Matching Melodyne Stand-Alone's time grid to the audio

The time grid must correspond to the musical content before any sensible editing of the audio material is possible. Whilst Melodyne Plugin assumes that a transfer matches the tempo of the DAW as indicated by its metronome click, Melodyne Stand-Alone analyzes the audio file loaded and deduces from the material itself the intended tempo and time signature. Since, however, this is, at the end of the day, a matter of interpretation, you do need on occasion to adjust the grid manually after the detection. In this tour, you will find out how this is done.

Moving the '1'

When the loading and analysis of an audio file – let’s say a drum loop – is complete, you should first of all check to see whether the ‘1’ of the time grid is correctly aligned with the first note (or, in this case, drum stroke). Often audio files have a bit of ‘air’ before the first note sounds, and this lull before the action gets underway can be interpreted by Melodyne as a rest. The upshot then is that all the notes are displaced rightwards in the time grid and the first beat of the first bar or measure of the music fails to coincide with the ‘1’ in the time ruler. To correct this, simply drag the ‘1’ marker in the time ruler until it coincides with the beginning of the first drum stroke. The movement is governed by the selected time grid, which is usually helpful; in cases, however, where it is is not, if you press the [Alt] key as you drag the icon, you will be able to fine-tune its positioning.

When you have finished, the ‘1’ should be perfectly aligned with the beginning of the first drum stroke.

Correcting the tempo interpretation

Once the ‘1’ is correctly positioned, the detected tempo should be checked. Melodyne’s algorithms usually determine the tempo as well as the presence and nature of any tempo fluctuations with a high degree of accuracy; since the tempo is always a matter of interpretation, however, it can happen that the tempo displayed is in fact double the intended or notional tempo. This will have no adverse effect on the actual sound, of course, but could make editing the material confusing. Even with our one-bar (singe measure) loop, the detected tempo is double the notional one, so what is intended to be a one-bar loop extends over two measures of the grid.

Entering a new value in the tempo box would be no help here, because it would cause the audio material to be stretched or compressed; the loop might run more rapidly, or more slowly, than before, but it would still extend over two bars of the grid.

Fortunately, correcting the displayed tempo is very simple: Just click the ‘...’ button next to the tempo box and the define tempo dialog will open.

With it, you can choose between two ways of defining the tempo. Since in this case, we want to halve the current tempo, we check the option ‘Multiply tempo by:’ and select the entry beginning ‘1/2 =’ from the list box to the right.

When we now exit with OK, we will find that the one-bar loop extends over one bar (only) in the grid, and that the value in the tempo box has been halved. Problem solved.

Specifying a fixed tempo

If you choose the option ‘Specify fixed tempo’, you can enter in the box provided a new value for the tempo.

When might you want to do this? There is one case in particular where it might be desirable to specify a fixed tempo: Suppose you are editing a guitar track recorded in time with a playback running at 120 BPM and the player has introduced slight tempo variations into his or her performance. When you now open the recording in Melodyne Stand-Alone, you will see that these tempo variations have been detected and are preserved in the playback. If you watch the tempo display during playback, you will notice it constantly changing, with the values hovering around 120.

Here, however, the tail is wagging the dog. The basic tempo of the project is intended to be fixed – a steady 120 BPM – and not to fluctuate whenever the guitarist essays a little artistry. The solution is to select ‘Specify fixed tempo’, type the value ‘120’ into the box provided and exit with OK. Then the grid will reflect the reality, and the tempo displayed will be 120 throughout. The guitarist’s performance, of course, will remain unchanged, with all the slight tempo variations preserved; you’ll see this reflected in the fact that certain notes will be offset slightly from the grid lines nearest to them. If you wish, of course, you can iron out all such irregularities by quantizing, so that the guitar part adheres strictly to the 120 BPM tempo throughout.

Set Bar 1 to Start of File

This option appears both in the define tempo dialog and in the ‘1’ icon’s context menu in the time ruler.

Normally Melodyne Stand-Alone aligns the ‘1’ with the beginning of the first note it detects in the audio file. In most cases that makes musical sense, but not in all. Take the following case: you are editing a track from a DAW that you intend later to reintegrate into the DAW project. Although the track was recorded from the start of the song, no notes sound until later. Here, if Melodyne were to align the ‘1’ with the first note played rather than with the start of the file, when you tried later to reintegrate the track into the original project, you’d discover the synchronicity had been lost. To avoid this, check ‘Set Bar 1 to start of file’. Melodyne will now align the ruler’s Bar One (‘1’) with the first sample word in the audio file; and the track, when restored to the original project, will be perfectly in sync.

Redetecting the tempo

With the option Redetect tempo in the define tempo dialog, you can force Melodyne to conduct a fresh analysis of the tempo of the document being edited. This can be useful, for example, when you have entered the tempo manually, messed things up, and want now to return to the status quo immediately after the initial detection. Select the option and exit the define tempo window with OK to trigger a fresh analysis.