Creating tempo changes can add a significant amount of emotional impact to a piece of music, and you can create these changes with the Tempo Track. MIDI will follow tempo variations, as will Audio Tracks in Timestretch mode and also, Acidized WAV clips. To open the Tempo Track, click the Clock icon in the Track Column.
It’s important to remember that tempo changes remain in effect until any subsequent tempo changes, and the Transport tempo indicator always reflects the current tempo. Note that unlike other programs where the timeline doesn’t change, a very useful Studio One feature is that the timeline reflects tempo changes. For example if you change two measures to half the original tempo, those two measures will last twice as long graphically as the other measures in the timeline. This also means that if you draw a linear series of tempo changes (see below), they will appear to have a curve but the changes themselves are still linear—it’s just that the timeline display reflects whether the tempo is speeding up or slowing down. That’s pretty cool.
I was hoping you’d ask…
I mainly use three types of tempo changes, because each has their use.
Short changes. These happen over a short range, like slowing down the tempo slightly during the measure before going into the big chorus, or speeding up a little during a couple measures before a solo comes to an end.
Long-range changes. Here’s a good example of why tempo changes can be really handy. For a particular set, there was a song at 127 bpm followed by one at 133.33 bpm (locked groove tempo). I started a linear tempo change about 2/3 of the way through the first song, slowly increasing the tempo to 133.33. It took long enough that you didn’t really notice the tempo was changing, but it added a feeling of anticipation and segued perfectly into the second song.
It’s easy to create a linear series of tempo changes. Choose the tempo change resolution with the Quantize parameter (it doesn’t matter if Snap to grid is on or off). Hold [Option/Mac] or [Alt/Windows], click, and draw the line. While still holding down the modifier key, you can drag up or down to change the final tempo. Holding the shift key gives 0.1 BPM resolution. For finer resolution, place the cursor in the section containing the tempo change, and enter the number in the Tempo Track field. (Note that the screen shot doesn’t show the fine resolution of the tempo changes, but they’re there.)
“Time Traps.” Suppose you want to add a short, almost subliminal “dramatic pause” at some point, like just before some booming snare drum hit signals the start of the chorus. Although you could shift your tracks over a bit or insert some space, it’s much easier just to do a radical tempo drop (e.g., from 120 to 50 bpm) for a fraction of a beat where you want the dramatic pause. This sloooooows everything down enough to add the pause. (Ideally, you’d want something that sustains over the pause—silence, a pad, held note, etc. but that’s commonly what will be happening anyway.)
Studio One has a neat trick for doing these: you can edit non-consecutive tempo changes simultaneously. This is important because the amount of tempo change is pretty crucial to get the desired effect, so if you want to add more than one time trap in a song, adjusting one can adjust them all. Simply use the Arrow tool to click and drag over the tempo change you want to edit, then hold down Shift and use the Arrow tool to click and drag over any additional tempo changes you want to edit. Editing one edits them all.
Modifying the tempo track can allow a song to “breathe,” like what happens when musicians play together. If you haven’t experimented with subtle (or even dramatic) tempo changes, you’re in for a treat when you do.
In the previous Friday Tip of the Week, we covered how recording soft synths and amp sims at higher sample rates (like 96 kHz) can give higher sound quality in some situations. However, we also discussed some issues involved with recording at higher sample rates that aren’t so wonderful.
So this week, it’s time for a solution. Offline upsampling to higher sample rates can let you retain the CPU efficiencies of running at a lower sample rate, while reaping the sonic benefits of recording at higher sample rates… and you can do this in Studio One by upsampling in a separate project, rendering the file, and then importing the rendered file back into your original project.
But wait—wouldn’t you lose the benefits of upsampling when you later convert the sample rate back down to 44.1 kHz? The answer is no: Rendering at the higher sample rate eliminates any foldover distortion in the audio range, sample-rate converters include an anti-alias filter to avoid this problem, and 44.1 kHz has no problem playing back sounds in the audio range.
However, note that upsampling can’t fix audio that already has aliasing distortion; upsampling audio to 96 kHz that already contains foldover distortion will simply reproduce the existing distortion. This technique applies only to audio created in the computer. Similarly, it’s unlikely that upsampling something recorded via a computer’s audio interface will yield any benefits, because the audio interface itself will have already band-limited the signal’s frequency range so there will be no harmonics that interfere with the clock frequency.
UPSAMPLING IN STUDIO ONE
We’ll assume a 44.1 kHz project sampling rate, and that the virtual instrument’s MIDI track has been finalized but you haven’t transformed it to audio yet. Here’s how to upsample virtual instruments.
That’s all there is to it. If you want to upsample an amp sim, the process is similar: export the (presumably guitar) track, save the amp sim preset, render at 96 kHz, then import the rendered file into the 44.1 kHz project.
Listen to the audio example “Upsampling with Amp Sim,” which plays the sound of an amp sim at 44.1 kHz and then after upsampling to 96 kHz. The difference isn’t as dramatic as last week’s synth example, but you’ll still hear that the upsampled version is clearer, with more presence.
Do bear in mind you may not want the difference caused by upsampling. When I did an upsampling demo at a seminar with a particular synthesizer, most people preferred the sound with the aliasing because the upsampled sound was brighter than what they expected. However when I did upsampling with an amp sim, and with a different synth, the consensus was that the upsampled version sounded much better. Regardless, the point is now you have a choice—hear the instrument the way it’s supposed to be heard to decide if you like that better, or leave it as is. After all, distortion isn’t necessarily that horrible—think of how many guitar players wouldn’t have a career without it!
Although upsampling isn’t a panacea, don’t dismiss it either. Even with synths that don’t oversample, upsampling may make no audible difference. However, sometimes synths that do oversample still benefit from upsampling; with some sounds, it can take 4x or even 8x oversampling to reproduce the sound accurately. As always, use your ears to decide which sound works best in your music.
The controversy about whether people can tell the difference on playback between audio recorded at 96 kHz that’s played back at 44.1 kHz or a higher sample rate (such as 96 kHz) has never really been resolved. However, under some circumstances, recording at a higher sample rate can give an obvious, audible improvement in sound quality. In this week’s tip we’ll investigate why this happens, and in next week’s tip, tell how to obtain the benefits of recording at a higher sample rate in Studio One with 44.1 and 48 kHz projects.
REALLY? CONVINCE ME!
A Song’s sample rate can make a difference with sounds generated “in the box,” for instance using a virtual instrument plug-in that synthesizes a sound, or distortion created by an amp simulator. Any improvement heard with high sample rates comes from eliminating foldover distortion, also known as aliasing.
Theory time: A digital system can accurately represent audio at frequencies lower than half the sampling rate (e.g., 22.05 kHz in a 44.1 kHz project). If an algorithm within a plug-in generates harmonic content above this Nyquist limit—say, at 40 kHz—then you won’t hear a 40 kHz tone, but you will hear the aliasing created when this tone “folds down” below the Nyquist limit (to 4.1 kHz, in this case). Aliasing thus appears within the audible range, but is harmonically unrelated to the original signal, and generally sounds pretty ugly.
Foldover distortion can happen with synthesized waveforms that are rich in harmonics, like pulse waves with sharp rise and fall times. (Amp sims can also be problematic; although their harmonics may be weak, if you’re applying 60 dB of gain to create overdrive or distortion, the harmonics can be strong enough to cause audible aliasing).
SO IS IT A PROBLEM, OR NOT?
Not all plug-ins will exhibit these problems, for one of four reasons:
Many modern virtual instruments and amp sims oversample, and DAWs can handle higher sample rates, so you’d think that might be the end of it. Unfortunately, there can be limitations with oversampling and higher project sample rates.
Furthermore, with plug-ins that oversample, the sound quality will be influenced by the quality of the sample-rate conversion algorithms. It’s not necessarily easy to perform high-quality sample-rate conversion: check out comparisons for various DAWs at http://src.infinitewave.ca (where, incidentally, Studio One rates as one of the best), and remember that the conversion algorithms for a plug-in might be more “relaxed” than what’s used in a DAW.
So what’s a musician to do? In next week’s Friday Tip of the Week, we’ll cover how to do upsampling in Studio One to reap the benefits of high-sample-rate recording at lower sample rates. Meanwhile, if you still need to be convinced recording at different sample rates makes a difference, check out this audio example of a synthesizer recorded in Studio One first at 44.1 kHz, and then at 96 kHz:
The mighty mighty Craig Anderton took the time to put the PreSonus Cheifs in the honchos in his signature style: no advance questions! All responses you see here are given on-the-fly and not prepared ahead of time.
Join us at PreSonuSphere next year to be there in person!
Presenting in the Hartley Vey Workshop Theatre on Friday, Oct 25 at 1:30 p.m.
and in the Main Theatre on Saturday, Oct. 26 at 11:00 a.m.
We don’t need to tell you Craig Anderton is an authority on all things music tech, but did you know one of his primary passions has always been guitar? The author of 21st Century Guitar digs into the nitty-gritty details of getting a killer guitar tone on your recordings. Like a master class for recording guitar, Craig will take you through it all using Studio One, covering both acoustic and electric guitar. Topics will include miking techniques vs. going direct, layering, EQ, utilizing multi-band chorus, advanced amp simulation, and much more. Space is limited, get there early!
As a top-tier authority on music and technology, Craig’s resume is too darn big to even fit on our website… but we do have room to say this: He has played on, produced, or mastered more than 20 major label recordings; and played guitar and keyboards on many pop-music sessions in New York. He founded HarmonyCentral.com, has written for Electronic Musician, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), Rolling Stone, and Guitar Player, as well as for himself—26 books and counting.