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I have a Korg Nanokey, and I'd like to make it produce sound in ubuntu. I've read that means I should be using Rosegarden, and that Rosegarden uses JACK, but does not install it. (Although checking out Ubuntu Software Center, apparently some components of JACK are installed by default?)

I understand there can be a lot of work setting up JACK without it fighting the default sound server. Can someone give me a step-by-step method for what I need to do to plug in my midi machine and hear music when I press keys as simply as possible (without messing up pulseaudio, ie, so I can still access Skype and ordinary desktop stuff)? I'm fine installing JACK, but I'd like to sandbox it a little if it has the chance of messing up regular desktop.

I've looked through a couple resources, but I'm not sure what's outdated, but the following looked helpful...

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

If you just want to get your keyboard to play sound, this is very simple, and you won't need JACK nor Rosegarden for that. These tools are great if you want to record MIDI signal, write notes, and route audio between separate applications, but you don't need that to play sound with your keyborard.

My step-by-step would be to:

  1. Plug in your MIDI device to your computer. If that's a USB MIDI keyboard, just plug the USB, if it has only MIDI plug, you may want to use a MIDI to USB device.

  2. Download/Install a synthesizer. There is a large variety of sound synthesing applications for Ubuntu. You may like ZynAddSubFX (really powerful one), FluidSynth or QSynth (support soundfonts), AMSynth, AMS. Make sure to browse Ubuntu Software Center for synthesizer that will grab your interest.

  3. Launch the synthesizer. Of course it has to be running to produce sound.

  4. Tell the system to pass data from your keyboard to the synthesizer. You need to create a link between your keyboard and your synthesizer, so that MIDI signal is passed to it. You can either use aconnect tool, or one of it's graphical backends (which are simpler to use), like aconnectgui or kaconnect. While aconnect is installed by default, you can get the other two from Software Center. Once you connect your keyboard, and synthesizer, follow to the final step...

  5. Press a key on your keyboard. You will hear some sound! If not, make sure if your system sound is not muted, and that our speakers are connected. Also, some synthesizers require you to choose an instrument before they produce any sound.

  6. Fine tune your synthesizer settings. You will most likely not enjoy the initial sound of the synthesizer. In case of ZynAddSubFX, this will be a plain sine wave, boring! However, you can easily browse a great collection of timbres, and you can customize them fully. All synthesizers provide you lots of customisation, it's worth to spend some time choosing what you like most.

  7. Proceed to play. Good luck and have fun!

I have also once written an article on general workflow for music production with external keyboard on Ubuntu, it should be useful in your case. Here's the link.

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How do I set the links for aconnectgui? I accidentally connected a bunch of things together, I want to reset the links. – Tatakai Wasumi Mar 26 '15 at 2:55
@TatakaiWasumi Select the scissors tool and then left-click on a connection. It will 'cut' (i.e., delete) the connection. – holocronweaver Sep 3 '15 at 1:26
If you choose to qjackctrl, you can use the connections tab to route the synthesizer to output to the speakers (if it doesn't by default) and the USB MIDI input into the synth input. I had to do this when ZynAddSubFX failed to connect to the speaker output, and aconnectgui could not make this connection. – holocronweaver Sep 3 '15 at 1:28

I don't know about Rosegarden, but you can run qjackctrl from the package manager. Amsynth is an easy little way to make sound midi->jack.

I don't know how to run jack and pulseaudio at the same time - ie running chrome through jack (looking into it right now, actually). My experience in 12.04 is easy so far to make sound.

  • Install qjackctrl and amsynth from the package manager
  • Shut down any web browsers or other pulse-audioy things that could be taking the sound hardware
  • Start qjackctrl (you may have to fiddle with params in settings but I didn't-this time)
  • Start Amsynth
  • In the Alsa tab of qjackctrl (why is it not the midi tab ?!?!) connect your usb midi device (hopefully detected automatically) to Amsynth ...
  • Make sure amsynth is connected to the audio out ...
  • Play!
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It's qjackctl not qjackctrl – Tatakai Wasumi Mar 26 '15 at 2:38

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