Graham tears himself away from updating Arch Linux to search for the best new free software.

Music sequencer

Helio Workstation 1.7

The complexity of music making software seems to have followed Moore's Law, as if the developers behind those applications can't just leave those extra transistors sitting idle. Ardour, BitWig, and even Rosegarden pile on the features, hoping to help moribund composers find their muse by clicking on extra buttons. Those extra functions and buttons can be incredibly useful and shouldn't be replaced. But, like the effectiveness of a simple melody, there's room for something that focuses more on the simple act of creating notes, much like a writer might use a distraction-free text editor to write words. And that's what Helio Workstation does so well. It's a beautifully designed application that puts note creation, and the relationship between those notes, at the heart of its functionality. And it does this in a fluid, dynamic way that helps you create music.

Helio Workstation is fundamentally a simple MIDI sequencer. The main view is a piano roll, with notes on the vertical axis and duration on the horizontal. Click the mouse to add a node, and press Space to start playback. But there's far more that is immediately obvious. Notes are added to a grouped and colored layer, and you can create new layers easily and use them for different music parts. Layers are transparent, which means you can easily create counter melodies or chords against notes in other layers. Double-click and you get a brilliant radial menu that lets you choose and hear different chords and notes transposed from the root note, and selecting one will add this to the current layer. There's even a built-in piano sound that is ideal for quick compositions. Best of all, version control is a fundamental part of the workflow. Much like a coding project managed with Git, you can check out branches (revisions) and make changes, with everything being tracked for easy reference. It's simply brilliant.

Project Website

Helio Workstation has one of the best user interfaces I've seen, complete with OpenGL acceleration if enabled.

Audio workstation

Buy Linux Magazine

Get it on Google Play

US / Canada

Get it on Google Play

UK / Australia

Related content

  • Ardour 5

    The fifth generation of the free Ardour digital audio workstation is easier to operate, offers more Lua support, and comes with a variety of improvements and extensions.

  • Ardour3 Digital Audio Workstation

    The latest version of Ardour – a full-featured digital audio workstation – offers some major new developments. We take a closer look.

  • ART – Another RawTherapee

    RAW converters are the first tool to use in editing photos, and new solutions and programs have the potential to make users' lives easier. How does ART stack up?

  • RawTherapee

    RAW format images offer more options for editing than JPEG formats – RawTherapee brings this potential to Linux.

  • Mozilla Labs Launches Gaming Initiative

    Platform based on open Web technologies.

comments powered by Disqus

Direct Download

Read full article as PDF: