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Digital Performer: Transcribing Audio & MIDI

MOTU Digital Performer: Tips & Techniques By Matt LaPoint
Published July 2024

Screen 1: If the imported audio has a constant tempo, try simply adjusting the tempo slider (with DP’s click enabled) to align the sequence tempo with the audio.Screen 1: If the imported audio has a constant tempo, try simply adjusting the tempo slider (with DP’s click enabled) to align the sequence tempo with the audio.

Need to turn your audio and MIDI recordings into usable sheet music? Digital Performer has you covered.

Transcribing is the process of creating readable music notation from a music recording or performance — or, in a DAW context, from MIDI data. Melody, harmony and rhythm are the basic musical elements that are transcribed into individual instrument parts. You can use the resulting transcription to create scores or lead sheets, but it can also be used to employ interesting production techniques, such as doubling parts. Digital Performer includes a powerful tool set for transcribing both MIDI and audio recordings.

Taking Notes

Internally, DP is always transcribing MIDI notes into notation, and has a powerful engine for doing so. The extensive QuickScribe notation editor displays the notes ‘on the page’ and provides many settings for customising staffs, ledger lines, measure spacing and much more. Tool palettes provide controls for text, chord symbols, articulations, and virtually all commonly used musical symbols. However, an essential requirement for a clean and accurate transcription is the relationship of the notes to the sequence timeline. If the audio or MIDI was recorded ‘freestyle’ and the notes don’t align with the measures and beats in the Conductor track, the transcription will look more like a train wreck than readable music notation. An accurate tempo map that aligns with the music is essential to achieve the best possible transcription results.

Transcribing Audio Recordings

Most of the time, though, when you are faced with the task of transcribing music, your source material is an existing audio recording. So, let’s examine a few techniques for creating a tempo map that aligns with previously recorded music that you import into DP.

First, try to obtain the highest quality audio available. Uncompressed formats like WAV and AIFF are preferred. After the tempo is adjusted, we’ll discuss slowing down the audio later in this article. The higher the audio resolution, the slower the audio can be made on playback (as discussed later).

Import the WAV or AIFF into DP using File / Import Audio, or by dragging the file from your file browser into the left side of the Tracks window. DP will automatically create a new track matching the channel format of the imported file. Files can also be dragged into an existing audio track or the Soundbites window (and then added to audio tracks manually).

Finding The Tempo

Once the audio is in a track, edge‑edit the left edge of the Soundbite to the initial downbeat of the music, eliminating any dead space at the beginning. If there are pick‑up notes before the first downbeat, edge‑edit to the start of the first pick‑up note. Place the soundbite at bar one of the timeline (the very beginning of the sequence). If there are pick‑up notes, place the soundbite in bar one such that the initial downbeat of the music lands on the downbeat of bar two.

Once placed, here are a few ways to align the sequence tempo with the audio tempo.

Tempo Slider: If the source music has a constant tempo, try simply adjusting the tempo slider while listening to the music with DP’s click enabled (see Screen 1). Double‑click on the metronome icon in the control panel to choose a click sound, level, accent, and output. Often it doesn’t take long to adjust DP’s tempo to be locked in with the music.

Screen 2: With these preferences enabled, DP will automatically find beats and tempo in audio files.Screen 2: With these preferences enabled, DP will automatically find beats and tempo in audio files.Tap Tempo: You can also try to match the tempo of audio with a constant tempo using DP’s Tap Tempo feature. By default, this feature requires clicking on the on‑screen Tap Pad in rhythm to enter the tempo. If, instead, you wish to tap on a computer key, MIDI keyboard key or a MIDI controller pad, search for Tap to Enter Tempo in the Commands window to assign your desired key or pad to tap tempo. Tap along until DP’s click matches the audio.

Audio Beats:...

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