My Experience Recording Vocals and MIDI Keys with Ardour 3 Beta

I spent the weekend getting all my packages up-to-date and trying to familiarize myself with Ardour 3 beta 5*. I then spent the last three days recording MIDI keyboard parts and vocals for my upcoming EP.

I got a lot of my information from a video tutorial I found on Ardour’s website. It was made back when Ardour 3 was still in alpha, but I did find it useful as far as getting proper signal flow between various programs using JACK. Upon opening Ardour 3 beta, I did notice that there were quite a few changes to the program since the video was made, but I would still recommend the tutorial, especially if this is your first time recording using MIDI. Unfortunately, the demonstrator is using a USB connection for his MIDI keyboard (guess he did not have a MIDI cable?) but I was able to translate that into what I would need to do to use a MIDI connection with a little thought.

I found that constantly opening a new session and forcing myself to establish those connections again and again was the best way to solidify the process. Sure, I was slow at first, but now I just open all my programs and connect them with out thinking. In the end I used Ardour 3, JACK, QjackCtl (a JACK GUI) and Qsampler (a Linux Sampler GUI) to record my keyboard parts and vocals.

I was pleasantly surprised by a few of the changes to the newest version of Ardour. Here are a few of the things that I loved:

  • Having just come from several months of using ProTools 9, then 10, I see that some of my favorite little details from ProTools are now integrated. I love that there is now a “smart tool” that changes your mouse icon into a different tool depending on where you are in the track. It really saves time when you do not have to keep going to the tool bar to change to the select/move object tool or the select/move range tool.
  • If the way QjackCtl is presented is difficult for you to visualize, I really like having the alternate, more graphic interface that is available right in Ardour. Click on the “Window” tab, check the boxes for “Audio Connection Manager” and for “MIDI Connection Manager” and it shows those same JACK connections between hardware and software, but in a different way. In the beginning, I referred to both just to double check that I had everything set up correctly. In the end, I used the QjackCtl interface more, but I like them both.
  • The dialogue window for exporting makes it a no-brainer for those who might not know about sample rates etc. Want to make a CD-ready track? Select the option for CD in the edit window and it automatically sets your parameters to a 44.1kHz, 16bit WAV file. Want to amend that? All the other options are clearly marked and easy to see. You can even add dither at this point. I think it is nice to be able to just click one button and go if you are not trying to do something unusual.
  • One of my favorite little surprises was something so small and yet it is one of the things I was the most excited about. I was trying to edit one of my vocal tracks. I didn’t like how I sang a phrase, so I wanted to replace it with another take. When I went to line up the preferred version in my working track, I placed the new take on top of the old one and it was translucent. It was SO EASY to line up the takes because I could see one wave form through the other. If you are zoomed in, lining them up takes literally a second or two. I love this feature. So simple! So intuitive!

I will be sure to post more of my thoughts as I continue to record additional songs and play more with my MIDI options. I plan to try to program a very simple drum part for one song that will not have a live drummer, and I will mess around with some ambient sounds as well.

*I am currently running Ardour 3.0.0 svn13084 on 64 bit Ubuntu Studio 12.04

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Gearing Up to Use Ardour 3 Beta 5

I just wanted to make a quick post to let you know that over the last few days I have been playing with the beta of Ardour 3 with hit and miss success, but just realized last night that I did not have the most recent version, and some of my supporting packages were really out-dated.

Everything should be up-to-date and I am about to test it out as soon as I post this blog.

I am really excited about the new incorporated MIDI features, and got a nice taste of their ease of use before I did all the package updates. It is still in beta, so if needed, I plan to submit bug reports etc. It is nice to know that you have a voice when using open source software.

Here is the latest information on the Ardour 3 Beta 5 release.

Stay tuned. I hope to have some new songs for you to hear soon!


Witherwings Makes Pottermore Possible for Five Friends

This is the coolest thing I have heard in a while.

A good friend of mine, who is also a self-described die-hard fan of my HP-themed music project Witherwings, told me the best news. Early this morning one of my songs was the sole reason she and her friends got to be beta testers for the new J.K. Rowling site “Pottermore.”

Each day, for a very limited time, a trivia question is posted. If visitors to the site get the correct answer, they can continue on in hopes of becoming a beta tester for the interactive web site. This gives them access two full months before the general public has access. This morning’s question was “how many points ahead was Gryffindor against Slytherin in Harry Potter’s 3rd year, when he caught the snitch? Then multiply it by 35.”

My friend Madie messaged me saying “Your Oliver Wood SONG says the score, I instantly sang that line, screamed 60! at my Pottermore waiting buddy, and the rest is history.”

So these five friends were able to become beta testers becasue they didn’t need to look up the answer in the book – they knew it from being so familiar with my song “Oliver Wood.”

Move over wikipedia and the hp-lexicon! My songs are all people need!

You can listen to and purchase “Oliver Wood” here:

http://witherwings.bandcamp.com/track/oliver-wood