Beat Detective for Pro Tools: An Overview

Beat Detective is one of the most powerful tools that can be found inside Pro Tools – it is sort of like the Swiss army knife of audio production tools. Throughout this article we will be taking a look at all the things Beat Detective can do for us and we will also give out some examples of how to integrate it into your workflow.


What Can It Do?

Tempo Markers in the Tempo Ruler.

  • Tempo Mapping

Beat Detective can be used with any MIDI or audio that was recorded without any timing reference to create a tempo map of the performance so you can record other MIDI / audio and quantize them to the initial performance or simply to create a grid for your session. One great example for this is if you start your recording session with drums and you do not want to use a metronome – you can let the drummer record at his/ her own tempo and then create a tempo map off the performance which you can use to record the other instruments.

  • Quantizing

Most of times, even if you record a performance with a click from a defined tempo map, the performance won’t be perfectly aligned to the grid. Having a performance quantized to match the grid perfectly is not always preferable but it is really useful to know how to if you do end up needing this capability. Beat Detective can achieve this task for you and align audio recordings to a predefined grid.

  • Quantizing Off The Grid

Even if you do not use a time reference when recording you can still quantize the performance – however this technique will also create a simple tempo map.

  • Changing The Tempo Of A Performance

Have you ever wondered how that guitar solo would sound at double speed? Beat Detective lets you find out with just a few clicks – however this is not the best way to go about, nor the fastest as Pro Tools has a tool that is simpler to use for this: Elastic Audio.

  • Create Groove Templates/ Quantize To Groove Templates

There are times that your drummer just plays a part with amazing groove and you want to extract that swing for using on other tracks in the project. Beat Detective enables you to extract the groove of a performance and use it to quantize other MIDI/ audio track with it. Of course, you can also use Beat Detective to quantize performances using a groove template you created or the ones that are built into Pro Tools.

  • Smoothing

The process of editing things like drums with Beat Detective leaves a plethora of small unedited clips which cannot be used as such within the session. The “Edit Smoothing” tab allows you to perform batch fades and space filling between the clips.


The Beat Detective Window

Out of all the windows of Pro Tools tools, Beat Detective is maybe one of the most complex and daunting at first. Understanding how the window is divided and what each pane does will make operation a lot easier. Let’s take a look at this powerful tool:

(To bring the window up in Pro Tools press CTRL + 8/ CMD + 8)

The Beat Detective Window

The window is divided into four sections: operation, selection, detection and scrolling. Let us go through each of them and see what the purpose of each is.

The “Operation” section in the Beat Detective window.

This section will allow us to select the operating mode of Beat Detective – the names of the operating modes speak for themselves but lets take a closer look at each:

Bar | Beat Marker Generation – You will use this mode when creating tempo maps from recorded performances. This can be used with both audio and MIDI.

Groove Template Extraction – You will use this mode when extracting groove templates from recorded performances. This can be used with both audio and MIDI.

Clip Separation – In order to quantize audio you will need to separate it first and this operating mode enables you to do just that. This can only be used with audio.

Clip Conform – This operating mode enables you to quantize performances to a predefined grid. This can only be used with audio.

Edit Smoothing – Clip separation leaves us with many small clips which will have audible artifacts from the slicing process. Edit smoothing creates batch fades and fills in the gaps between the clips. This can only be used with audio.

The “Selection” section in the Beat Detective Window.

 

The “Selection” section allows us to select what part of the session we will be working on. You cannot actually use Beat Detective without selecting an area of the timeline first. You can introduce the selection manually or capture the selection that you have already made in the edit window IF A PREDEFINED GRID/ TEMPO MAP EXISTS – if you use capture selection when you are trying to create a tempo map you will fail miserably. To properly create a tempo map you have to enter the values manually correctly so take some time to count the bars in the song for the section you are tempo mapping. Also this section enables us to choose the kind of subdivisions that are played throughout the selection.

The “Detection” section of the Beat Detective window.

This section is actually only available in the Bar | Beat Marker Generation, Groove Template Extraction and Clip Separation modes. When selecting the last two operating modes the detection section turns to the “Conform” section/ “Smoothing” section. The “Detection” section allows for selecting different algorithms to use for analyzing the waveform, the sensitivity of the analysis (how great the amplitude of a transient event has to be to create a trigger) and the resolution of the analysis.

The “Conform” section of the Beat Detective window.

When Clip Conform is selected the “Detection” section will switch to “Conform” and the controls you will find here are very similar to the ones you find in the regular quantize window.

The “Smoothing” section in the Beat Detective window.

 

When Edit Smoothing is selected the “Detection” window will turn into “Smoothing” and it allows you to choose whether you want batch crossfades or not and the length of the crossfades.

The last section allows us to scroll between trigger events (transient information that the analysis process detects as relevant to the tempo of the performance) and shows us the progress of a current operation. Some of the actions Beat Detective can perform are quite CPU intensive so they might take a while to finish depending on your current system.

The “Status/ Scroll” section of the Beat Detective window.


Final Thoughts

Beat Detective is by all means one of the most powerful tools in Pro Tools – it enables us users to do amazing things with our sessions and recordings. I keep thinking about how music production was 20 years ago and how it is today and I sometimes can’t believe how much things changed and how powerful the tools we have today are. Beat Detective is definitely one of those tools I recommend learning inside and out as you producer chops will greatly benefit from this.

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