Smart Tempo in Logic Pro X

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Logic Pro X 10.4.2 has ushered some major developments in its Smart Tempo functionality, making it much easier to control your project’s tempo. We clock on…

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We’ve undoubtedly come a long way since the days of manually time-stretching or re-pitching a drum loop to place it in-sync with the tempo of your MIDI sequencer. Indeed, Logic Pro X now includes a wealth of tempo-related functionality that offers flexibilities in both directions – whether you’re locking a range of different loops to a single tempo, for example, or trying to lock Logic’s tempo to the more elasticated grid of a real performance.

With the introduction of Smart Tempo in 10.4, and in 10.4.2, the option to apply Smart Tempo features across multitrack performances, it’s well worth spending some time understanding new tempo functionality as in many ways Logic now leads the field in respect to tempo flexibility!

Rather than being built from scratch, Smart Tempo is bolt-on to the Flex Time technology first introduced in Logic Pro 9. Technically speaking, Smart Tempo is an ‘intelligent’ front-end to Flex Time technology – clever enough to extract precise tempo information from a range of audio material, and also flexible and intuitive enough to let you work with the information in a variety of ways. Much of what can be achieved with Smart Tempo could have been achieved prior to 10.4.1, although it required more human input and, more importantly, time to achieve.

Click-less recording

One of the headline features of Smart Tempo is the freedom to record both MIDI and Audio information into Logic without the need of a click. Working inside a DAW has traditionally meant being slaved to the click at all points. The breakthrough with Smart Tempo is that Logic can interpret what you’ve played and adjust the project tempo to your performance.

At first, Smart Tempo can seem little more than a cheap gimmick, but for ‘looser’, more naturalistic musical styles the ability to play a part without the constant ‘tick tock’ of a metronome is liberating! Add drums, loops and so on, and everything fits perfectly with your performance, retaining the all-important expression that tempo fluctuations can bring.

As with all automated ‘intelligent’ processes, there are limits to what Smart Tempo can interpret. The technology is based on establishing downbeats and then using the time between these two points to establish the tempo. Your playing style needs to be clear, therefore, and, within reason, ‘rhythmic’. If you’re trying to establish an initial ‘human’ tempo grid, pick a simple strumming guitar part, for example, rather than anything too complicated or syncopated.

Smart thinking

One significant introduction in version 10.4.2 was the ability for Smart Tempo calculations to be applied across groups of tracks. For example, you might record a song with a band straight into Pro Tools, which you then decide to import into Logic for further production or mixing. As part of the importing process Logic can extract all the relevant tempo information from an analysed ‘downmix’ of the performance. Even if it’s for something as simple as keeping your delay times in-sync, the Smart Tempo functionality is a speedy tool.

Going loopy

As well as ‘click free’ recording, Smart Tempo has also made the process of working with loops much easier to achieve. Opening the Smart Tempo Editor lets you view the tempo information stored with the audio file, or, in the case of no information being stored, you can tell Logic to Analyse the audio file. One interesting feature is Logic’s ability to analyse the downbeat and differentiate this from the start of the audio file. Of course, this makes a lot of sense with audio recorded without a click, but where a loop has few beats silenced this can create an issue. In the example of a faulty downbeat, you can click to reassign the correct downbeat accordingly.

With loops, of course, you’ll be forcing the loop to adapt the Project’s Tempo, as well as using Flex Time’s transposition feature to tune the loop to the key signature of your song. Whatever route you choose, though, Smart Tempo makes it easier for you to dictate the use of tempo, rather than simply being a slave to your DAW’s metronome. Tempo – like any aspect of a song’s musicality – should be something you define, rather than something that is imposed upon you.

Smart tempo: step-by-step

Logic Pro x Smart Tempo

1.In this first example we’ll look at how Logic can adapt to your performance, rather than you follow a click. Start by setting the Project Tempo mode to Adapt and record-enable an audio track.

Logic Pro x Smart Tempo

2. When you’ve finished your recording, Logic will analyse the file and use that information to change the Project Tempo accordingly. If you want to see the results of the analysis, press the Show button.

Logic Pro x Smart Tempo

3. Pressing Show will bring up the Smart Tempo Editor window. You don’t technically need to adjust anything here, but you can see how Logic had interpreted your playing, including downbeats and tempo changes on a per-bar basis.

Logic Pro x Smart Tempo

4. Once you’ve established your chosen ‘human’ tempo you’ll want to set the Project Tempo mode back to Keep. Try adding a Drummer track and listen to how it tracks your playing like a very ‘tight’ band.

Logic Pro x Smart Tempo

5. This next example uses the audio files from the ‘Multitrack’ folder, which you can import into an empty project. Drag these into the project and ensure you selected the ‘Selected files are stems from one project’ option.

Logic Pro x Smart Tempo

6. Once you’ve dragged the files into the Arrange Area, open the Smart Tempo Editor and notice how Logic has calculated a variable Region Tempo for the performance, alongside a drop-down menu for the multitrack set.

TEMPO METADATA Any file recorded into Logic, or bounced from Logic, will be stamped with Tempo information (as well as Markers) as part of the audio file’s metadata.

Logic Pro x Smart Tempo

7. To change the project’s Tempo grid, highlight the regions and select the local menu option Edit > Tempo > Apply Region Tempo to Project Tempo. Play the regions back against click to hear the result in action.

Logic Pro x Smart Tempo

8. Open the Global Track (keyboard shortcut G) or the Tempo List editor to see the newly-created tempo grid for your project. Logic will create a new tempo event for each bar that the tempo changes.

Logic Pro x Smart Tempo

9. You can, of course, work the other way around and have the imported takes match your existing Project Tempo. To try this, start by deleting all the newly-created tempo events using the Tempo List Editor.

Logic Pro x Smart Tempo

10. Highlight all the regions and select the local menu option Edit > Tempo > Apply Project Tempo to Region and Downbeat. The performance will now consistently play at 120 bpm without any drift between bars.

Logic Pro x Smart Tempo

11. You see how Logic can manipulate the takes by opening Flex View (Edit > Show Flex Pitch/Time). Across multiple takes like this, though, the results can sound ‘phasey’ by virtue of the time slippages between regions.

Logic Pro x Smart Tempo

12. This next example uses the audio files included in the ‘Loops’ folder. Import them into an empty project and place them into your arrangement without any correction. Set the project tempo to 90 bpm to match the Arp track.

METADATA ISSUES In some cases, having Metadata information tagged to your audio file can be problematic, especially if it’s wrong. In these situations use the menu function Edit > Tempo > Remove Original Recording Tempo.

Logic Pro x Smart Tempo

13. Open the Kick Region in the Smart Tempo Editor. The region won’t have any currently assigned tempo information, so press the Analyze button to carry this out. The result should be 93 bpm as indicated in the filename.

Logic Pro x Smart Tempo

14. To make the region conform to your project’s tempo, select the local menu item Edit > Tempo > Apply Project Tempo to Region and Downbeat. Repeat this process for the Hat, Snare and Bass accordingly.

Logic Pro x Smart Tempo

15. The bass is a good example of how Smart Tempo occasionally gets things wrong – largely because it perceives the downbeat as occurring on the start on the first bass note (which is a reasonable assumption, to be fair).

Logic Pro x Smart Tempo

16. In examples like this where you know the tempo, you can set it in manually towards the top of the Smart Tempo Editor. In this case, we’ve forced Logic to work with a Region Tempo of 88 bpm.

Logic Pro x Smart Tempo

17. With the tempo correctly set, we can force to Downbeat using the small dot at the top of each beat division. With the downbeat set at the beginning of the audio file, note how the off-beat bass now falls into line.

Logic Pro x Smart Tempo

18. As the bass is in a different key, we need to tune it to Cm using the Transposition feature into the Region Inspector. Play back all the loops, which should now be perfectly in time and tune with one another.


About Author

Mark Cousins

Mark specialises in sound design and cinematic productions. He's recorded with orchestras across Europe and is heavily involved in soundtrack composition.

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