Help with simple MIDI import

I am new to Ardour; I’m an experienced user of Audacity and Sibelius, and I wanted to try a more sophisticated approach to recording; in particular, I want to take advantage of non-destructive editing.

I’m using Ardour 6.3 on Ubuntu 20.04 installed from the backports PPA.

I have composed a piece in Sibelius, and output a MIDI file. Sibelius uses General MIDI.

When I try importing the file into Ardour, it auditions fine with “a-Reasonable Synth”, but since it uses multiple instruments, I want to use “a-Fluid Synth”. Whatever I do, I can’t get audition to produce any sound with “a-Fluid Synth”.

Also, I’m not clear how I’m supposed to get sound output once the MIDI file is imported with “a-Fluid Synth”. (If I import it with “a-Reasonable Synth”, it works fine, but of course all the sounds are piano.) I can load the sound font into each track’s “a-Fluid Synth” plugin, but that is rather cumbersome (needs to be done for each track), and I see suggestions that it might use a lot of memory (with the font being loaded for each track).

I feel I must have overlooked something, but after hours of searching, reading the manual, and watching YouTube tutorials, I finally stumbled on something quicker: I created a new MIDI Bus with “a-Fluid Synth”, loaded the GM Fluid sound font into it, and routed all the MIDI tracks from my imported MIDI file to the bus. Then I got sound.

Having looked at LMMS and MusE too, Ardour looks to be the best-designed and most comprehensive program of the three, so I’m keen to get to grips with it, and I understand that it’s likely to be hard at first. (Last year when I tried video editing for the first time I similarly had to grapple with Shotcut.)

So, my questions are: Am I doing things in a reasonable way (if not, how can I most straightforwardly import General MIDI in such a way that it plays)? What documentation have I overlooked? How can I make MIDI audition with “a-Fluid Synth” produce sound?

Thanks in advance to anyone who’s able to help!

The default synth for new MIDI tracks these days a General MIDI synth (which is essentially a-fluid with a General MIDI soundfont loaded). This is likely what you want if the MIDI file was created using a General MIDI set of instruments.

The more general mechanism would be to use a-fluid and then load the desired soundfont (which you would have to know and have). This would be a path to take with a more specialized MIDI import, for example where you know that the notes are intended to be played by (for example) Cembalo or Hang drum.

a-fluid won’t make any sound until you load a soundfont (and may not make any sound even after that, if the soundfont is particularly badly matched to the MIDI file you loaded).

Thanks very much for replying!

I’ve seen other mentions of “General MIDI synth”; it sounds like exactly what I want, but I don’t see it anywhere in Ardour; in particular, it’s not in the list of synths that comes up when I create a MIDI track or import a MIDI file. How do I get it?

Where did you get Ardour from? It is built into the versions available at

Ah, you answered that in your initial post. This is a packaging error/choice by Ubuntu, and another reason why we do not support distribution builds of Ardour.

Thanks for clearing that up, I’ll investigate with the Ubuntu Studio packagers. (Or I guess I could build from source?)

Any of the above. Or you could pay $1 or any higher amount for the official version.

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While I recommend paying a $1 or more for the official Ardour binary, if you want to add the General MIDI Synth to a Ubuntu-packaged version, I believe you can download it here:

Thanks! I’d already downloaded it, but was only mostly sure that was the right answer!

As a long-time libre software contributor and maintainer (I was a SoX maintainer for a few years, and contributed some file format support to libsndfile; currently most of my packages are text-related), I’m a stickler for encouraging the free-as-in-beer distribution of libre software, so much as rationally it would well worth my time to pay the $1 or indeed more, I am happy to put a bit of extra work in, especially if I can use my experience to smooth the path for others, especially those for whom even $1 is unaffordable. (Of course this is to denigrate in any way the authors of Ardour, or to suggest that the way they’ve chosen to monetize it is wrong—their work, their choice! and I’m very grateful it’s released as libre software.)

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