Problems with duplication and moving MIDI + automation


Ardour was started as a tool for working audio only and didn’t have any MIDI support until version 3.

In my opibion it’s audio editing workflow is absolutely unrivaled in the opensource world and very competitive in perspective of commercial software that I used as well (Pro Tools, Cubase, Logic Pro X, Reaper).

What is a relatively new path in Ardour is MIDI and support for virtual instruments that is already very good and provides great flexibility especially with the Pinout configurations and easy sidechaining).

One issue I have noticed recently is the problem with duplicating and moving MIDI regions along with plugin automation that is meant to stay in sync with the MIDI data.

Any MIDI-CC automation is stored in side the MIDI region and is handled fine, but I can’t use that for everything.

I use synthesizers a lot (mostly ZynAddSubFX) and I’ve decided to make my next album 100% with Ardour (no LMMS for the first time). I have hit a major problem there however.

The problem

I think using automation is key for creating sophisticated synthesized sounds, that change over time and not just rely on envelopes and LFOs, which provide much less expressive results, and are highly predictable (read: boring). I often have multiple automation lanes for a single synthesizer, and effects applied in it’s processing chain, all tightly synced together. I sometimes have up to 8 automation lanes for a single MIDI clip for driving ZynAddSubFX, and effects applied afterwards.

Right now duplicating and moving that stuff around the session is a big pain.

  • Shift+D and Alt+D doesn't copy automation data at all.
  • Ctrl+Drag doesn't copy automation data along with MIDI regions
  • Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V is not reliable and misplaces automation data or misses parts of it entirely

I have no reliable way to copy my automation along with MIDI data, I have to copy each lane manually and correct timing errors that happen in the process. That’s a big black hole in the workflow.

I see that Ardour is drawing in new users and I know people who make electronic dance music with it - and I’m dedicated to make it work for me as well in this regard, but I think there’s a need for a reliable and easy way to duplicate synthesized phrases with related automation data without having to spend 15 minutes on fixing it afterwards for each copy.

How I'd want it to work?

I would personally want the automation data laying below a region to be treated as a part of that region.

I’d be very happy if I could Ctrl+drag or Shift+D a MIDI region and have all plugin automation duplicated and moved along.

I’d love to have plugin automation move along with the MIDI regions when I grab and move them around my session. I know it’s not going to work for shifting MIDI regions to different tracks - it’s not supposed to. It’s not for multing, it’s for arranging. In such case the automation should probably be left in their lanes. And if a MIDI region is placed or drawn above them - they’d follow that one as thier new “parent”.

Closing thoughts

Moving and copying automation along with regions works to some extent for audio data, but not at all for MIDI data.

Right now that’s the biggest obstacle I see for making complex synthesized music with Ardour, and staying productive. I’ll let know if I find any solution or workaround.

I hope we can work it out - what do you think?

This looks like a bug report and would be much off if it was placed at It raises legitimate points and questions, and we generally hate using the forums for this sort of thing - they are just the wrong infrastructure for the purpose.

“Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V is not reliable and misplaces automation data or misses parts of it entirely”

  • try to use “R”-mode:

Paul - I have already filed a few bug reports with these issues, but I felt it might be a good idead for me to draw a bigger picture, to show what workflow would benefit from these functions being fixed/implemented.

cooltehno: I’ve watched your video. I kind of hoped you found an easy way to do it, but it’s manual Copy+Paste of each automation track one by one.

@unfa: I just wanted to show the way to copy without “misplaces automation data or misses parts of it entirely” that you told. I agreed: “track one by one”, but it works without bugs for me.

P.s. Not about the topic, but thanks for the automation contribution and “guru” tutorials about ZynAddSubFX using! I think people could learn from it not only about Zyn, but also about synthesis at all. :slight_smile:

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Anyone know if there’s been an update on this? It’s been a couple years, so sorry if there’s a rule about reviving old threads. I have the exact same situation, i.e. a MIDI region with automation that I’d like to duplicate all-together. Searching led me here, and I don’t see any updates on the bug reports since 2017.

Nothing new on the topic.

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