Rubato playing + Time Warp = crazy tempo track

What I’m about to describe is not a problem with Cubase, it’s just a practical problem that maybe others have solved.

When writing to picture, I like to record rubato, without the metronome, and then line-up the bars and beats using Time Warp. It works brilliantly.

However … the resulting tempo track would be virtually impossible for a musician to follow because it’s changing tempo on every bar, sometimes every beat, often by quite a lot, and it’s doing so in a unmusical way (ie every change of tempo is a sudden jump not a ramp up or down).

I think most session musicians would not be over the moon, about this kind of click track. So is there a different way that I could record rubato but end up with a steadier click track ?

There’s no easy way to do anything like that. Yet.

Were you actually improvising while recording? If so, then, without realizing it, you were in fact following some “internal conductor” in your mind while doing so (no, I’m not crazy :wink: ).
Just listen back to what you played (several times, if necessary), and imagine yourself “conducting” that piece of music. You’ll be surprised how it doesn’t take too long before it starts making some kind of musical sense (this would be much more difficult if you were trying to conduct someone-else’s improvising :wink: ). Don’t worry about eventual time signature changes, for now.
Once you have been able to imagine conducting it a couple of times, instead of just mentally waving your arms in the air, actually tap out the beats, and record that into Cubase. (You can correct any mistakes later). Also, you don’t even have to do it “all in one go”… do the easy bits first, then work separately on the more problematic areas.
This is in fact the same mental process as if you were trying to overdub some solo instrument over the original recording.
Once you have a “tapping track” that sounds coherent with the played music, then you can use Cubase’s function, “Merge Tempo from Tapping”. (there are other posts in here, dealing with how to do that). Lastly, you can then insert time-signature changes where you feel necessary.
It isn’t a super-fast method, but one that that does eventually give “musical” results :wink:.

Hi Vic,

So what’s the advantage of ‘Merge Tempo from Tapping’ versus Time Warp. Dragging the bar & beat lines onto the right notes in the Key Editor is way faster than recording a click track in the way you describe, but are you saying that somehow the results are more musical by playing in a click track ? Is Cubase going to create tempo ramps between each beat or is it just going to jump from one tempo to another like it does in Time Warp ?

Still done by jumps.
Which method to use really depends on the actual musical content, but if that content doesn’t have regular reference points (e.g. there is always a note on the first beat of an intended bar), then the TimeWarp tool will of course respect that, but can’t take into account any notes that might be rubato within the previous bar, so, you’d still have to go back to that bar and tempo warp the individual notes anyways. Also, imagine this situation…
a long note, followed by a much shorter note, followed by another note. In your head, that first note was supposed to be 1 whole-note+1 quarter-note followed by two eighth-notes, the 2nd one tied to a dotted half-note… and, furthermore, that first eighth-note you had deliberately played a little early. If we are assuming 4/4 time signature, there therefore isn’t even a note to mark the start of the next bar.
Believe you me, by the time you’ve been backwards and forwards with the timewarp tool, it would have been quicker just to tap it out manually :wink:.
Don’t get me wrong, the timewarp tool is brilliant, but the more the music is “irregular”, the greater the advantage towards tapping the tempo… especially in the case you originally mentioned, where external musicians might have to overdub on it, and you need a click track that feels logical and musical.

(Anecdote: on a strings session a couple of years ago, I wasn’t the only arranger-conductor, and I walked in on the session while the other guy was still finishing up. The title they were recording was exactly the situation we have just been talking about… The piece was very rubato, and (I think he had used Digital Performer), although he had lined it all up correctly so that it was printable, he simply exported the click track (for the musicians), without even listening to it. It was a sheer nightmare! )

I agree with Vic France’s replies. Tapping for general timing = relatively quick. Then fine tune by using the warp tool.
With any tools you need to use a lot it’s really worth a couple of days or even a week of concentrated study to get your brain around the features and pitfalls.
In your case it looks like warping. The “Algorithms” may be your best friend at first (I think they’re still at the far right of the warp tool’s toolbar) for working “live” music to film.

My main advice would be to use the tools in Cubase as sparingly as you can get away with as you can get bogged down to trying to use it as a main feature when it is only an assistant to the main features. ie: Timewarp by nature is best used only for those times when the music occasionally drifts. But you will run into limitations if you try to use it for long stretches on a three hour movie (I’m just stretching the point here) say, where the music also has to match certain points in the film.

You’ve probably done it but I’d also advise you to also look up a few movie maker forums, find the best one, (usually the busiest) and cross-reference advice from here, which is mainly advice about Cubase specifically, and advice from more experienced movie makers even when Cubase is not their DAW of choice.

Excepting Vic France. You got lucky there he knows more than most here.

Well, I think it’s time that Steinberg implemented ramps into time-warp and tempo tapping, not just jumps. This would provide a much more natural tempo map, not of course perfect but ramps would help definitely.

I too have to sometimes tempo map some live rubato playing but to be honest 50% of the time I just don’t bother, I simply manually line up the midi notes by hand or line up the audio because it’s actually quicker… I do this using inline midi editing or by moving and snapping to the cursor.

Some ideas that might help would be:

  • Instead of using Time-Warp, use the Tempo window to add ramps while watching the bar-lines on the project window. I.e. I sometimes add tempo blobs and the ride them up and down until the bar-line in the project window sits where I need it. I’ve got two monitors so I have the tempo window on the right and the project window on the left.

  • Add additional tempo blobs between those created by time-warp. Again, add blobs manually and slide them up and down to ‘smooth’ out the bigger jumps.

  • Create an entirely independent click track using a midi instrument, i.e. ignore the inbuilt Cb tempo map and create a midi VSTi click sound which sounds good but which isn’t on the Cubase tempo map at all. Obviously not too good for editing but good for live players.

Hope these ideas help.


P.S. Tell you what, I’d love to see a ‘distribute’ function which evenly distributes selected notes between the two outside notes - would just make glissandi so darn easy!!

P.S. Tell you what, I’d love to see a ‘distribute’ function which evenly distributes selected notes between the two outside notes - would just make glissandi so darn easy!!

Yes, certainly easier to tidy up score display.

Vic France/Conman,

Ok, well when I was comparing Tapping vs Warp, I gave up on Tapping because I was trying to tap perfectly in time (which was impossible) so then thought I’d have to go back and shift my taps around to line up with what I’d played. Major PITA compared to Time Warp, but I guess a fairly rough pass of tapping, and then Time Warping that might be an interesting way to do it. I’ll try that.

GargoyleStudio, why don’t you make your suggestions directly to Steinberg ? They are good ones, and we can’t expect Steinberg to notice your post in this thread. If you suggest it they may just do it :wink:

Score>“Build N-Tuplet” does exactly that :wink:. (well, errm, sometimes it doesn’t do it perfectly :blush: :wink: )

Unsure whether you realise this or not here, but when you do the tapping (ie: create a “tap” track) once it’s done you then delete the “tap” track. This confuxed me the first time or two I did it until I realised it was just there to generate the tempo changes in the tempo line. Then the midi follows the live action.

Thanks Vic. Never thought of using “Build N-Tuplet” for that. I know why it could be hit and miss seeing some of my glissandos. :smiley:

LOL :laughing: (yeah, but it’s cheaper than going to a the salon for a manicure!)

Have you tried to record the musicians to a straight tempo track in the ball park and then have it do the audiowarp to match the rubato tempo? You can take the musicians performance and do an automatic tempo detection, select all of the audio tracks and then use the set definition from tempo function under audio menu - advanced? This will then change the tempo of the audio to follow other tempo changes such as your existing tempo track. You can see aspects of this at

All the best,


“Project >> Tempo Detection”.

OMFG. Nirvana. Completely.


(Oh, and as always, burnt offerings and baby lambs to you, Vic_France!).