Pro Tools offers some powerful features for quantising both MIDI and audio.
Whether your projects are mostly MIDI or audio‑based, whether you play your parts in in real time, draw in your MIDI with a mouse, or program your beats by dropping samples on the timeline, at some point you’ll want to quantise them. Here’s what you need to know to get things in time in Pro Tools.
‘Quantise’ means to restrict to a limited set of values. We do this when rounding decimal numbers to integers, for example: numbers between 1, 2, 3 and so on are nudged up or down to the closest ‘allowed’ value. This is most commonly applied to music with regard to pitch and to timing. When applied to timing, quantisation forces notes to precise note time values. But there’s more to quantising than 100 percent ‘on the grid’ music. In fact, a lot of quantising involves putting human feel back into the music.
Pro Tools’ quantise features allow much more than moving note starts onto a regular and potentially robotic‑sounding grid.
If, for example, you are a producer who draws in MIDI and drops samples with your DAW’s snap‑to‑grid function enabled (in Pro Tools that would be working in Grid Mode), you might wonder why you would need to quantise at all. After all, your music is already snapped to the grid and ‘in time’. The answer lies in the difference between ‘on grid’ and ‘in time’. I remember hearing a story of a producer explaining to someone that if the snare is late once, that’s out of time. If it’s late by the same amount on every hit, that’s groove.
Pro Tools’ quantise features allow much more than moving note starts onto a regular and potentially robotic‑sounding grid. They make possible the introduction of swing and shuffle; quantising can be used selectively, for example to only move notes falling on downbeats onto the grid; it can just nudge notes closer to the ‘right’ location by a certain amount. Power users can even take the off‑grid ‘feel’ of an audio recording and impose that onto MIDI and audio.
There are a few ways to quantise in Pro Tools. Here’s how to get the results you want with the minimum of fuss.