While most users new to Pro Tools have some sort of idea about what Beat Detective does, it is not uncommon to find even experienced Pro Tools vets who don't completely grasp the intricacies of its operations and workflows, and for good reason. It isn't the kind of software feature you can just feel through with mouse clicks and intuition. Basically, Pro Tools Beat Detective is designed to operate as sort of a Swiss Army knife of time and rhythm. It's best to think of its multiple operation modes as just that, components of sort of beat-seeking, chopping, quantizing, groove-extracting, tempo- mapping Swiss Army knife.
So, not only is it something that turns drums that are off grid and out of time into something that's perfectly in time; we're also going to use it for groove tempo extraction, building tempo maps, cleaning up edits and stuff like that. You can find Beat Detective under the Event menu > Beat Detective. You can also use Command+8 on your numeric keypad or Ctrl+8 on the numeric keypad on the PC. The core of Beat Detective lies in its ability to not only identify or detect transients or beats within a region, but also mark those beats with their relative position to the bar it lies within.
For example, Beat Detective would not only record a transient position of a snare hit within the drum loop, but also associate that trigger point with a bar/beat/tick position, say the second beat of measure 2. Because of this, Beat Detective is not only adept at identifying transient points, but also properly recording their position within the greater selection allowing users to further quantize, extract or tempo-map a session based on the transients identified. So, the major uses of Beat Detective, of course, we discussed quantizing drums or quantizing anything percussive, for that matter.
Beat Detective is designed to work with very transient-rich material, so starting with drums and percussion, getting into things like monophonic bass and guitar and even polyphonic stuff that has really defined chords. It doesn't work so well with voice or really legato or soft instruments. So, besides quantizing, which will be a component of Region Separation and Region Conform, we can also create tempo maps via Bar|Beat Marker Generation. So, in the case where something is played not to a click, we can generate a tempo map so that the Pro Tools' click, and the Pro Tools' grid will actually follow a freely recorded performance.
We can also use it in a more simpler way just to identify the tempo of a piece of audio. We can also do what's called Groove Template Extraction. Groove Template Extraction, as opposed to trying to quantize something that's off the grid, actually records the position of the offset from the grid. So, it sort of measures, in a way, if we think about the offset of these drum hits from the grid, Groove Template Extraction is going to extract those and record those into a DigiGroove template.
Later we can go through and apply that using MIDI Quantize or Elastic Audio Quantize in the Event Operations menu under Quantize, or we can quantize things that we just chopped up with Beat Detective using the newly extracted groove template. So, many people have said elastic audios kind of kill Beat Detective in the way that it quantizes audio without creating chops and things like that. I think you'll find that there are some things that elastic audio will do better or quicker, but there are still things that Beat Detective is going to do that no other tool in Pro Tools will achieve, specifically, Bar|Beat Marker Generation, Groove Template Extraction and things like Edit Smoothing.
So, as we explore Beat Detective, it's important to remember that Beat Detective is a tool. And it's far from automatic. Because it's often making educated guesses about the relative positions of beats within a selection, you have to pay attention to what you're doing. I find the biggest mistake new Beat Detective users make is to assume that they can just select a region, click a button, and everything is magically taken care of, and that's just not the case. But if you take your time and really understand the tool for what it is, you'll find that Beat Detective is capable of workflows that no other DA offers. It opens up many doors and possibilities in Pro Tools editing.
- Understanding Beat Detective
- Making selections and separating regions in Beat Detective
- Extracting and using groove templates
- Generating a tempo map with bar beat markers
- Quantizing multi-track drums
- Using SoundReplacer and other sample triggering plug-ins
- Creating and using MIDI triggers
- Replacing drum sounds within a stereo recording
- Drum sweetening tips and strategies