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Every track in Pro Tools has an underlying timebase that defines where audio and MIDI data are placed within a sessions timeline. There are two different timebases, sample and tick. In this session, I have got an instrument track that by default is tick-based and an audio track that's sample-based. Let's talk about what these terms mean. On this instrument track, if we go over to the Timebase selector, you can see that it's ticks, and on this audio track it's samples. A sample is a slice of audio that has an absolute timebase built on the sample rate.
For example, 44.1 kHz as the sampling rate, where each sample is placed at an exact and absolute location in the session and only moves, if you move the region itself. You can see that where this cursor is placed, is exactly this many samples away from the very beginning of the session. In contrast to samples, a tick is a slice of time. Its length is relative based on the tempo. When using ticks as a timebase, each quarter note in the Pro Tools tempo grid is divided into 960 subdivisions called ticks.
Thus the duration of a tick varies according to the tempo of a session. And we can see ticks right up here shown in the main counter, and there are 960 subdivisions, so starting at 0 and going all the way up to 959. Without getting into the math of it, faster tempos yield shorter tick values while slower tempos have longer tick values. 960 ticks per beat may seem like a lot of subdivisions but it doesn't even come close to the number of subdivisions in sample-based tracks.
However, tick-based tracks have some serious advantages too. MIDI performance data is tick based by default, because MIDI events are locked to the tempo of the session. Thus, if the tempo of the session is changed, MIDI notes will follow the tempo change and not lose their bar and beat location. However, sample-based audio tracks will not follow a tempo change. Let's check this out. If I click and change the tempo from 120 to 160, watch the Strings track adjust.
All of these notes stayed locked with the tempo change and the bars and beats, but now are just going to be playing back at a faster tempo. However, the audio track didn't move it all. Go ahead and undo that. What's great about Pro Tools though is that you can actually make audio tracks tick-based as well. So let's go down and make this tick- based and let's add elastic audio, and choose polyphonic, and Pro Tools analyzes this now, and if we go and change the tempo, both the MIDI and the audio changed, to follow the tempo change.
Now we are going to talk more about elastic audio in another video in this course, but I just wanted to show it to you here first. Sample and tick-based tracks can co-exist in the Pro Tools session. However each track must be either one or the other, not both at the same time. And obviously, as you saw here, you can change a track's time base at any point while working in the session, by toggling the Time Base Selector button. Now you understand the difference between a sample and a tick. I recommend keeping the default time base for each track when you first create the tracks, but then you can change them later if you really need to.
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