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.

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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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Hi @raino -

I thank you again for this post!

I do have a specific question down below :slight_smile: , but as a background …

Here is a problem I’m having - activating the tempo track in a freely recorded (i.e., no single specific tempo) file, then using Time Warp to map out the tempo (no actual changes to the tempo being made) causes the audio to get warped in very weird ways. Musical Mode is not activated.

The part of your answer I bolded … when you say “set” I am assuming you mean in the Pool … (and here’s my question! :slight_smile: ) … but what value do I put there for an audio file that has variable tempo (like all my songs do!)

Thank you again!

EDIT: I did some more looking for help on how to adjust the tempo on a free-tempo recorded audio file, and I found the following Greg Ondo Cubase Hint - I think this may be exactly what I’m looking for. I’ll give it a go, trying the following steps in order:

  1. Define a Tempo for the project (I use Time Warp, but I guess theoretically I’d get the same results with Tempo Detection)
  2. Select all the Audio Events
  3. Choose “Set Definition From Tempo” (I have to think hard why I wouldn’t want that done to the audio files themselves, rather than just in the project)
  4. Then adjust my tempo track and the Audio should follow nicely.

Next “Cubase Time” for me is next week (“dang day job!”)… can’t wait to try this!

(8) How to Use Tempo Warp in Cubase | Q&A with Greg Ondo - YouTube

I know, this has puzzled me for ages. Even looking at a more controlled situation than freely played material it’s not clear what the Tempo should be set to. For example if you recorded 16 bars of Audio and the tempo starts at 120bpm and ramps evenly up to 130bpm by the end - what Tempo should the file be set to? 125 because that’s the average, 120 because that’s where it starts, or…?

When you follow Greg’s method what Tempo does that set for the file in the Pool?

Raw observations here:

Note: For this test I bounced the audio file before proceeding with Step 1.

  1. I activated the Tempo Track, then drew some random tempo changes:
  • Result: No change in the audio sound, no change in pool (musical mode remains unchecked, tempo is the same 120 BPM it was set to when recorded)
  1. I selected the audio clip, and applied Set Definition From Tempo/All Tracks to Musical Timebase, with option clicked to set all audio files in the list to Musical Mode:
  • Result: Audio file is set to musical mode, and tempo has been changed to 92.5 BPM.
    -Result: Playing back, there is no change to the audio sound - same as when recorded. The Instrument Track follows the change in Tempo of course, so there is a huge mismatch between the recorded audio and the Instrument Track sounds.
  1. I then adjusted the tempo track to a constant 140 BPM (different than recorded, which was 120 BPM). Result:
    -Audio timing is insanely variable unfortunately - it is not played at a constant 140 BPM*.
    -Pool timing is still noted as being 92.5 BPM

Next thing I try will be to SDFT before I adjust the tempo track

Raw observations here (2nd run of experiments):

Note: For this test I bounced the audio file before proceeding with Step 1.

  1. Audio track recorded with free tempo before any changes appears in Pool as 120 BPM, Musical Mode off.
  2. I activated Set Definition From Tempo (SDFT), all tracks to Musical Timebase, Project Only:
  • Result: In pool the audio file still at 120 BPM, Musical Mode is On
  1. I created a tempo track and activated it (no changes to tempo track)
    -Result: No change from above
  2. I drew some random crazy tempo changes in the tempo track:
  • Result: No change from above: -Pool still shows the audio file as 120 BPM
  • Result: Both the Audio and the Instrument Track follow the random crazy tempo changes well.

Next, I will see what the Pool shows for the “Tempo” when I do the above, except I choose to apply the SDFT to the file itself (globally), vs. just in the project as I did in this one.

In the Tempo Track…?

Yes, thanks for pointing out that typo, @mlindeb - fixed.

Raw observations here (3rd run of experiments):

Note: For this test I bounced the audio file before proceeding with Step 1.

  1. Audio track recorded with free tempo before any changes appears in Pool as 120 BPM, Musical Mode off.
  2. I activated Set Definition From Tempo (SDFT), all tracks to Musical Timebase, “Write Definition to Audio Files”:
  • Result: In pool the audio file still at 120 BPM, Musical Mode is On
  1. I created a tempo track and activated it (no changes to tempo track)
    -Result: No change from above
  2. I drew some random crazy tempo changes in the tempo track:
  • Result: No change from above: -Pool still shows the audio file as 120 BPM
  • Result: Both the Audio and the Instrument Track follow the random crazy tempo changes well.

What I gather from all this is:

  1. The “Tempo” column in the Pool doesn’t change when SDFT is activated, whether one or the other of “Save Definition in Project Only” vs “Write Definition to Audio Files” options is checked (I think that was raino’s original question to me).
  2. In this case, changing to Musical Mode before adjusting the tempo track (as is done when applying the SDFT function to the selected audio clip) seems better than doing it afterwards. @raino - you mentioned in your completely awesome first post that adjusting the Tempo Track before activating Musical Mode worked better … I’m not smart enough to understand what circumstances might make one approach better than the other … back to you, Sir!
  3. I still don’t know how I might get hurt if I choose “SDFT - Write Definition to Audio Files” instead of “Save Definition in Project Only” … would I really care if the only audio file on my hard drive had a tempo “imprinted” in it?
  4. When I have free-tempo audio recorded that I then want to adjust the tempo, I will follow the steps in this 3rd run of experiments (pretty much straight from Greg Ondo’s Cubase vid below), at least until I get burned again! :rofl:

Thanks for all y’all’s help, and still grateful for any suggestions/comments.

(8) How to Use Tempo Warp in Cubase | Q&A with Greg Ondo - YouTube

I haven’t read the posts fully but Musical Mode is meant to be used with fixed tempo recordings, so that the audio can properly follow the Tempo Track / Time Warp.

If you make a free tempo recording beforehand, this will obviously mess everything up…

I’ll take some time to read it fully.

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Well, I don’t have the knack for teaching and explaining that you and raino have @Louis_R , so apologies for your having to plow through those raw observations! :blush:

I harbor no doubt about your description of Musical Mode’s purpose, I was just (almost desperately, after losing some audio takes in trying I believe! :joy: ) searching for a way to get my variable tempo-recorded audio to follow changes I might want to make to the grid.

No matter how Rube Goldberg it is, I at least have a method in hand now which works, yippee :tada:, which I’m guessing will be improved on one of these days by one of you smart guys!

You keep referring Musical Mode in relation to Tracks which can’t occur. Musical Mode only applies to Files & Musical Timebase only applies to Tracks.

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Please let me know if I missed any when I went back just now to fix all that, thanks for pointing that out @raino