Smart Tempo, introduced in Logic Pro X 10.4, is arguably the most significant new audio handling feature in Logic Pro X since the introduction of Flex Time. In this article, Eli Krantzberg will look at some basic Smart Tempo features and workflows.
What is Smart Tempo?
Smart Tempo is a powerful series of new tempo analysis, detection, and editing functions with multiple uses. Using Smart tempo, you can record a performance free of any click or time reference, and have Logic Pro adapt the project tempo to match the tempo of your performance. Alternatively, you can also use it to keep the Project tempo and adapt the free recording to conform to it.
The first thing to keep in mind is, don’t panic. If you are uncomfortable or unfamiliar with the way Smart Tempo works, you don’t have to use it. You can turn it off and have it leave your newly recorded, existing, or imported, audio alone. In fact, I suggest you start by turning it off until you explore its features and functions and then decide how it will integrate into your workflow.
New projects are programmed to start with Smart Tempo features already disabled. If you are working from your custom templates, open your Project Settings to confirm the new functions are off. You will find a new Smart Tempo tab in the Project Settings Window. Here you will find a drop-down menu with three Smart Tempo Modes: Keep Project Tempo, Adapt Project Tempo, Automatic Mode. Set it to Keep mode, and your project tempo will not be affected by audio recorded or added to your project.
Below this initial setting, you will see two more fields for the new Flex & Follow behavior, which is part of Smart Tempo. One field affects newly recorded audio, the other affects imported audio. Leave these both at Off, and you can safely continue working the way you always have in earlier versions of Logic Pro X.
Watch this video to get a feel for how Logic Pro X's new Smart Tempo features work. See Keep Mode and Adapt Mode in action on a freely recorded shaker part.
Now that You’re Safe and Comfortable
Now that that is out of the way you can relax and take a deep breath. When you are ready, continue reading.
To begin using Smart Tempo, you choose the Project Tempo mode to set the overall tempo behavior for the project. You can do this in the Project settings Window we just discussed, or you can do it from within your project, in the LCD at the top of the screen. There is a new field, directly under the tempo, where you can switch between the three available Smart Tempo modes.
Project Tempo Modes
The Project Tempo mode determines whether the project tempo is maintained, or adapts to the tempo of audio recordings and imported audio files.
Keep Project Tempo maintains the project tempo when you record audio or import audio files. However, that is not all there is to Keep mode. The Smart Tempo settings window we discussed earlier has new Flex & Follow region settings that affect the behavior of newly recorded or imported audio when using Keep mode. When the Flex & Follow setting in the “Set New Recordings to” field is set to one of its three active modes, newly recorded audio will conform to the project tempo.
Smart Tempo - Keep
To understand how Keep mode works, try the following:
- 1. Create a new project and set the Project Tempo Mode to Keep.
- 2. Set the Flex & Follow filed for new recordings to On + Align to Bars and Beats.
- 3. In your project, record something rhythmic, like clapping your hands, or a shaker, without any click or tempo reference present.
- 4. Press Stop.
Upon pressing stop, you may (or may not) be presented with the following dialog box:
Click the “Don’t Show” button and ignore it for now. Playback your new recording along with the project click and you will find that your claps or shaker, or whatever you recorded, is in time with the project tempo. Pretty impressive, huh?
Smart Tempo - Adapt
When the project tempo mode is set to Adapt, the project tempo will be altered to match the tempo of your freely recorded audio and/or imported audio; depending on your Flex & Follow settings. But that’s not all. Not only will Adapt mode map out the tempo of your freely recorded or imported audio; when you move, copy, or edit your audio regions, the tempo of the regions moves with them. Choose this mode for free recording without the metronome or other tempo references, or when you want the project tempo to follow region edits.
To get a feel for this mode, set your project tempo mode to Adapt. You will notice that the Global Tempo track will open automatically, showing the current project tempo. As we did earlier, set the Flex & Follow field for New recordings in the Smart Tempo settings window to On + Align to Bars and Beats.
Now do the same thing as before. Record some freely played hand claps or other rhythmic elements, with no click or tempo reference. Press Stop when you are done, and watch the tempo track magically conform to your recording.
Depending on the timing variations in your recorded audio, you may get either subtle or significant tempo calculations as a result. Here is what I got from some relatively evenly played hand claps.
Smart Tempo - Automatic Mode
Once you understand the basics of Keep and Adapt modes, you’ll understand Automatic mode. When set to Automatic, Logic Pro chooses between either the Adapt or Keep behavior, based on whether or not a musical reference is present. That can be either the click, another region, a drum loop, or even the presence of a MIDI clock signal being received. When one of these is present, the project tempo is maintained, like Keep mode. When none are present, the project tempo adapts to match the tempo curves of recorded or added material.
Start with Adapt Mode
A good general rule of thumb is that if you are starting a new project and don’t know the tempo of what you have in mind to record, start with Adapt mode. Once Smart Tempo has established the tempo of the initial recording you want to continue building your music on, switch back to Keep mode. There’s lots more to both Adapt and Keep modes, but this will get you started understanding their basic principles.
To learn more about using Smart Tempo in Logic Pro X and the other new features in version 10.4, check out my videos here: