Piano Roll

A Piano roll would be a big help in windows, it would make things so much smoother.

(1) “a piano roll” is not really a very specific description.

(2) “in windows” isn’t a very specific description.

(3) there is something that some people would call a piano roll. Two things in fact.
(a) make a MIDI track taller and a vertical piano keyboard appears at the left edge of the track
(b) some people would call the entire MIDI track “a piano roll”

a separate pop up window keyboard that will let you use your computer keyboard as the piano keys to record with, that connects to your virtual instruments and their sound files…

Ardour's MIDI support was specifically designed to avoid separate popup windows for editing. This was a deliberate and much debated decision. It remains in effect for now.

We do, however, have the step editor (right click on the record enable button of a MIDI track). Read the manual page here: http://www.manual.ardour.org/editing-and-arranging/edit-midi/step-entry/ (alas, at this time it does not describe the keybindings, which follow Logic's own and can be seen in "code" form here: https://github.com/Ardour/ardour/blob/master/gtk2_ardour/step_editing.bindings)

As for virtual instruments and sound files: all sound in Ardour that is triggered by MIDI is created by plugins, not by Ardour. So you need to load the instrument you want to use into the track. The instrument might use sound files, or might use pure synthesis.

This might not be what you’re thinking of, but I’ve wanted to use jack_keyboard for this, and configure jack_keyboard to map to a computer keyboard. I just haven’t learned how yet.

vmpk does this in linux (and I think there are others too). I recall using such a program in windows back when I used to use that platform.


I’m not enough of a MIDI expert to have a dog in this fight, however with my limited forays into MIDI with Ardour and using MIDI in track ‘lanes’ generally it seems essential to have at least a high resolution display… 1680x1050 minimum (1920x1080/1200+ is better) IMHO and if you can do it have a dual-head setup, this allows a fair bit of screen real estate for MIDI editing and resolves some of the need for a separate window for MIDI.

not to be argumentative, (and more screen real estate is always a boon to workflow), but you can get the job done with a 900x1400 display. And a lot of mousewheel. :slight_smile:

I think maybe he just needs to understand better how ardour does things. If he just wants to play notes with his qwerty keyboard then there are other apps that do that and could send it to ardour.

@Ahmonster if you are still looking for answers, please clarify a bit what you want so we can help. Odds are there’s a slightly different way of doing what you have in mind that you’ll find to work after all.


No argumentation was perceived :).

Agreed, people need to work within their means and whatever is at hand can be adapted to when needed. I guess my point was if people find they are doing production work (in this case MIDI Editing) for a significant amount of time that in the same way at some point people feel the need to migrate from their onboard Intel HDA to a Pro Audio interface after a while so they can really have control over sound quality that creating a better visual display environment also is an important part of increasing/enhancing productivity and in this case makes the current design of Ardour’s MIDI that much more comfortable to use and in turn better demonstrates the design philosophy behind how it is implemented.

There are obviously all kinds of Ardour users on infinitely variable hardware from bedrooms to full blown Harrison Console equipped studios but I’d hate to see something like MIDI editing in a separate window being changed or influenced on a lowest common demoninator issue like small monitors on lower end hardware which in the long run are really not geared to a satisfying audio production experience with MIDI or anything else…

Just found this thread as a new user (coming from Cubase) trying to work out how the hell I edit some Midi in Ardour.

Its hard to understand the decision to have “in line” editing of the Midi on the Main track view. If I want to edit the midi I have to awkwardly drag open the Midi track big enough to see a familiar “piano roll style editor”.

It seems so awkward and difficult to open the Track enough to see the Midi and then close it again. There is a reason why almost every single other app opens a Separate Window Piano Roll style editor. Its nice and neat and tidy to open / close and leave your main arrangement window intact.

  • rather than having to mess with your arrangement view everytime you edit some MIDI.

well, you don’t actually have to make it tall to edit it, just to see the piano roll.

For me, I do most of my work recording my midi keyboard so its fine, and when I need to edit it, I guess I’m just used to the ardour way. Doesn’t seem awkward at all and I prefer not hunting for separate windows. I’m just trying to say it’s different, not worse.


  1. the track doesn't need to be full height
  2. you can make it full height with click-to-select then "f" ; revert with shift-z. You probably had it selected already. Is that so hard?
  3. there's also a reason why ProTools has followed Ardour with this idea. Is the reason absolutely correct? No-one can say, really. As ssj71 notes, it is different, not worse (or better). Put differently, each approach has some benefits and some disadvantages. Which comes out on top depends on a lot of things about your workflow.

Here’s the thing: you need/want almost all the capabilities of the full track canvas/editor when working on MIDI. So this means that the piano roll window has to replicate almost all the functionality present in the main editor. If it doesn’t, it is limited. If it does … why replicate it at all?

I don’t understand why Ardour couldn’t just have both functions. It would make a lot of sense and then the user could pick based off of available hardware and workflow.

“I don’t understand why Ardour couldn’t just have both functions.”

I am no computer programmer, but I don’t think what you are asking can be whipped up in an hour. If you have the knowledge and time to write all the code needed to provide both options to the user, you are free to do so. It is an open source project. If you are not a programmer, then I think you are perhaps being unrealistic about the costs associated with making significant changes to a program as complex as Ardour.

But none-programmers could dream and propose:) :


(this is a faked feature for “Focus mode” of editing midi region)

The proposal in Bug Tracker:


I agree with cooltehno … a piano roll editor in Ardour is something very important nowadays…and will put ardour in in a great place in the pro audio music scene…i dont mean that ardour has not a great reputation as an audio pro daw in open source systems…i migrated from sonar and i have used so much daws…but ardour is phenomenal…i recongnize always the wonderfull job of its creators and designers…honour to the great Paul Davis and all the fantastic active devellopers, and thanks to all ardour users comunity…sorry for my bad english,…if you see mistakes in the write…here in >Mexico my country, its almost unexistent the culture of open soucer tools…i had my sad history where i presented 3 years ago a project to study Music technology mastery degree after my degree in music in the University form Mexico…but the absence of knowledge about this from the “investigators” send me to the hole…in that days i presented a ladpsa project to develop signal processors plugins…well i have not advanced a lot in this way my knowledge in programing and writing code is from a baby jajajaja…but i think i have another skills, experince in making music in daws and interface drivers…i hope to have more knowledge to join someday to contribute to this great Ardour project…and i think it would be great for people that is still working in comercial daws to see that ardour has the same or even more capabilities and quality than any patent software, as it allready has it,and i have self tested…my dream letter for this great developer team of ardour: Loop player capabilities, time strecth in sync with project tempo and a self tunner as v vocal in sonar or melodyne…i know its a hard work and a long way…but you are brilliant…and here we are the users with fidellity supporting as we can an bealiving in you¡¡¡¡i repeat someday my fantasy is to contribute not only as an user but as a developer…and i know users and developers depend the one of the others…saludos to all the great adour team from Mexico…tlazokmate…(gracias in nahuatl language…the language of my ancient people)and keep gpoin Paul and all of you great Musician programmers¡¡¡¡