studio diary: music on linux

My five year plan (which is about four years ahead of schedule) is to move all my art and music production to a PC running Linux.
I made some progress this week getting my music studio set up. Linux Mint is a great all-purpose operating system but is not particularly "professional audio friendly."
So I've been getting a USB audio card to work with Ardour (essentially Linux's version of Cubase). There is a tricky interaction of drivers for the hardware, a low-latency streaming/connection protocol called JACK, and Ardour itself. I had to adjust the CPU governor to allow for maximum speed, which took a couple of hours of reading forums and watching out-of-date YouTube tutorials.
I'm hoping by later this week (or next) I'll have a new Moog Concertmate piece done using Linux instead of Windows for sequencing, recording and mixing. If I never mention it again it means I didn't get it working.
Hat tip to Joel Cook for suggestions and letting me vent in emails.

"Oh This Moog"


A new music track:
"Oh This Moog" [mp3 removed -- please listen on Bandcamp]

A friend lent me his Concertmate MG-1, which works amazingly well for a 35 year old analog instrument.The image above is from Vintage Synth Explorer, which explains:

The MG-1 was built by Moog for Realistic (Radio Shack), and was designed specifically for the home market. Very basic and easy to use, this is a nice cheap way to get your hands on Moog sounds!

The MG-1 is a 2-VCO monophonic/polyphonic analog synth with a genuine 24dB/oct Moog filter, however the overall sound is thin. On the MG-1, the VCOs are referred to as 'Tone Generators'. It can produce sawtooth, square and pulse waveforms, and the oscillators are detunable and syncable. A simple ASR (attack, sustain, release) envelope called 'Contour' can be applied to both the amp and the filter. The LFO section provides triangle or square wave patterns as well as Sample-and-Hold. Additionally there is a simple Ring-Mod effect called 'Bell'.

It doesn't have MIDI control so I was forced to play the keyboard. That got old fast so I used the MIDI-to-CV converter in my modular synth to drive the pitch and gate controls in the back of the Concertmate. The MIDI and hand-played parts were overdubbed in Cubase for "Oh This Moog." No other sounds were used -- this is all Realistic Moog.