How to use software instrument plugins

Apologies for the novice question. I’m a new user, just trying to figure out the basics, in this case how to add a software instrument implemented by a plugin (Sforzando). I can’t find any documentation on this, and I haven’t been able to figure it out. I’m on macOS. Here’s what I’m doing.

  1. Track → Add Track, Bus or VCA

  2. Select “MIDI Tracks”, and then “sforzando (AU)”.

  3. Click “Add and Close”.

That adds the track, but it doesn’t make any sound. I eventually figured out the next steps.

  1. View → Show Editor Mixer

  2. Double-click on “sforzando” to bring up the UI.

  3. Load the instrument I want to use.

I can now use the on-screen keyboard within the Sforzando window to play the instrument. But when I close the window and go back to Ardour, there’s still no sound.

What else am I missing?


No sound from what precisely? From when you play an external keyboard, or from MIDI regions on the track?


No sound when I play on Ardour’s on-screen keyboard, and no sound from MIDI regions in the track.

To be clear, I only have problems with tracks implemented by plugins. If I create a track with “General MIDI Synth” it works correctly. So it isn’t a problem with audio output or anything like that.

What specific plugins ?

I finally found it. In the Editor Mixer, just below the track title, there was a widget that just displayed a dash. I had to click on it and select “Virtual Keyboard” from the menu.

Odd though Ardour should connect the virtual-keyboard (and all other MIDI inputs) when a MIDI track is selected:

Preferences > MIDI > MIDI input follows MIDI track selection is enabled by default.

As for connections in general, the following annotated screenshot should help to understand Ardour’s routing:

Thanks! I’m a bit confused about how that menu works. Here’s what it looks like, including the tool tip from hovering over it.

I assume *2* means that two inputs are enabled: system MIDI capture (my keyboard) and the virtual keyboard. Only one of those is an option in the menu, though. If I select “Disconnect”, I can reconnect the virtual keyboard from the menu, but there doesn’t seem to be any way to reconnect the physical keyboard?

That assumes I have my keyboard turned on when I launch Ardour. If I turn it on after launching, it doesn’t get connected automatically and I can’t figure out any way to connect it.

Then there’s the “Add Audio Port” option. Here’s all the manual says about it: “Adds an audio input to the track, i.e. a mono audio track becomes a stereo one.” Clearly that isn’t what I want here, but I tried selecting it at one point while stumbling around, and the result was unexpected: it causes the virtual keyboard option to disappear from the menu, and I couldn’t find any way to get it back. I’m not sure what it even means to add an audio port to a MIDI track.

If I may offer a suggestion, here is a simple change that would make the UI a little more intuitive. Instead of showing a dash when no input is selected, have the label change to “Select input…” or “No input selected” or something similar. Something that communicates what it’s for, and also that you don’t have any input connected to it.

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