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Studio One: Snap, Grid & Quantize Settings

PreSonus Studio One: Tips & Techniques By Robin Vincent
Published August 2023

We explore how Studio One’s Snap, Grid and Quantize settings interact.

A couple of workshops ago, I asked for suggestions for future articles. The first request to land in my InBox asked if I could cover snapping, as the sender found it absurdly complicated. They’re not wrong; there’s plenty of room for confusion in terms of terminology and what settings are actually in charge of the Grid. So, armed with a magnetic cursor, let’s dive straight in...

Grid Pro Quo

The Timebase options. When you select Bars and then a subdivision, Adaptive Snap will adhere to whatever subdivision you’ve chosen.The Timebase options. When you select Bars and then a subdivision, Adaptive Snap will adhere to whatever subdivision you’ve chosen.Snap is all about getting events in a tempo‑based project to land in meaningful positions when you move them around. It persuades tools, the song position cursor and the edges of clips to align themselves to a subdivision of the Grid you choose, which can be bars and beats, seconds or frames. If you are working on a free‑flowing, non‑tempo‑conformist piece of music, then Snap probably won’t be of great use to you. But for those of us who are slaves to the rhythm, it can be extremely helpful.

When we talk about Snap and Grid we are essentially talking about the same thing, but the naming is a bit inconsistent in Studio One and it’s easy to get confused. When you are setting the Snap value you are actually setting the Grid, and what you are doing in your project is Snapping to that Grid. However, the visual lines on the arrange window, which you could easily assume are representative of the Grid, are there regardless of your Snap/Grid settings and are actually governed by the Timebase settings. The fun thing is that Snap, Grid and Timebase, as well as Quantize, can all define the Grid — but they don’t have to. I’m sure we’ll get the hang of it.

Snap isn’t a directive; it’s more of a strong suggestion. It acts like magnetism to pull your event or tool onto the Grid. I find that I can almost feel it, haptically in my mouse, when that pulled snapping occurs, but that’s just me. The strength of the pull depends on what the Grid is set to relative to the level of zoom you are working at. So, if Snap is set to Bars and you are zoomed in to a couple of bars, then you can move an event around freely between the bar lines, and you’ll only feel the pull when you are very close to the start of the next bar. If you zoom out, or set the Grid to a much higher subdivision (ie. a shorter period), then you’ll feel the pull of the Grid everywhere, and your event or tool will automatically leap from Grid line to Grid line.

If you hold Shift, you temporarily turn off Snap and can freely move what you need to wherever you wish to move it.

One top tip is that holding down the Shift key temporarily suspends Snap, allowing you to freely move what you need to wherever you wish to move it.

Let’s get into the settings. The Snap/Grid settings are located with the Quantize and Timebase settings in a shared toolbar at the top of the main window.

Adapt & Overcome

The enigmatic Adaptive mode is the first and default setting for Snap. It shifts responsibility for the Grid onto the Timebase, which makes sense because we can see the vertical lines of the Grid right there on the timeline. So why isn’t it called Timebase rather than Adaptive? Well, because Timebase is most commonly set to Bars, which punts the Grid responsibility further down the road to Quantize. So, in Adaptive Snap, the Grid is derived from the Timebase’s use of the Quantize settings. It makes you wonder whether an overhaul of the Snap‑to‑Grid system might be long overdue...

By default, Snap behaviour is set to Adaptive, which means that events will be magnetically attracted to Grid subdivisions according to the Timebase settings.By default, Snap behaviour is set to Adaptive, which means that events will be magnetically attracted to Grid subdivisions according to the Timebase settings.However, it is more nuanced than you’d think. The Timebase can have its own Quantize settings that are different from the main Quantize settings, and so knowing which Quantize engine the Timebase is using can be vital. The important thing to know about Adaptive mode is that it’s very good at following what you’re actually doing with your music, because as you zoom in and out of your project, the Grid will adapt to something appropriate. Adaptive mode works best if you try not to think too hard about the Grid and just assume everything is going to be fine.

If you’re cynical about the uncanny way Adaptive mode can follow your way of working, then you can be more assertive and select the Snap / Bar option. However, this only works if the Timebase is also set to Bars; otherwise, the snapping doesn’t happen. It also has to be the main Timebase. You can’t sneak in a secondary Ruler, set that to bars, and expect it to Snap; snapping always follows the main Timebase.

Further complicating things is the fact that you can’t actually set the Timebase to be based on a single bar. Well, you can, but to do that, you have to set the Timebase to Quantize and then set Quantize to 1/1. Regardless of whether you set the Timebase to its own Quantize setting or to the main Quantize setting, the snap will then only pull into a full bar, not the Grid shown by the vertical lines.

So, when you set Snap to Bar, it really means it.


If you want a bit more granularity then you can shift Grid responsibility over to the Quantize settings. The Quantize setting governs the Grid you can use for recording and placing notes, and goes all the way down to a hemidemisemiquaver, or 64th note. You don’t always see the vertical lines for every subdivision; it depends on how zoomed‑in you are. But regardless of the zoom level, the Grid is always followed by the Snap setting.

If you were working with video, you’d set Snap to Frames, so that your events would be in sync with the video frame divisions. There’s no leeway given between frames; the Snap is always directly to a frame. Of course, the Timebase must also be set to Frames for Snap to work. The frame rate is set in the Song Settings and is usually dictated by the video footage.

The Snap To Zero Crossings option will help you avoid clicks and pops when cutting up audio events.The Snap To Zero Crossings option will help you avoid clicks and pops when cutting up audio events.

Snappy Days

Something quite neat about these Snap options is that they continue to work even if the rest of the Grid is off, and so become useful in more freeform projects. I should also point out that there are two different Snap enablers. Toggle Snap has its own button on the toolbar, and this turns the entire Snap/Grid engine off so that no snapping of any kind occurs. The other option is found under the Snap menu as Snap to Grid, which can be ticked or not. Snap to Grid only enables or disables the snapping of events to the Grid, not snapping as a whole, so the Snap options listed below will continue to work even when Snap to Grid is off. No possible room for confusion here!

  • Snap to Cursor and Loop: This makes the song position cursor and the left and right loop markers super‑magnetic and snappable.
  • Snap to Events: Events themselves become very snappy.
  • Snap to Zero Crossings: If you are editing an audio event, you’ll often want the cuts to occur at points where the waveform crosses the centre line — ‘zero crossings’ — to avoid unintended pops or artefacts at edit points. This is particularly useful when you are heavily zoomed into an audio track and you want to make precise cuts; your edits will always be right on zero crossings.
  • Snap Event End: You may have noticed that when moving an event, it’s the leading edge that does all the snapping. With this option enabled it will also snap on the back end of an event.
  • Relative Grid: This is the option you need when moving off‑Grid events around, for instance if you’re editing an expressive performance with timing subtleties that you want to retain. The event’s position will always remain the same relative distance from the Grid without actually snapping to it, allowing you to move it elsewhere in the song without losing its feel. If you can’t get your events to snap to the correct place, then this option is probably on by accident.

The Draw Events Translucent setting in the Options menu allows you to see the Grid lines behind your audio events.The Draw Events Translucent setting in the Options menu allows you to see the Grid lines behind your audio events.

Now that we know our way around the Grid a little bit, here are a few tips that make good use of it:

  • Split at Grid: If you’d like to slice up some percussion loops or audio tracks into individual hits, you can make use of the handy Split at Grid command that you’ll find hidden under the Event menu. In this instance, the Grid is set by the Quantize value, not the Timebase or Snap setting.
  • Grid Offset: Have you ever wondered why we have to put up with odd‑number bar counting? If you want a four‑bar loop, where do you put the left and right markers? You put them on 1 and 5, or 5 and 9, and so on, which is a bit counterintuitive. Well, if you want to even up your loop selections, Studio One has the ability to offset the timeline. Go to Song / Song Setup, and you’ll find an option for Bar Offset. Set this to ‑1, and your timeline now begins at zero, and all your even‑barred loops sit on even bar numbers.
  • Unquantised audio snapping: One of the new features in the 6.1 update was the introduction of Event Sync Points. These are to deal with the problem of musically significant moments inside events not always being right at the start or end of the event, meaning that Snap to Events or Snap Event End doesn’t quite cut it. Right‑click the audio event and tick the Sync Point box. A yellow diamond will appear, and you can drag it within the event and place it exactly at the point where you want it to Snap. Now you can move or copy your unquantised audio to different places in your project, and it will stay connected and in sync with your Grid.
  • Translucent events: It’s not always easy to identify timing issues in your recorded audio events. You might well be snapping the front and back ends to the Grid, the cursor or other events, but what about the performance in between? We could use the Grid to show us where the audio timing is getting a bit creative, but you can’t see the Grid lines because the events are a bright, solid colour. Well, there’s a box under Options / Advanced / Editing called Draw Events Translucent; this allows the Grid lines to faintly shine through the events. Now we can see if our waveform display is sitting correctly on the Grid.

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