Latest Setup - Portable all-in-one Instrument with Ubuntu Studio

In preparation of going out to play I realised that my lockdown-at-home-recording setup consisting of muliple devices is going to be a pain to take down, carry and reconstruct with the risk of forgetting key cables and all that.

I worked out a while ago that a single Windows laptop isn’t much good as there’s not enough control to make things co-exist easily. I’ve had good experiences with Raspberry Pi - the only downside being it still involves multiple bits of hardware: screen/keyboard, multiple PSUs or laptop and network kit.

Yesterday I gave Ubuntu Studio a whirl, and I’m impressed. All the audio experience I built up using the RPi is a direct read-across e.g. how to use Jack for audio and midi, controlling latency, getting pulseaudio to shutup etc. So this is my new best friend - a complete setup on one PC. Quite an old laptop in fact.

Sonic Pi is the heart of it, of course, providing the beat and some useful voices. Then multiple PureData-based voices including a couple of conventional-sounding analog synths and my own granular synth to provide pads/throbs/sliced samples that I can play in the moment like an instrument. Those can be all be driven from midi routed out of Spi, or from the little Akai midi keyboard - I’ve also written a PureData midi note recorder/looper that can drive them, switched in/out during play.

I’m making the SPi and PureData patches specific to the Akai hardware, e.g. the choice of midi channels and routing the midi cc knobs to a few specific parameters.

This is a complete instrument. Although not as flexible as the home/recording one as it’s missing VCV Rack, a key component. But I think it’ll be a good compromise.

Only thing is it looks a bit boring - one man and a laptop. Fortunately my colleague will be playing his home made instruments which are more eye catching. But I might take some redundant kit along just to have around. Ideally I could do with an old reel-to-reel and some old electrical lab equipment…maybe ebay will supply.


Todays update… VCV Rack co-exists on there too - thanks to the magic of Jack and Qjactkcl.

All hail Ubuntu Studio.

There’s always one fly in the ointment: I’m using hydra/OBS/OpenShot to create videos to go with tracks for putting on the internet. I was delighted to see that Studio comes with OBS and OpenShot installed - hooray! Hydra install no problem. But recording on OBS comes out jittery - and that’s using the same hardware that works fine on Windows :frowning_face: Tried tweaking the settings, and the choice is between jittery and blurry :frowning_face_with_open_mouth:

But that’s for another forum.

There’s two separate goals 1. To make a robust all-in-one instrument for live playing 2. To have a whole audio and video recording setup on one PC. Of these looks like Ubuntu Studio is going to be great for 1. But 2. looks more of a challenge and maybe not worth the agro. Having one PC dedicated to recording does take away a lot of the problems.

what is this software ?

To record your screen, Simple Screen Recorder can do the job to record the screen.

I’m guessing this:

:slightly_smiling_face: (that’s the web version - it’s also available as an add-on package for the Atom text editor)


That’s the one. Thanks for the suggestion. I tried the browser based screen recorder plugins (on windows) and they were very poor. Switched to OBS which works great, normally.

Further tests suggest that the prob is hydra, running locally, too much cpu use for some scripts. Don’t know why it’s ok on windows.

Further update:

Hydra - actually works OK except when processing video. And then, the problem is that every time you edit/run the code the CPU ratchets up. It’s live code, similar to Spi in that sense: edit your code, re-run it on the fly. The workaround is to close the browser tab and create a new one each time. No good for live coding, but ok for recording.

All-in-one recording. I worked out how to use the Ardour DAW that comes with Studio, and each source (e.g. SPi/SuperCollider, Rack, PureData) can come in on a different track. So that’s a pretty good multi-track recording option.