Quantizing and Humanizing Functions
This tutorial was made using Cubase 4 Studio
My name is Piotr Musia³ and I welcome You to my next tutorial!
we are going to talk a little bit about some usueful quantizing
functions in Cubase – what they are, what they do, how to setup
custom quantize and step by step, we'll use quantizing and midi
edition tools to humanize an example (Storm)-drum track.
tutorial won't deal with dilema whether to quantize or not. Many
composers do not quantize at all – they record parts by a midi
keyboard or midi controler, until it satisfies them. Yeah, why not?
Some do not have keyboard and put music into sequencer in note
edition or in key editor (piano roll). Some are not that good piano
players. So, they have the option to leave their bad performances or
straight note-puts in their compositions or to you some cool basic
tools to change it and make it sound better.
you are already familiar with quantization and midi edition functions
in Cubase or do not use this sequencer, keep reading this tutorial,
as you may learn some new techniques or tricks as well.
let's say, we've recorded a genious one bar drum part, but our
performance has rather bad timing like this (key editor/piano roll
can see, according to grid, notes are moved badly to left (sorry,
couldn't play it in worse than this, I'm a percussionist ;), which in
slow tempo of our composition, would sound really bad, and cause
serious timing issues with other parts. (Unless, you are able to
record all the parts slightly before the click ;)
quantize (keyboard shortcut – Q) to 8-th notes (1/8) ->
performance, should result in something like this*:
Note: If you changed Quantize Settings (menu-> MIDI-> Quantize
Settings...) before, then for straight quantizing make sure you have
random quantize, non quantize and swing set to 0.
this way, we can have nice, totally straight 8ths. We've just
quantized our bad recording to 8ths. All notes were moved to closest
quantize grid position.
we want, we can quantize to:
- straight: 1/1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16 etc.
- tripplets: 1/2 tripplet, 1/4 tripplet, 1/8 tripplet etc.
- dotted: 1/1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16 etc – to clarify – for example, if you have a 6/8 bar, and Q set to dotted 1/8 it will divide it into 4 even 8ths with a dot. Quite useful in 3/4, 6/8 bars and so on.
quantizing may be very usefull when creating electronic tracks,
requiring straight notes – pumpy kick drum.
quantize works different than simple quantize. The difference, is
that iterative quantize won't move all notes straight to the
closest quantize grid position, but according to settings (menu->
MIDI-> Quantize Settings-> Iterative strenght) will move an
x% of way between it's current position to the closest quantize grid
position. This way, a bad recording, could be straighten up, just a
is kind of step by step quantize, so if you don't won't to make your
recording sound too robotish, you can set iterative strenght to,
say, 10%, and use Iterative Quantize function couple of times,
untill you find the result satisfying.
are a good keyboard player, but want to improve timing of your
recordings JUST a little bit? This function is for you.
Key editor/piano roll we have also option to quantize lenghts (lenght
Q) of notes to a fixed value, that may be independent of quantize
settings, but also linked to them, so if we want straight 8ths with
8ths lenght, then we set Q to 1/8 and lenght Q to „Quantize
Link”, or to 1/8 manually. To do so automaticaly, we select
desired length Q, then select notes and go to
menu->MIDI->Functions->Fixed Lenghts. Voila!
lenghts function may be useful to increse notes release time
especially in slow tempo. Besides that, it sometimes simply looks
better and may be easier to edit. I use it if I create parts in key
editor/piano roll – for example strings staccato – for
shorter 16th notes sound, I choose 1/32th lenghts, and for longer, I
fix their lenghts to full 16ths.
Now, when we are aware of what quantize function does, why don't we
take a look at Quantize Setup? (menu-> MIDI-> Quantize
right, guys, what do we have here?
Quantize – this is a base
of this whole function, and we can here:
Type of the Grid – if it's straight, tripplet or dotted (see
Part 1 for details)
swing strenght in % for the grid:
is straight grid – for example straight 8ths =
is swing made of tripples =
between will mean a shuffle – type of swing, pretty cool
for some type of music.
tuplet type – for example you want 5ths tuplets on every beat
in 4/4 bar – set grid to 1/4 and tuplet to 5. Done!
Magnetic Area – not all notes have to be affected by quantize,
you may mark the area in the bar, that will be affected by setting
Quantize option works in opposite to Magnetic area – you can
mark the area tha will not be affected by quantize function.
Quantize is a funtion, that is very useful, especially when creating
drum tracks, spiccato strings, staccato instruments with orchestra
etc. By putting a value here, you can decide, how accurate quantize
is, and let it move notes a little bit off the grid, simulating human
performance. Non Quantize and Random Quantize value strenght depends
on the tempo of the track, so if you are composing a down tempo song,
you should use lower values here, and for faster music, use higher.
Strenght – see Part 2 for details.
rest options will allow you to save your favourite settings, apply
quantize now, autoquantize whatever you will record, and chose if you
can quantize controllers such as mod wheel, expression (CC's) etc.
let's set use my favourite of these options – Random Quantize,
but first, let's add some more layers to the drum track like so:
track is now full of different instruments (I used some Stormdrums
and EWQLSO Tom-toms). Ok, it's straight like hell and very robotish,
and even if there are many instruments, because they are totally
sychronized, they sound weak.
let's go to Quantize Setup and set value according to the tempo
(132bpm in my case), say to 20 ticks. Let's click to apply quantize.
Notice, that in lower parts, in the second bar (it's 4th in
this project), we have 16th tripplets, so I had to quantize it
separately (or find the closest common grid for all parts which is
32th tripplet, but it does work only when your all notes
are straightly quantized in the first place). The effect is instantly
visible, and believe or not, sounds much better – even bigger,
and you can hear, that there are many instruments playing.
with Random Quantize settings, to get the sound, that satisfies you.
of you know, some probably don't but Cubase has some great feature
called logical edition. It is quite impossible to discover all of the
possibilities of this feature. Logical operations on midi tracks can
be pretty useful, like half tempo or double tempo or random selected
notes with one click. Especially if you do your own presets, or
modify existing. I will show you one of my favourite – Random
say, you are using multi velocity layered drum library. You've made
excelent big-drums loop, it is a little bit unquantized (random
quantize) for simulating human error, but it still lacks of this...
something. Still not human enough.
to key editor of this track, and run Logical Editor (menu-> MIDI->
Logical Editor). At presets menu, find Random Velocity (60 to 100) –
I'm sure it's present in Cubase 4 Studio, not sure about previous
versions. What can this little bug do? If you apply it to your midi
track, I will change velocity of all notes to a random value between
60 and 100.
I hear you saying - „I already have pretty good velocity
dynamics here, so if I apply this, it will change my velocities into
some random crap!”. And you are right! :) However, we may
modify this preset, so it would only make some minor random changes
to existing velocities, not modify them regardless your whole work.
of „Set Random Values to” let's pick „Set relative
Random Values between”. And as Parameter 1 put a negative value
(say „-10” is fine) and as Parameter 2 let's say „10”.
Done. Now if you apply it to your highly valuable velocity-important
midi track, it will add OR subtract to each note's velocity a random
value of 10. Complicated, but pretty cool isn't it? ;)
browsing through presets in Logical Editor, and see what things it is
capable of. Some won't be much of use to you, but some, like this
one, most probably will. Don't forget to store a preset if you run
into something useful. Good luck! :)
open to suggestions and requests for new tutorials. If you found a
mistake or have a suggestion, feel free to contact me via e-mail:
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