play regions/ranges using keyboard commands

I’m trying to use (some might say abuse) Ardour to play sound effects and music on cue for a play that starts in a couple days. I’ve imported the audio files I’ve been given – currently each piece of sound happens to be in an Ardour region, but I suppose a more general arrangement might be to use range markers. For live performance use like this, I need to be able to move from range to range, and play the range that the playhead is on, with quick, easy-to-find-and-hit keyboard commands – there’s no time to fumble with a mouse. Moving from range to range (or region to region) is do-able, possibly several ways - at the moment I’m binding the the left and right keypad “arrow” keys (4 and 6) to Transport->Playhead->Jump to Previous/Next Mark using the GUI binding method (ie, find the menu item, hover over it with the mouse so it’s highlighted, and hit the key to bind). [I’d really like to re-map the left and right arrow keys at the bottom of the keyboard, which by default move to region boundaries, but when I hit one of those keys, I move over to the Edit menu item.] I haven’t found a way to move to only range starts, rather than both starts and ends, but this is pretty close. Setting the grid to Region starts, and using Transport->Playhead->Playhead to Previous/Next Grid looked promising, but unfortunately it only seems to work once (in a3 at least; maybe this is a bug?).

However my main problem is that I don’t see out how to play a range (once) from the keyboard. Am I missing something obvious? Is there a better strategy for this?

I’m trying this with 2.8.16 and the newly-released 3.0 on Fedora 17 with CCRMA extensions. Window manager is currently XFCE (and I’m running it in a VNC session, in case that matters).

@don3: you could try switching into audition mode. use a single track (or mute all others but that makes things more confusing). click on a region.

Well I read part of the way through the forum history, and found that something similar has already been asked:
Apologies - somehow I hadn’t found this in my earlier Google searches.

I’m not surprised that this isn’t something that Ardour was intended to be used for, and I’m not surprised that specialized software exists for it (for Mac and Windows, hm). But since I’m already somewhat familiar with Ardour’s interface, I think it would actually be very handy for this task, since it would allow the easy addition and manipulation of effects (EQ, reverb, etc) and volume corrections (using fader automation) right there in the tool that I’d be using to play from. To me, Ardour seems to be “this close” to doing what I need – it seems to be lacking (if it is, even) only a very minor capability - that of playing the range or region that the playhead is currently at the start of via a keyboard command, or tropical ice cube’s idea of being able to define a stopping point.

@paul -Thanks!! I tested that out – on my own, not “live” yet – and I think it just might work, in this case at least. :slight_smile:

My goal in general is to not have to use the mouse to launch sounds during a show, since it increases the risk of me screwing up under pressure, and that’s high enough already. My focus and my hands are much more on the FOH mixer. I have to respond to cues very quickly, so a simple foolproof UI for the player is essential, if you see what I mean. But compared to the alternatives I’m aware of, just once click seems not too bad, and in this particular case, I might be able to get someone with a script to launch the sounds for me, so one click should be manageable.

For future, what do you think of the possibility of adding keyboard controls for playing a range? That way, one could have multiple regions and tracks involved. (Luckily having one sound/song/whatever per region works in my current situation.) Or, since there does appear to be a way to play loop ranges with a keyboard command, would it make any kind of sense to be able to specify a number of loops for a loop range? It would default to infinite, and I would use 1 for most of what I’m doing, except that one of the sounds is a telephone ringing… (Sorry, I’m an engineer, not a musician, so this may be abusing the whole concept of loop ranges. :slight_smile:
More generally, from what I can see, the keybindings window has only a subset of the possible actions from the various menus. Is that by design, or am I just confused?

I should also say that I’m already seeing some benefits of using Ardour for this task, even though I haven’t tried it live yet. I can do things like trimming the audio files given to me, fixing volume problems, adding specific EQ (the remote side of a phone conversation, for example) – and I can fiddle with these things until I’m satisfied with the result – without having to go out of the player to edit the sound files.

How about using a sampler and a MIDI-keyboard for this?

That sounds like an interesting idea. I’ll have to do some reading, since unfortunately I have no experience with either of those. Thanks dknation!

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. :slight_smile: 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.

you should submit a detailed description of your imagined workflow in a mantis report. it could be very useful.

Paul - I took an initial stab at it : issue 0005400. Sorry for the long-windedness - somewhere in one of the “how to submit a bug report” pages it said to be verbose, and I guess I took that to heart, for better or worse. :slight_smile: