PreSonus Blog

Friday Tip of the Week: Fun with Tempo Tracks


Fun with the Tempo Track

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.

So why would you change the tempo?

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.


  • JeffMomo

    Very nice tips on tempo changes. Just what I needed. Thanks Craig.

  • Ken-Arve Nilsen

    I’m the same. Most of the time, it’ll do what I want, or I’ll learn something new 🙂

  • Saltp

    You’re exactly right, and I usually do that. Somehow I forgot this time. BTW, my very first book on recording was your book on Home Studio recording, back in 1985. Back when I had a PortaStudio and a Juno 106. Learned a great deal from you in that and other books!

  • Anderton

    Glad to help. When I’m learning a program, I often try doing things while holding down Alt, Ctrl, or Shift. Sometimes you’ll run across a really cool trick that wasn’t documented.

  • Saltp

    I stand corrected! The thing is, this is not very well documented—to the point the tech support didn’t know about it when I asked a while back!!! But thank you for providing the solution!

  • Michael Patrick Brown

    I just tried what he said (holding alt/option and drawing in a change) and it works perfectly fine for me. Didn’t need to create any new tempo points at all.

  • Michael Patrick Brown

    Thank you so much for sharing the trick for creating accellerandos in S1. I’ve been doing it by hand (and poorly, I might add) this whole time!

  • Saltp

    You’re right that this is the wrong place for this discussion, but it just goes to show PreSonus how frustrating this situation is. Been asking for this fix for years…

  • Saltp

    Actually, what you describe, Craig, doesn’t work. The idea (and I assume this is what Alex wants too) is to be able to draw a linear, gradual tempo change in one fell swoop. Right now you have to draw click on individual tempos and create a tempo change icrementally, one small change at a time. It’s very tedious to say the least.

  • Anderton

    Some comments on the comments…although you can’t draw a line graphically, what matters to me is whether tempo changes created by using the Line tool to draw a line of blocks sounds continuous. I did some listening tests by creating a tempo change from 122 to 130 BPM over one measure (fairly drastic). Using 1/64th snap, each tempo change is about one-tenth of one percent (e.g., two consecutive blocks were 122.6575 and 122.7838). I can’t perceive changes these small as steps. If a piece of music changes from 122.6575 to 122.7838 BPM in some random place, I doubt anyone could tell where the change occurred. So I think it makes no *audible* difference whether the graphical representation is of blocks instead of a straight line.

    Of course, there may be other advantages in being able to implement tempo changes in a way that’s similar to standard automation. But I don’t think a perception of smoothness vs. a perception of something stepped is one of them.

    FYI it is possible to draw curves, but this requires going outside of S1 temporarily. Suppose you want to draw a concave parabolic tempo increase over 4 measures from 132 to 146 BPM. Draw the curve you want in a program that can draw tempo curves (not all programs can), save it as a MIDI file, open the SMF in a new S1 project, then copy the curve’s tempo data and paste it into the current project’s Tempo Track over the desired range. (Please, don’t say “you suck, that’s not a convenient way to draw a curved tempo change in Studio One.” I know it’s not convenient. But at least for me, if you have to deal with tight deadlines and impatient clients, a workaround is acceptable if a more elegant solution doesn’t exist.)

    Regarding comments in general, when I was doing a “Friday’s Tip of the Week” in the Sonar forum, the comments usually related to the tip itself from people who tried the tip and had suggestions, additional information, wanted to contribute their own tips, etc. Given that there are already places where people can register complaints or ask for features regarding S1, I’m more curious if, for example, any of you have found the “time trap” techniques helpful or can suggest any improvements.

  • Baila Tosco

    Ooooohhh yeah!!! of course. I’ve had so much fun playing with tempo maps in studio one.
    You can’t do anything SERIOUS with it, but you can have SO MUCH FUN moving the little bars.

    I’ll just leave this here:

    PD: Sorry mate hehe. Really didn’t mean hijack your post, wich is indeed a REALLY good tip… but this is a very sensitive topic for some of us.

  • Saltp

    Same. Complete trash.

  • Bill Mihalik

    I prefer the tempo options in Melodyne.

  • Ikan Dakai Davis

    im sorry but studio one 3 tempo changing is trash and im a studio one fanboy 🙁

  • Saltp

    Couldn’t agree more. It’s nice to have “fun” with tempos, but I’d rather just be able to draw a line like, or curve to effect a gradual change as in every other DAW. This is a huge missing link in S1, and a huge time waster. Been asking for this for years and it’s seems like a simple enough thing to implment. Maybe PreSonus’s silly feature voting scheme is the problem…

  • Lurker

    Here’s to hoping some good changes to the tempo map are coming very soon.

  • Alex

    Really bad “linear series of tempo”, all other DAWs have MUCH more comfortable tempo changing lines, you can adjust two parameters, start and end tempo of this line and not draw and draw and draw draw it again!