Tempo assignment

Melodyne’s tempo detection is uncomplicated and is conducted automatically. Despite this, you occasionally need the Assign Tempo Mode as there is room for multiple interpretations (compare note detection). It can happen that Melodyne interprets the tempo in a manner that does not accord with your own – it’s only human, after all …

Think of two people listening to the same song and tapping their feet. They won’t necessarily do so in unison. One may tap twice as fast, because he’s counting the music in double time; or he might pick up on a triplet impulse in the music while the other sticks to the quarter notes. Both ways of counting are legitimate and a judgement call. Melodyne also “taps its foot” (so to speak), interpreting the tempo its way, which is not necessarily one with your own.

Admittedly how it counts the rhythm makes no difference to the music itself, but it is important in certain contexts, one being when it comes to syncing recordings with different tempos.

Take the case of a song in which you count twice as many beats as Melodyne: To your way of thinking, the tempo might be 160 BPM, whereas Melodyne interprets it as 80 BPM. Now suppose you wish to add from a library a drum loop originally recorded at 100 BPM. You’d want to speed it up to match your 160 BPM, but Melodyne’s instinct will be to slow it down to its 80 BPM. Both results would be right in the sense that the loop would not shoot off at a tangent, but musically they would be completely different. For this reason, Melodyne lets you tell it: “Don't run the song at 80 BPM but at 160 BPM”. This double-time variance is easily resolved, but music can be extremely complex, with time signature and tempo changes, constant fluctuations and passages where it dramatically speeds up or slows down.

All differences of opinion to which these complexities may lead can be resolved in the Assign Tempo Mode. That is where you edit the Bar Ruler, by dragging the graduations representing beats and bar lines to the right or left.

This has no immediate effect on the music itself, but by doing it you ensure that the Bar Ruler and metronome match the music as you understand it. This is important as it means that when you come to edit the tempo and timing later, the results will be accurate and appropriate musically.

The following short films show you how to approach the concrete problems of tempo assignment that occur in practice and how to find fast solutions. They will also give you a good general understanding of working in the Assign Tempo Mode and represent an excellent introduction to the subject – regardless of the order in which you view them.

You will also find details of the tools and functions in the Assign Tempo Mode in the reference section of the user manual.

The Tempo Editor in Assign Mode

The Tempo Editor in Edit Mode (Stand-Alone)

Tempo assignment in the stand-alone implementation

The edition Melodyne studio offers – particularly in stand-alone mode – the most comprehensive possibilities for tempo assignment.

(1) The song tempo set applies equally to all tracks. This is the yardstick to which each recording used in the song will have to conform.

(2) Auto Stretch decides whether a file is adjusted or integrated into the song with its original tempo intact. This happens directly as the file is imported: Its original tempo is analyzed in either case; whether or not it is stretched (or squeezed) depends upon the status of the Auto Stretch button.

(3) In Assign Tempo Mode, you edit the original tempo analysis – either individually for each file involved (to determine which, select the track in question and enter the Note Assignment Mode) or for the entire song (which is essential if the song tempo is somehow “unclear” – perhaps because the analysis was based on a multi-track live recording).

Assigning a file tempo: If you choose Assign Tempo in the Note Assignment Mode, you will be editing the current file only, not the entire song. In this way, you can correct the detected tempo of the file if necessary and thereby ensure that any stretching of the file to match the song tempo is done correctly.

Assigning a song tempo: Suppose you are beginning from scratch with an empty song and wish to record to a click. In that case, you enter the tempo in BPM as well as the time signature. With a recording like this, no further tempo assignment is necessary; once you have entered the tempo and time signature, nothing more needs to be done. The status of the Auto Stretch switch is also irrelevant, as recorded takes are never stretched; Melodyne assumes that when recording you kept time with the click. For this reason, for every recorded file, the song tempo is employed as the original tempo and as long as the two tempos are the same, there will be no need for any stretching.

If, on the other hand, you begin work by importing one or several files into a still empty song, Melodyne conducts an analysis of all the files imported simultaneously, deriving from them a common tempo. This will then be taken as the song tempo. A typical example of this procedure would be the import of the multitrack recording of a live performance. If you and Melodyne have any differences of opinion with regard to the tempo interpretation, you will resolve these (as described above) in the Assign Tempo Mode – in this case, not for each file individually but for the entire song. Correct tempo assignment in such cases brings many advantages:

  • a perfect click track for overdubs
  • the ability to cut, arrange and quantize based on the actual bar grid of the recording
  • the ability to add loops and other samples and synchronize them with the tempo of the live band
  • the ability in the Tempo Editor to modify the human touch of the live recording, by heightening (or else, toning down) particular fluctuations or, in the extreme case, imposing a constant tempo on the entire band
  • the ability to export a tempo map of the live recording to any DAW, so as to complete the arrangement there, adding overdubs and synchronizing BPM-based effects

A note on the editions: Melodyne editor is a single-track program, so there are no multitrack tempo problematics there to concern us; Melodyne essential and assistant only offer automatic tempo detection and have no Assign Tempo Mode.

Tempo assignment in an ARA environment

With ARA integration, the possibilities for tempo assignment are similar to those in stand-alone mode. In a nutshell:

  • you set the song tempo in the DAW – along with any tempo changes, be they gradual or sudden

  • rather than using the Auto Stretch switch in Melodyne, you determine in the DAW whether or not a file should be stretched – usually as an attribute of the individual track, e.g. as illustrated here in Studio One

  • the DAW shows you the file tempo of a track or track segment – the value shown is initially determined by the DAW and used by it for time stretching

  • in Melodyne you also see this value along with a second value in brackets that is generally more accurate and based on Melodyne’s own analysis

You can now tell the DAW to ignore the results of its own analysis and surrender responsibility for the tempo conversion to Melodyne. You have various choices in that case to be governed by whether you have complete confidence in the Melodyne value, would rather examine the tempo analysis in the Assign Tempo Mode to be on the safe side, prefer to enter the tempo yourself, or wish to match the file tempo to that of the song.

Among other things, these options allow you to:

  • add loops and match them to the song tempo – even if both contain tempo fluctuations
  • transfer Melodyne’s tempo map of a free recording (where no click was used), by dragging and dropping the desired track segment to the tempo track of the DAW, in order to provide it with an accurate bar ruler for cutting and arranging, and allow it to use BPM-based effects
  • augment or reduce any tempo fluctuations by means of the DAW’s tempo track or even eliminate them altogether and impose a strict tempo

Please note that since DAW manufacturers support ARA in different ways, ARA function sets and workflows vary from DAW to DAW. You will find details of the ARA support afforded by each DAW in its own documentation.

This film illustrates, by way of example, the interaction of Melodyne with the ARA DAW Presonus Studio One
Melodyne 4 – basics: Presonus Studio One with ARA

You will find in the reference section of the user manual details on working with tempo in an ARA environment.
Working with ARA – Tempo and tempo adjustment with ARA integration

A note on the editions: The ARA workflow described above is the same in all editions of Melodyne. Of course, Melodyne essential and assistant have no Assign Tempo Mode, so no thoroughgoing revision of the detected tempo is possible, but simple functions, such as conversion from single to double time, can be selected from a menu.

Tempo assignment in plug-in mode (without ARA)

When used as a plug-in (without ARA integration) in a DAW, no tempo assignment is possible. Melodyne assumes instead that all recordings originated in the DAW and share the same tempo.

You can make tempo adjustments to additional loops or samples in Melodyne stand-alone, as described above. There you will produce a new audio file which – together perhaps with a tempo map – you will export to the DAW. From there, if you wish, you can also transfer the file to the Melodyne plug-in.