Using AVL drumkits with a-Fluid Synth in Ardour


In this tutorial I will show you how to use Glen MacArthur's fantastic AVL Drumkits sample pack with 'a-Fluid Synth', Ardour's built in FluidSynth plugin. I will also show you how to load midnam files to make it easier to do drum programming within the DAW.

Since version 5.4, Ardour now includes 'a-Fluid Synth', a soundfont plugin, and since version 1.1 of AVL Drumkits, the SF2 (soundfont) format is now included in the pack, so why not use them together?

Here's what you need for this tutorial -

  • Ardour version 5.4 +
  • AVL SF2 soundfonts 1.1 +
  • AVL midnam file


First of all we need to download the sample packs SF2 version, as well as the sample packs corresponding midnam files. Let's go to AVL Drumkits webpage and download from the following two links -

We want to put the soundfont in a permanent home, so let's create a folder for it in our home folder called 'sf2' and extract the drumkits into this newly created folder.

Next, we will put the midnam files into .config/ardour5/patchfiles. If the 'patchfiles' directory doesn't exist, create it and then place the midnam files into it.

Now we have everything prepared, let's load up Ardour and set up the rest there.

Setting up our track

In your Ardour session, add a new track by going to Track > Add Track or Bus and add 1 MIDI track, give it a name and choose 'a-Fluid Synth' as the tracks instrument.

First, we will load up the soundfont so open up 'a-Fluid Synth' by double clicking on it. Next click on the SF2 file loader and navigate to our SF2 drumkit file, in this case within the 'sf2' folder we just created in our home folder. For this example I will choose 'Red_Zeppelin_5-1.1.sf2'.

Left click and drag downwards on the zoom area of the piano keys so that we can see C2, the first note of this soundfont, and press on C2 on the piano keys.

If we did everything correctly, you will hear a kick drum.

Getting ready for programming our drum track

Now let's add a MIDI region and prepare to add some notes. Select the draw tool (shortcut d) and left click on our tracks timeline to add a region.

When we hover the draw tool into this region we see note values, which would be great if we were working with a synth but for our purpose, a read out of which keys correspond to which drum samples would be much better. This is where the midnam file comes in.

Click on the drop down menu labelled 'Generic' in our MIDI tracks header and navigate to AVL-Drumkits > AVL-Drumkits.

Now when we hover the draw tool around in the region, we will see a read out for each drum instrument in the soundfont.

Finally, right click on the track header and navigate to Note Mode and select Percussive.

And there you go, you're ready to start programming realistic drum tracks directly from within Ardour with no need to install any third party plugins.

Written by Conor Mc Cormack


Thanks a lot for that tutorial but for a newbie like me there are some lacking explanations specialy at begining: " 'a-Fluid Synth' by double clicking on it" . When I create the midi track I'm able to select "a-Fluid Synth" as instrument but then I do not find any "a-Fluid Synth" to click ON. Is it in the creating track popup or in the general editor window ?

Hurray. It's in the main editor view, when you make the "tranche de mixage" displayed (menu: Affichage > Afficher la tranche de mixage)