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Grid Controls

What is “Snap” and “Grid”?

Editor toolbar's grid
Editor toolbar's grid.

“Snap” will cause drags and other mouse-driven operations to jump to positions determined by the nearest snap setting. Snap can be set to multiple options: markers, region start/ends, and the grid (those are all enabled by default. change them in prefs).

Grid can be enabled, and it will draw lines at selected intervals; which can be musical, like 16th notes, or can be timecode based (minutes and seconds). You can leave the Grid enabled, but snap disabled, if you just want to see the lines but not snap to them.

For example: if the Grid is set to “beats” and Snap-to-grid is enabled, then any operations such as split, paste, or range-select will happen exactly on a beat, according to the musical timeline and tempo.

Alternatively, you can leave “Snap” enabled (so your mouse actions can snap to Markers, or region edges) but disable the Grid.

A Warning, of sorts

The grid consist of lines running vertically in the edit canvas. If you zoom too far out, you might see a coarser grid than you expect. Ardour tries not to show “too many” or “too few” grid lines depending on the zoom level. You might find that items snap in-between the grid lines sometimes. That’s expected behavior. If you can’t see or snap to the grid you’d like to use, you may have to zoom in or out.

About Snapping

There are two ways to think about aligning material. The first and most obvious one is where an object's position is clamped to the snap positions. In Ardour, this is called absolute snap and is commonly used when working with sampled material where audio begins exactly at the beginning of a file, note or region.

The second, relative snap, is used when an object's position relative to the snap positions is important. In music, this allows to move objects around without changing the "feel" (or timing) of a performance.

Absolute snap is the default method of snapping in Ardour.

While dragging objects, pressing the absolute snap modifier key(s) switches from absolute to relative snap.

The snap can also be entirely disabled by using the snap modifier (see below).

Note that in relative snap mode the reference point is taken to be the distance to the nearest grid line.

Note also that when an object lies exactly on a grid line, there will be no difference between relative and absolute snap modes.

The relative snap and snap modifiers (along with other modifier keys) may be set in Edit > Preferences > User Interaction

For common use patterns, it is recommended to assign a unique key for one snap modifier and two keys for the other in such a way that they share an otherwise unused key. For example, the snap modifier may be chosen to be the key and the relative snap modifier to be the and keys.

Snap Modes

Using the above modifications, Ardour supports three different modes of snapping to the grid:

No Grid disables the grid. All objects move freely in this mode.
In No Grid mode, the grid may be temporarily activated by pressing the snap modifier (for absolute snap) or switch to relative snap by pressing the relative snap modifier.
Grid activates normal snapping. All positions of objects snap to the grid. (See Grid Units below to change the grid). Moving an object in "Grid"-mode, does not change its position until the mouse is far enough for the object to reach the next grid line.
To maintain an objects' position relative to the grid line, the "snap relative" modifier can be used. When holding down this modifier during a drag, the dragged object will jump while maintaining its original distance from the line.
New objects will always be created at grid points.
Holding down the snap modifier will disable the current grid setting and allow moving the object freely.
Magnetic is a less strict type of snapping. Objects can still be moved to any position, but positions close to the relative or absolute grid points will snap. In order to move an object very close to a snap point, it may be necessary to zoom in to prevent snapping to that point, or to use the snap modifier to disable snap completely.
As with Grid mode, the snap modifier will disable snap completely while the absolute snap modifier will move the "notch" of Magnetic snap to the grid lines.

Syncing Regions to the Grid

By default, a region's beginning will be used as the reference for both types of snapping, this behaviour can be changed by setting a sync point in the region, by selecting the region(s) and pressing V. This will set the sync point to the current edit point.

Grid Units

The selector next to the grid mode selector defines the size of the grid elements. The grid can be set to several different units:

CD Frames A CD Frame is 1/75th of a second. Snapping to CD Frames (using absolute snap) can be used to avoid issues with CD track lengths.
Timecode Frames/Seconds/Minutes The duration of a frame depends on the timecode settings for the session.
Seconds/Minutes These are absolute time units, unaffected by sample rate or timecode settings
Beats/N Set the grid to units of 1/N beats, where N can be 128, 64, 32, 16, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2. The duration of a grid unit will depend on the tempo and meter in effect at that point in the timeline.
Beats Set the grid to whole beats. The duration of a grid unit will depend on the tempo and meter in effect at that point in the timeline.
Bars Set the grid to whole bars. The duration of a grid unit will depend on the tempo and meter in effect at that point in the timeline.
Markers The grid lines are the markers.
Region Starts The grid lines are constructed from region start points (see below).
Region Ends The grid lines are constructed from region end points (see below).
Region Syncs The grid lines are constructed from region sync points.
Region Bounds The grid lines are constructed from region start or end points.

To use Region starts/ends/syncs/bounds as snap choices, it is necessary to have either:

  • No tracks selected, which means that Ardour snaps to regions on any track, or
  • Several tracks selected, which means that Ardour only snaps to regions on those selected tracks.

If items are moved on a track, and only the current track is selected, then snapping will only happen with other regions on the same track. This means that enabling Edit > Preferences > Editor > Link Selections of Regions and Tracks will make the "Region" grid unit unusable. This option should not be used in conjunction with the use any of the Region grid units.