Trying to introduce small random tempo variations

I want to explore how making frequent small tempo changes can ‘humanize’ a piece. First I drew in a a bunch of Tempo Events and set them all to the same baseline tempo via the Info Line. Then I thought I could use the Project Logical Editor to relatively randomize their values from the baseline (this works well for note data in the MIDI Logical Editor). While it is easy enough to select the Tempo Events using the PLE, once selected there doesn’t seem to be any way to modify the value at all - much less by a random amount.

Anyone got any ideas on alternative ways to get to my goal. Right now I’ve got a Tempo Event every quarter note and all are set to 111 bpm. I’d like to change them so they fall for example between 109 & 113 bpm

I’d be interested to hear what the solution is. With that said, I have found that varying the velocity by small amounts does a lot more for me to add humanness than when I have messed with rhythmic placement. I’m not saying that my way is any better, just that you may want to explore that as well.

Yeah, that’s pretty straightforward to do using the LE on note data.Basically I want to perform the same function on tempo data as this does on velocity data.

I was watching a Greg Ondo video where he’d imported some audio & used it to generate tempo data. While the tempo sounded constant it was actually jumping around a fair amount.

One easy way to get that done is to tempo map your project (using Time Warp or Tap Tempo), one per bar. Then randomly drag points up/down, don’t worry about whether you are changing the tempo “too much” because the next step is to select all of the tempo points and “compress” their variation using the smart box control (iirc, you hover and grab the control at the top center of the box that appears when you select all the tempo points).

You can squeeze the tempo variations down to virtually zero, or expand them to enormous values.

I’ll read along to see if there is a quicker method!

Yeah, that is the ultimate fall-back. But building a tool to do it is so much more appealing than doing it by hand. In the video the tempo is often changing on every beat & I suspect that intra-measure variation might be significant. So that would be adding even more points to edit.

I am a bit surprised that the PLE lets you target tempo data, but then not modify it.

If you can drop in an audio track and do the tempo mapping that way-why not just drop in a dummy audio clip, map that, and then use that as a starting point?

Do-able indeed but it does seem strange that you can’t just randomise the tempo with a keystroke or two…would be a very useful function.

Might be the easiest approach. Could eventually put it in a template if it proves worthwhile.


Not sure if this is the solution you’re looking for - but I tend to use a ramped tempo map that gradually increases throughout the song.

At bar 1, I’d set the tempo at 120bpm. By the end of the song, the tempo has increased gradually to maybe 124bpm. If this is ramped across the whole duration, it gives the impression of a live recording because it speeds up slowly but consistently across the song’s length.

I wrote an article about this sort of thing a while back. You can find it here:

David, great article and incidentally my main reason for staying Cubase , its always been the best at that sort of thing IMO.

If I get a great live performance recorded with a mic in a room with no click I never move it, the “rest” has to fit round it while still being to drag and drop cut and paste, machine sequence etc.

Cubase has always been the best at this sort of work for me.

How to do it the other way round (sort of underlying the original post) is an interesting question to which I’ve have no answer as I’ve never had a performer that was so good in the first place that I needed to do it that way round.

BUT the clue may be hidden in this reply, why not record a pair of drum sticks clicked and recorded live along to your robotic track then make things match that?


Without actually trying it myself…
Create a MIDI track, full of quarter-notes (Just draw with the Line Tool), then use the Logical Editor to Randomize Relative Position, then do Merge Tempo from Tapping?


Haven’t confirmed this works yet (but, come on…), it should end up with exactly same results as what I was trying with the PLE. And unless I’m missing something, all this can be tucked into a macro & assigned to a key. :smiley:

Actually it is Project/Tempo Detection and not Tapping that should be used. Otherwise this works as expected. Need to play with it more to figure out what a suitable amount tempo variation actually is - or perhaps more importantly what is too much. The map dmbaer posted showed some really big jumps.

Cool solution! I love this place!

Another aproach to introduce some ‘groove’ into rock/pop type material is to record live hi hats and possibly some percussion too.
It’s a REALLY old trick going back to the 80’s and it can work WONDERS on a track without having to mess with midi timing on other parts too much.
I’ve just archived a track where we did just that on it so i’ll try and post a couple of ‘before and after’ clips later on if i get a chance.
Back in the day when the Linn was THE machine to have and drummers became very worried, many people would lay down the drums using a Linn and just get a live drummer to do the hats, rationale being that the clock on the Linn was so loose and the sounds so good (for its time) it was faster and easier than recording a full live kit… you only had to punch it into the Linn once too :wink:

For most other midi i tend to set quantise to a couple of ticks randomised, loosen the catch area and add a touch of swing, drag the required midi events slightly out of time and then quantise using my settings… generally works quite nicely with a few tries…

I think the quickest way might be to tempo map any random song once, save it as a “tempo template”, then import it to your song. The “tempo point compression” I described in my previous post can then be applied to taste as desired.

Thanks for the kind comment. I was still a SONAR user when I wrote the article but switched to Cubase shortly after, primarily because it did a much better job at supporting tempo editing. I’ve stayed with Cubase ever since. It could be improved in this area, but as far as I know, it’s still the best option out there.