Clip Launching Differences between Ardour and Ableton Live

Ardour's clip launching system has been quite closely modelled on the one found in Ableton Live, in an attempt to build on that software's many years of use and development. We've also taken into account some of the changes and improvements found in the clip launching designs in other DAWs, such as Bitwig, Digital Performer and Logic.

Despite using Live as the basic model of how this should work, during development we came across many details of how Live does things that either puzzled or confused us. In general, we've set out to improve on those points in some way. This documentation presents a fairly comprehensive list of behaviors where Ardour does not follow Live when using clip launching.

Number of slots

Live allows you to dynamically add slots/scenes. Ardour starts out with 16 slots per track, and for the 7.0 release is fixed at that size. A future version will allow dynamic addition of more slots/scenes.

At stop

In Live, when you stop the transport, currently-playing clips are moved to an ‘armed’ state. Re-starting the transport will start them playing. This allows you to ‘queue up’ several clips and start them playing at the same time. One problem with this is: when you restart the transport, the clips have lost their phase relationship. Ardour does not do that, and probably never will, because of the phase problem among other issues. Instead, we provide Cue Markers on the timeline; these trigger a scene (with all clips in sync), so you get a reliable and repeatable playback.

Follow Actions

Live requires that when a clip passes control to the next clip via a follow action, the next clip ONLY triggers if the time coincides with its quantization setting. In Ardour, when a clip ends and it passes control to the next clip, the receiving clip treats it just as if the user had launched it ahead of time, therefore triggering itself on the quantization.

Live has Next or Prev follow actions which will stop at empty slots and do not wrap. Ardour has Forward and Previous follow actions which jump empty slots and will wrap around to the top or bottom. Ardour also has a Jump follow action which can point to one or multiple potential target slots.

Live treats empty slots between filled slots as defining “groups” of slots. While this is a useful visual organizational tool, for it to work correctly with Live’s scenes you must use the same grouping arrangement across all tracks. In addition, inserting/remove a row of slots may break group relationships. Ardour does not have the “group” concept, but instead Jump follow actions that maybe used for similar purposes. This also means that there is no interaction between scenes (cues) and groups.

In Live, a clip can be set to Looping which essentially makes it loop forever regardless of the Follow Action. We feel this is redundant with the Again follow action, which accomplishes the same thing. However we do have a "follow count", like Live, which allows a clip to loop N times before its follow-action is initiated.

Scene Launching

In Live, scene buttons respond to both press and release. you can press and hold a scene button, and any clips on that row that are in Repeat will repeat. Similarly you can trigger gated clips from the scene markers and they will stop playing when you release the scene button. In Ardour, the scene buttons only trigger clips. This is to accommodate the operation of cue markers on the timeline that have no start/end. It also makes them work more consistently with follow actions which also have no note-on, note-off behavior.

Multi-channel MIDI

In Live, a clip may only have one midi channel of information; in Ardour we can have up to 16 channels of MIDI in a clip. This is very powerful but can result in strange behavior for some midi files. The most common issue with loops created for Live are that drum hits are on channel 1, and do not play, or do not play as drums, when sent to a synth that expects drums on channel 10.

Missing Features

In Live, you can record directly into a clip. Ardour does not (yet) allow that. Instead you record to a linear track(s) using all of the playlist, editing, and layering features of Ardour; and then select a portion to bounce to a slot.

Ardour does not yet provide a clip editor to modify the boundaries or contents of a clip. This is planned. You can always edit regions on the timeline and then bounce them to slots.

Lesser Differences

In Live, when you drag a clip from one slot to another, it carries with it the whole slot properties including Follow Action. Ardour's behavior here is still evolving.

In Ardour, slots have context menus that allow setting their properties directly.

Ardour does not (yet) have a global quantization in addition to the per-clip quantization setting.

Terminology differences:

  • Live clips have a “Warp” button. Ardour says “Stretched”
  • Live has a launch mode “Trigger”. Ardour says “One Shot”