Quantizing drums recorded w/o click- advanced discussion


I’ve learned Cubase can’t move groups of time-warp markers, and their corresponding events, simultaneously. I’m finding this makes it extremely difficult to make manual timing edits to a drummer’s live performance when building a tempo map.

Does anyone else have direct experience doing this? Have you discovered any work-arounds?

Here’s the situation:

I am attempting to quantize a [non-professional] human drummer’s performance, multi-track. The drums were recorded without a click track. There is some natural tempo drift in the performance, which is good- it breathes. The goal is to create a click track that aligns with the drum performance, and that can be used to make subsequent overdubs.

For aligning a time ruler to freely recorded drums, I understand we have two options in Cubase:

Option 1
We can use the Tempo Detection panel to set up a tempo map. In the Tempo Track, we can use the Time Warp tool to make refinements to the time-warp markers, and perfectly align the project grid to the drummer’s performance. Then we can Set Definition from Tempo, and use Musical Mode to time-warp the drums into a straight time ruler.

My problem with this approach is that it relies on time-stretching algorithms, which degrade the natural sound of the drums. (As discussed in the Cubase manual,) Hitpoints sound much better on drums because it doesn’t smear the transients. This brings us to…

Option 2
After establishing the tempo map, and Setting Definition from Tempo, we can create Hitpoints and slice. Now we can quantize the performance to the time grid that was established by the tempo map. This does not affect the natural recorded sound of the drums.

My problem with this approach is that the tempo map itself, (which is aligned with the free drum performance,) has captured all the timing errors of the performance. In effect, we will be quanitizing the drums to a time grid that is, itself, requiring quantization.

This has lead me to…

Option 3
We can delete most of the time-warp markers, keeping only those markers which demarcate transitions in the song structure. This means we will capture the drummer’s natural tempo drift, which brings a slightly different feeling to different parts of the song (for example- slower verses, faster choruses, etc.) This is great because this is what makes a live drummer’s performance more “human.”

Once this editing process is complete, then we can set the Definition from Tempo and proceed with hitpoints, as described in Option 2.

My problem with this approach is how to handle a situation in which the drummer changed the tempo of a song part too excessively. A great example is a rushed drum roll. I would like to be able to slice the drums, move them forward or back a few milliseconds, and have a group of time-warp markers follow along with the events, without losing synchronization with the performance. This way, when I quantize the drums with Hitpoints, I would be quantizing to a more accurate time ruler.

However, we can’t move groups of time-warp markers together in Cubase. So each time I manually slice the tracks and adjust a timing error, I have to manually re-adjust every single time-warp marker from that point to the end of the project.

And this process has to be repeated, each and every time a manual timing edit is made to the drums. This is tedious, in the extreme.

(Right, I know, “Get a better drummer…”)
Has anyone else been down this road? Any tips or workarounds?