Easiest way to layer multiple instruments that share the same track?

I’m coming from Ableton, and I’m basically looking for the equivalent to Ableton’s Instrument Rack; a simple way to layer/group five or ten or so instruments/synthesizers that share the same MIDI track and associated playlist, with the option to mix their relative outputs. What is the most straightforward way to do this in Ardour (7.3)?

I’d rather not use busses; those quickly clog up the editor and mixer windows. I know I can add multiple synths to the mixer strip’s processor box (as per this thread), but that will only play the plugin last in the chain. Is there a another plugin that combines input signals or something like that?

You can play simultaneous synths from the same track by right-clicking on them, selecting “Pin Connections”, selecting “Manual Config”, adding “Audio Out” connectors and routing the signal as seen below.

I wouldn’t recommend it though; you have much better control over the synths by using buses and if you don’t want to see them you just deselect them in the “Show Strips” box in the mixer.


Thanks! That also seems cumbersome, so I will indeed use buses. :slight_smile: Is it worthwhile to suggest Instrument Rack-like functionality in Ideas for Ardour, or has that been requested before or simply not gonna happen anytime soon?

It hasn’t been suggested before. It would need a clear statement of value to lead us to consider it …

Also, any suggestion would need to take into account that Ableton does not consider MIDI to have more than one channel, whereas Ardour does (quite explicitly).

Trying the buses method now, but I would need to duplicate the MIDI region to each of the separate instrument-layer tracks, right? And supposing I wouldn’t want any common processing on all layers, and don’t want to mix the instrument layers relative to each other, I might as well do away with the bus? In which case the most straightforward way would be to simply have a separate MIDI track per instrument layer, which all have one copy of the same MIDI region(s)?

Shared playlists are a thing and awesome for more advanced usage.

Busses are pretty cheap in terms of DSP usage (As in VERY cheap) if you don’t have processing, probably doesn’t hurt to keep it if you are looking at that vs remove it for an existing bus.

See earlier comment about shared playlists:) That way all your edits carry through to all the tracks as well.


There’s a lot of confusion here.

Busses don’t have regions or playlists - they have no “data on disk” for the data type that they handle (audio or MIDI); they just process their inputs depending on what processors (plugins etc) are present in them.

So the real question that has to be answered first is about the MIDI data you’re working with. How is it structured?

Right, I see buses as aggregating a bunch of tracks and processing their combined signal (further).

I see that in Ardour terminology, “layering” generally refers to overlapping regions, but I now use it to refer to multiple instruments/plugins playing the same MIDI data. My MIDI data is simply one .mid file that, when I drag it in Ardour, becomes one MIDI region. I want this singular MIDI region to control multiple instruments (say, a combination of synths and samplers) simultaneously, ideally without duplicating any tracks or the MIDI region.
I layer pretty much every musical component (or, MIDI melody) with multiple separate instruments, and having separate tracks/regions for all layers that constitute a musical component would quickly become cluttered (I’m not very worried about processing cost). But I get the sense that there is no way around duplicating tracks and regions in Ardour if I want to achieve this. In that case, Seablade’s shared playlist suggestion actually sounds very handy.

Thanks you for your time and help!

OK, there’s still some basic info missing here.

There are scenarios where you would be working with a single MIDI file that contains (different) information on all 16 MIDI channels, and you want each channel to drive a different synthesis engine (and possibly have the audio from that be processed independently).

There are scenarios where you have a single set of MIDI data, all one channel, but for some reason want to deliver it to multiple synthesis engines so that you have N voices all playing the same notes (for example)

And there are scenarios that would blend these two together.

So what is your scenario?

My scenario is the latter: single set of MIDI data on one channel that I want to have played by multiple (possibly distinct) engines.

OK, great, now that we’ve got that clear then either of the two solutions mentioned above should work out for you - manually connected multiple synths in one track, or multiple tracks with a shared playlist. And meanwhile, the bus solution will also work well, and you can hide the busses if you really don’t need to see them.