A Cavalcade of Open Source Music Tools

by Sam Dean - Mar. 18, 2011Comments (2)

Digital music is now a part of almost everyone's lives, and continues to change the model for how music is distributed and enjoyed. Open source has steadily kept pace with the sea changes. Do you want to sync iPods and iPhones to any computer anywhere? How about playing Doom on your own customized OS for most music players? Do you need customized music library management for multiple platforms, including Linux? Would you like to mix and record original music online with other musicians? Do you have the latest digital music apps for your Android phone? In this post, you'll find our updated collection of open source tools for these kinds of purposes , and more.

Synching iPod and iPhone Libraries Anywhere. One of every iPod user's nightmares is having a computer with an iTunes library on it crash beyond repair--when there is no backup of the library. With the free, open source application iPodDisk, (Mac only) you can quickly recover your library from your iPod itself. You'll also find an excellent step-by-step tutorial on using iPodDisk and other free apps for synching an iPhone or iPod with any computer, no matter where you are, at TheAppleBlog. Especially check out the easy steps for getting (non-DRM) music from other computers.


Cross-Platform Libraries, Plus Extensions. For a well-liked, cross-platform application for playing and managing music libraries, try Songbird. It's based on open source Mozilla code. You can get it for Windows, the Mac and Linux. Like Firefox, Songbird takes advantage of extensions, such as this one for instantly getting lyrics to songs you're listening to. You can also bring your existing iTunes library into Songbird. Check out our screenshot-driven tour here.

Songbird for Android. Speaking of Songbird, it's now available in a version on Android Market, and looks outstanding. On your Android phone, it allows for playlist creation and editing, setting songs as ringtones, displaying album art, and much more. 

Roll Your Own Operating System. Lisa covered Rockbox a little while ago, and it's out in a new version. Rockbox is an open source firmware replacement for the standard-issue firmware found on music players ranging from the iPod to players from Archos, iRiver, Olympus and others. Check out the many players that it works with here. Rockbox can breathe life into old MP3 players. It's essentially like having a more robust operating system on your digital player, and you can even play Doom and other games on it. There is an installation utility from Rockbox, plus a QuickStart Guide.

Banshee and Amarok Across Platforms. The Banshee open source media player and library manager is very popular. You can use it with Linux and on the Mac. Banshee can play, import, and burn audio CDs, and supports lots of media players, including the iPod and Creative's ZEN players, as well as the G1 Android phone (complete with one-click Amazon music purchasing). In addition to your tunes, you can manage podcasts, album art, streaming radio from Last.fm, and much more.

Using Linux? Amarok is a very popular player and media manager for Linux, and there are ports for Windows and the Mac. It makes use of core components from KDE but is released separately from it. It plays music from many popular formats, and you can manage podcasts, free audiobooks from Librivox, and Last.fm streaming radio with it. Check out Kristin's thoughts on Banshee and Amarok here.

Last.fm for Android. If you're a fan of Last.fm streaming radio and you have a G1 Android phone, check out this post. Via the free music service, you can get Last.fm free on any Android device, and let the Last.fm application build automatic, customized playlists for you. Artist and tour information are also available, and you can get impressive photo libraries, artist news, and video libraries. The Android application for Last.fm has one feature not found for many other mobile devices: background streaming. On phones using Android, it's possible to browse the Internet or use other mobile apps while music plays in the background. If you've ever shut down the service just to check e-mail, you'll like this. Last.fm credits its open source developers for making the Android app robust.

Open Source Music. We've talked about many types of media players and music library organizers on OStatic, but not so much about where to find open source music. One of the best sites is named Open Source Music, which Lisa wrote about here. It's worth visiting for getting free, unrestricted tunes. Also, check out Lisa's post on the Moovida music player.





John Mark Walker uses OStatic to support Open Source, ask and answer questions and stay informed. What about you?


check http://musicisopen.org . The main idea is to make open source music.

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Another good place to look is at the Open Source library sites that support access to MP3 players and phones. They often list useful Open Source programs. For instance, libmtp at Sourceforge has a page listing applications that use that library. Another good example is libgpod at the gtkpod site. There's a list of Open Source applications built with it. Other libraries to check for (depending on your devices) are libifp and libnjb.

I also want to give a quick plug to the FreePats project. If you're interested in creating your own Open Source music, it's a great starting place for Open Source instrument sounds in digital format and tools for creating music. If you want to get involved in an Open Source project, they're always looking for volunteers to help add to their sound collection too.

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