Insomnilund, an album composed with OpenOctave and Ardour 3

Insomnilund, an album composed with OpenOctave and Ardour 3

After so many years musicians still face the basic challenge: how much can you squeeze out of just free DAWs, synths and sample libraries on Linux? Insomnilund, a newly released album by Gabriel Nordeborn, is an interesting showcase here.

In a nutshell, Gabriel Nordeborn completed his first album with just open source software and an acceptable exception of Pianoteq (which was anyway prototyped by its developers on Linux with JACK all those years ago).

The result is 31 minutes of enjoyable music that is somewhat reminiscent of Mike Oldfield's work around early 1990s (think The Songs of Distant Earth) and some more up-to-date trends in music (which, I have to admit, is a rather cruel thing to say to a fellow musician).

You might find yourself asking, what production of such an album involves. After all, there are orchestrals, a live guitar, samples, synths, drums and whatnot. LGW asked Gabriel a few annoying questions about that.


Gabbe did most of sequencing with Ardour 3, with the exception of orchestrals for which he used OpenOctaveMidi playing Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra library:

For composing, OpenOctave is really, really great, it has awesome MIDI features, and I like the feel of it. However, for actual mixing/arranging etc. Ardour 3 is miles ahead.

So Gabbe composed more or less all of the orchestrals in the album in OpenOctave, then exported the strings trackwise from OpenOctave to regular WAV files and put them back into A3.

Open Octave Midi, featuring the orchestral part from the Breeze track

For drums Gabbe used LinuxSampler's LV2 plugin in A3 together with self-made SFZ's, usually consisting of a bass-drum and a snare sample. The SFZ files were created with an "makesfz" script by Danboid, and he also used bits of The Open Source Drumkits library which has a great set of hihats.

After reiteration of a more or less complete composition he used reverbs and other FX on tracks. For reverbs Gabriel mostly used the IR.LV2 plug-in with the True M7 impulses. And other FX are mostly various TAP (LADSPA) and Calf (LV2) plug-ins.

Ardour 3, featuring the complete project of the Breeze song

The electric piano is an LV2 port of MDA ePiano. Then there is, of course, the question of synths. Gabriel mostly used the native Linux version of TAL NoiseMaker VST:

I know there's all sorts of great synths around, like Yoshimi/ZynAddSubFX etc, but I'm a complete sucker for plugins, so I never end up using anything that I have to load externally. I guess it's laziness, but I just never do it. I have however been looking into Loomer Aspect recently, and considered buying that.

And thus we come to the final stage.


The last part of production, mastering, was done mostly with linuxDSP channel processing plug-ins which Gabbe is rather fond of:

They are very professional and I've gotten really used to them. The Pultec-eq one is a must for any session for me, just gives a completely other warmth/depth to the song.

If you take a quick look at the screenshot from the mastering session below, you'll see that Gabriel also makes use of a handy feature. Basically, you can make controls of plug-ins available in the channel strip for fast adjustments.

Mixer strips in the mastering session, Ardour 3


As you can see, creating contemporary music with live, sampled and synthesized instruments on Linux still involves quite a bit of bouncing project data between DAWs.

The simple explanation is that the implementation of MIDI tracks in Ardour is still somewhat basic and not as finetuned for composition of orchestral music, which is what OpenOctaveMidi was specifically created for, or, rather, forked from MusE 2.

As Ardour 3 is nearing completion and an official release, we are likely to see more music produced with it, and by that I really do mean an extensive use of MIDI tracks and both LV2 and VST instruments.

For now, MP3, OGG, and FLAC files of the “Insomnilund”  album are available for downloading.

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11 Responses. Comments closed for this entry.

  1. Thanks for this article, very informative, would love to get into music making, oh and your music is great ;)

  2. Great article, loads of interesting info.

    Nice music.


  3. This is just what beginners need.
    And those songs are actually very good. 02 Search and Repair is my favorite.
    Please post more articles like this one.

  4. those songs are actually very good.

  5. Those songs sound really good! I really love those piano melodies. It seems like a lot of work to me. Thank you for sharing! I’d love to be able to do such music myself, lol :D

  6. Great sounding project and informative article. Its good to see how you can produce music just with open source software. The Ardour DAW is evolving as well and improving with every version.

  7. very nice for online Radio free radio and meeting with beatutiful girls and boys where i found handmade Arts n paintings,loveestory,drama,songs and much more for free chat room Justchating

  8. I fail to see how you can compose with OpenOctave, it looks like a sequencer just like Ardour.  But I guess you can’t really complain about bouncing between the 2 DAWs, since they are both free!

  9. Great stuff, i’m currently using ableton for my productions. making beats has always been fun for me…