Using Rosegarden on Linux

Rosegarden is a sequence-editor, and audio editor that I've been using for as long as I've been using Linux (since 2006). A sequence-editor is like a word-processor for music. Rosegarden is primarily supported on Linux.

It lets you go beyond what is provided with the KeyMusician Keyboard MIDI Player/Recorder, in that you can do a lot more with your recordings, including the use of audio tracks. You can also use it to print the music in your MIDI tracks, or even create a MIDI music track by entering the music-notation notes.

Here's how they describe Rosegarden, and what it is used for, on their web-site:


Rosegarden needs JACK (QJackCtl) for using audio tracks, and works well with Qsynth as a software synthesizer, even on a very slow, 455 megahertz machine! It can also host DSSI software instrument plug-ins (a Linux equivalent of VST instrument plug-ins).

If you have an older machine with a Soundblaster Live sound-card (having hardware-synthesizers), it works extremely well with that, as well, even providing for loading the soundfont into the sound-card.

Though Rosegarden is primarily designed for music recording, it also works well for live-performance. It's relatively easy to export an audio file from a recorded MIDI sequence, and you can also import a WAV format audio file into it as an audio track.

It works on all of the computers that I test with, including the slowest ones.

As with any full-featured software package, there are a lot of features to configure, and learn. Fortunately, Rosegarden has a good set of tutorials and help information on The Rosegarden Web-Site.

If you install the “Extra Suggested Dependencies”, from the KeyMusician Keyboard “Installing on Linux” page , you will get Rosegarden, as well as anything you might want to use along with it. It is in the Ubuntu repository, which is where the dependencies packages get it from if you're using Ubuntu.

Years ago, it was hard to use the KeyMusician Keyboard with Rosegarden, because the chords and melody are sent on different MIDI channels, and for practicing with it, it would only play a single (highlighted) MIDI channel. That meant the chords and melody had to use the same instrument sound during practice (though it could sort them out in recording).

But since then, they've kept improving Rosegarden, to where you can now use a separate MIDI channel for each performance pane, and even implement composite voices, without the need for multiple Qsynth 'engines'!

There are a number of essential tricks I learned in using it with the KeyMusician Keyboard, and in this article, I'm passing those tricks along to you.

Preparing To Use Rosegarden

Though you could use other synthesizers, or even a sound-card with hardware-synthesizers, you'll probably be using Qsynth for the synthesizer. And since Rosegarden needs JACK (QJackCtl) for using audio files, you'll need to install, and set-up these components before using Rosegarden.

If you installed either the “Normal” dependencies, or the “Extras” dependencies, you will already have JACK (qjackctl) and Qsynth (qsynth) installed. Otherwise, you need to install them now from the repository.

Having installed them, you need to configure them.

First, go to the following member page, and scroll down to the “Setting-Up Qsynth To Run On Your System” section. Follow the directions there, to configure Qsynth, except don't configure it to use PulseAudio – keep its default of using JACK. Here's the link:

Improving Your Linux System

Then, follow the instructions for configuring JACK and Qsynth (from the Improving Your Linux System member-pages) by clicking the following link:

Configuring JACK And Qsynth

If you have a slow machine, you will also have to follow the instructions for optimizing your system, in the “If You Still Get Audio Drop-Outssection near the end of the web-page accessed by the above link.

If you already had JACK and Qsynth set up, and had a patch-bay activated for connecting Qsynth with the KeyMusician Keyboard, it will be a good idea to de-activate that patch-bay, because you'll need different connections when using Rosegarden.

Before Starting-Up Rosegarden

Before you start Rosegarden, first start the components it needs to use, namely, JACK (QJackCtl), and Qsynth (the software synthesizer). You need to do this each time you start Rosegarden.

If you use these components a lot, you may want to put a desktop launcher on your desktop for them (including Rosegarden), rather than accessing them through the menu.

Bring those components up now.

A KMK Configuration For Rosegarden

I have supplied a KeyMusician Keyboard configuration file, optimized for using Rosegarden, including composite-voices.

You can download it by right-clicking the link below, and choosing “Save Link As” (or something similar your browser presents) from the pop-up menu that appears.

Rosegarden-0.kmk

Using your file browser, copy the above file from your Downloads folder, to your KeyMusician-Keyboard folder, and it will appear in the drop-box of configuration files that can be loaded, the next time you bring up the KeyMusician Keyboard.

Now, fire-up the KeyMusician Keyboard, and select that configuration file in the “Configuration File” drop-box, as shown in the screen-shot below.

If it ever warns you about trying to run the Java Sound Synthesizer at the same time as JACK, tell it you don't want it to use the Java Sound Synthesizer. Those two components can't be run together.

This configuration for the most part uses the set of instruments I like to use with the FluidR3_GM sound-font.

It will respond to MIDI Program-Change message (just as it did when using the Java Sound Synthesizer), you can even have the chords pane use one MIDI channel, and all of the other melodic instruments use one other channel. The Drums pane must use MIDI channel 10.

I use MIDI channel 1 for the Chords performance pane, MIDI channel 10 for the Drums performance pane, and separate MIDI channels for each of the other performance panes.

For the most part, the MIDI channel number corresponds to the function-key number. The only exception is the F10 pane, which uses channel 11, because MIDI channel 10 is reserved for percussion in the General MIDI standard.

The “Instrument” drop-box works just like with the Java Sound Synthesizer.

Here is a screen-shot of the “F1 (Help/Setup)” pane, using the configuration you downloaded above:


Notice that the “MIDI Output To” drop-box specifies the “Midi Through Port-0” device. This is the ALSA internal MIDI interface. It uses this device so that it doesn't matter whether Rosegarden is brought up first, or the KeyMusician Keyboard is brought up first. The proper MIDI connections should be made to Rosegarden automatically.

Here are screen-shots of all of the performance panes in the configuration you downloaded above. Notice I have highlighted which MIDI channel each pane uses:


Notice that the “ASSIGNABLE” slider (mid right-pane, in all of these screen-shots except for the Drums pane) is set to “8-Balance”. This control lets you adjust the loudness of the background voice of the composite-voice, using the up and down arrow keys, while you are playing. It works this way because the qmidiroute configuration is translating the “8-Balance” control messages to “7-Volume” control messages to the background track.


































Before Starting-Up Rosegarden

Before you start Rosegarden, first make sure you have started the components it needs to use, namely, JACK (QJackCtl), and Qsynth (the software synthesizer). You need to do this each time you start Rosegarden. You should already have started them from an earlier step in this article.

If you use these components a lot, you may want to put a desktop launcher on your desktop for them (including Rosegarden), rather than accessing them through the menu.

Setting-Up Rosegarden

Although Rosegarden will probably work with your system without doing anything further, I recommend making a few changes that will help you later. You only have to do this once.

From Rosegarden's “Edit” menu, choose the “Preferences” entry. The “Configure Rosegarden” window will appear. In its left pane, click on the “MIDI” icon, and it will appear something like this:


It is probably a good idea to select the “Allow Reset All Controllers (CC 121)” check-box, as shown.

If you have an older desktop computer, with a Soundblaster Live sound-card, you would select the sound-font you want loaded at the bottom of the right pane, and select whether or not you want to load it by selecting (or clearing) the “Load SoundFont to SoundBlaster card at startup” check-box.

Then click on the “Audio” icon in the left pane, and the window will change to look something like this:


In the “Record audio files as” drop-box, select the “16-bit PCM WAV format (smaller files)” entry. Doing this will save you a lot of space if you record audio files. It will also save you from having to convert to/from WAV format, when importing audio from (or exporting audio to) an audio CD.

Configuring Rosegarden For The KeyMusician Keyboard

I have provided a Rosegarden Project file that works with the KMK configuration (and screen-shots) shown previously. It is set up pretty-much like what you are used to using with the Java Sound Synthesizer (and the FluidR3_GM sound-font).

But in addition to that, it will provide composite-voices. To keep things simple, we will start out without using composite-voices. Then, near the end of the article, we'll explain how to use that feature.

You can download this Rosegarden Project File by right-clicking the link below, and choosing “Save Link As” (or something similar your browser presents) from the pop-up menu that appears.

Rosegarden Project File Rosegarden-KMK.rg

After downloading it, copy it from your Downloads folder to where you would like to keep it (such as your home folder). After doing so, load it into Rosegarden, by clicking the "Open" tool-bar icon, or choosing "Open" from the "File" menu.

Here is a screen-shot of that project, when loaded into Rosegarden:


The Rosegarden main window, with the supplied (downloaded) file loaded

There are a lot of controls, and items in this picture. Notice that in the picture, the mouse cursor is positioned above one of the track titles, and Rosegarden responded by displaying a tool-tip (pale yellow background, with black text) box. By the way, you can double-click on the track titles to change them.

When Rosegarden is active, in the Rosegarden main window (not the screen-shot above), take the time to 'hover' your mouse cursor over any control in the window you're not sure-of as to its meaning.

The icons are meant to be intuitive, but intuition is different for every person. It's well worth taking the time now to learn what each control does.

One thing in particular to take note of, are the “Instrument Parameters” panel controls, in the lower part of the left pane. These controls set the initial values for each track (“F2 – Grand Piano” in the case of the screen-shot above).

If you will primarily be using the KeyMusician Keyboard with Rosegarden, you may want to save it as your default project. If you do, every time you create a new project, it will use the above settings. Notice that it is already setup to record from any and all performance panes of the Rosegarden‑0.kmk configuration file you downloaded earlier in the article.

The yellow 'indicator-lights' arming it for recording, also allow it to play the sound on any of those 'armed for recording' tracks, while you're just playing (not just when you're recording).

It won't record what you play on the KeyMusician Keyboard, unless you first click the “Record” tool-bar button (in the second row of tool-bar buttons – the one that's a filled-in red circle).

To save it as your default project, select “Save Current Document as Default Studio” from the “Studio” menu.

To start with, we are assuming that you are not using the composite-voices capabilities, and are just using the sounds you get from the KeyMusician Keyboard, and Qsynth, with nothing special added.

Before we start playing, or recording anything, we need to see if the correct MIDI devices are connected.

Click on the “Manage MIDI Devices” tool-bar icon (it looks like a short music keyboard highlighted with light-green on its right side). A window should appear looking something like this:


The “Manage MIDI Devices” window

For the “General MIDI Device”, selected in the top left pane, we are using the Qsynth1 input port, highlighted in the top right pane. If it isn't currently selected, click on the Qsynth1 entry in the top right pane to select it.

In the lower right pane, the “KMK Output” device should have the “Midi Through Port-0 (duplex)” device selected. If it isn't, click on the “KMK Output” device in the lower left pane (to select it), and then click on the “Midi Through Port-0 (duplex)” device in the lower right pane.

The reason we do this, is so that even if the KeyMusician Keyboard application isn't running (making its MIDI device un-available), it will still connect to the ALSA internal MIDI interface (Port-0), which is always available. You can thus bring up the KeyMusician Keyboard later, and what it needs for using Rosegarden will already be connected.

The “qMidiRoute” device will only be connected as shown above, when you are running the “qMidiRoute” application, which is required for using composite-voices (which we will tell you about later).

Where we're not using composite-voices yet, it would be good to select “qMidiRoute” in the lower left pane, and click on the “No port” entry in the lower right pane

Close the “Manage MIDI Devices” window (by clicking its “Close” button near its lower-right corner. If you made any changes, click the “Save” tool-bar button of the main Rosegarden window.

Testing To See If It All Works

With Rosegarden set up as shown above, you should be able to switch to the KeyMusician Keyboard main window, and start playing, both chords and melody.

Note: If you press keyboard keys to play notes when some other window (such as the Rosegarden window) has keyboard-focus, you are sending those key-strokes to that window, instead. The KeyMusician Keyboard window needs to have keyboard-focus in order to properly play music.

I usually minimize (iconify) the Rosegarden window once I've got it set up the way I want it (even having it recording). You can restore it by clicking on it in the task-bar (and then press the “Stop” button if recording).

As you play, listen to see if the chords are using the String Ensemble 1 sound, and the melody uses the instrument sound configured for whatever melody pane you are using. For the F2 pane, it is the “Bright Acoustic Piano” sound, for example.

Try playing in each of the function-key performance panes (F2 thru F10, and F12), making sure the instrument specified at the lower right of the KMK performance pane is what you hear through Rosegarden.

Then, click on the “Drums” performance pane, and verify you can play the various drum sounds, and also play chords at the same time.

The Rosegarden-KMK-Demo Project

You can download this Rosegarden Project File by right-clicking the link below, and choosing “Save Link As” (or something similar your browser presents) from the pop-up menu that appears.

Rosegarden Project File Rosegarden-KMK-Demo.rg

After downloading it, copy it from your Downloads folder to where you would like to keep it (such as your home folder). After doing so, load it into Rosegarden.

Here is a screen-shot of that project, when loaded into Rosegarden:


The Rosegarden Demo Project

If you had to make changes in the “Manage MIDI Devices” window (described earlier in the article), you may have to make those same changes for this project. Take care of that by clicking the “Manage MIDI Devices” tool-bar button, and doing what you did earlier, then click the “Save” tool-bar button to save those changes.

This project has a MIDI recording I created using it, recording to MIDI tracks 1 thru 14, using composite voices.

You should be able to click the “Play” button (in the 2nd row of tool-bar buttons), and hear it play. This sequence file will use the composite-voice sounds, even though you haven't set that up yet, because it was recorded that way into the demo project file's MIDI tracks.

In this piece, I improvised chords and melody, working my way through all the performance panes (except the “Drums” pane), and finally improvised with both hands on the melody section of the keyboard using the F2, and F3 performance panes, for a 'big finish'.

You can hear that piece here in your browser (as you're now reading the article), by clicking the link below:

Rosegarden Demo Music, by Aere

Composite-Voices, Using Rosegarden

The Rosegarden project files also provide composite-voices, similar to what I like to use on Linux (see the Composite-Voices newsletter article), if you choose to use it. This part of the article tells you how to use composite-voices, with Rosegarden. You can not only play music using composite voices, but also record tracks using them, as was done with the Rosegarden demo-project.

You need qmidiroute installed to use composite-voices. If you installed the “Normal”, or “Extras” dependencies, you should have qmidiroute installed already.

You need a configuration file for qmidiroute to use.

You can download this file, by right-clicking the link below, and choosing “Save Link As” (or something similar your browser presents) from the pop-up menu that appears.

qmidiroute config file: CV-Balance-RG-13-14.qmr

After downloading it, copy it from your Downloads folder to your home directory, where qmidiroute expects to load it from.

We supply another configuration file for qmidiroute, which allows you to use KMK configurations such as FluidR3_GM.kmk, which has all of the melody panes using MIDI channel 1, and the Chords pane using MIDI channel 2.

You can download this file, by right-clicking the link below, and choosing “Save Link As” (or something similar your browser presents) from the pop-up menu that appears.

qmidiroute config file: CV-Balance-RG-FluidR3_GM.qmr

After downloading it, copy it from your Downloads folder to your home directory, where qmidiroute expects to load it from.

To avoid having to manually load the qmidiroute configuration file, we have provided a desktop launcher file which will automatically load the CV-Balance-RG-13-14.qmr file (assuming it has been copied to your home directory).

You can download this desktop-launcher file, by right-clicking the link below, and choosing “Save Link As” (or something similar your browser presents) from the pop-up menu that appears.

Desktop launcher file: qmidiroute.desktop

After downloading it, copy it from your Downloads folder to the Desktop folder of your home directory. After doing that, you should see it on your desktop, and you can double-click on it to fire up qmidiroute and load the specified configuration file into it.

You may have to give the launcher execute-permission, or otherwise allow it to be used as a desktop launcher. Different Linux distributions have different requirements for this.

So, with everything else running (JACK, Qsynth, Rosegarden, and the KeyMusician Keyboard), use the desktop launcher to fire up qmidiroute.

If you can't get the qmidiroute desktop launcher to work, you can run qmidiroute from the menu, and then use its tool-bar to load the CV‑Balance‑RG‑13‑14.qmr file.

To make composite-voices work, you need to use JACK (QJackCtl) to connect the KMK-Output port to qmidiroute's input port. To do that, click JACK's “Connect” button, as shown in the screenshot below:


When you do that, a window like the following will appear:


Click the “Expand All” button, then select “KMK-Output” in the left pane, and qmidiroute's “in” port in the right pane. Then click the “Connect” button, as shown in the screen-shot above, and it will connect the two devices.

Since we didn't originally set up Rosegarden to use this, with the “Rosegarden-KMK.rg” file loaded into Rosegarden, click the “Manage MIDI Devices” toolbar button, and the “Manage MIDI Devices” window will appear, similar to the following screen-shot:


Assuming qmidiroute is running (because you want to use composite-voices), in the lower left pane, click the “qMidiRoute” device line, to select it. Then (in the lower right pane) click the “qmidiroute: out 1 (read)” port, to assign it to the qMidiRoute device. Then close the “Manage MIDI Devices” window.

If you intend to use composite voices from this point forward, click Rosegarden's “Save” tool-bar button (or use the File menu to save it with a different name) to save it.

Switch to the KMK window, and start playing in performance pane F2, or F3. As you play the piano sound (especially when you hold down notes for a long time), you should hear a string ensemble sound along with it. Also, when you play chords, you should hear the chords starting crisply with a piano sound added to them.

In the Rosegarden main window (as shown below), you can change the composite-voice sounds, by changing the instrument used for MIDI channels 13 (chords) and 14 (melody):


As indicated in the labels of the empty segment for track 14, you might want to try instrument 53 (Aah choir), or 94 (Metal Pad). I also particularly liked the “Warm Pad” instrument (near Metal Pad – I forgot its number). You can also change the instrument's bank to 8, and choose that bank's “Orchestral Pad” instrument (I forgot its number).

Assuming you saved this project file (with the Manage MIDI Device change), whenever you bring up Rosegarden in the future with this project file, it will do composite-voices.

All you have to do, is bring up qmidiroute, and make the above connection using JACK (from KMK-Output to qmidiroute's “in” port. To avoid this extra connection step, you can set up a patch-bay to do it for you, by using the JACK window's “Patchbay” button.

If, when you're playing, you hear composite-voices, when you record, you will also record composite-voices.

When you play-back such MIDI recordings, qmidiroute (and its JACK connection) are not required (though it doesn't hurt to leave it there, and connected).

I hope you enjoy using composite-voices as much as I do. It's nice to be able to use those high piano notes, and have an ethereal, violin sound along with it, sustaining the note, instead of dying-away quickly, sounding like a tinkly, toy piano note. I really like the crisp chord notes too.



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