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5 Open Source Programs All Musicians Need

It’s highly possible that you’ve read the term “open source” used online before, but never really soaked in what open source software actually is. Before rattling off the necessary applications I think every musician should be taking advantage of, I’ll lay out exactly why I love using open source software (sometimes referred to as OSS):

  • For the most part, open source software is distributed for free. No need to break the law and rely on illegal torrents for the applications that you need.
  • In many cases open source software is cross-platform compatible. Whether you’re hacking away on a Mac, PC or a Linux machine–OSS has got you covered.
  • Open source software is developed in a public and collaborative manner. Some applications have thousands of programmers that have worked on one particular program. This ensures security, reliability, and quality.

Still not convinced? Check out the list below to find out what you’re missing out on.

1.) MuseScore


MuseScore Screenshot

MuseScore is music notation software that offers a capable replacement to the popular options: Sibelius and Finale. Whether you’re hacking away at a large composition or procrastinating late at night on a theory assignment, MuseScore can help you out.

Platforms:  PC LogoMac Logo Linux Logo

Savings: $479.99 by not purchasing Sibelius 7

2.) Audacity


Audacity Screenshot

Audacity is currently the leading open source audio editor available online. From tweaking volume levels to editing audio clips, Audacity will always be there for you.

Platforms: PC LogoMac Logo Linux Logo

Savings: $649.95 by not purchasing Avid Pro Tools

3.) GIMP


GIMP Screenshot

GIMP (short for GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a full-blown replacement for Adobe Photoshop. GIMP can be an invaluable tool to help musicians create recital posters, touch up headshots, and much more. Extensive documentation helps make GIMP more approachable to new users.

Platforms: PC LogoMac Logo Linux Logo

Savings: $699 by not purchasing Adobe Photoshop CS6

4.) VLC


VLC Screenshot

With Winamp’s uncertain future and Apple’s utter obliteration of the iTunes user interface, many listeners are on the lookout for a new media player. Well, look no further! VLC is an incredibly popular open source media player that is packed full of more features than you could even dream of using.

Platforms:  PC LogoMac Logo Linux Logo

5.) OpenOffice


OpenOffice Screenshot

OpenOffice emulates Microsoft’s popular Office Suite. Word, PowerPoint, and Excel are all important programs that every musician should be able to utilize throughout the entirety of their career.

Platforms:  PC LogoMac Logo Linux Logo

Savings: $139 by not buying Microsoft Office 2013


About The Author

William Paceley is a graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy and holds a Bachelor of Music from the Eastman School of Music. Professionally, he has performed with the Missoula Symphony Orchestra and the Montana Lyric Opera. He currently works in W.W. Norton’s music department on the digital media editorial team.

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