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MIDI Quantize

Greetings all!

Customers often ask what "quantize" means so here's a brief definition and a short tutorial for those looking to learn the basics.

What the heck does quantize mean?

To quantize a midi track is to "fix" any out of time midi notes. The problem is that over quantized tracks are 100% in time, sounding stiff and robotic. The good news is that you can adjust the settings so it sounds less robotic. Even so, chances are that most or all of the "feel" of the track is gone. But it can be useful at times so here's how you do it.

Quantization Example

With some practice, you can learn to salvage poorly played midi parts. Here’s an audio clip of an extreme example. I created a REALLY sloppy drum beat and then quantized it at 85%.

After quantizing, the timing is now reasonable. Below is a screen shot with the original pattern followed by another showing the quantized beat.

Image 1: Unquantized Beat


 Image 2: Quantized Beat

 How to Quantize - The Basics

For basic midi quantize, there are only 2 settings you really need to know. In Studio One, they are called: “Rhythmic Values” and “Quantize Note Starts”.

    Rhythmic Values – This is the most important thing to understand. It consist of two parts, note value and note type.
        Note Value
          This refers to smallest note value in your pattern.
          In the example above, I used 16th notes for rhythmic value. While all notes but one are 8ths, there is a snare hit in beat 3 that supposed to be on the 2nd 16th note..
          If you’re not sure, start with 8th notes. You can always “undo” (press Control and Z on a PC or Command and Z on a Mac). You can also quantize individual parts like the snare, hat and kick separately.
              Note Type
                  Next, your software needs to know if your track is “straight” or “swing”. In this context, swing means triplets. In my example, I chose “Straight”.
                  Swing: If you have a blues beat or a shuffle, use “Swing” with 8th notes. Funk shuffles often use 16th triplets. Again, you may have to experiment.
                  The most common values are straight 8ths and 16ths and Swing 8ths and 16ths.
                  Note: there is also a “swing” rhythmic style feature that allow you to adjust create grooves with beats falling somewhere between straight notes and triplets. Zero percent means no “Swing” and 100% means triplets so you need to use a value in between 0% and 100%.
                    Quantize Note Starts

                      This can be confusing but it means how close to exact timing do you want to move the notes in your track? 100% means every note will be 100% in time. 50% means you will move each note 50% closer to exact time.

                      Apply as little as needed to get the groove sounding right. Start with 50% and move towards 90%. 100% will move every note to be exactly in time and that’s rarely, if ever a good choice.

                      Studio One has a handy feature called the Quantize Panel featuring sliders, presets and more. Here's a screen shot showing the panel at the very top:

                       Accessing the Quantize Panel in Studio One

                      In Studio One version 3, the Quantize panel can be opened from the toolbar by clicking on the Quantize Panel button, or by selecting Quantize from the View/Additional Views menu.

                      The Quantize panel can be detached and freely placed on the screen. In this panel, you can edit all settings related to the Quantize grid that are displayed in the Arrangement.

                      From left to right in the panel, you can see areas for Grid or Groove mode; note-value selection; note grouping and Swing amount; Start, End, Velocity, and Range percentages; and preset management.


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