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Whether you are working on a doubled vocal part, the drum track or a bassline, that one slightly out of time note just stands out and brings the whole production down. Of course we can always just go for another take and record the part again, but it may seem a shame to have to do that if the part is otherwise perfect, and sometimes it is something you only notice when the other musicians have gone home!
It may just be that you have a vocal part from another project that you want to use in a remix, and you want to change the timing or duration of some of the words or syllables. In this tutorial I'm going to take a look at the powerful Sample Editor in Cubase 4 and show how we can use the Free Warp feature to alter the feel of a vocal part and also to correct an out of time djembe recording.
Let's start with the vocal track. Here we have a funky backing loop which I've prepared, and underneath it a vocoded vocal part. The first thing to notice is that the vocal part is obviously in a different tempo to the backing track, and we can rectify this immediately using the time-stretching tool in the next step.
From the tool tab select "Sizing Applies Time Stretch", then simply drag the sizing handle of the audio part as shown in the illustration. In this example the backing loop has a tempo of 135 and the vocal part has a tempo of 120, so dragging the vocal part's sizing handle left will speed it up whilst preserving the pitch. Use trial and error with this, and it will soon become obvious when you have used the right amount of time stretch. If you get it wrong just click "Undo" and try again.
So no we have time stretched the vocal part and it fits the timing of the backing loop. Let's take a listen.
I want to experiment with where the vocals fall, and the duration of one of the words. In this step I've moved the whole vocal part so that it begins at a point in the loop which sounds more natural. This is an improvement, but I feel that the last word of the line "I don't wanna let go" seems to end a little abruptly, so I'll fix that in the next step.
Double clicking the audio part will open it up in the Sample Editor. Firstly, click on the "Playback" tab on the left hand side. This will reveal some more tabs. Click on "Free Warp". It will be highlighted in blue when it is selected. Turn "Snap" off on the top tabs — snap is useful in some circumstances, but in this case I want full control of the audio warping.
From the "Algorithm" drop down menu on the left hand panel select "Vocals". There are different algorithms suited to different types of audio — vocals, mix, drums, etc — so it is important to select the correct one or the process will introduce weird artifacts to the sound.
Having listened to the vocal part in loop mode with the sample editor open it is possible to hear and see where the part is that I want to warp. You can also use the scrub tool to double check this. To draw the warp handles (the faint orange lines you can see in the example) just click on the waveform. As I want to stretch out the last word of this phrase, I'll be dragging the warp handle on the right hand further right. Notice that I have drawn a warp handle at the very start of the phrase as well. This anchors this part of the sample in it's current position, and if I didn't do this I would end up stretching the whole of the vocal part rather than just this one phrase.
Here it is with that last word stretched out, let's take a listen.
In this step I've just used the scissors tool in the main screen to cut the vocal up so I can copy across part of the phrase to add some variety.
I've copied the first slice of the vocal, "I", to the start of the track (Alt+Drag to copy). Job done! I've added a touch of reverb and delay to the vocal track, so let's see how it all sounds now.
We've dealt with altering the feel of some vocals and using the "Free Warp" function. Let's move on to dealing with some out of time djembe hits. Here we have a drum track, and underneath it the djembe track. They are both at 120 bpm, but the djembe playing is wandering off time towards the end of the loop (I should have you know my djembe playing is not really that bad, I had to concentrate to play so badly out of time!).
Double click the djembe audio part to open it up in the sample editor, and as before, select "Free Warp" from the left hand tab, and select "Drums" as the algorithm.
I've clicked on all the significant beats of the djembe track in the waveform image to create warp handles. Although I might not need to move every beat, it pays to draw them all in to anchor them to their positions if I don't want them to be moved. In fact, only the last four or five beats on the right hand side were badly out of time. They were all a bit late, so I simply dragged the start of each beat to the left slightly until they were falling correctly in time.
Here it is tidied up, let's listen to the new improved version!
- WAV Samples