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How To Use Groove Quantize And Beat Detective In Pro Tools

How To Use Groove Quantize And Beat Detective In Pro Tools

A common process we run into when making a record is quantization. Whether we’re locking a synth arpeggio to the grid or fine tuning a live instrument, we often need our performances to lock in with the click. There are certain tools within Pro Tools that allow us to be more creative with how we quantize. In this article we'll explain how you can use Beat Detective and Groove Quantization to add a humanistic feel to your song.

So how do we maintain a ‘live’ feel when we're altering the overall performance without turning our drummer into a robot? I see a lot of engineers pull up the quantization menu and quantize things 100% to the grid. There are certain tools within our DAWs that allow us to be more creative with how we quantize. Let's talk about Beat Detective and Groove Quantization.

When quantizing audio files in ProTools we have two main options.

Option 1 is using Elastic Audio to stretch and warp our audio files in time. This is a quick and easy way to analyze our audio and snap things into place. However this can sometimes leave artifacts and even change the fidelity of our recordings.

Option 2 is using a feature called Beat Detective. This allows us to analyze transients in an audio clip, chop them up and nudge them in time on our grid. In this article we are going to focus on Beat Detective and some features within it.

If you are not familiar with Beat Detective, here’s a link to an in-depth article by Mihai R Boloni walking us through each and every feature: https://www.protoolstraining.com/blog-help/pro-tools-blog/tips-and-tricks/98-beat-detective.html 

Lets jump into the Beat Detective window and take a look at how to quantize a drum performance.

When we open Beat Detective the first thing we want to do is analyze our audio clip. We’re able to do this within the Clip Separation tab on the left.

Groove Quantize
Event Menu > Beat Detective : Command + 8 numeric keypad (mac) / Control + 8 numeric keypad (pc)

First, highlight a region of the audio clip you’d like to quantize. It's typically best to start with a selection of around 4 to 8 bars.

Groove Quantize

Next, we’ll click ‘Capture Selection’, and then ‘Analyze’.

Groove Quantize

Notice how ProTools has made purple lines known as ‘Beat Triggers’ where it detects transients. We want these lines to be in correspondence to what our drummer has played. We can use the ‘Sensitivity’ slider on the right to dial in the amount of triggers on our audio clip. You'll also want to look at the ‘Resolution’ and select whether you want Beat Detective to detect Bars, Beats or Sub-Beats. This is determined by the subdivision of what the performance is playing. For this drum performance, I will be choosing ‘Sub-Beats’. We also want to dial in our ‘Trigger Pad’. This setting tells Beat Detective to make cuts a certain amount of milliseconds before our Beat Triggers. This way we can make sure Beat Detective isn’t cutting any audio clips directly on our transients. I like to have this set around 3-4ms when quantizing live performances like drums or percussion. Once we have these dialed, hit ‘Separate’.

Let's move on to the 'Clip Conform' tab.

Groove Quantize

In this tab, we are able to tell Beat Detective how to quantize our audio clips. Let's start with our Standard Option. Here in Standard Conform mode we can tell Beat Detective to quantize things at different strengths, exclude things within a certain distance from the grid, and add Swing. If we quantize at 100%, Beat Detective is going to take our audio clips and bring every one directly on the grid. As we lower our percentage it lowers the strength in which it's snapping to the grid. In other words, its placement of the audio clip won't be 100% on the grid.

The ‘Exclude Within’ option allows us to tell Beat Detective to not move any audio clips that are already within a certain percentage of the grid. So if our drummer was already within a certain percentage of the grid, Beat Detective will leave them there.

The last slider Beat Detective gives us in Standard is ‘Swing’. This allows us to add a certain percentage of feel into the quantization. It adds a little time off the grid to make the performance feel swung. We can choose between an 1/8th note and a 1/16th note swing to add to our clips.

Now let's jump into Groove Quantization. This function can be utilized in many ways, but let's tackle the basics. After we’ve separated our clip and are ready to conform to the grid, Beat Detective allows us to tell it how to quantize. We can use preset Grooves within Beat Detective like the MPC Style Grooves or Feel Injector Style Grooves it supplies, or we can create Groove Templates on our own. Let's say our drummer played really well in the pocket for 4 bars in the middle of Verse 2. We can highlight this part of our audio clip and extract its Groove. To do this, go to the ‘Groove Template Extraction’ tab.

Groove Quantize

Here we’ll analyze the audio clip like before, capturing our selection, adjusting the Sensitivity and selecting our Resolution. Once everything lines up with our performance we select, ‘Extract’. This will bring up a dialogue menu asking us where we want to store our new Groove. We can save it directly to our computer if we want to use this Groove in future sessions or we can save it to our Groove Clipboard. Once we’ve extracted our Groove, we can then use this Groove to quantize our drum performance. Go back over to the ‘Clip Conform’ tab and instead of selecting Standard we’ll select ‘Groove’.

Groove Quantize

We’ll now select the Groove we save. In my case, I saved it to my Groove Clipboard. We can check the ‘Timing’ box if we’d like Beat Detective to first use Standard quantization and then apply our Groove Template. If our audio clips are pretty far off, this can be a helpful option to more efficiently apply our Groove. Hit ‘Conform’ and you're all set. You've officially quantized your drums efficiently and off the grid.
One thing we can also use Groove Templates for is MIDI. If we have a MIDI track that should feel locked in with our drums, we can use the Groove Template from our drum quantizing and apply it to our MIDI information. All you need to do is open the MIDI editor window.

Groove Quantize

Next open the Event Operations menu and select Groove Clipboard under the ‘Quantize Grid’ dropdown. Highlight the region of MIDI notes we want to lock in with our drum performance and hit Apply. Now our MIDI performance will feel like it's in the same world as our drum performance.

Groove Quantize

Beat Detective and Groove Quantization can help us keep the life in our performances while still helping things feel more locked in with the click and in turn other performances. In your next project, give Groove Quantization a try and A/B it with a performance you’ve hard quantized to the grid. It can make a huge difference!

Author: Carter Jahn
ProMedia Training, LLC



Carter Jahn
Carter JahnProducer / Audio Engineer
Grammy Winner
Carter Jahn is a Grammy Award Winning Producer and Audio/ Mixing Engineer in Los Angeles, CA. He won a Grammy Award for his Engineering work on The War on Drugs album, ‘A Deeper Understanding’. With years of studio experience, Carter has worked alongside many top Engineers and Producers such as: Shawn Everett, Chris Walla, Francois Tetaz, Brent Kutzle, Damian Taylor, Tommy English and more. Carter also owns a commercial recording studio, "Cherry Studios" in North Hollywood where he produces, records and mixes major label and independent artists.

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