Suggestions to improve MIDI workflow in Ardour v7

I love Ardour and Mixbus, but as a composer with a MIDI and plugin centered workflow, they leave a lot to be desired. Especially in comparison with other DAWs. Since Ardour is not far from making a jump in major version and I know that changes in behaviour are not supposed to happen in minor releases, now might be the perfect time to make my suggestions.

The following is a list of behavioural changes I’d like to see in Ardour and Mixbus to make composing with MIDI more intuitive and much, much faster. It’s little things that add up to a greater workflow.

Of course, all of this can be made optional in the settings.

Add track dialog:

  • remember the last selected track type

and / or

  • allow rearranging track types, so that MIDI tracks can be the default selection

(As I mostly work with MIDI plugins, it is annoying and slows me down to manually select MIDI track every time I decide to add more.)

Create new MIDI region:

  • double clicking inside a MIDI track creates a new 4-bar MIDI region, starting with the bar that has been double-clicked

(Even things like creating a new region to work with are unintuitive and slow right now. This would speed up compositional workflow enormously.)

Editing a MIDI region:

Double-clicking to zoom into the newly created region is fine. But after that, the editing process needs some serious improvements to get things done quickly and intuitively.

after double-clicking a MIDI region to zoom into it:

  • if the region is empty, automatically switch to drawing mode

  • if the region contains note data, automatically switch to internal edit mode; but in the settings:

  • add an option to choose between internal edit mode and drawing mode for this

  • default note velocity should be 127.

  • when scrolling with mousewheel to change velocity before drawing a new note, keep this new velocity value for drawing further notes


Something that drives me crazy right now:

When drawing notes within a zoomed region, I want to scroll up and down the octaves. NOT the tracks. To do that, I currently have to move the cursor over this super thin strip of octave selector, which slows me down, is not intuitive and requires too much precision to keep the cursor in that slim region. So:

  • When zoomed into a MIDI region, make scrolling the mouse wheel scroll up and down ovtaves instead of the track list, while the cursor is over an empty area and no notes are selected.


Allow to exit the zoom to MIDI region the same way as entering it:

  • double-click with the grabbing tool inside a zoomed-in MIDI region goes back to the zoom level before

I am sure I would have many more suggestions, but these would be enough to improve my compositional workflow immeasurably.


FWIW, REAPER has a dedicated MIDI editing window and I think Ardour would benefit from adding one. Otherwise, the only thing missing for me is MIDI ripple editing and riipple all tracks for audio (discussed in another recent thread).

Be a good citizen and add these suggestions to as per regular advice from the developers otherwise your comments might end up in the massive blackhole that is Discourse :stuck_out_tongue:


Done: 0008721: MIDI workflow improvements for Ardour v7 - Ardour Bug Tracker

And I agree, I would prefer a separate editor window or docked editor area at the bottom, like in other DAWs. However, with the proposed changes, I could live with the inline editing approach.


I’m also looking forward to the revisited MIDI editing in Ardour and I have a suggestion:
when in drawing / edit mode I think the behavior for rightclick (open context menu) and shift-rightclick (delete note) could be switched, adding and deleting notes are the two most done actions while MIDI composing so it should take the least “effort” (aka no key combination), “open context menu” on a note or selection behavior is less common and could be well placed under shift-rightclick.
Even better, keeping pressed the rightclick and then moving the cursor should work like an eraser: every note you hoover on gets deleted, this should make deleting a group of notes easier since you don’t have to delete them one by one or switch to edit mode and select all of them and then delete them and then reswitch to draw mode to resume.

Now that I think about it there’s also this that could be helpful in some contexts:
right now when in draw mode if I leftclick and then drag the cursor I place a longer note, it would be cool to add the possibility to instead add a set of notes, one after the other.

Basically I would love to have a more powerful drawing mode, so that adding, deleting, moving and resizing notes it’s super easy and fast as possible, switching modes is time consuming and should be done only when specific actions are required.

Defaulting notes to 127 is not the way I’d go, I’d default to 65. Velocity editing also needs a do-over, lollipops or bars are probably the most practical layout.

But I’m not bothered if Ardour never improves its MIDI and only focuses on Audio, there are other programs out there that can handle the MIDI side of things for me.

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i can chime in with one issue with mixbus (maybe someone can try to replicate as well)

you can hear phasing when loop finishes and starts again, at some point hi-hat track is silent for some time as well

Good point. MIDI for me is a cheap way of recording VST performances using minimal disk space (only rendering to audio at the very final stage). I use REAPER if I know I need to do MIDI editing (ripple editing in a dedicated MIDI editing window with locked pitch levels means I can edit performances in the same way I edit audio) but otherwise Ardour is absolutely fine. +1 for lollipops or bars, of course.

That’s okay, but please be aware that there are many types of musicians, workflows, needs and opinions.

Although I did not intend this thread as a bug report topic, just mentioning: to me it sounds like the hihat is playing twice after looping, as if the note was held as the new one gets played as well. That however could be the plugin you are triggering with the notes. If for example you would have set a high value for “release”, the sound would keep playing after a note ends. That is what could happen here. It could also be a sampler with a sample set to one-shot mode, which would play the sample until it ends, no matter how long the note is.

That silence however is weird.

if you ignore the hat, you can also hear 'phasing on kick… and also listen last occurrence and compare playback… the whole midi region is getting ‘phased out’ gradually over time.
-And no, the release is practically 0.
Instead guessing, you could have tried to reproduce it already. It would be a lot more useful than asking XY question

If you’re looking for help with a bug, please create a new and properly tagged forum thread, instead of posting in a barely related feature request thread.

I am sorry my attempt at helping was not useful enough to you. Good luck finding testers with that friendly attitude of yours.


i’ve actually wrote in initial reply that if someone can replicate, it would be useful. I also wrote that in second reply. This is my third reply.
Have a great day.

please elaborate how is the following unintuitive?

  1. press d for ‘draw’
  2. draw midi region

“Intuitive” means that things work in a way that is commonly known from standards or in a natural attempt at doing something without prior knowledge or extra steps. Learning and using keyboard shortcuts or constantly switching mouse modifier modes with buttons for such simple and often used tasks is a slow, unergonomic implementation that no new user would simply try to do.

As a MIDI based composer, I need to create a huge amount of MIDI regions, they’re the foundation of my workflow. And since I have worked with around 14 different DAWs, I know the fastest, most userfriendly and natural implementations. Just double-clicking in an empty MIDI track is the fastest, something a new user might try naturally and saves time, mouse travel and button presses for this task. Might not be much for a single MIDI region, but if you compose day by day, it adds up and makes a significant difference in working speed and comfort. And since it can and should be optional, there is no reason to not implement it.

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while i agree that double-clicking in the empty track should create midi region - and improve workflow speed (often found in other DAWS - as you already mentioned) i strongly disagree that current workflow is unintuitive.
i mean, if you want to draw a midi region, you have to do exactly that (press d for draw and draw). i still cannot understand the unintuitive part.

since this is your personal workflow, you are a busy composer, and you appreciate mouse travel, efficiency and all of that, you have options:

  1. adopt it (ardour/mixbus)
  2. wait for improvement
  3. use something from the past (that you find most comfortable working with).

did you try playing midi instead of just clicking it throughout?

The unintuitive part is simple. When you got using Ardour for the first time, did you expect and know that there is a keyboard shortcut for “draw”, set to D? No? Me neither. I had to look up how to perform the simplest, common task quicker than constantly clicking UI buttons to switch modes. And I was also highly confused by how “internal edit mode” and generally selecting and editing things behave. Only after reading a forum post about it, I understood the concept. And that is by definition unintuitive. As a new user, I could not do these tasks out of intuition, as I would expect them to work. The implementation is very different than any other DAW, starting by having only an in-line editor instead of a separate area or window. Being required to look up how simple things work = unintuitive.

Thanks for pointing out my options, however instead of waiting for things to improve, I prefer option 4) make suggestions on specific improvements for my workflow, by extension possibly for other users with a similar workflow, and hope they get implemented.

And about playing MIDI, well, my current room setup does not allow me to make use of my giant master keyboard, I simply have no space for it currently. I am fine composing with mouse and virtual keyboard, as long as it is not cumbersome. And that’s where I see a lot of room for improvement in Ardour.

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apart from internal edit mode which is specific to ardour (from my current viewpoint)
almost every daw has toolbar which has different type of editing context… (bitwig and reason for example)

Bitwig: tool2

again, how can this be unintuitive if other DAWs behave exactly the same (apart from internal edit mode)?

the editor is still there, the same as you would have in any other DAW, it’s just that it is inline, not detachable… it’s not a new concept - so you could potentionally call it unintuitive… it’s not a tracker interface so you can say ‘what the heck, i never saw piano roll like this’
Even early acid pro versions had inline piano roll (if i recall correctly?) - so this is nothing new

yes, but that point doesn’t solve your personal issue for composing, it’s just an improvement suggestion for ardour which is awesome, and i cannot agree more, but you have to ‘keep composing’ meanwhile, right?

i can suggest checking renoise (tracker realm) if you utilize qwerty a lot :stuck_out_tongue:
i miss my 88 p115 a lot tho

also to add that i pivot bitwig <> mixbus 32c on a weekly basis… i would like to go for mixbus32c only, but due to easiness of modulation & midi handling in bitwig, i doubt i will ever transfer fully to mixbus. Nonetheless I use it for audio (mostly mastering lately)

I think the UI makes sense conceptually but it misdirects the user in a couple of places.

First of all, it’s not discoverable. You wouldn’t think that enlarging a track would reveal the piano roll. Once you know the trick, it’s quite intuitive, but until then, you’re going to be searching around.

The other thing is that the piano roll invites you to draw midi events, but this won’t work if you haven’t drawn a region first. This catches me out all the time.

What I would do is include 2 new behaviours:

  1. Double-clicking a region expands the midi track to reveal the piano roll.
  2. The piano roll is only shown (or only shown to be active) when you can draw notes.

I have a little addendum on the point of velocity:

I’m actually not a great fan of how most piano rolls do velocity. Having a one-dimentional channel for velocity widgets is pretty cumbersome when dealing with chords because inevitably they overlap. Sure, most DAWs get around this by making you select the note you want to edit first to move its velocity widget to the top, but it’s still fiddly and error prone, and I’ve never really liked it.

I haven’t used Ardour’s piano roll enough to be able offer an opinion on it, but I think the principle of combining velocity and note widgets has merit and is worth refining.

I also I’d like a separate (but dockable) window for piano roll. Oh and midi pan !!