How Musical Mode and Linear/Musical Timebase Interact

How Musical Mode and Linear/Musical Timebase Interact

Timebase - Applies to an entire Track. A Track’s Timebase determines if Events on the Track have their START Location measured in Bars & Beats or Minutes & Seconds

  • Musical Timebase - Start is measured in Beats
  • Linear Timebase - Start is measured in Seconds

Musical Mode - Applies to an entire Audio File and will impact all Events created from that file throughout the entire Project. A File’s Musical Mode determines if an Event’s LENGTH is measured in Bars & Beats or Minutes & Seconds

  • Musical Mode ON - Length is measured in Beats
  • Musical Mode OFF - Length is measured in Seconds

In this Example four Tracks recorded the exact same audio (so each Track would have its own Audio File) for 2 bars at 120 BPM. Notice there are two Ruler Tracks - the top is in Seconds and the lower is Bars & Beats. All of the Events start on Bar 4 and also at 6 seconds and they end at Bar 6 and 10 seconds. So at 120 BPM all the Events are 2 Bars long and also 4 seconds (10-6) long.

Initial Recording at 120 BPM

The 4 Tracks are set to all the possible combinations of Timebase and Musical Mode, which is indicated by the Track and Event names. If the Tempo is changed to 130 BPM it effects each of the Events differently based on their Timebase and Mode settings.

Tempo Changed to 130 BPM

Tracks 1 and 3 are both set to Musical Timebase and they both start on Bar 4, although that no longer occurs at the 6 second mark. Track 1’s Audio has Musical Mode enabled so it is still 2 Bars long - but instead of 4 seconds it takes about 3 and a half to play at the faster Tempo. But Track 3’s Audio has Musical Mode disabled so it retains its original 4 second length.

Tracks 2 and 4 are both set to Linear Timebase and continue to start at 6 seconds but no longer Bar 4. Their Musical Mode settings give the same results as Tracks 1 and 3. Track 2 is 2 Bars long while Track 4 is 4 seconds.

Example uses

One Last Way To Mess Things Up

When Cubase is making tempo adjustments it bases all its calculations on the Tempo value shown for an Audio File in the Media Pool. If this is incorrect things can move about in unexpected ways. Cubase tries to figure out the proper tempo, but on occasion fails - especially when loop recording within Cubase or importing. So after a Tracking Session make sure the Tempo is set correct before moving on. The order matters too - fix the Tempo before enabling Musical Mode.


Thanks for the information Raino.

I don’t have a need to stretch or match audio to different tempo’s very often but when I have had to do it, it’s always been a bit “hit & miss” and confusing.
Not anymore!!
I think you must be an educator by training or instinct?

Thanks again.

Wanted to add some clarification about MIDI Parts. The initial post above is all about Audio and not MIDI.

Both MIDI and Audio behave exactly the same with regard to Musical vs. Linear Timebase as described above.

However Musical Mode only applies to AUDIO Events and not MIDI Parts. There is no Mode setting that can be turned on/off for MIDI Parts. Basically MIDI Parts always behave the same as an Audio Event set to Musical Mode - MIDI Parts will always shrink & expand to cover the same number of bars even as the tempo is changed.

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Nice work, @raino , thank you!

Awesome explanation ! That clarifies many things.

I had missed this one. I have always issues trying to remember this. Now that you have explained with apples and oranges (as we say), should be understood forever. Thank you, @raino

Thanks for this great post. I have a question. I do a lot on importing of audio where people don’t send me bpm or even files that are recorded to a DAW tempo. So I use tempo detect a lot. Should I just not bother even using musical mode? Or should I turn off musical mode. import wav file, detect tempo, and then enable musical mode? I need the click track for what I need to do on my end.

One thing that often works for me is to create a click track by manually creating the tempo track bar by bar (using the tool, “Warp Grid (musical events follow)”, from the top menu).

Well you don’t really need Musical Mode if you treat your audio the same way as multi-track tape recording - where the tempo remains the same as when recorded (even if that varies) and there is no alignment with a Bars & Beats Grid. But if you want to use a different tempo or have the convenience of grid alignment then Musical Mode will make your life easier. I think it is always best to have the Tempo set correctly before enabling Musical Mode. Also when Loop Recording in Cubase it often miscalculates the tempo by a small amount - so double check that & correct if needed.

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