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Quantizing MIDI tracks

From: Pro Tools 8 Essential Training

Video: Quantizing MIDI tracks

Quantizing is the process of aligning MIDI nodes to a rhythmic grid to get the more in time or to change the rhythmic feel of a performance. Some notes may be moved forward in time while others may be moved back and some notes will be more drastically affected than others. A Quantize Grid determines the beat boundaries to which notes are aligned and we can use a grid with note values from whole notes to 64 notes with any tuplet divisions in between. In this secession here we have got a drum beat and the base that are soloed and those are the two tracks that I'm going to be working on this video.

Quantizing MIDI tracks

Quantizing is the process of aligning MIDI nodes to a rhythmic grid to get the more in time or to change the rhythmic feel of a performance. Some notes may be moved forward in time while others may be moved back and some notes will be more drastically affected than others. A Quantize Grid determines the beat boundaries to which notes are aligned and we can use a grid with note values from whole notes to 64 notes with any tuplet divisions in between. In this secession here we have got a drum beat and the base that are soloed and those are the two tracks that I'm going to be working on this video.

Let's listen to what we have got so far. (Music playing.) Now that's not bad. The drumbeat was programmed in using the Pencil tool to drop these notes in. Meanwhile this base track was actually played in on a MIDI keyboard. So this drum track is very much already aligned to the grid while the base track is not.

Now it's simple enough to quantize a MIDI performance so that each of the notes lines up perfectly with the beat like this drum track, but we don't really want to do that most times because that will sound mechanical. Now maybe some music will call for that but in this case I don't want that. I want some feel. I want some human elements to this. I need some inconsistencies and some imperfections. So let's zoom in on this base track and we can see that it doesn't really align to the grid all that well. The second note right here is pretty early in comparison to where the kick drum is that should align with that. But before we start quantizing anything we need to figure out and describe the rhythmic feel that we want to create. Often feels are expressed as being ahead of the beat for a pushed or excited or driving song or behind the beat for a laid back or a relaxed or even a dragging kind of feel, or it could be right on the beat for a steady song that's in the pocket.

In this particular case, I want the base to drive the song a little bit, but I don't want it to be too far ahead of the drums. So let's look at the quantize parameters that we can alter. So we'll open the Event Operations window, the Quantize part of it and we start with this very top part here because we need to choose what to Quantize. We can choose to Quantize the Note On or the attack of the note, we can choose the Note Off or the release of the note or we can Quantize the note duration which if we choose to Quantize the Note On and the Note Off that will set the note so that it goes from one grid value to the next. And often we don't want to do that because Quantize in note durations can really suck the life out of a performance.

Usually we'll just want to keep the Note On and the Preserve note duration boxes checked. Below that we need to choose the Quantize Grid, and in most cases you want to choose the smallest sub division of the beat that you want to quantize to. And in this case, for the drums we have 16th notes, we can see that the grid is in 16th right here and the base is going to align with those too. So we are going to have 16th note as our grid but you can change that if you need just by clicking here.

And we definitely don't want to use any Tuplets. Let's go down to the Offset grid. Now what does this do? This parameter enables you to move the overall MIDI performance data ahead or behind the beat by fractions of the beat or by ticks. For example, if I wanted the base track to be pushing or driving I can set this to be negative 5 and that will move all these notes up 5 ticks. In another example, if we wanted to have the snare kind of a little bit relaxed or a little bit late. So that it sits on the back half of the beat, we can maybe set 10 and apply that to the snare to create more of a laid back feel.

Let's move down to the Swing. Now this parameter actually alters the quantization grid to help you create a triplet like swing or shuffle feel. Right here we can go all the way up to 300% or down to zero. The higher percentage that you choose the more swing is added and you can apply different swing percentages to different tracks within a session, to give the impression that different tracks are played by different players, and that's kind of a cool thing to do.

So let's have a listen to some of the stuff on the base and drum track. I'm going to zoom out a little bit and we are going to look at this base track first and I'm going to apply this Offset, not put any swing on it yet and hit Apply. And you saw that these notes just moved, just a little bit and let's zoom in on that second note that we were looking at. Now it's much closer to this Grid line. However, it's still ahead because we added this offset.

Let's have a listen to that. (Music playing.) Much tighter than the original performance. Now what happens if we go up to the drums and I'm going to go to the Regions view and let's add some Swing to the drums? I'm going to put this all the way to 100 and you are going to hear a big difference. (Music playing.) Lots of swing there. That's too much. It sounds kind of crazy. So I'm going to undo that and maybe we just want to add just a touch. How about 36? (Music playing.) That sounds kind of cool. Let's apply a little bit less to the base and since we have already added the offset, we'll take that off and Apply. (Music playing.) So that adds a nice little swing to both of the parts. Let's talk about some of these others parameters that we have got down here. We have got Include within, Exclude within, Strength and Randomize and often collectively these are called the Sensitivity Parameters in other sequencers and they are used to determine which MIDI notes are to be Quantized.

If we don't set them then all the notes will be, but if we do set them then some of the notes may not be quantized. In most performances the notes between the beats or between the Quantized Grid really kind of gives the performance its style and sometimes its rhythmic feel. So you can use these parameters to quantize the notes closest to the grid and leave the notes in between alone. For example, if we hit the Include within parameter and we set this to 10%, what this means is if you want to quantize the notes that are 5% from the Grid on either side, we can choose 10% as the Include within value. If you want to include all the notes and move them all to the grid and we set this to be 100%.

The Exclude within function works in the opposite way. When we select this the attacks and releases are not quantized if they are located with in the specified percentage of the quantized grid. So if we say 18% here that means 9% on either side of the quantized grid, those notes aren't touched. So they are considered kind of close enough to the grid, the other remaining notes are brought closer to the grid. Both of these are useful depending on what performance you are quantizing and often you won't use them together.

Next, we have the Strength parameter and like a magnet this parameter determines how close MIDI notes are pulled to the Quantization Grid. 100% strength means every note will be pulled all the way to the closest grid value, while 50% means that we pulled halfway there. Personally I think Strength should be used on almost every part that was recorded live and that needs to be quantized, but you don't need to pull it all the way to 100 to give it still a little bit more of a human feel.

Also I should note that it's really not needed at all on parts that were drawn in using the Pencil tool or using Step Input. Like we wouldn't use this Strength parameter on this drum track, because it was already 100% on the grid. But when it comes down to it, if you are working with a live track that you recorded, this parameter might be one of the most important ones for transforming a halfway decent track into a pretty tight musical performance. The last parameter that we are going to talk about here is the Randomize function and it's funny that randomize is a quantization parameter because it's essentially mucking up the works that all the previous quantization parameters performed on the MIDI data. A value of 0 % means that there is no randomization.

If we go up to 100% that will move some notes up to 50% away from the Quantization Grid on either side and usually this will just sound awful. The rhythms will be way off. However, this can be a very useful parameter. Although, musicians don't really play randomly a small randomization percentage can be useful for adding a human element to an otherwise mechanical sounding track. Now if I use this at all, I might add 5% or up to a maximum of 10 %. So use this parameter with care.

Now I find that quantizing a MIDI part whether it's drums or base or trumpets or piano, requires some experimentation. Because each recorded MIDI performance is different, you will usually have to play with the parameters when you quantize and each performance may require a different application of quantization. If you start with the track that's right on the Grid, like this Drum track here where I entered the notes with the Pencil tool, I would add a touch of Swing and I'll get rid of this stuff and a touch of Randomization so that it would make this sound more human. I might also add a Groove template, which we'll discuss in the next movie.

Now if we are working with a track that was played live, I would go into more of these options using the Include within or Exclude within and the Strength Parameters. So there are a lot of options here for Quantizing. It's a very powerful feature of Pro Tools and you are going to just have to get in there and try these parameters out but ultimately you are going to be able to make tracks that sound terrific using Quantization.

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This video is part of

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Pro Tools 8 Essential Training

120 video lessons · 10663 viewers

David Franz
Author

 
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  1. 12m 54s
    1. Welcome
      1m 16s
    2. Exploring the different versions of Pro Tools
      2m 30s
    3. Optimizing your computer before installing Pro Tools
      3m 51s
    4. Troubleshooting
      3m 1s
    5. Using the exercise files
      2m 16s
  2. 23m 41s
    1. Connecting your Pro Tools system
      5m 8s
    2. Powering up and powering down
      58s
    3. Optimizing Pro Tools performance
      6m 55s
    4. Setting essential preferences
      3m 42s
    5. Creating a Pro Tools session
      3m 56s
    6. Identifying elements in a session folder
      3m 2s
  3. 47m 9s
    1. Exploring the Edit window
      4m 50s
    2. Exploring the Mix window
      2m 21s
    3. Exploring the Transport and Big Counter windows
      4m 0s
    4. Using the Color palette and window arrangements
      2m 55s
    5. Investigating Pro Tools menus
      4m 37s
    6. Creating new tracks
      4m 10s
    7. Understanding samples and ticks
      3m 36s
    8. Viewing and manipulating tracks
      5m 54s
    9. Adjusting the I/O setup
      7m 7s
    10. Understanding signal paths and gain stages
      3m 50s
    11. Utilizing keyboard shortcuts and keyboard focus
      3m 49s
  4. 30m 43s
    1. Using DigiBase and the Workspace browser
      5m 6s
    2. Importing audio
      5m 13s
    3. Importing MIDI
      3m 55s
    4. Importing session data
      6m 17s
    5. Importing tracks from a CD
      4m 18s
    6. Importing video
      2m 57s
    7. Unmounting a hard drive
      2m 57s
  5. 1h 2m
    1. Recording audio
      5m 6s
    2. Playing back audio
      10m 31s
    3. Creating a Click track
      4m 53s
    4. Overdubbing and using the record modes
      9m 25s
    5. Recording with playlists and the Loop Record mode
      3m 6s
    6. Punch recording and using the monitoring modes
      5m 28s
    7. Dealing with latency
      4m 17s
    8. Creating a group
      4m 33s
    9. Adding effects while recording
      7m 41s
    10. Creating a headphone (cue) mix
      5m 34s
    11. Assigning disk allocation
      2m 13s
  6. 1h 26m
    1. Understanding nondestructive editing and region types
      3m 31s
    2. Using the Selector and Grabber tools
      3m 29s
    3. Using the Trimmer and Scrubber tools
      6m 57s
    4. Using the Zoomer tool and Zoom presets
      5m 14s
    5. Using the Pencil tool
      3m 27s
    6. Using the Smart tool
      1m 26s
    7. Understanding the edit modes
      7m 54s
    8. Arranging regions
      8m 38s
    9. Undoing an edit
      2m 3s
    10. Utilizing fades and crossfades
      10m 29s
    11. Building a comp track using playlists
      5m 28s
    12. Locking and muting regions
      3m 36s
    13. Special buttons in the Editing window
      8m 16s
    14. Creating an audio loop
      5m 11s
    15. Editing a voiceover
      10m 59s
  7. 18m 43s
    1. Working with region groups
      5m 47s
    2. Setting time, tempo, meter, key, and chord
      5m 46s
    3. Creating memory locations
      7m 10s
  8. 35m 30s
    1. Setting up MIDI on a Mac
      4m 25s
    2. Setting up MIDI on a PC
      2m 50s
    3. Setting up MIDI in Pro Tools
      2m 46s
    4. Recording MIDI data
      5m 24s
    5. Recording multiple MIDI tracks with one virtual instrument
      2m 15s
    6. Recording options for MIDI
      6m 27s
    7. Using step input
      4m 45s
    8. Making a drum loop with MIDI Merge
      2m 51s
    9. Composing with virtual instruments
      3m 47s
  9. 48m 41s
    1. Using the edit tools for editing MIDI data
      8m 23s
    2. Editing MIDI data with the MIDI Editor
      7m 20s
    3. Working with the MIDI event list
      2m 41s
    4. Editing MIDI data with event operations
      8m 25s
    5. Quantizing MIDI tracks
      11m 31s
    6. Creating and using groove templates
      5m 59s
    7. Utilizing real-time properties
      4m 22s
  10. 18m 51s
    1. Exploring the Score Editor
      5m 22s
    2. Using the Score Editor
      6m 33s
    3. Setting up a score
      4m 30s
    4. Printing and exporting a score
      2m 26s
  11. 19m 0s
    1. Utilizing the Time Shift plug-in
      7m 41s
    2. Editing with Elastic Time
      8m 30s
    3. Editing with Elastic Pitch
      2m 49s
  12. 48m 20s
    1. Working with Boom
      11m 23s
    2. Working with Xpand2
      7m 21s
    3. Working with DB-33
      6m 58s
    4. Working with Vacuum
      7m 55s
    5. Working with Structure Free
      7m 12s
    6. Working with Mini Grand
      3m 57s
    7. Using Midi Learn
      3m 34s
  13. 25m 55s
    1. Writing and editing automation
      6m 4s
    2. Drawing automation with the Pencil tool
      4m 56s
    3. Editing automation with the Trimmer and Grabber tools
      2m 9s
    4. Cutting, copying, pasting, and clearing automation
      4m 5s
    5. Turning automation on and off
      4m 25s
    6. Automating plug-ins and virtual instruments
      4m 16s
  14. 1h 40m
    1. Setting up a session for mixing
      8m 0s
    2. Setting up an effects loop
      9m 18s
    3. Working with plug-ins
      3m 53s
    4. Dealing with delay compensation
      6m 51s
    5. Applying EQ
      9m 19s
    6. Adding compression
      11m 17s
    7. Applying limiters
      2m 57s
    8. Using Gates and Expanders
      4m 40s
    9. Working with Side Chains
      3m 35s
    10. Working with De-Essers
      3m 4s
    11. Adding delay
      7m 34s
    12. Utilizing modulation effects
      4m 43s
    13. Adding reverb
      7m 5s
    14. Adding harmonic effects
      5m 7s
    15. Renting and purchasing plug-ins
      2m 2s
    16. Applying AudioSuite plug-ins
      5m 19s
    17. Bouncing down a mix
      5m 50s
  15. 25m 44s
    1. Setting up a session for mastering
      8m 56s
    2. Using plug-ins for mastering
      8m 47s
    3. Applying Dither and Noise shaping
      4m 5s
    4. Bouncing down master recordings
      3m 56s
  16. 19m 52s
    1. Importing and displaying video files
      4m 20s
    2. Adding music, foley, ADR, and FX
      12m 28s
    3. Bouncing down video and audio together
      3m 4s
  17. 4m 50s
    1. Archiving an entire session
      4m 50s
  18. 31s
    1. Goodbye
      31s

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