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Requirements and Installation

Software Requirements

Rosegarden requires the JACK Audio Connection Kit, which helps it to connect to your audio hardware and other JACK-aware programs. If you have not already installed JACK, it is recommended that you do so before installing Rosegarden. Instructions for JACK installation are located here.

Rosegarden's graphical interface uses the "Qt toolkit," like the KDE Software Collection. QjackCtl, Qsynth, and Qtractor also use the Qt toolkit, but if you have not installed any of these, and you are a GNOME user, Rosegarden may install the Qt toolkit. The toolkit may take a while to download, but is useful for a large number of programs.

Hardware Requirements

In order to use Rosegarden, you will need an audio interface. If you wish to record audio into Rosegarden, the audio interface must be capable of recording, and you must have external hardware such as microphones to capture the sound. Rosegarden is useful without recording audio.

Other Requirements

In addition to the above-listed requirements, you will need to install a MIDI-capable synthesizer. Rosegarden does not automatically install a synthesizer so that you have the greatest amount of choice. There are a large number of synthesizers, both hardware- and software-based, which all have different capabilities and produce different sounds. Rosegarden is a "MIDI sequencer," meaning that it will trigger and control a MIDI synthesizer, but without synthesizing audio directly.

Most users, at least when starting out, will find that FluidSynth is a highly flexible synthesizer. It is recommended by Rosegarden's "Welcome" screen, and it will be used here for demonstration purposes. The FluidSynth\Qsynth Chapter explains how to install and use FluidSynth, along with its graphical interface called "Qsynth."

In addition to independent MIDI synthesizers, Rosegarden supports the use of DSSI synthesizer plugins, which is not discussed in this Guide.


Before installing Rosegarden, you should install the JACK Audio Connection Kit. If you have not already installed JACK, you can follow the instructions here.

To install Rosegarden, use PackageKit or KPackageKit to install the "rosegarden4" package. You could also install Rosegarden from a terminal by running the following command:

su -c 'yum install rosegarden4'


Setup JACK and Qsynth

  1. Start QjackCtl to control JACK.
  2. Start Qsynth to control FluidSynth.
  3. In order to receive MIDI input from Rosegarden, Qsynth will need to be configured to use the "alsa_seq" MIDI Driver. Instructions for doing this can be found in this section.
  4. You may want to disconnect all JACK connections except for those that you want to use with Rosegarden. Open QjackCtl's "Connect" window, and verify the following:
    • On the "Audio" tab:
      • Qsynth's output ports are connected to the "system" input ports.
      • If you plan to use audio in Rosegarden (in addition to MIDI), then you will need to connect its output ports to the "system" input ports, too. The ports labeled "record monitor" are to be used to monitor audio while it is being recorded. The ports labeled "master out" will be used during regular file playback. Rosegarden does not need to be connected directly to the system output ports if you are only using MIDI.
      • If you plan to record audio in Rosegarden, then you will need to connect an output port (probably from "system") to Rosegarden's input port. Be aware that Rosegarden can record from two independent sources ("1" and "2"), with two channels ("L" for left and "R" for right) from each, to produce a stereo recording.
    • On the "MIDI" tab:
      • Nothing.
    • On the "ALSA" tab:
      • Rosegarden's output ports must be connected to the "FLUID synth" input port. I don't know what they're for yet:
        • 1:sync out (was automatically connected)
        • 2:external controller
        • 3:out 2 - General MIDI Device (was automatically connected)
      • To make Rosegarden take commands from another MIDI device, you'll need to connect its output ports to Rosegarden's input ports. I don't know what they are for yet:
        • 0:record in
        • 2:external controller

If a connection isn't being used, it's better to leave it disconnected, to avoid making mistakes.

Setup Rosegarden

  1. 'Edit > Preferences'
  2. Setup "General" as desired.
    • On "Behaviour" tab maybe "Use JACK Transport"
    • On "Extrenal Applications" tab maybe change those to match what's installed (GNOME users)
  3. Setup "MIDI" as desired.
    • On "MIDI Sync" tab maybe set to "Send MIDI Clock, Start and Stop" if Rosegarden is the ultimate controller, or "Accept Start, Stop and Continue" if it's being controlled. Otherwise "Off" is safe.
  4. Setup "Audio" as desired.
    • The preview scale will not affect the audio, just its appearance.
    • Reducing quality from 32-bit to 16-bit may help low-power systems keep up.
    • Changing the external audio editor only affects when you choose to use an extrenal editor.

Rosegarden and LilyPond

Rosegarden and LilyPond can be used together, which can greatly enhace your productivity. LilyPond will output a MIDI-format representation of your score if you include a "midi" section in the "score" section. It should look something like this:

   \midi { }

This MIDI file can then be imported into Rosegarden by selecting from the menu 'File > Import > Import MIDI File'. Unfortunately, this will erase the current session, so it can be done only once.

It is also possible to export MIDI tracks to LilyPond format, which can then be edited further or simply turned into a score. To do this, from the menu select 'File > Export > Export LilyPond File'. After you select a location to save the file, Rosegarden allows you to control some score settings while exporting. After exporting a LilyPond file, you should inspect it with Frescobaldi before relying on it to be correct - computers sometimes make mistakes!

Tutorial: Write a Song in Rosegarden

A Note on Using the Notation Editor

When you're using the notation editor, and the pitches don's stop playing, do this.

Start the Score with a Bassline

  1. Start QjackCtl, then Qsynth, then Rosegarden.
  2. For this tutorial, we'll be using the default "Fluid R3" SoundFont, but you can use any General MIDI SoundFont.
  3. Setup Rosegarden in JACK for MIDI use only.
  4. From the Rosegarden menu, select 'Edit > Preferences'. Click the "MIDI" tab, then the 'General' tab, then select "Send all MIDI controllers at start of each playback". This will ensure that the MIDI synthesizer (FluidSynth for this tutorial) uses the right patches.
  5. Create a new segment.
    1. Click on the "Draw" tool on the toolbar (it looks like a red pencil), or press 'F3' on the keyboard.
    2. In the first track, click-and-drag to select the area over the first two bars.
    3. When you release the mouse, there should be a rectangle that says, "Acoustic Grand Piano," or something similar.
  6. Double-click on the rectangle to open the default MIDI segment editor. It should be the notation editor.
    1. Change the clef. Click on the bass clef on the toolbar at the left side of the editor window. Then click on the existing clef to replace it.
    2. Switch to the note-inputting tools as required. They're located next to the clef tools, in the toolbar at the left of the notation editor window.
    3. Input three quarter-notes on c, two eighth notes on c and g, two quarter-notes on e-flat, and four eighth notes on d, f, d, and g.
  7. You'll probably make a few mistakes. The easiest way to fix a mistake is to erase the note/s and re-input the correct note/s. You can use the eraser tool for this. It's located on the top toolbar of the score editing window, to the left of the capital "T," and to the right of the red pencil. It looks like a red and white rectangle, which represents a standard white eraser.
  8. Listen to your creation by clicking on the 'play' button in the transport window. The playhead won't stop until you stop it, even though the visible playhead (the vertical line) will stop.
  9. Close the notation editor - you don't need to click the 'save' button, because Rosegarden will automatically keep your changes.
  10. You should save the file, though.
  11. Click the "Select and Edit" tool, which looks like a mouse cursor on the toolbar. You can also select that tool by pressing 'F2' on the keyboard.
  12. Select the segment you just created by clicking on it.
  13. Create a copy of it by holding the 'Ctrl' key on the keyboard, as you click-and-drag the segment.
  14. Place the copy in the same track, immediately after the first segment.
  15. Create a few more copies like this.
  16. Use the transport to move the playhead to the start (click the button that looks like a vertical bar with a single-direction arrowhead pointing towards it).
  17. Name the newly-created track by double-clicking on its name. A window will pop up, allowing you to rename the track. If you don't know what to call it, try "Bass line."

Add a Percussion Track

  1. Select the second track, and rename it to "Percussion" (or something else, if you prefer).
  2. In the "Instrument Parameters" portion of the toolbox on the left side of the editor window, check the "Percussion" check-box.
  3. Play the transport for just a second, so that Rosegarden synchronized the re-assignment with FluidSynth
  4. Press 'F3' on the keyboard, or click on the "Draw" tool, which looks like a pencil.
  5. Create a one-measure segment in the second track, then right-click on the segment, and select 'Open in Percussion Matrix Editor'.
    1. The percussion matrix editor is like the matrix editor, but each pitch is labeled with the instrument it triggers.
    2. Experiment with the different instruments and pitches to find a pattern of four quarter notes that you want to repeat in each measure.
    3. When you're happy with your pattern, close the editor.
  6. Select the newly-created percussion segment, then from the menu select 'Edit > Copy'.
  7. Move the transport's playhead to the end of the first measure. First move it to the beginning, then press the "fast forward" button to advance it to the end of the first measure.
  8. Be sure that the second track is still selected.
  9. Press 'Ctrl + v' or from the menu choose 'Edit > Paste' a few times, so that the percussion track fills up the same space as the bassline.

Spice up the Percussion

  1. Four quarter notes isn't really a suitable percussion accompaniment, so let's make it more interesting.
  2. Open the first percussion segment in the standard notation editor by double-clicking it.
  3. From the menu select 'Edit > Select Whole Staff'.
  4. Then from the menu select 'Adjust > Notes > Eighth Note'.
  5. This compressed the notes, which isn't what you wanted. Undo the change with 'Edit > Undo'.
  6. Again make sure that the whole staff is selected.
  7. From the menu select 'Adjust > Notes > Eighth Note (Without Duration Change)'.
  8. Now there are eighth-note rests between the original rhythm. You can add off-beat accents as you wish, in the space where the rests are. You can switch to the percussion matrix editor, or stick with the notation editor - it can be fun guessing which pitch represents which instrument.
  9. Now that you've made a change, you'll have to delete all the copies and re-copy them. We'll use a better solution instead, but you'll still have to start by deleting all of the copies of the segment. Remember to keep the first one!
  10. After removing all but the first segment, from the "Segment Parameters" box in the left toolbox, check the "Repeat" checkbox.
  11. Now the segment repeats forever. This can be useful, but eventually you'll want to stop the song. When you want to change the repeats into copies, from the menu select 'Segment > Turn Repeats Into Copies'.
  12. Adjust the first track so that it's repeated, too.

Add a Melody

  1. Rename the third track to "Melody," or something like that.
  2. Change the track's program.
    1. Look at the "Instrument Parameters" box in the "Special Parameters" toolbox on the left side of the main editing window.
    2. Make sure that you have the "Melody" track selected.
    3. Select the "General MIDI" bank, which is probably already selected.
    4. For the program, select whatever you prefer. I decided to use program 51, called "Synth Strings 1." It reminds me of music from the 1980s.
    5. After setting the program, press 'play' on the transport toolbar, and let it go for just a second. This will allow Rosegarden to send the program-change message to FluidSynth. It isn't strictly necessary, and it would have been done later anyway, but doing it now helps to avoid confusion later.
  3. Use the "Select and Edit" tool to create a segment in the "Melody" track, of four measures long.
  4. Edit the segment in the default editor by double-clicking on it.
  5. Create four measures of a melody. It doesn't have to be complicated, or even interesting.
  6. Close the notation editor, and listen to the the three tracks. Don't forget to reset the playhead to the beginning of the session!
  7. It sounds a bit silly to have the melody enter at the very beginning, so add an introduction. With the "Select and Edit" tool (press 'F2' on the keyboard to engage it), click-and-drag the melody segment to a few bars or beats later. Note that, even if you move it to start on beat 2, 3, or 4, the view in the notation editor will always start the segment on beat 1.


You're on your way to a full MIDI composition. All you need is some inspiration to continue, and some willingness to experiment with more advanced features and tools. If you don't know how to continue, try these suggestions. Remember: you're just starting out, so your first song doesn't have to be interesting or particularly good. Once you learn how to use MIDI composition tools, you'll naturally learn how to create better music with them!

  • Make a simple ternary form (ABA): you've already created the first part (called "A"); so make a transition and a second, different part (called "B"), then another transition and repeat the first part. It doesn't need to be long, but it can be.
  • Make a "variations" form: repeat the part that you've already created several times, but make it slightly different every time. Try several different ways of modifying it: add another melody to go along with the one you have; add extra notes to the existing melody; change the percussion track; write a new bassline; expand the melody so it takes twice as long; combinations of these. Making a variation of an existing section is a common way of making it take more time.
  • Make an expanded version of the existing material, by following your intuition to add more music.
  • Instead of adding a different melody of a repeating bassline and percussion segment, try repeating the melody over and over, creating a new bassline and percussion segments.

!! I removed the "working with audio" portions because it's the basically the same as Ardour & Qtractor... is this okay? !!