Songwriting in Pro Tools
Illustration by John Hersey

Changing the tempo and key later on in the process


Songwriting in Pro Tools

with David Franz

Video: Changing the tempo and key later on in the process

As you're working on your new song idea, you might realize It's our same part,it's just sped up.

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Watch the Online Video Course Songwriting in Pro Tools
1h 2m Beginner Apr 25, 2014

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Everyone writes songs in their own way. Some start with a melody or a beat, some start with a lyric. Whatever your starting point, you need to get your ideas down quickly, and then polish them into demos worth presenting to partners, producers, and record labels. Pro Tools can help. It's one of the programs professional musicians and songwriters turn to for writing, recording, and mixing songs. In this short course, David Franz takes you from an initial seed-idea to a great sounding demo song, showing you how to find the best tempo, meter, and key; add in vocals, drums, and hooks; and put together a dynamic mix using effects like EQ, compression, and reverb and delay. These 10 simple steps can guide anyone with an idea and a little musical ability through the process of capturing a song idea before the inspiration fades.

Look for more courses in our Songwriting series in 2014! We'll cover Logic, GarageBand, and other popular DAWs.

Audio + Music
Pro Tools
David Franz

Changing the tempo and key later on in the process

As you're working on your new song idea, you might realize that hey, this track should be a little faster, or a little slower, or the song needs to be in a different key because the singer's going to sound better in a different vocal range. I'm going to show you, quickly, the tools that you need to help change the tempo or the pitch of the tracks after they've already been recorded. Let's take a look at this intro guitar bit. First I'm going to change from samples to ticks, and that changes the time reference for this. We have 960 ticks per beat, and we can see that if I scroll down on this just a little bit,there's 960 ticks within one beat of this and then, obviously, the number of beats within the bars,so this makes our audio reference to the tempo.

Now I'm going to choose elastic time, this button right here, and choose polyphonic, because it's a guitar part,it's going to have multiple notes going on at once. That turns on elastic audio, and Pro Tools analyzes this piece of audio,so now it knows that it's elasticized and if I click on this, we'll solo this and then end up changing the tempo, like this. I'm going to choose 108,click Okay and now, you'll see that this piece of audio has gotten shorter and it still fits within eight bars.

You can see it's selected up here,it's still eight bars and now let's play it back and hear what it sounds like. It's our same part,it's just sped up. I'm going to undo that. Now we can apply this same technique to all of the tracks in the session and hear what the entire track sounds like that way. Now what if we want to change the pitch? Well that's pretty easy. We can go up to the Event menu, choose Event Operations, and choose Transpose and once we have all of our audio tracks with elastic audio on and have ticks as the time base, we can choose to transpose them.

So I'm going to choose five semitones up, press Apply and now let's play this back. Five semitones up,pretty cool and again, you can apply this to all of the audio tracks in your session with midi tracks, like these virtual instrument tracks down here, when you change the tempo, they automatically change with your tempo change, and you can easily do transpositions on the fly, if you go to real time properties, and choose transpose right here.

So if I wanted this to go up a little bit, let's say plus three, now it's in real time, I can hear what that sounds like. Solo this track, and I can transpose on the fly in real time. Just by hitting that TRN or transpose button. So you can apply the transpositions or the tempo changes very quickly within ProTools using elastic audio and changing everything to a tick time base. The only thing you have to watch out for is if you change the tempo, or if you change the transposition by a lot you may run into a lot of audio artifacts,but if you keep the tempo changes small and the pitch changes small you can actually get away with it especially for a demo song like this.

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