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Using Cubase 6 – Matching Tempo

Define Tempo

Imagine the scenario – You are about to start work on a remix and you have been sent the original radio edit plus vocals as a reference. You need to pull the original track (and vocals and possibly other parts) into a project and line them up so the vocals fit and you can work at your new tempo and also have the original edit in time with your new track. Also, as is so often the case, the original producer has not given you any clue what tempo the original track was recorded at.

Many times over the years I have been asked what is the easiest way to get the tempo of the original track.

This is the method I use. It is simple and quick. It does however rely on the original track and parts being at a fixed tempo.

Import The File(s)

First with your new project named and saved and ready – Import the file(s) into Pool and convert as required. Do not bring the file from the pool into your project yet.

Double click an imported audio file in the pool which will open the file in the Sample Editor

Turn on Audio Definition and click Manual so that your screen looks similar to this:

Sample Edit - Manual Definition
Sample Edit - Manual Definition

Setting The Grid Start Point

We now need to define a start for the grid so we can line it up. Put the mouse pointer on editor and move to the left of the screen until you see “Set Grid Start”. Not to be confused with the “S” for Set Clip Snap Point. You may have to zoom in a bit before you do this. Grab the grid start and move it to the right until it is lined up with something really obvious on the sample. In this (animated) example – It is the first kick drum and crash which follows the fade in and silence:

Setting Grid Start
Setting Grid Start (Animated GIF)

Defining The Original Track’s Tempo

Now you will need to view the audio file so you can see a few bars ahead and keep zoomed in as much as possible.

Put the mouse in the upper area of the sample editor – You should see Stretch Grid. This is important, as we want to move the whole grid to define an overall tempo. We do not want individual parts of the track to be changed or “warped”.

You will see the estimated tempo at top of sample editor. If you get the grid lined up and the tempo reads 127.7877 (for example), You can guess that the original tempo is probably 128. So enter 128 in the tempo area. Here is the procedure:

Define Tempo
Define Tempo (Animated GIF)

Note: You may need to move further forward in your track and actually play the track itself so you can tell where you are. Then line up the bar later on in the track to check that it is still running in time.

If you want the track to automatically adjust and match your project tempo then click the Musical Mode button so it is white:

Musical Mode ON
Musical Mode ON

If you just want to set the project to play at same speed as the original track then you do not need to use musical mode.

Put The File Into The Project

You can now close the sample editor and drag your file into project.

If you have Musical Mode ON – You should see that the track lines up with your project at the point where you set the Start Grid and it should also run at any tempo you choose for your project:

Drag Into Project
Drag Into Project (Animated GIF)

Of course there is always going to be a bit of fiddling about here. For example, you may not quite get a match if the editor was not zoomed in enough to see properly. If you bring the file into the project and it plays out of time, just deleted it and go back to the pool and Stretch or Un-Stretch the Grid until it lines up then drag it back in again.

After a bit of practice you will find that this whole procedure can be done in seconds and will save you a lot of time and hassle when working with different files.

Final note.

This procedure is almost impossible unless there are clear beats in the file. So for example, trying it on a vocal is pretty pointless. Often the vocal will come with other parts though that can be matched as above. If not then you can use tap tempo to get a rough idea and then some good old trial and error.

Or… You could phone the original producer and ask them what tempo the vocal was recorded at… See if they can tell you.

Thanks for reading.