I'm considering creating some instrumental music. I don't care about connecting external stuff (keyboard, mic, ...), so I only require something I'll control with only a keyboard and a mouse. Is there any FLOSS suitable for a newbie like me?

  • See also: audio.stackexchange.com/questions/539/… -- that's a list of open source editors other than Audacity.
    – Ian C.
    Commented Jan 25, 2011 at 14:41
  • What exactly are you trying to do? A synthesizer is an instrument. A DAW (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_audio_workstation) is like a virtual tape deck and editor, where you you have multiple channels of audio together that you get from whatever source. Many DAWs allow you to use synthesizers as plug-ins. Are you trying to make some instrumental music from scratch on your computer? If so, you'll probably need both a DAW and a synthesizer plugin.
    – Warrior Bob
    Commented Jan 25, 2011 at 15:13
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    By editing your question, you've just rendered the answers already useless and unrelated. I reverted your edits, please ask a new question about SW synths.
    – Pelle ten Cate
    Commented Jan 25, 2011 at 15:29
  • @warrior Yes, I'm looking to create music from scratch.
    – Tshepang
    Commented Jan 25, 2011 at 15:36
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    You should specify the Operating System (Windows, MacOs, Linux) because a lot of tools are not working on all platforms (like Ardour).
    – Julien N
    Commented Jan 25, 2011 at 17:43

6 Answers 6


It sounds like you want a sequencer.

I haven't used it but LMMS (Linux MultiMedia Studio) looks reasonable (if still young): http://lmms.sourceforge.net/

  • oooh, nice find!
    – BenV
    Commented Jan 29, 2011 at 2:10

THE open source DAW is ardour. It is built on jack, a low latency audio driver daemon, and it has all stuff that you expect in a DAW, multi-track recording/editing/mixing. No windows support though, which shouldn't be a pain for open source enthousiasts, as jack offers support for most well-known audio interfaces.

  • Is it easy to use? I heard that it's for pros. I just wanna mess around... nothing serious :)
    – Tshepang
    Commented Jan 25, 2011 at 15:07
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    @Tshepang I wouldn't let that slow you down - give it a try and see if it works for you! If you're not sure about some of the concepts you can always ask about them here :)
    – Warrior Bob
    Commented Jan 26, 2011 at 22:11
  • Also, check out Harrison Mixbus. It's based on Ardour and is $79 for the time being. I thought it was pretty cool.
    – Sam Greene
    Commented Mar 7, 2011 at 21:36
  • Ardour still doesn't have MIDI support though. Some people might do fine without it if they are only ever using recorded audio, but for most the absence will be crippling.
    – Shane Kilkelly
    Commented May 25, 2011 at 13:40

... with only a keyboard and a mouse.

There are so many ways you can make some noise (er... music) with just a computer-keyboard and mouse. Concepts explained below are generic, but the softwares mentioned here run on linux.

Music Score Editors

You could use a music score editor to draw notes and compose music. Score Editors either use an internal synth or allow you to use a software synth plugin or soundfont.

Try: Muse Score, Denemo, Tux Guitar (write guitar tabs)


A sequencer lets you record (or write by hand) and arrange musical snippets in many ways. Most sequencers have a piano-roll-view for writing notes by hand, some might include a notation editor.

Rosegarden, Muse, Seq24, lmms (as Benji York suggested), Hydrogen (drum machine)

Try some Trackers too.

Synth Plugins

A Synthesiser takes the notes you feed and produces the sound accordingly. You can use these syths along with your Score editor/sequencer.

Qsynth, Fluidsynth, amsynth, Bristol

You could use some effects plugins to process the sounds produced by these synths. Try some LV2 plugins. Eventually you'll need some real DAW software to record and process this audio. Try Ardour

On a linux system you could connect these components together using Jack. Some linux distributions are tailor-made for media production, and come bundled with handful of Audio apps and synths. It's a good idea to begin with one of them. ex: Puredyne, Puppy Studio, Ubuntu Studio

Get Geeky

Pure Data, Csound

Sorry, too lazy to add links. tip: google. Good luck!

  • Feel free to add missing links/useful tools in the post. Commented May 23, 2011 at 11:25

Linux... keyboard and mouse... newbie...?

I'll second ananth.p's suggestion to try a tracker -- one of the easier computer music tools. It's essentially a standalone sampling synth / drum machine program with an old-school interface (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_audio_trackers for screenshots and more info). Try MilkyTracker for starters.

If you find trackers too limited, try a sequencer. Think of it as a modular tracker -- you can connect it to all kinds of synths and effects via JACK (which is pretty complicated). QTractor is a relatively easy sequencer/DAW that nobody has mentioned. Seq24 is an old-school sequencer with a tracker feel. Check out LSD's video tutorials to see how it's used.



Audacity® is free, open source software for recording and editing sounds. It is available for Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems. Learn more about Audacity... Also check our Wiki and Forum for more information.

The latest release of Audacity is 1.3.12 (Beta). This is our active "work in progress" version with our latest features. Documentation and translations into different languages are not quite complete. We recommend this version for more advanced users, and for everyone on Windows 7, Windows Vista and Mac OS X 10.6. See New Features in 1.3 for more information about the 1.3 Beta series.

Audacity 1.2.6 is our main release, complete and fully documented, but no longer under development. You may install Audacity 1.2.6a and 1.3.12 on the same machine.

Pair it with some free plugins and you're off and creating.

  • 3
    Looks more of an editor than a DAW. I want something I can use to create music.
    – Tshepang
    Commented Jan 25, 2011 at 14:47
  • No, not an editor. It's a DAW. You record music with Audacity. Are you not working with live instruments? Are aiming to work with MIDI?
    – Ian C.
    Commented Jan 25, 2011 at 14:55
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    I guess then I don't know what DAW means. I'm not interested in MIDI (nor do I actually know what it is), nor will I connect anything. I only want to use a PC keyboard and mouse.
    – Tshepang
    Commented Jan 25, 2011 at 15:01
  • 1
    I want to create music from scratch, perhaps using samples and using an onscreen keyboard for example. No recording.
    – Tshepang
    Commented Jan 25, 2011 at 15:38
  • 3
    If you want to make music without Recording audio, you better familiarise yourself with the term MIDI. What you need is a sequencer and a bunch of plugins. Commented May 23, 2011 at 10:35

I'm not interested in MIDI (nor do I actually know what it is)


Moving right along. You're looking for something like Audiotool. It's free and completely browser-based. It's got drum machines, synthesizers, FX, and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of free and open-source options when it comes to doing what you want to do - sequence MIDI data into a virtual synth. LMMS is an option, yes, but it's kinda terrible IMO.

Oh, and there's Darkwave Studio. It is free and open-source, but it appears to be Windows only.

It would be helpful for you to do a quick Google search for terms that you don't understand before posting here. It's easier for us to help you if you are willing to help yourself.

  • The jargon sometimes gives me headaches :)
    – Tshepang
    Commented Mar 7, 2011 at 20:14
  • Well, honestly that's half the hobby. You've got to jump right and start figuring stuff out from square one, because there is a lot to learn. Good luck, though.
    – kivetros
    Commented Mar 7, 2011 at 21:03

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