How to properly use layered mode to pick and choose between multiple takes?

Hello everyone.
I’m trying to figure out how to properly use the layered recording mode. What I’m trying to do is:

  1. Have Ardour automatically loop over the same recording section several times until I tell it to stop
  2. Record 5 to 10 takes within the same track
  3. Pick and choose the best one out of each segment of the take
  4. Move on to the next section

The problem is point 3. I cannot figure out how to listen to a take other than the last one. Even selecting one of the previous takes in listening mode still plays back the one that sits on top.
What I can do is drag and drop or right click to move it to the top and then listen to it. But then the whole process of

  1. Selecting all takes
  2. Pressing S to cut in the right place
  3. Moving each bit to the top to listen to it
  4. Finding the best one
  5. Manually putting in a crossfade wherever necessary
  6. Rinse and repeat several times per section
  7. Memorize which take was which in case you want to come back to it later
  8. Hope you don’t accidentally move any of the cut bits forward or backwards a tiny bit by mistake
    becomes extremely cumbersone and exhausting.

I previously worked with a different DAW where you could simply pick and choose the best bits out of every take by selecting them by clicking and dragging the mouse across a section, then clicking on each one of the takes to listen to the best one. Crossfades would be created automatically and it would always play the highlighted take/section, even if it was all the way at the bottom.

I’m sure there is a similarly easy workflow on Ardour, I just haven’t figured it out yet. So I’m coming to you, asking if you could point me in the right direction.
Thanks in advance!

Hi Schratze,

welcome to the forum!

That’s about how I am used to doing it (not saying it is the perfect way :wink: ):

  1. Loop-record a part
  2. Having all takes/layers selected, cut them up to somewhat logical phrases
  3. Loop over each of these phrases (one after another)
  4. Having a keyboard shortcut for mute/unmute the selected regions, it is quite simple to step through the layers and always hear only one/the top most unmuted region…
  5. Important: Delete bad bits right away, only ever keep usable stuff!

@ Fades: At that stage I usually don’t need to crossfade a lot (as long as I don’t cut within words)… Ardour puts in short fades automatically wherever you cut up regions, so there will be no pops or clicks… When all best bits are selected, I usually do one iteration of “tidying up” where I might adjust starts or endings of the snippets etc…

@ Moving accidents: There is a lock for editing mode, so that’s not to worry about… See:

Hope that helps a bit! Have fun with Ardour and I’m sure you too will find your way to get stuff done nicely…!

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Hello laex,
thank you very much for your reply.

The workflow your described sounds a bit more quick and easy than what I worked out so far. But it’s still not quite what I had hoped for. My experience so far showed that especially when recording melody lines such as vocals or guitar solos, being able to cut from take 6 into take 1 into take 15 makes the whole process much easier and faster. And then, moving the cut to the perfect millisecond is absolutely essential to avoid “hiccups”/audible cuts.

Is there an easy way to move a cut between different layered takes back and forth? As far as I can tell so far, once the cut is cut, it stays where it is.

I looked for keyboard shortcuts to speed up the whole process as you described, but I only found this list right here:

Which can hardly be exhaustive for the current version of Ardour, right? There is nothing on muting the selection only, moving layers to the top, switching between editing modes etc.

Thanks for the hints on crossfades and moving/lock editing. Everything you said helped quite a bit!

Here’s what I just figured out:

  1. I have the loop still around that region (yeah, I’m going to probably mix all the region/track stuff… don’t crucify me :slight_smile:
  2. I have the track selected with the layers set to “stacked”, so I can see them all
  3. Playing the loop range…
  4. Right-click on one of the stacked regions, select “Choose Top…”
  5. Click on each region name in turn, for it to be the audible region


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Thank you. Could you elaborate on point 5 a bit more? Is there a way to make a region audible without having to move it to the top?

I would say that, based on the behavior, “moving it to the top” and “making it audible” are synonymous. Best to give it a try, and see how it behaves for yourself. Now, I haven’t tried to answer all of your questions. I am only looking at how you can switch between different “takes” of that one track (corresponding to your “3. Pick and choose…” from your OP.

I do the same thing. I’m currently recording some guitar harmonies. I already have one line down on track A. Then I loop on that, recording on track B. After I stop, I follow the procedure that I already mentioned. As laex mentioned, any horrible regions, delete them to both reduce your pool of options and to save some resources.

I choose the best take. I delete the crap. Anything else that I want to keep around, for whatever reason, I’ll just drag those regions onto another (muted) track.

Don’t know if that’s the best way to do things, but it’s working for me.


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Well, nothing is carved in stone here, ever. Just drag the boundaries of a region to effectively change the position of the cut…?

Remember, at all times, only the topmost unmuted region is audible - no matter what lies beneath it! Also be aware of this: a fade-in of the top most region will let the region beneath it be heard…!

(In stacked mode this behaves a bit differently, but in regular “overlaid” mode this could be helpful for you: Additionally there are multiple options when dragging region boundaries - e.g. holding Shift while dragging region boundaries more or less moves a cut… Holding Ctrl while dragging moves the waveform but keeps the region position/boundaries (probably not what you need in your use case, but still very handy sometimes)… Try it out… (There are a lot more options - you can change these modifiers in Global Settings/Editor/Modifiers…))

Ardour is very customizable! Once you tweak and get used to it, it is really quite good to work with.

You can have shortcuts for almost everything, adjusted to your needs: Window/Keyboard Shortcuts (Alt + K)… It is also quite easy to create small scripts if you need to execute a series of commands at the press of one button…

Yes, muting the regions that are “above” it.


The simplest way to listen to the different layers in a stack is to select one and press the “a” key, which will audition that layer starting at the playhead position. Auditioning mutes everything else, no need to move things around or individually mute other tracks or layers.

If you have a bunch of takes, it’s a cinch to audition each one just by selecting it and pressing “a.” Fast and easy.

I believe this only works in Ardour 6 but may have worked in later versions of Ardour 5; it also worked in Harrison Mixbus 5 and of course still works in Mixbus 6.

I just tried that out thanks for reminding me of it!

Certainly, this option can be handy at some occasions. But for my taste, I want/need to hear things in context (together with the other recorded tracks) most of the time, so I will stick with muting/unmuting unwanted/wanted snippets…

But I agree, in an ideal world, one could optimize the whole layered recording workflow e.g.: select audible region/layer just by clicking on it…

You can of course select multiple tracks and audition them together. It’s also worth watching this video (for Harrison Mixbus, but this is also the exact same for Ardour 6 since they share the same editor):

Hi @bradhurley, can you please elaborate on how you use the audition function in the case we talked about?

Two questions arise to me:

  1. How do you loop-“audition” a certain part to hear it over and over to compare and select the best take? (You can start a regular loop-playback and then hit “a” - but there must be a quicker way, I suppose?)
  2. If you wanna hear the takes in context, how exactly do you select the other tracks to audition along? Do you select the tracks, or the regions of the other tracks…? How do you hop from one take to the other to select the best one then…?

I tried but didn’t find a way to do it quicker than muting/unmuting the takes - but I am willing to improve my workflow. Thanks for your insights!

I use the auto-return toggle. Set the playhead where you want to start to listen, and with auto-return set to “on,” type a to audition your selected regions, hit spacebar when you’re done auditioning and it’ll return to where you set the playhead, then type a again. I suppose that’s a little more effort than setting up a loop and letting it run, but it works fine for me, especially for auditioning takes.

I set the playhead where I want to start, then go up/down through the tracks and (holding the command key on Mac or the control key on Windows or Linux) select the regions of the other tracks I want to hear in the context of the take. When I’m done evaluating one take, I hold down the control/command key and click on it to deselect it and then click on a different take to select that one.

I can see how this can get cumbersome if you have dozens or hundreds of tracks, but I rarely have more than 4-5 so it’s no bother for me.

An alternative is to use playlists; you keep each take on its own playlist, and you can access the playlists through the “P” button on the track header. Then just cycle through the playlists on a track to listen to each take in the context of all the other tracks. For comping you’d have to create a separate comp track and copy bits from different takes into it.

A related approach is to record your first full take onto a track, and then create a second track just for overdubs/retakes. You record your retakes on that second track (either using playlists or layers), and drag the good bits up to the first track. When you’re done, disable the retakes track.

Thanks for yoru walkthrough! So you basically alter the region selection with Control+Click. That is certainly not too bad, I will play with audition again and rethink my “muting”-way of doing it…

Here is one more simplification when using a loop range: There is a command to select all regions within the loop range (here it is Ctrl+L), so you don’t have to click through all tracks…

Honestly, the use of playlists for this purpose has never been too plausible to me (although there must be some advantage I’ve never been able to see - as it is also endorsed in the Ardour manual :sweat_smile: ).

I’ll use the approach with an additional recording-track at times, e.g. when we want to try something a little different or so… Or sometimes in multi-mic/track-situations…

Surely, almost everything comes down to what you are used to… But I think we can agree, that in paradise everything could be improved, see: Quicker and easier workflow for comping takes

Yes. My first DAW was Ardour but I eventually switched to Logic, then Reaper (and then back to Ardour). I liked Logic’s quick-swipe comping feature, although comping for me is always a bit tricky because we never use a click track or metronome, so takes never line up on a grid; everything has to be nudged a bit. I found that a little tricky in Logic; it’s a somewhat easier in Reaper’s take system, but both of those systems work best if you are recording to a click and a grid. I never do that so Ardour’s comping system suits me fine; in reality I’m switching from takes to punch-ins since every take is at a slightly different tempo and it’s hard to do a comp that way.

I’m completely with you, also don’t use click track here often. Therefore more or less only use stacked mode for overdubs of parts of single instruments/vocals - and in the fixed context of the other tracks/instruments, comping is usually not complicated…

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