Open Source Recording
Recording Music for YouTube using Open Source Software

16 June 2015

I recently completed arranging and recording a song that I played using my trumpet and put it on YouTube. You can see the results here. I prefer to use open source tools wherever possible, so here’s the list of things I used.

Pre-production - Lilypond

Lilypond is a music rendering program. In a sense you can think of it as being similar to LaTeX, but where LaTeX is for typesetting documents, Lilypond is for typesetting sheet music. So this is the source code for the document here. The resulting PDF can be found here.

Recording Audio

For recording audio, I used Audacity. Audacity has a lot of more complicated audio mixing and filtering that I don’t know how to use yet. For my purposes, recording multiple tracks on top of each other, it just works out of the box. I plug in my microphone, and when I click the ‘record’ button it records what I play.

Timing is especially important if you want to record multiple tracks on top of each other. I got Audacity to generate a click track to use as a metronome. In the YouTube clip, you can see the earpiece coming from my computer so that I can hear the other tracks while I’m recording.

I also used Audacity to normalize the audio levels and make sure it sounded right together. At the end, I exported it as a wav file.

Recording Video

There wasn’t really any open source software to speak of here. The camera I used does the recording, and stores the video on an SD card. I then copied the file off the SD card for the next step…

Post-production - Blender

There are many different tools for video editing. Unfortunately, I did some reading online and found that there are many many bad and variously unstable options. Fortunately, there is one option that got generally good reviews, although at first I didn’t know it could do what I needed. The tool is Blender. If you just ignore all of the 3D modelling and simulation stuff in there, you find that there is also a fairly solid video editor.

The movie file from the camera also has an audio channel, although the sound quality isn’t great. After I imported the audio file from Audacity and the video file from the camera into Blender, then I could use the audio from the movie file to synchronize the two. After I had them in sync, I deleted the audio channel from the video so that I was left with only the good quality audio from Audacity.

At the end, Blender could render the whole result out to a single video file that I could upload to YouTube.


So there we have it, three tools that together make a decent music video production tool chain. I don’t know how to use the advanced features of any of these tools, but I was able to put together a video from scratch with fairly little pain. As an added bonus, these tools are all multi-platform, so they can work if you’re on Windows, Mac or Linux. If you’re like me, you can do it with a mixture. I used Lilypond and Audacity on a Linux laptop (it’s nice to be able to put your recording station somewhere that makes sense acoustically), but I used Blender on a Windows desktop since I have more processing power there. Have fun.