Workflow change, working with Live Drum Loops?


I want to do a new album project and I want to do it differently than I have previously and I’m not sure if Ardour can do what I need…? I’m well versed in recording more or less live takes and putting them together but I’d like to do an acoustic based project and instead of laying down a live drum track from start to finish I’d like to play the drums live and organically and then take portions and created looped sequences to structure the songs from. I do not like playing to a click so I’d like to play the patterns live and then import into Ardour and match them up to the grid after importing. I’m most interested that the looped segments will paste cleanly at the beginnings and ends and not too concerned if every transient within the looped bars are perfectly glued to each grid beat. I play with steady tempo and I’m confident that I’d rather play with the feel I want and figure out the grid/click stuff later.

So… how best to… (a) Discover the BPM or at least get close? (b) Map the transients to the grid in a way that doesn’t require an hour of cutting and dragging segments.? (c) Time stretch or shrink the drum pattern in the event that I want to alter the tempo with out degrading the sound…?

Is this essentially what beat slicing is…? Is there any facilities to quantize Audio, even if a Plugin…? I have a pit of dread in my belly that this is not Ardour’s forte, or is that what Rhythm Ferret does…? Help and objective advice would be very much appreciated!

Well, I usually do it with “flexible” tempo i.e. I stretch the grid to match the recorded regions. I put a new tempo marker at the beginning of a bar (it could be a kick drum transient), and another one at a later bar, set to “continue”). Then I move the second one to match the required number of bars.

An example in this Mixbus video: Tempo Mapping in Mixbus - YouTube

If you want to do loops, it is probably a good idea to have them on a grid. For this I would use the rhythm ferret. Play with the settings and click “analyse”. Transient lines in grey colour will appear. If there are too much or too few of them, change the settings (it depends a lot on your material) and click analyse again. When you are satisfied click on “apply”, then select al the newly created regions and “edit->position->align region to grid” (or something similar).


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Hi Glen,

Last year, there would have been no good way to do that. But with Ardour7 (and Mixbus8) we have some awesome solutions now.

As you inferred, there will be 2 main steps, after you record your drums:

  1. tempo-map the performance. To do that, you’ll find a portion of the take that you like, and then right-click on the BBT ruler to make a BBT marker. Set it to 1|1|0. Then immediately to the right of the BBT marker, hold cmd (or ctrl on win/linux) and drag to adjust the tempo … you’ll see the beat+bar lines aligned with your drum hits when you get it right.

  2. Set the Grid to ‘bars’, enable Snap, and select a range of 2,4, 8, or whatever bars you like. Then right-click on the range and Bounce it, and choose “Bounce to slot A” (or B for the second part, etc). This works for multi-mice’d drums.

Now you can use the “Cue Markers” to sequence your drum parts (like: AABAABACBB) or whatever.

We have some videos on the Harrison YouTube channel that demonstrate each of these steps.


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Awesome, thanks Ben!

Haha, I thought to myself “well that new cue stuff is something I’ll never use…” and now it might be the foundation of how I get things done… :flushed: I’m excited to try this out now!

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OK, further question…

I now fully get tempo mapping and working with Cues and both are really powerful features…

If I took a song section…say a Verse and tempo mapped it without later locking it to a rigid BPM value on the grid and then wanted to copy and paste it to another Verse section (ie Verse 3) of the song on the normal Ardour timeline but not necessarily use it in every Verse section then my unique tempo mapping is not kept intact with the copied verse correct? The grid in that new place on the timeline will be whatever the last set tempo value is… correct?

Being able to copy and paste tempo grid information with Ranges or Regions where it has already been set is not possible, do I have that right?

Hi Glen,

Regarding the ability to copy/paste tempo grid information, there’s some discussion here:

The cool thing about Clips (a “Cue” is a row of clips) is that they will automatically stretch to match the tempo. So if you want the third verse to use the same pattern but at a slightly different tempo, you can change the session’s tempo for the third verse and the drum clips will follow right along with the new tempo. Then you can record drums& bass at that new tempo (and optionally bounce them to clips so they can be triggered & stretched at another point…)

As mentioned earlier, a lot of these features are in heavy development so Your Mileage May Vary.

Most critically, it’s important to know that if you change the tempo-map, any audio data on the timeline won’t be stretched (same as it always worked in Ardour). Only midi data and/or things that have been bounced to clips will stretch.


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