In this tutorial, I'll show you how to find the tempo of a song in Pro Tools.
Most of the time, the songs that come to my studio for recording will not have a tempo and time signature. This makes recording the session and adding the click track very difficult.
Once you've figured out the tempo and the time signature of the song, it will be easy to set the rest of the session and to get a proper take of the vocals.
Import any song that you know is in a constant tempo and time signature. Press Ctrl-Shift-I to import the song into the session.
Ensure that you set the Grid value to Bars and Beats before you start finding the tempo of the song. If this is not set to Bars and Beats, the grid will not be in sync with the tempo of the song.
1. Tap Tempo
This option is very useful to find the tempo of a song. All you have to do is to tap on the Tempo holder in the Transport Window.
First, open up the Transport window by pressing Ctrl-1 and press Space to start the playback of the song.
Turn off the Conductor Track in the Transport window. If the Conductor track is active, you'll not be able to tap to the song. If you want the Conductor track to be active and want to find the tempo of the song, you can opt for the second method given below.
Have a listen to the song and figure out the time signature of the song. If you're not sure, try some common time signatures such as 4/4, 3/4, 6/8, etc.
When the song is playing, click on the Transport window and press T on the keyboard along with the rhythm of the song. Each T representing one beat of the song.
Click on the area where you type in the value of the tempo and tap along with the rhythm of the song.
The value in the tempo box will change according to the speed that you tap the T. Keep tapping for a few bars and you will notice that the average tempo of the song displayed in the Tempo area.
Sometimes you might have to adjust the value a little bit so that the song will be in grid.
If you are getting an odd number as the tempo, try changing it to the nearest even number. However, if you get something like a five or a zero, chances are it might match.
Most of the popular songs are in common time signatures and a somewhat constant tempo. Therefore, rounding up the tempo to the nearest number will definitely help you align the song to the grid.
Once you are sure of the tempo, click on the track and cut the clip at the start of a bar using B. Turn on the Grid Mode and place the start of the beat at the beginning of a bar. Drag the rest of the audio and align the track to be in the grid.
Add a click track and see if the click plays in sync with the song. If they are out of sync, try adjusting the tempo a little bit so that they stay in sync. If you change the tempo, you have to re-adjust the track’s position to be in grid.
With this method, you can easily find the tempo of a song in Pro Tools without using much effort. Sometimes, this method might not work if the song is too fast and you cannot tap it accurately in the tempo box. In such situations, you can use another option that I will explain below.
2. Add Bar/Beat Markers
For this method to work, you have to enable the Conductor Track. After you've imported the track and made all the necessary changes to the Bars and Beats options, play the song and find the beginning of any bar.
For example, in a song that is in 4/4, try counting 1, 2, 3, 4 along with the song. Once you've counted one bar, i.e., four beats, press Ctrl-';;/I.
You will get the Add Bar / Beat Marker dialog box. In the first item Location, enter the number again. For example, in the above example, I got 4 as the bar number. The rest of the numbers are not important in this situation. Click on 4 and type in 4 on the keyboard.
This makes Pro Tools think that a new bar starts there and will along the grid accordingly.
Play the song again, and after the fourth bar that you marked, count for two more bars and mark that location using the Add Bar / Beat Marker option. Ensure that you count the bars properly. Set the marker at the end of a bar or at the beginning of a bar. Make them even measures.
You will find that the bar numbers have changed. Since you started counting for two bars from bar four, now the number of the bar should be six.
Click on the Location box and enter 6. The rest of the values will be changed and the whole marker location will be 6 | 1 | 000.
Now, if you check on the tempo marker, you will find the calculated tempo written on the Tempo track.
The tempo will sometimes have decimal places, just round it up to the nearest whole number and add a click track to see if both of them are in sync. If they are out of sync, adjust the values a little bit and you will get the correct tempo of the song.
Using these two methods, you can easily find the tempo of any song. Sometimes if the clients are not sure of the tempo of the song, you can use any of these methods and find the tempo very easily.
If you know any other methods for establishing the tempo in Pro Tools leave a comment below.