper or Bitwig on Linux yet, but they should be decent if you are willing to use proprietary software.
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 USB soundcard that I use is a class-compliant USB audio device and I've never had trouble with it.
LMMS is good though. I must have made 200+ songs in it before switching to Reaper. I could get by with LMMS and the included synths if I had to. It makes me wish Reaper supported LV2.
If anything, LMMS has the rough edges. The interface lacks polish and consistency. There are some awkward things about using it (why do I have to make a blank bar before I copy and paste a bar into it?). And I've noticed some glitchy behavior - for instance, I just made a ZynAddSubFX patch that sounded different as a plugin in LMMS than when I used it in Zyn's own application. Strange behavior like that, but fortunately it's rare.
But all that considered, LMMS is still great, and I appreciate the work it's authors put into it. I don't think of it as a daw; more of a sequencer. But if your music is 100% digital synths and samples, it serves all your needs.
Right now I'm using: LMMS (sequencer), Ardour (daw), JAMin (mastering suite), and Audacity (swiss army knife). I like Reaper. I've used ableton live many times, and I still don't get it - I guess the workflow is optimized for live mixing? I found it less than ideal for recording in a studio.
I recommend against this kind of framing. It comes off as judgmental. My mental models form based on my needs and experience. They're just as valid as your mental models, needs, and experience. Your way of seeing my perspective leads to faulty assumptions about my experience and models.
>> "I would agree, re: rough edges, if we were talking about Ardour 2 or 3, which both missed some important features and weren't as stable as I'd like. But in the last few years, ardour has improved. I do most of my work in it now."
I tried 5 from Mint's repos. Yesterday. I try every version to see if it'll work for me. Ardour continues to be critically lacking for me, based on my needs. Take a step back any time you want to assume someone's view is based on not knowing something you know. It's much more likely you don't know what they know.
Except that the workflow for e.g. Live or FL Studio or Bitwig is entirely different from the workflow for e.g. ProTools or Logic or Ardour.
So the extent that your needs and experience dictate a Live-style workflow, then sure, you're right. But if you don't actually know what you're doing or alternatively actually need the linear-timeline recording model of PT/Ardour, then there's no judgement here, just a correct observation.
What I mean by mental models: Some producers rely on their favorite DAW's workflow. I'd never tell someone to ditch the DAW they're more productive in.
This is not a judgement. I'm not implying you don't "get" Ardour. On the contrary, I'm endorsing your approach: choose the DAW that meets your needs.
I said Ardour had improved a lot for me. I never said it would work for you. My comment was for the benefit of other people here. Giving a counterexample to your experience. No DAW is good for everyone. Ardour doesn't work for you. It does work for me. And if someone's looking for a DAW, I think Ardour is worth trying. I wouldn't tell you to try it.
And you already know it doesn't work for you, so you don't need to try again. I support you in sticking to the tools that you're most productive in. Nothing is more annoying than someone dictating what tools you use to do your job.
Also where do you get audio samples for LMMS? This is mostly my dilemma.
LMMS also has its own percussion synth.
As for samples, Echo Sound Works sends out occasional freebie packs on their newsletter. Their samples are usually good.
Black Octopus Sound has a huge sampler pack that you can use in commercial stuff.
Also keep an eye out for SFX packs around GDC (Game Developers Conference). Sonniss publishes one every year. You can probably find the (legit, official) torrents for past years.
True. But I have little tip for you: There's an experimental feature in Carla that lets you use Plug-Ins that rely on wine. Currently I use this feature with MT Power Drum Kit (decent sounding - still not ideal) and some other free Plug-Ins.
But I will agree that this increases the fiddling and virtual wiring. As Carla is able to save all that, it's still quite handy.
By the way: I use the Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6, works like a charm (and only uses hardware switches).
Do you use Gen1 or Gen2 of the Scarlett? - I've heard of some issues with Gen2.
Edit: I use the drums for making Metal music. Might not be ideal for other genres.
I use the Gen1 Scarlett 2i4 and have also heard that later generations have some issues. My understanding is that the latest generation Sclarett devices are class-compliant USB audio devices but also rely on vendor software to enable certain features.
If you mean electronic drum samples, and are on a Ubuntu-based distro, give Sitala a shot:
I looking for acoustic drums that have multi-layer samples so you can get the dynamics and detail of a real drum kit. A basic sampler instrument plays the same sample at different velocities (volume levels). Advanced samplers have multi-layered sample libraries so there are separate samples for different velocity levels and other nuances (they even have scripting engines so sample library authors can add logic for selecting which samples to play).
Now that Reaper is available on Linux this has changed for me! I record on Linux all the time now.
There are fewer plugins. You still have to wrestle with jack / pulse. There are other warts but it is a vast improvement. :)
I've tried numerous packges, and MIDI devices etc. and I agree that things can be hard and decisions like "do I set up low latency kernel etc." have implications if you're using your machine for work other than music production, but I think things are better.
I've tried Bitwig with external midi keyboard, USB keyboards, and Ableton Push - It's probably not my suggested setup for most musicians, but it's not a bad one.
Because Bitwig for example is amazing, and it supports Mac/Win/Linux - but I haven't used it outside windows. I'd worry about sound drivers and plugin support (I doubt plugin makers spend a lot of time on linux GUI support) but I'd trust the core functionality to be the same across all platforms.
(Nobody really uses WASAPI. They should, though. It's great.)
A little work to get it set up but nothing difficult.
It isn't ready for prime time yet, but the long-term goal on the audio side is to replace both PulseAudio and Jack.
I also had some cases / user projects where it was much more important to have maximum performance than guarantees of not crashing.
I can say, though, Studio is a huge step up from trying to get this sort of thing working in stock Ubuntu.
Good to know your side on it though. I think that might be the best thing till someone streamlines some of these libraries / programs is to focus on a Distro that makes it as seamless as possible, and push the fixes back to the original projects.
I want to say the main problems are: having to set up Jack and switch between that and PA - why isn't there one sound system? - the whole USB midi routing situation, software with obscure UIs, and software that crashes. Apart from the first one these are all fairly easily solvable.
These days I mostly write stuff using synths. The Deluge for example has enough built in that you don't need to use a DAW at all.