Recording Loops in Ubuntu Studio 19

Discussion in 'Recording In Progress' started by Digital Larry, Oct 5, 2019.

  1. Digital Larry

    Digital Larry Tele-Afflicted Gold Supporter

    May 30, 2017
    Silicon Valley, CA
    Using Linux for musical purposes is not the easiest ride. I've tried off and on for a number of years, and tried again in the last month to see what the current tools are. One thing to note is that there are now relatively full featured DAW programs such as Ardour, Reaper, Mixbus, etc. which are identical AFAIK to the versions offered for Mac and Windows (though there may be platform specific plugin formats).

    Linux offers the ability to try out a number of different tools. I had something very specific in mind when I started, which was to try to come up with a simplified workflow for recording guitar and bass loops along with the ability to work out drum parts at the same time. I don't want to start with a pre-recorded beat beyond a metronome (although this varies). But I REALLY never want to audition drum loops again.

    I came down to a setup that worked fairly well, which I'll describe.

    #1 SooperLooper is the looping engine.
    #2 Hydrogen is the drum machine
    #3 Ardour, although it is a DAW, was mostly used for mixing and adding effects.

    I used "Claudia" to manage all the JACK audio connections, which is a real time saver.

    I used QJackCtl to manage certain MIDI connections. Linux has multiple MIDI standards, e.g. ALSA and JACK and sometimes it is necessary to bridge between them.

    I used the Macmillen Softstep MIDI footpedal to control everything. SooperLooper's MIDI mapping feature makes setting this up pretty easy.

    So I'd start by setting Hydrogen to be JACK Timing Master and use JACK Transport mode.
    Set SooperLooper to sync to Jack, set the 8ths/cycle to however many 8th notes you want in your loop, set Quantize to Cycle, check "Sync" and "Play Sync".
    Now you can enter a beat into Hydrogen. As Hydrogen runs you should be able to see SooperLooper's "tap" button flashing at tempo.
    Now you can press "Record" on the SooperLooper track and it will start recording at the next cycle boundary.

    Next you can add more tracks and build them up similarly, or go back to Hydrogen and flesh out the drum part to sound good with your bass or guitar riffs. This was really the entire goal, to allow the recording of a synchronized guitar riff and then make the drum part subservient to that.

    I came up with a good half dozen ideas fairly quickly this way. My reference for ease of use is a hardware looper or Quantiloop on iPad (once it's set up).

    The downsides:
    - Hydrogen doesn't have a concept of time signature

    - Hydrogen will let you build up multi-layer parts into a "song" but you cannot export this as MIDI. Only the smaller individual patterns can be exported as MIDI.

    - I had to change SooperLooper's 8ths/cycle so that subsequent loop recordings would sync with the 1st loop. e.g. suppose that the reference drum beat is 4 bars long, but I record an audio loop over that which goes for 16 bars. I want to make sure that the next loops I record sync on the 16 bar boundary so they don't get out of sync if for example I started recording halfway through.

    - There's no good way to trim loops on beat/cycle boundaries. You can save a loop as a WAV file and open it in Audacity, but Audacity doesn't have a concept of temp or time signature, so you'd have to do a bunch of time calculations to see where to trim a loop.

    - Jumping around between 3 different apps isn't the smoothest workflow

    - Ardour seemed to crash semi frequently

    - Having come up with some audio loops, drum parts, and mixer settings, there's no simple way to save all of that to a single file. I believe there is a program "non session manager" that claims to do this, but it's yet another thing you have to mess with and doesn't necessarily work perfectly either.

    If anyone has questions about this specific setup, let me know. I think I'm done for the time being with recording on Linux, because one big goal was to make it all simpler, and at least at this point, I don't think I've accomplished that.
  2. wabashslim

    wabashslim Tele-Holic

    Nov 26, 2005
    Sonorous Desert
    I gave up the idea of going 100% Windows-free someday and recording was the biggie, but not the only reason. Too many cooks stirring the Linux pot, tossing in their own ingredients which makes for anything but "simple". I don't experiment with it much anymore.
  3. bluzkat

    bluzkat Tele-Holic

    Feb 20, 2011
    I quit messing with Linux years ago. I've used Windows since Windows for Workgroups. Now I have way too much Windows based audio software to consider anything else. Wasn't happy about giving up Windows 7, but I haven't had any problems with Windows 10.
  4. Digital Larry

    Digital Larry Tele-Afflicted Gold Supporter

    May 30, 2017
    Silicon Valley, CA
    It's a bit of a shame, I did really like the way SooperLooper operates but the rest of it is pretty unwieldy. Apparently SL can run as a plugin on a Mac... and I do have a MacBook. Maybe during some future manic episode I'll try it.
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