Ardour 3 is now in alpha, and I’ve been poking at it for a few days now; in fact, you may have noticed some bits of Ardour 3’s GUI in the screenshot from my last post. It’s still quite crashy, as you’d perhaps expect from an alpha, but that seems to improve with each new release. In fact, going back to Ardour 2 already feels uncomfortable, because the Ardour 3 interface just feels nicer to work with, even before you consider all the new features.
The MIDI functionality takes a little getting used to, but once you’ve learned a few keyboard shortcuts you can quickly jump between working with MIDI and audio at the region level, and working with the individual notes within regions. I still think I’d be more comfortable if the piano roll was in a separate window, but once you’ve resized your MIDI track and adjusted the range of notes it displays to match your needs, it’s really quite easy to draw in notes with the mouse.
Being able to manipulate notes easily with the keyboard is great, too; once you’ve learned the appropriate shortcuts, you can move between notes and edit their pitch, duration, and velocity using the keyboard. Editing velocity in general is a bit strange, though, since there’s no velocity ruler — velocities are represented just by note colour, though hovering the mouse over a note will tell you its velocity value.
I did run in to a few problems beyond simple crashes, but I’m still pretty confident that Ardour 3 will be pretty solid by the time of its final release. I’m not sure it’ll eclipse other sequencers, like Qtractor, in that first final release, at least not in some ways (I do like having a velocity ruler, for instance). That’s just fine, though — Ardour 3 works just as well with external sequencers as Ardour 2 ever did, and its features extend far beyond simply adding MIDI.