PreSonus Blog

How to Play Faster—By Playing Slower

In the comments for last week’s tip on varipseed-type formant changes, reader Randy Hayes asked if it was possible to change the tempo similarly so that you could play along with something at a slower tempo, then speed it back up (while still being the correct key). This was a common technique with tape, but because pitch and speed were locked together, there would be formant changes—whether you wanted them or not—when you returned the slowed-down track to pitch.

One of the MIDI’s great features is that you can sloooooooow down the tempo, play along with the slowed-down track, then speed it up to make it seem like you have lightning-fast technique. The good news is that with audio, you can slow down Studio One’s tempo without changing pitch, which sounds great in theory. The bad news is that this isn’t always a painless solution, because Events recorded at a slower tempo will likely need to be time-stretched when you return to the original tempo, and you may also need to call up the Inspector for Events or Tracks to specify how the Events should relate to tempo. Also, if there’s a Tempo Track with tempo changes, then you have to offset all the tempo data, as well as make sure you restore it to the proper tempo when you’re done.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to record along with a song at a slowed-down tempo, and have the correct timing for the recorded part when you restore the song to its original tempo. This complements last week’s formant-changing trick; the technique starts off similarly but ends up quite differently.

  1. Create a premix of your existing tracks with the Export Mixdown function. In the dialog box, check Import to Track and Close after Export (Fig. 1; outlined in white).

Figure 1: Use the Export Mixdown function to create a premix.

  1. After the premix is imported, mute all other tracks except for the Imported premix track.
  2. Select the premixed track, and right-click on it (Fig. 2), or open its Inspector (F4), to access the Speedup parameter. Note that this parameter can also slow down the speed, by entering a value less than 1.00.

Figure 2: Access the Speedup parameter by right-clicking on the premix.

  1. Slow down the premix to the desired tempo with the Speedup parameter. For example, a Speedup reading of 0.80 means the song’s tempo is 80% as fast as it had been previously. Bear in mind that you can’t do a ridiculous amount of slowing down without affecting the audio quality of the track you’re recording, but overall, Studio One is quite forgiving.
  2. Record the new track as you listen to the premix’s slowed-down tempo.
  3. Before restoring the original tempo, the track you recorded has to start at the song’s beginning. If that’s where you started recording, fine. Otherwise, use the Paint tool to draw an Event between the start of the song and the start of your part, select them both, and type Ctrl+B to merge them together (Fig. 3).

Figure 3: The recorded guitar solo, with an added “dummy” Event that starts at the beginning of the song, prior to merging them together.

 

  1. Now, right-click on the overdub you recorded so you can access its Speedup parameter.
  2. Open up your calculator to determine how much you need to speed up the overdub. Divide 1 by the slowdown amount to obtain the correct Speedup amount. For example, if you slowed down to 0.80, then 1/0.80 = 1.25. So, set the recorded track’s Speedup parameter to 1.25 (Fig. 4).

Figure 4: Once the newly recorded track goes to the start of the song, change the Speedup parameter to compensate for the slowdown.

  1. Delete the premix (or mute it if you plan to do more recording at the slower tempo), and unmute the other tracks. The part you recorded should now match the Song’s overall tempo, even if there are tempo changes.

Note that any vibrato will be sped up when you restore the new part to the original tempo. This may be something you want, but if not, just remember to apply a slower vibrato than usual. Also, the timing will be tighter—a note that’s off the beat by a bit will hit closer to the beat when sped up.

Sure, some people might think this is cheating. But back when recording studios started adding EQ or reverb to vocalists, that was considered cheating too. The technique is the skill with which we use our tools, and having “Studio One technique” can be just as important—and valid—as having technique on your chosen instrument.

Just remember, all that matters about music is the emotional impact on the listener. They don’t care what you did to produce that emotional impact!

  • Whoever is doing the images to accompany these tips deserves props.

  • That’s a great suggestion, thanks!

  • RogerTheEmancipator

    Thanks for the article – I’ve fumbled around and done something similar in the past, but your technique looks a bit easier.

  • Good eye, but I actually got it from Getty, where it was offered as a still image. https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/superhero-royalty-free-image/164003315

  • Brian Dowding

    Nice to see that Viddyoze template being used with the PreSonus logo (The Superman pic that appears in StudioOne as a header to this articles link). I’m a member if anyone at PreSonus needs more like this, though it is a bit odd to see this video template captured as a still image. 😀

  • My Pet

    Just remember, all that matters about music is the emotional impact on the listener. They don’t care what you did to produce that emotional impact!

    THAT is spot on Craig!
    Awesome tip here! Thank you soooo much!

    on a separate thought…When you have a minute, would you shed a bit of light on the POOL menu?
    I’d like pointers on managing and understanding the offset of multiple comps and so on… please see pic.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0b34a7d89029fbf430fcd3a1625284a5e7c27956b8775db35f2d7e85a55d6bc3.png

  • Glad you like it! Also note that layering vocals done at different speeds will add more variations to the overall sound because the timing of the phrases, and any vibrato, will be somewhat different.

  • Γεράσιμος Μουταφης

    Great Article!