Thought I’d give an update on my experience using Ardour for the play performances this past week-end, in case anyone reads this post later…
Firstly, I should re-state that I was using version 2.8.16 – that is, although a3 looks very interesting, and I intend to start using it for recording projects as soon as possible, I decided that a2 might be a wee bit safer for this purpose, at this time. Secondly, I haven’t had time to look into the sampler + MIDI keyboard idea yet, so the rest of this isn’t meant to imply that I tried both and decided not to use that method.
Overall, using Paul’s audition mode idea – which means using a mouse (or similar), but needing only 1 click to play a region – worked fairly well. I was starting to get a bit worried during the last rehearsals, because on a few occasions, clicking on a region gave an unexpected result, such as moving the playhead to the start of a track (not always the one I had clicked on!) and not playing, or playing some sort of jibberish or chirp or click for a brief time (a couple/few hundred milliseconds at the most), sometimes with the playhead sort of flitting around spastically at the same time. During the rehearsals I was making a lot of changes – importing sound files, moving things around, fiddling with plugins and region volume envelopes in a couple cases – and I knew from past experience that Ardour can get flaky after a certain amount of editing, and that even JACK can go a bit sideways after running for a longish period of time. So I quit Ardour, re-started JACK, and re-opened the Ardour session, and thankfully never saw any more issues like that. I restarted both before each show, just in case – hopefully that was unnecessarily paranoia.
I ended up with multiple tracks, mainly because I needed special processing and/or signal routing on a couple of them. I didn’t have to do anything special with muting, since in this case none of them overlapped in time. Apparently playing in audition mode doesn’t change the signal flow significantly from other modes – meaning signals from the track that contained a region still went to the master bus and its outputs, and to any sends that were hooked up – which was perfect for me. (I forgot to check the auditioner outputs to see if they were also active. If they were, I probably doubled my output volume without realizing it, since I hadn’t disconnected them from the same sound card outputs that the master bus outs went to.)
The only sort of “issue” I found was not really a surprise: when there’s a combination of regions containing short sound effects and entire songs (imported CD tracks) in the project, zooming out to see the whole time line, or even a couple of long regions, makes the short regions very thin. Zooming in to make them easier to click on makes long regions huge, so it can take some extra fiddling to zoom and shift things when the pressure’s on. I accidentally left auto-return enabled for one of the performances, which bit me when the playhead returned (and caused a scroll back) to beginning of a long region, after I had carefully zoomed in so that I could play a short one just after it.
Overall the experience was good enough that I wouldn’t be discouraged from trying it again, lacking any better alternatives. I still think it would be great to be able to navigate and play ranges using the keyboard, or some sort of buttons on an external device. And I think I remember that, in a3, marks (and I assume range markers?) can be moved in time, along with regions, which would be very very nice – not just for this purpose, but also for recording.