Ardour Basic Editing & Recording Howto. Contents Next

The ardour editor window

irst you need to open a new session. You can achieve this by clicking in the new button in the session menu. Choose a name for the session which you feel will easily jog your memory of what you are attempting to do in it. Next you need to add some tracks or busses which are the two means of accessing and manipulating the audio data. In the future ardour will support midi tracks but it will not be until after the first stable release unless some generous donor can make it worth our while.
The session add window The bus add window The add track window
Once you have done the above you are ready to start working on a new project (session). You can choose to use existing audio files that you have available or start recording your own. To record audio into a track in ardour, select the r button (record) on the track you want to record into. Press the red record button at the top of the editor window, and then press play also at the top of the editor window to begin recording.
Recording button in action
To use an existing audio file you need to import it from your HDD into the ardour database. You can achieve this by clicking on the regions menu button on the right hand side of the editor window and selecting the import audio or import and convert audio button which is recommended. (Nb. Importing an audio track into ardour will take up more disk space, so its not suited for large audio files). This will bring up the soundfile database browser window which you can use to search your HDDs for the files that ardour can import. Ardour uses the libsndfile library which can understand a multitude of file types so you will more than likely be able to import your tracks. (Nb. Libsndfile is constantly being worked on by Eric de Castro Lopo who is more than receptive to adding support for new formats).

The soundfile database browser window
To use this window just add a search path for your files and press the add directory to database button. At this point you will have to add each directory manually because the scan does not support a recursive search path.

After you have scanned for the files you want to work with you can add them to the region list by double clicking on each file. Once you have a list of files in the region list window (on the right hand side of the main window) you need to select the file you wish to add and then right click on the appropriate edit strip in the mixer window and select the edit -> insert region menu item.

A faster (but not recommended) way to do this is to simply right click in the appropriate edit strip and select the edit -> insert external sndfile menu item which will bring up the soundfile database browser window. Then just double click on the file you wish to work with and ardour will add a new region to the edit strip. The drawback of this method is that ardour will not create peakfiles for these regions.

Understanding the lingo.

track - a passageway for information stored on a disk.
bus - a passageway for information from internal or external sources.
playlist - a list of the regions which belong to a track.
region - a section of a file. Can be a whole file or part of a file.

session - A working set of all the above.

Taken from the FAQ

Busses are the basic element of signal processing and routing in Ardour. They take an input data stream, process it in some way (perhaps not at all), and feed it to some outputs (or perhaps none).

One of the input data streams they can use is a track, which is an object representing a stream of data going to and from various files on your disk drives. A track uses a playlist, to determine what disk data to be playing at any point in time.

Properties like solo/mute, and processing chains (plugins, sends, inserts) belong to a bus.

Properties like the current playlist and playback speed belong to the track.

So, you can have 2 busses taking input from the same track, but processing them in different ways, and muting/soloing them independently.

Q: What are those blue and red lines in the editor?

A: The red line represents the playhead.
      The blue line is the edit point.

Playing playlists and regions.

There are a few options available for playing playlists (a selection of regions in a track or bus - commonly refered to as a track in other audio editors) and regions. On the left hand side of each edit strip is a set of buttons with the letters r,m,s,L,g,e. They allow you to set record, mute, solo, loop, group name and view the edit history for each edit strip individually. For playing the ones you will probably use most are m,s,L.

The playback option buttons - with waveform displays
Navigating the track view menu.

To see a list of the available functions just right click in the appropriate edit strip or region and a menu will popup, with an extra item at the start if you click on a region. (Not surprisingly this menu item is called region so it is easy to tell where you clicked if you are working quickly). Accessing items in this menu can also be done with various hotkeys.

Working with a mouse.

While you are working in the editor window you will need to change the mouse controller often. You can do this by clicking on the relevant button in the mouse controls menu.

The mouse controls menu buttons
Taken from the FAQ

Select mode.

      - dbl-click positions edit cursor
      - click selects a region (view) 
      - click-drag defines selection
      - ctrl-click click aligns region start to edit cursor
      - ctrl-meta click aligns region end to edit cursor
      - clrl-shift click aligns region sync point to edit cursor

Note that the key bindings can be remapped so that a different key than meta can be used instead.

Move mode.

      - dbl-click positions playhead cursor
      - click selects a region (view)
      - click-drag moves a region
      - shift-click drags a region with fixed time position
      - alt-click copies and drags a region
      - alt-shift-click copies and drags a region with fixed time position
      - ctrl-click click aligns region start to selected region start
      - ctrl-meta  click aligns region end to selected region start
      - clrl-shift click aligns region sync point to selected region

Note that the key bindings can be remapped so that different keys can be used. This is helpful if your keyboard does not have a meta or alt key.

Zoom mode.

      button1 click: 	 zoom in
      button2 click:     zoom out
      ctrl-button2:  	 zoom to display entire session (subject
                     	 to current power-of-2 zoom restriction)
      button click+drag: select area, then zoom to display it,
                         also subject to current power-of-2
                         zoom restriction.    

Applying FX.

Next you will probably want to add some FX to the some or all of the regions. To get a full list of the available FX (Ladspa plugins or filters) click on the redirects button to the left of each edit strip and then the add button in the dsp chain window which will popup. Then double click on the filter you would like to use. It will now appear in the dsp chain window where you can adjust the parameters by clicking on the plugin then the edit button.

The dsp chain window The plugins add window
Saving a session.

Ardour uses an EDL (Edit Decision List) to store all your editing decisions/actions. This is non destructive which means that your original file is never changed unless you explicitly save over that file. Apart from the massive reduction in RAM usage and the security of never changing an original recording, the EDL also means that ardour can restart in the same place you were at before your session was closed or if your machine or ardour has a systems crash. You can be safe in the knowledge that you will never have to start from the beginning again unless you choose to.

When you want to save a session the all you need to do is click on the file menu and choose from the save, save as or the export menu items. Hint: Use export when you want to save your final cut to cd, dat, dvd format and be sure you specify the correct file formats and extension before you save.

A cd quality track is 16bit, 44100hz, little endian, stereo, extension = .wav.
A dat quality track is 16bit, 48000hz, little endian, stereo, extension = .wav.
A dvd quality track is 24bit, 96000hz, little endian, stereo, extension = .wav.

A working session

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rec addition from Jacob Robbins <>
Document prepared by Patrick Shirkey <>
Thanks to everyone who contributes, wittingly or not...