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The Futile Duchess

After some time in quarantine, meaning that it just passed almost 40 days since its last public appearance, the frivolous debutante has matured a bit but not that much. Truth is, it is not quite healed and in fact, it is getting seriously bloated ;)

Qtractor 0.1.1 (futile duchess) has been released!

Qtractor is an Audio/MIDI multi-­track sequencer application, written in C++ around the Qt toolkit. Its primordial target platform is Linux, where the Jack Audio Connection Kit (JACK) for audio, and the Advanced Linux Sound Architecture (ALSA) for MIDI are the main infrastructures to evolve as a fairly featured Desktop Audio/MIDI Workstation GUI specially dedicated to the personal home­studio. It sits confortably tagged as for the techno-boy bedroom home-studio. There's no genre segregation here, it also applies to techno-girls ;).

Now seriously, it even has its own Wikipedia entry already:

Back to business, these are the major highlights for this release:

  • Draft user manual, contributed by James Laco Hines
  • Native Linux VST plug-in support
  • Initial DSSI plug-in support (audio effects only atm.)
  • User configurable keyboard shortcuts
  • JACK server auto-start
  • Clip fade-in/out relative resizes
  • Auto time-stretch now optional
  • MIDI capture/record input quantize
  • Major plug-in infrastructure rewrite
  • Seamless plug-in drag-and-drop

Check it out, from the official project web site:

Direct link for the source tarball download:


The new user manual draft is also made available:


Literal change-log follows. since the last 0.1.0 (frivolous debutante) alpha release:

  • After some great user demand, keyboard shortcuts are finally configurable, as found provisionally under Help/Shortcuts..., for the main application menu and for the MIDI editor as well.
  • Debian package gets SSE optimization disabled as default.
  • At least some transport actions get to be non auto-repeatable when pressed for much too long, as Play and Record, avoiding the tumbling imposed from the keyboard.
  • For the first time ever, jackd auto-start is now allowed (!).
  • OSC service support through liblo gets optional at configure time, now leading the way to proper DSSI plug-in hosting.
  • All plug-in widget controls count are now capped to one hundred.
  • Plugin paths setup is now made available on the options dialog, overriding each of respective default settings, as implicit from the LADSPA_PATH, DSSI_PATH and VST_PATH environment variables (see View/Options.../Display/Plugin Paths).
  • Clip fade-in/out lengths are now kept relative to tempo changes and also to clip offset and length changes (clip resizes).
  • Automatic time-stretching for all audio clips when session tempo changes, may now be disabled/enabled as a global session option (see View/Options.../Audio/Playback/Automatic time-stretching).
  • Double-clicking on an empty area (de)selects all clips on track.
  • MIDI capture (record) quantization is now an option, possibly handy for some jerky performance musicians, as the one found in myself ;) (see View/Options.../MIDI/Capture/Quantize).
  • The global options dialog (View/Options...) has seen its Display tab page being moved back and to the right.
  • Major rewrite of the plug-in infrastructure, adding primordial support for DSSI and native VST plug-in flavors.
  • Drag-and-drop of plug-in instances are now allowed intra- and inter-mixer strip chains, either on tracks or buses.
  • Turning track record off while recording is rolling was leaving the session in a inconsistent recording status, now fixed.
  • A random but instant crash upon audition/pre-listening player onset was hopefully fixed.

Cheers && Enjoy
rncbc aka Rui Nuno Capela


Great work, is impressive how this program is becoming a great midi sequencer day after day. In less than a year this may be the best sequencer in linux, and maybe better than Cubase, ProTools and the like (at least in the MIDI field). Great work in the manual too, something that most open source software lacks.

However, it lacks for a couple of things that make it unusable for me when doing complex things: one thing is a more advanced tempo manager, something like the rosegarden's one, but I've readed in the forums that this is something planned. The other one is a event midi editor, like in rosegarden again, for complex midi editing. Another thing, a very important one, but this may be a bug: HOW THE F@#! CAN I ADD A NEW CLIP IN A MIDI TRACK???!!! I've trying this since 0.1.0 version, and I can't. When I click somewhere in a new midi track, the markers are moved, the red one when using the right button and the blue ones when using the left button. But I'm unable to find a way to add a new clip so I can open it in the piano-roll editor. The only way I have found is importing an exiting midi file and copying and resizing the clips to my tracks.

And now some feature request: drawing midi events would be nice. Now, when you click in the event window in the piano roll (the thing at the bottom), a new event is made and you can change its value, like in every sequencer I know of, but I'm talking about drawing in that windows and new events are created, like in a drawing program. I think that REAPER (for windows/wine) has something similar.
Another idea, but this may be a long term objetive, and with more people/programs involved: instead of doing separate programs that you must configure to make work them together, or doing a huge app for everything (like cubase), which waste resources and are very underused, why not doing something in between? For example, a program (probably based on lash) where you can launch and configure different apps: you start a new proyect and open qtractor for doing some midi stuff, then you open qsynth and qsampler for listening to it, the a DAW for recording, but you can close the sequencer to avoid wasting resources, after recording you can close synths and samplers and open a plugin host for inserting effects, etc. From there main program you can configure connections, jack server, lash sessions and that stuff. The idea is making a sort of host for audio programs. Probably I have to explain this better.

The last thing: I have no time for doing anything, and I'm not the best programmer in the world, but I would like to help where I can. I could help in some trivial coding or doing spanish translation if needed.

rncbc's picture

Thanks and welcome to the journey. Comparing to Cubase and PT is way too much for this humble piece of work. And please, don't compare it to Rosegarden nor Ardour, because those are in deed the shoulders of giants, if you know what I mean ;)

Jim Hines (aka lexridge) is the one to praise for the user manual, who has been doing a a hell of a job and quite enthusiastically. Something that I can't stop thanking him.

However, it lacks for a couple of things that make it unusable for me when doing complex things:
Uhoh. now the bad news ... :)

a more advanced tempo manager
Yes, tempo and key signature map is a sure miss in current design and implementation. It has been beaten to death already :D If you go check the mighty to-do/wish-list you'll see that it is there waiting... but not in vain. Maybe you can help as we don't need to be the best programmers in the world. It just takes a goal in mind and the will to score it. The stronger the better. Can I count on you?

other one is a event midi editor
This translates to the MIDI event list and filter editor in future thoughts list (aka TODO). so this is also planned

may be a bug: HOW THE F@#! CAN I ADD A NEW CLIP IN A MIDI TRACK???!!!
Not a bug. Also in the list but, horror! is not publicized in the manual. But if you read some previous posts here... anyway, you're not the first and won't be the last. This is planned and will get real very soon, I do promise. Meanwhile, the only way for you to create new clips is either by importing files or, there it is, recording.

drawing midi events would be nice
Also planned and written there on the mighty list: MIDI Editor Draw Mode.

may be a long term objetive, and with more people/programs involved [...] Probably I have to explain this better.
I think what you're asking is for having it LASHed :). Oh yeah, I heard that old blues again and I'm found guilty in not giving more attention on LAShifying my Q-suite of applications :) You know, to many things to do, so little time. Surely that needs some more people to help and you could be just the one. What you think? You already have the need so it's already half-way there ... eheh.

doing spanish translation if needed
By all means. Translators in all main languages are very welcome. You can start right away if you feel to :) Ask me privately or in the forum (please) how to do it and I will post there the outrageously simple instructions for doing the translation process.

rncbc aka Rui Nuno Capela

So, you say you now accept translations after all these years? :-)

*dancing happily*

Rui saw The Light! :-)

rncbc's picture

Ohaa, not so fast. I did NOT said that I was accepting translations that I would maintain or distribute as part of the package. If you read it carefully, I said translations are welcome and everyone is free to do it for their own and I can help'em doing so, technically I mean. I still have my reservations about bundling the translation files myself... maybe that (my) situation might improve soon and then I'll stand in the light, yes :)

BTW, have you a russian translation ready or in progress?

Thanks for the heads-up, Alexandre. Yours welcome as well.

rncbc aka Rui Nuno Capela

It was time that a cool audio sequencing application was developed !
To be honest I haven't tried it yet, but I'm following with pleasure your constant improvements and efforts. I am a hard user of Cubase SX and I would really love to definitely switch to Linux also for that purpose, and achieve 0 latency recording and mastering.
The key thing for these applications is a serious VST instruments support. Once you get it you're done ! Have you planned it at all for the future ?

Yes, Qtractor is a very cool application, but understand it is still in its relative infancy. Rui has done a fabulous job in maintaining this project, and quickly bringing it into a powerful application, supporting advanced features.

However, this is not all perfect, yet. Only effects plugins can be currently used. If you wish to use instrument plugins, you can still use DSSI-VST (WINE required for Windows VSTs) independently and patch its output directly into an Qtractor channel. You should also have WINE-ASIO installed which allows low latency during the WINE (Windows) emulation. Also, on the Linux side, many LADSPA plugs are very good as well (such as CAPS). Sure, their GUI is not eye candy at ALL, but they work, and they do their job well.

With a decent soundcard (not motherboard sound, for the most part). you should be able to get 2ms depending on your overall hardware.

Linux has a good chance of eventually being an audio choice of professions, and already is in many cases....corporate mainly, and not consumer. :( I have used Windows audio for many years, and have experience with many different Windows DAWSs. Sure, many of those DAW's features seem to make Linux DAWs pale in direct comparison, but, that is only skin deep. Once you start to really understand the power of JACK, it becomes very apparently that Linux is ultimately the best audio platform. What we need are more native Linux plugins, that can compete with their Windows counterparts, and those counterparts doing native VST ports to Linux.

Not only that. but the entire thinking of how it all fits together changes as well. The biggest problem IMO ATM, is the lack of a single application to control and restore the whole thing automatically. Qtractor indeed does take care of a lot of this, but does not auto start external programs, so you need to manually start these before running Qtractor. Then, Qtractor will automagically connect them back to where they were when you last saved your project.


Great work!

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