Hari's Corner

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Rosegarden: Compose Music in Linux

Filed under: Software and Technology by Hari
Posted on Thu, Nov 1, 2007 at 18:15 IST (last updated: Thu, May 7, 2009 @ 21:14 IST)

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If you are a budding/amateur music composer like me or you just need to vent your creative energies into music, Linux has the best tools in the business to get the job done. I've looked around every corner of the web and I couldn't find a MIDI sequencer/composer better than Rosegarden. It does have a bit of a learning curve and you'll need to learn how to use the score editor (or the piano roll) to make sequences but once you master that, it's a bit of a breeze to put together a wonderful little song. I know there are other MIDI sequencers and trackers, but in my opinion, nothing comes close to the stability and configurability of this program.

Rosegarden screenshot

I've always been fond of Trackers, ever since I used MIDITracker under Windows but I couldn't find one which was stable and feature-rich like it, so I decided to go with this program instead. And once I found my way around the piano roll, composing music is as simple as drag and drop.

Of course, you need to set up MIDI on your Linux system first, but I've already covered that in past articles. You can either go with TiMidity or use qsynth (a GUI front-end to fluidsynth). Of course, you need good sound patches or sound fonts.

You can download sound fonts for use with qsynth/fluidsynth at HammerSound.net or you can get the EAW patches for use with TiMidity. I don't have any particular preference for either, so use whichever one works for you. Make sure you download a GM-compatible set if you intend to share your work with others.

Here's a sample piece I composed in Rosegarden (MIDI format):

Download: new-creme-1.mid (18.9 kB, ~2 min)

Don't ask me why I named it New Creme 1. :p Note that it is copyright material, so please don't use it for any purpose other than personal enjoyment without informing me. ;)

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7 comment(s)

  1. I listened to the midi file, Hari. It's an interesting composition. I noticed you changed voices a couple of times without going back to the original and still made it flow. Good job.

    Comment by RT Cunningham (visitor) on Fri, Nov 2, 2007 @ 18:48 IST #
  2. By the way, I've been purposely offline for more than a day while I gathered my thoughts about a rebuttal to a post on a particular website. I'll have it up on my blog shortly.

    Comment by RT Cunningham (visitor) on Fri, Nov 2, 2007 @ 18:49 IST #
  3. thanks, RT. By the way, if you want a MP3 or OGG version of that song which I converted using TiMidity, I'll send it to you by e-mail. I used the EAW patches set, which I found gives a reasonable instrument set. It also uses the less CPU than SoundFonts.

    The default Microsoft MIDI mapper on Windows sounds horrible, by the way.

    Comment by hari (blog owner) on Fri, Nov 2, 2007 @ 19:05 IST #
  4. The AirFont soundfont I use for my SoundBlaster Live! actually sounds a lot worse the the windows MIDI mapper. At least the windows MIDI mapper sounds like an old NES or non-color Gameboy tune. Hearing it, I feel somewhat inspired to make a dungeon crawler with that playing in the background.

    Comment by tim (visitor) on Sat, Nov 10, 2007 @ 00:05 IST #
  5. Thanks Tim! :)

    Comment by hari (blog owner) on Sat, Nov 10, 2007 @ 05:54 IST #
  6. I'm very new to this program and i need help with is to make the music come out like when i click on the electric piano 2 then I click on the right side (in this picture above where the green strip is)
    music does not come out at all

    I'm very confused help plz:D

    Comment by Brannon (visitor) on Sun, Sep 14, 2008 @ 00:39 IST #
  7. Brannon, Rosegarden is quite an impressive, feature rich program, but it has a learnign curve. Explaining its usage is beyond the scope of this blog, but I can point you in the right direction.

    To get help with rosegarden and its usage,

    If your question is not answered there try the official mailing lists:


    (note: I'm not aware of how active the community is or how helpful it is, either)

    Comment by hari (blog owner) on Sun, Sep 14, 2008 @ 21:39 IST #

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