The Salamander Grand Piano, and LinuxSampler CVS

NOTE: The link below was to an older version of the Salamander, so the link now goes to a download page that lists the latest version. Also, LinuxSampler isn’t as temperamental as it once was when it comes to loading SFZ files, so you don’t have to follow the instructions below to the letter any more — just add a sampler channel, set it to SFZ mode, and load the SFZ file, and you should be good to go.

After a bit of a wait, what’s perhaps the ultimate free piano sample library, the Salamander Grand Piano is available! One of the guys on the linux-audio-user spent I’d-hate-to-think-how-long recording every note on a Yamaha C5 grand at 16 different volume levels with a pair of stereo mics, and the result — all 1.9GB of it — sounds lovely.

Getting it running, however, is a bit fiddly right now. Due partly to its heft, it’s distributed in SFZ format, instead of the more common GigaSample “.GIG” format. Linuxsampler supports SFZ in CVS, but it’s buggy, and the instrument needs to be set up just right to load without crashing Linuxsampler. Once you’ve installed Linuxsampler from CVS — a bit of effort, but fairly straightforward, especially since it comes with Debian package scripts — follow these steps, in order, to get the Salamander up and running:
Continue reading

linux synth tutorial: part 6

Another long one! In part 6, I jump from Xsynth to Specimen, a simple sampler, which is ideal for when you want to take a simple sound and quickly transform it in to a playable instrument. Specimen does much more than just playing samples, though — it can sculpt and shape them with envelopes, filters, and LFOs, just like you’d find in Xsynth.

Hi-res Ogg Theora version is here, or watch the Youtube version after the jump!

Continue reading

linux synth tutorial: part 5

In part 5 of my Linux soft synth tutorial, I look at the concept of modulation — changing synth parameters over time. We saw an example of this in part 4, where we used an envelope to control the volume of a sound over time; modulation extends this to other parameters, such as the pitch of the oscillators and the filter cutoff. Modulation can use envelopes to change parameters over the length of the sound — in fact, there’s a second envelope in Xsynth-DSSI just for modulation — or the low frequency oscillator, or LFO, to perform repeating rhythmic changes.

Modulation can produce effects ranging from subtle vibrato through to sweeping soundscapes and alien sound effects. Either way, it’s a powerful way to breathe life and movement in to what might otherwise be a dull sound.

High-res Ogg Theora version is here, or watch the Youtube version after the jump!

Continue reading

linux synth tutorial: part 4

In part 4 of my Linux soft synth tutorial, I look at Xsynth-DSSI’s amplifier section, and particularly the “envelope”, which defines how the volume of your sound changes over time. By tweaking the envelope, you can make your sounds fade in and out softly, hit hard and then slowly fade like a piano, or come on strong and then disappear just as quickly, like a xylophone.

High-res Ogg Theora version is here, or watch the Youtube version after the jump!

Continue reading

linux synth tutorial: part 3

In part 3 of my Linux soft synth tutorial, I look at the next major component of the traditional analogue synth — the filter. The filter… uhh… filters the sound from the oscillators, typically cutting away at the high frequencies; the effects range from the subtle to the drastic, especially once you start tweaking that “resonance” parameter. In fact, analog synthesis is sometimes called “subtractive synthesis”, due to the way the filter cuts away parts of the sound.

High-res Ogg Theora version is here, or watch the Youtube version after the jump!

Continue reading

linux synth tutorial: part 2

In part 2 of my Linux soft synth tutorial, I look at the oscillators in Xsynth-DSSI, the different kinds of sounds they can produce, and some of the ways they can be combined to create more interesting sounds. The oscillators create the raw synth sound, before it’s shaped by the filter and amplifier, so it’s more responsible than any other part of the synth for the general timbre of your sound.

Again, if you’re on Chrome or Firefox, or you just want to download it for later viewing, you can grab a high-res Ogg Theora version here, or watch the Youtube version after the jump!

Continue reading

crisis aversion

I run a RAID array in my home theatre PC to store all of the media I’ve managed to accumulate over the years, and running it as a RAID array has come in handy once again, since I lost a hard drive over the weekend. It was one of the two 500GB drives I’d carried over from my old array, so instead of picking up a new 500GB drive to replace it, I replaced them both with a (sub-$100) 1TB drive.

Compared to the last time I had a drive fail, this replacement was a snap; I just shut down, removed the 500GB drives, added the new drive, and booted up. Once the system was running, it took just another minute or two to partition the new drive and add it in to the array. Total downtime: no more than 10 minutes. I do love it when things work as advertised 🙂

songbird

Songbird is an interesting creation — the result of cross-breeding an iTunes-style music player with a modern web browser. It’s based on the Mozilla XULRunner platform (you can essentially read that as “it’s based on Firefox”), and that’s probably partly responsible for its lust for resources (while running, it likes to use ~30% of one CPU on my laptop), but you’d be surprised just how useful it can be to have the power of a web browser in your music player.

There’s perhaps no better example than the mashTape extension. It appears as a bar along the bottom of the Songbird window, and when you play a track, it automatically pulls in related information from all over the web: artist info and a discography from last.fm and Wikipedia, photos from Flickr, videos from YouTube, reviews from Amazon… you get the idea. The LyricMaster extension pulls in lyrics in much the same way.

The other really neat example, which I only just discovered, is website streaming. Just like in Firefox, you can hit Ctrl-T in Songbird to open a browser tab, and while I wouldn’t use it for general browsing, it’s very handy if you have a page that’s full of links to MP3s. When you open such a page, Songbird detects the links and lists them in a playlist panel at the bottom of the window, where you can play them using the standard Songbird controls, or download them to your library with a click. It even fetches the tags from the files in the background, so while it only lists filenames at first, it soon fills in the full details.

As you’d expect, Songbird also has quite complete last.fm support — it’ll scrobble your tracks for you, and also give you access to your streaming radio. If you’re a music junkie, and you’re not wedded to your current player, Songbird is definitely worth a look.