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Suppose I'm working on a track that's at a tempo of around 191 beats per minute, and I want to have sort of a "half tempo" interlude somewhere in the track, say underneath a chord progression that's changing every four bars. However, I find that when I take a drum loop that I'd like to use in this half tempo interlude and halve its tempo in Ableton Live, it's much slower and more sedate than I'd like. Half tempo at 191 BPM is about 96 beats per minute, but to my ear I'd like the drum pattern during the interlude to be more like 115 beats per minute.

I realize that this is somewhat of an aesthetic question, but is there a good way to deal with this? Is simply automating the tempo downwards at this point the "best" way?

  • Have you tried going to a half time feel rather than an actual tempo change? – Todd Wilcox Aug 31 '15 at 11:52
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Tempo can be an illusion.

I suspect what is happening is that your loop sounds great at 191 (it was written that way) but at 96, different things stick out. Things that sounded good with speed might seem to drag, because the swing or pulse was never meant to be the focus, and now those things are made much more obvious.

I'm just sort of shooting in the dark, but you might consider adding some elements - maybe higher instruments or background sounds, things that provide pace - that are still going at 191 even though the main feel is halftime.

Swap out some sounds in that loop, maybe another snare or kick sounds better like this (look at some Drum & Bass tracks which have poppy snares at full speed, but have half-time sections with big boomy dubstep-style snares with a lot of mid and low punch).

Since you're in Ableton Live, you have access to their Groove Pool. With this you can "extract" a groove from something else you think sounds good at 96, and try applying that to your loop.

These are just a few ideas since I can only speculate.

  • Thank you for your reply. It seems the loop I'm using was written at 140, and it sounds good at 115. I'll try to quickly render some audio examples to show what I mean... – Bitrex Aug 29 '15 at 0:45
  • Yeh, you can change the feel of the pattern and add faster bits(full tempo maybe??), so its not so sluggish. It is nice to have it half tempo instead of an unrelated tempo... also it should feel smoother when it goes back to full tempo. – Marc W Sep 19 '15 at 16:29
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A drop from 191 to 96 is quite drastic but a drop from 191 to 115 is also quite dramatic. Is there an absolute reason you want the interlude to be exactly half tempo? If not you should follow your ear and go with 115 if you like the way the drum loop sounds at that tempo. A plan is great to get started on a track but dont be afraid to let the music go where it wants to go unless you are producing on spec and have to follow a client's constraints.

An alternative to actually changing the tempo, is just double the note values for everything. So turn a quarter note to a half note for example. You could then keep the same beat you were using in 191, maybe delete a few notes or double the beat as well, or use a different beat. Then all instrument note values just double, so you're basically treating two bars as one. That gives the perception of half tempo without actually changing it.

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Not sure if I fully understand what you're asking/wanting.

A drum loop at 191 BPM will not work in a 115. Even if you use software such as SliceX or Stylus RMX, the loop would most likely have very minimal transients, which will result in a "stuttering" upon playback at a lower BPM. If I were you, I'd use this to calculate the number of semitones to shift the loop, that way you can still use the same loop at 151. Granted you are downsampling the audio so lower frequencies will demenish and higher frequencies will intensify but a little EQ'ing can always help fix that.

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