Tempo changes are considerably more varied in their potential usage scenarios. Of course, like time signature changes, they can be just the thing to push a track in a totally new direction, whether applied suddenly (blasting into a half-/double-time section, perhaps) or gradually changed over a number of bars.
Some DAWs feature the ability to slave the project tempo to that of a chosen audio clip, enabling, for example, a live drum loop that varies in tempo to be set as the master for every other track in the project to follow (assuming the DAW in question also facilitates automatic time-stretching of the audio on those tracks). Gently raising and lowering the tempo as a track progresses in order to add pace to choruses and ease off in the verses is an age-old technique dating back centuries – originally the job of the orchestral conductor, hese energy-giving fluctuations can now be drawn right onto the tempo track in your DAW.
Next we will show you how to apply both time signature and tempo changes in Ableton Live. If you’re using another DAW, the creative principles will be the same, though you may need to consult its manual to find out exactly how it’s achieved.
Ableton Live can work in any time signature with a denominator of 1, 2, 4, 8 or 16 and a numerator of 1-99. Yes, 99! The time signature is entered into the Time Signature field next to the metronome, and automating changes to it is a piece of cake. Let’s look at how – start a new project in Live, which will default to 4/4.
Right-click anywhere in the Scrub area below the timeline and select Insert Time Signature Change. A marker is created with an active field into which you can enter a time signature as two numbers separated by a slash, space, comma or full stop. When that point in the project is reached, it will switch to that time signature.
If you add your change within the preceding bar, as opposed to on the bar line at the end of it, a ‘Fragmentary Bar’ will be created to fill the space, indicated by a dark grey strip. This can be left as is, or you can right-click it and select Complete Fragmentary Bar (Insert Time) to extend it back up to a full bar of the previous time signature.
Similarly, if you edit a time signature marker (right-click and select Edit Time Signature) that is followed by another marker, such that the first section no longer fits exactly in the same time-span, a fragmentary bar will be placed at the end to fill the empty space. Keep it there or fill it out – the choice is yours.
Rather cleverly, Live even enables time signature changes in the Session view. Simply rename a Scene to the time signature you want to have it automatically switch to when that Scene is triggered. Note that any Scene not named in this way will play back at the last signature chosen!
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