That is until this beautiful age of electronic freedom... where there has been made available some of the most amazing free software and computer operating systems that promote it. For me it started when a friend of mine turned me on to a free computer program called Audacity. All I needed was a microphone and I had a basic recording system on my old Mac G4. I proceeded to learn how to record myself and made a few demo tracks which sounded okay... but I longed for something a bit more technically advanced.
Enter the free (not only as in freedom... but also as in completely free... it won't cost you a thing) world of Ubuntu. Ubuntu is a free open source computer operating system which is absolutely incredible. I am ever so grateful for the creators of this, as they are doing not only artists and musicians a favor, but they are also doing humanity a favor.
Since my old Mac G4 just couldn't seem to keep up with the demands of the new midi box hardware that I bought recently, I decided I was going to build my own computer. While shopping around online, I found a place called TigerDirect that had a barebones kit for about $500 bucks. It didn't come with a CPU cooler but I bought a liquid-cooled one with a radiator on it. It ended up needing an extra cooling fan but altogether that only cost me about another hundred bucks, and about $30 for a computer toolkit. On the good side... this is a computer which is a Quad-Core AMD 64-bit processor with 8GB of Ram, HDMI and a 750GB hard drive. It was a great deal actually and was surprisingly easy to put together. It certainly doesn't take a rocket scientist... just a bit of googling and one will have a fair grasp on it.
So basically I was planning on making the 'big switch'. My dream of having an artist's computer was going to have to fall into the hands of the PC. Was I no longer going to be a Mac? I was sad but had optimism... as I only had to invest a few hundred bucks to have this new 'supercomputer'... and I was hoping that Windows had the right system for me.. without too much worry of viruses or crashes... as I had experienced before with Windows. I was hoping that Windows 7 held the key to a low-budget recording system and artist's studio computer. One day I was on the phone with my stepdad and he is a computer tech for a school district near Newport Beach. He told me that some friends of his were telling him about a free operating system they were using called Ubuntu and they seemed to like it so I thought that before I go out and spend a couple hundred dollars on the new Windows 7, maybe I should check it out. What have I got to lose? I could always wipe the hard drive and install it later if I didn't like the Ubuntu system. So I decided to download it onto my Mac so I could burn it onto an installation DVD. I experimented with a few different versions for a few days and finally ended up going with the version of 10.04 which is referred to as Lucid Lynx. It is a Linux based system and is very similar to a Mac. Very user friendly and incredibly fun and it looks great too! My computer is lightning fast and it works amazing with the free recording and effects packages I downloaded completely free from their list of available free applications.
I am using the Ardour Digital Audio Workstation with my Lexicon Alpha Midi box, which is quite amazing and resembles Protools. It is pretty much all I will ever need for recording software. It can also utilize many of the LADSPA Plugins as well as Rakarrack guitar effects and works well with the Rosegarden synth/music making program as well. There are also many available packages to install which are part of the Ubuntu Studio edition. You can either install Ubuntu Studio or go for another system and install the Studio options later.
I have also been satisfying my desire to make beats with the free drum sequencer program called Hydrogen. It is also available free for Mac systems as well. Hydrogen is super fun and has some drumkits available (also free) which include Roland 303, 808, and 909 kits and some great acoustic, hip-hop, and house ones as well. All-around an amazing thing that is also easy to use. Much easier than Reason... although Reason is a complete studio where as this is just a drum sequencer.
The free program Rakarrak has about 80 presets and some are pretty darn cool. It also allows one to tweak the settings in all kinds of ways so there are an infinite number of sounds.
So finally the day has come. I am just getting setup with this whole system.. which not only has a great array of free music programs but artist's drawing and design programs... 3D design programs... film and photo editing... Open Office... which is Oracle's free office suite which rival the Microsoft Office suite quite well.
It still amazes me that his incredible gift is available free to humanity. I give the makers of these things much praise in their noble efforts to further the development of human creativity and exploration.
I am not saying here that Mac and Protools are not good. They have been the industry standard for years, and have a plethora of incredibly amazing hardware and software options. But with those comes a hefty price tag. Ubuntu is a great option for those who want an affordable solution. It offers a very nice array of music and art programs, as well as design and professional programs. The interface is quite easy to use, and the free software database is quite large.
If you have any questions about Ubuntu or how to setup your computer... feel free to send me an email and I will do my best to help you. I am just learning myself... but have got a very cool system now that I want to be able to share with the world. This is how to have an amazing and free home studio setup for a fraction of the cost of other methods.
Meaning of Ubuntu:
"A traveler through a country would stop at a village and he didn't have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?" - Nelson Mandela