A complete audio production workflow with Muse and Ardour


Audio production with Muse and Ardour is a 6 part video tutorial showing a complete workflow using FLOSS audio tools.

In this tutorial you will learn how to import, clean up and edit a MIDI file using MusE. It then goes on to show how to import the MIDI file into Ardour and setting up instruments to play the song.

On to guitar recording and audio editing in Ardour, selecting sounds and editing the takes.

The tutorial continues with vocal recording and editing, mixing and mastering the song.

The tutorial was created by Michael Oswald (music, blog). Michael has based this tutorial on the Dream Theater song “Surrounded” from the “Images and Words” album. The song has tempo changes, meter changes, piano, synths, drums, bass and guitar as well as vocals.

Part 1 - Importing, cleaning up and editing a MIDI file in MusE

Tools used: MusE, fluidsynth, Carla, DrumGizmo.

Part 2 - Setup of Ardour, assignment of instruments and sounds

Importing the MIDI file into Ardour, setup of instruments, handling routings and working with tracks.

Tools used: Ardour, Drumgizmo, LinuxSampler, Yoshimi, Carla, Samsara OMB2 (free but non-FLOSS).

Part 3 - Guitar recording, tone selection

Guitar recording including tone selection, followed by audio editing for working with several takes.

Tools used: Ardour, Carla, TSE808 (free but non-FLOSS), LeCto (free but non-FLOSS), LeCab (free but non-FLOSS), Sperimental Impulses (free but non-FLOSS).

Part 4 - Vocal recording and editing

Vocal recording including preparation in Ardour, recording, vocal editing by combining several takes as well as pitch correction.

Tools used: Ardour, Calf Plugins, Zita-AT1.

Part 5 - Mixing preparation, mixing

Preparation for mixing in Ardour, then on to mixing in Ardour using a bunch of plugins to shape the sound. How to use compressors, stereo wideners, delays, reverbs as well as fader automation. Exporting for mastering.

Tools used: Ardour, Calf Plugins, Distrho Plugins, Infamous Plugins, IR.

Part 6 - Mastering, alternatives to free plugins, concluding remarks

Mastering in Ardour using different plugins as well as exporting the mix.

As this tutorial includes the use of some free (but non-FLOSS) tools, this part also discusses FLOSS alternatives.

It ends with some concluding remarks as well as a final listen-through of the song.

Tools: Ardour, Calf Plugins, Luftikus, EQ10Q, CS10QM, LinuxSampler, Guitarix.

The finished song

Surrounded - Dream Theater cover featuring Susanne Wallner

More music by Michael Oswald.


Thanks a lot Michael, I like how by running the whole process, you learn a ton about all the small things : tracks "printing" to lower cpu usage, using linuxsampler and drumgizmo, using zita AT1 from inside Ardour, editing rhythm mistakes... I can't wait for your Queen rendition ;) Thanks again !

Hi Edouard, Thanks! Yes, I thought this is actually something that was missing, in the tutorials, a complete workflow. Actually, I finished the first test-mix of the Queen song on Saturday, so it will be out soon.

Hi Michael, Thanks a lot for your high quality set of videos. I went through the full process and I've learn really a lot. Now it's time to put it in practice. BTW, do you know if some professional artists (mainstream) are starting to use Linux to their productions? I'm convinced that the final quality is the same, probably working on Linux takes a path a bit more longer than Window$ or Mac based productions. Cheers! Pablo

Hi Pablo, Thanks! Currently I don't know anyone using Linux in professional mainstream. Though quite some people use Harrison Mixbus for mixing which basically is an Ardour with a lot of stuff added from Harrison, because of it's sound (it models their consoles). But I suspect they will mostly use Windows and Mac versions of it, since I heard that some use Pro Tools to record the stuff and then mix it in Mixbus. Since the current development versions of Ardour have now the possibility to import Pro Tools sessions, the inter-operation with studios running Pro Tools will now be much better, so this could be a real game changer, especially for home and project studios. So thanks a again for watching, do a lot of practice, make a lot of mistakes (because this is how you learn best) and happy recording!

Hi Michael, thank you for your great tutorial! It's an incredible help for an ardour beginner like me. But there there is one question i can't get out of my mind. Why the hell have you chosen THIS song for the tutorial? You have some really awesome songs on soundcloud! Probably it's just my taste, but if you ever find the time to make a tutorial again, please use one of the more metal-electronic-darkish songs as example! Would be more even more inspiring for some guys like me.

Hi Marco, I actually thought about using one of my songs first. But this project was currently knocking on the door at the time and I also had no lyrics and vocalists for my songs. So I went with that.

Hi Michael, thanks a lot for this video series. Great tutorial and great result of the final track. I was producing with ardour for quite some time by now and I still learned a lot by watching. Just some thoughts: Heavily increasing of the loudness with a limiter in the end of the mastering process seems somehow fucked up to my ears. This seems very destructive to the good work you did before. Is this really the way to go? Wouldn't a compressor do a more gentle job? What's the DR value of the final mix? I guess it's far away from a desired value of 10-14dB. What I'm still missing for professional production in Linux is software for pitch correction like Melodyne. The pushing around of single notes in the time domain should also be possible in the frequency domain. I found Zita-AT1 to be OK only for slight corrections. If the singer is further away from the desired pitch it can't help. Even if you trigger it with a MIDI-track. But again very great series. Hope to see more.

In modern music it is very usual to use limiters. And yes, they squash the sound, depending on a lot of variables. Basically everything you get currently is often heavily limited. You can't do that with a compressor, you need the brickwall limiting in order not to come over 0 dB. It is also not my usual mastering chain in the video, since I do then something like compression -> clipper -> limiter. Then it is not that much squashed. I didn't measure the dynamic range, the new versions of Ardour provide the values automatically at export. Yes, Zita-AT1 is quite limited in what you can do with it. I also would like a lot more things like Melodyne or Autotune. I would also add high quality reverbs to the list of things currently missing on linux.

Thank you, man! Very very useful. Every day I´m more and more surprised by the Linux community. Cheers from Argentina!

I can't thank you enough for this! Truly outstanding resource to people starting, like myself. I learned quite a lot from watching these videos and will forever be in your debt. :-) P.S.: Can you record with the Helix via USB?