Beginner sampler questions

I’m very new to Ardour; I have 6.3.0 on Ubuntu 18.04.5 if that makes any difference (I should probably update both soon). First some background: I’ve been able to get my midi controller to work with Ardour but what came as a surprise to me is that to get some other sounds apart from piano and a few others, I need some additional software, a “sampler” if I’ve understood right. The ones I’ve heard of are Linux sampler and sfizz.

My current needs would be some woodwinds (flute, oboe, clarinet, English horn, bassoon), and I might start experimenting with a small orchestra pretty soon. But my main use is a composition aid, so the sounds do not have to be that authentic.

My questions:

  1. Which sampler do you recommend? I’d prefer something that’s easy to install and use over superior quality.
  2. Are there lists of instruments available for these samplers? I tried to find them for the two I mentioned but with no luck.
  3. I’d highly appreciate links to any material that is helpful in getting started.

Thank you!

This has a great set of orchestral instruments along with some recommendations for supplements such as piano, drumkits and taiko drums. The samples are in SFZ format so that means sfizz, linux sampler or sforzando (via yabridge or linvst) are great options.

There’s even a template available to get you started:

That template relies on sfizz, Dragonfly reverb , Virtual Playing Orchestra and optionally Panagement (for spatialization). Instructions on how to get started are right there on the github page!


Of course “easy to install” is a relative notion. I got stuck at the first line. I figured out how to download the files, but don’t know how to compile it. Do you know if development branch of sfizz is necessary? It is probably easier to just install the package, but maybe it does not work that way.

Don’t compile (or at least I don’t think you need to). Just download the binary of sfizz from

Template from here:

If this is tough going, just stick with the vanilla Virtual Playing Orchestra + the binary of sfizz. The Template can be for another day :wink:

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Should perhaps the General MIDI Synth provide enough to get this started?

For very rough sketching, it should do the trick, and it’s already installed!


But only if the OP is using the official binary, I think. Based on them using 18.04 which only has 5.12 in the repos we should be able to assume that they are. I personally had to add it manually after compiling from source otherwise Ardour would fall back to ACE Reasonable Synth.

Very good suggestion for rough sketching especially while traveling!

If you want to jump into Virtual Playing Orchestra, Señor Unfa shows how he uses it here:


Thanks for all the help so far! Now I have successfully installed sfizz, and downloaded the Virtual Playing Orchestra files. I tried to follow the video instruction M Aaronwalker linked, but got lost at just before 55 minutes where he starts picking the instruments, because my Ardour looks different and I don’t know where to find the menu he’s using. Here’s a screenshot, I’m missing the thing on the left. Do you know what I should do?

Yes. Go to view -> Show Editor Mixer, or just press Shift+E.
I also suggest you check some beginner tutorials, for example hier:

Good luck! :slight_smile:

P.S. I think for your use (help with composing) the Virtual Orchestra could be overkill. I would rather keep it simple (see the suggestion from Aaronwalker in post #5 Beginner sampler questions). Up to 15 different instruments/sections plus one drum set in just one track.

Thank you! (And I definitely need some beginner tutorials as well.) Up to 15 instruments would indeed be enough for my purposes but I had no idea what they were saying so I went with the option that sounded more understandable.

This is in one track, using different channels (16 total, number 10 is usually reserved for drums/percussions, but you can change it). I would probably not use more than a handful of channels per track, for the sake of readability.

Anyway, with the general midi plugin you can assign the different instruments to the channels directly from the plugin, no need to browse hundreds of separate files.

Composing, like other music making, involves feedback between the composer and the instruments she uses. Trying to do orchestral composition using instruments which aren’t actually made for that purpose is likely to break that cycle, and leave the composer frustrated, or even making different / wrong choices because of the limitations of the instruments. VPO has the advantage that it is maintained by somebody who actually uses it for the purpose of compsing for orchestras.


I got the VPO to work, although it will take more time to actually learn how to use it. (Or more accurately how to use Ardour in general.) Thanks everyone!

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