I am working on a baroque string piece (Rondeau from Abdelazer) as a way to learn to program strings and in general get better at orchestrating and using the software. One thing puzzles me quite a bit. The original score says tempo is 95, but if I set it to 95 in Studio One, it is unbearably slow. I am currently working on it at 160 and my version is still somewhat slower than most renditions I can find on Youtube. Am I missing something?

  • 3
    When I listen to the piece from here youtube.com/watch?v=VVivtti-n-w, the tempo is close to 95. When I check the score in IMSLP conquest.imslp.info/files/imglnks/usimg/b/b5/…, the tempo mark is based on a half note. So, make sure that when you draw notes in the DAW, you treat the half note on the score as a quarter note on DAW. Since the DAW always measure tempo in quarter note Nov 16 '18 at 8:09
  • Hi @RavenCheuk - if you post that as an answer, rather than a comment, then you can earn rep for it.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Nov 16 '18 at 8:44

Based on your description, it seems there is a problem on how you treat the tempo on score and on the DAW. The easy fix is to treat half notes in score as quarter notes in DAW. (I will be using FL studio for demonstration, since I don't have Studio One. But I believe all these DAWs are similar)

Tempo on the score

You can see the tempo 100 here (in red circle) means 100 half notes per minutes.

enter image description here

Solution 1: Treat half notes in score as quarter notes in DAW

The score indicate that a one beat has the length of a half note, you need to make sure you convey the same meaning in your DAW. Since the major grids in DAW indicates the beat position, you just need to draw the half notes on DAW to fully occupy one major grid as shown below. The time signature in the DAW is 3/4.

For other notes, you just need to scale accordingly, for example:

  • Half note = Full major grid

  • Quarter note = Half major grid

  • Eighth note = 1/4 major grid

enter image description here

Solution 2: Keep the midi note lenght same as the score notation

If you really want to maintain the same note lenghts both in the DAW and the sheet music, then you need to change the tempo in the DAW accordingly. In your case, the tempo in the DAW should be 200 as shown below. In this case, the DAW would be having the time signature of 6/4.

enter image description here

  • So I guess the question becomes, how do I convert score tempo into a DAW tempo? Or rather what does the DAW tempo represent? When I set tempo in DAW, is it for a quarter note? A half note? Something else?
    – Mad Wombat
    Nov 16 '18 at 15:17
  • Also, in your screenshot you seem to be treating half notes just like half notes, provided you kept the time. Or did you change 3/2 to 3/4?
    – Mad Wombat
    Nov 16 '18 at 15:19
  • For your first question, yes. In DAW, the tempo is simply beat per minute. For the tempo in sheet music, it is also beat per minute, but you need to consider one more thing: Is one beat represented by quartar notes (the common one), half notes or even eighth notes? My DAW is in 3/4 setting in the screenshot. I hope you understand my point now and solved your problem accordingly. Nov 16 '18 at 16:03
  • 2
    Depending on the DAW, it might (arguably should) be possible to base the tempo on half notes (usually by changing the DAW time signature to have a 2 in the denominator), in which case there’s no need make the midi data in the DAW different from the notation data in the score. If that’s not possible, I would personally prefer to merely double the tempo in the DAW while keeping the note values consistent with the score. Nov 16 '18 at 16:28
  • For my DAW (FL studio), changing the denominator for time signature would not affect the griding, it only helps you to scale the midi lenght accordingly. Actually, I am not making the midi data different from the notated data in the score, I am just trying to explain the concept here. In the score, we count the half note as one beat anyway, therefore I make the half note in the DAW as one beat too. But your suggestion is also an alternative solution to this problem. Nov 16 '18 at 16:52

I had a similar confusion when experimenting in Reason today. Thus I did some research on what is defined as a beat in respect to BPM. Turns out, just stating a BPM value is ambiguous and should include a definition of what note value the BPM refers to as well. In sheet music you would see that as e.g. half note = 100 like in the example @Raven Cheuk posted.

With trial and error I found out that the BPM in Reason – the only DAW I currently have installed – always refers to quarter notes.

If I were to transcribe sheet music in a DAW, I'd prefer to see the same note value and bar structure as in given music piece. This means in your case I would double the BPM. As the DAW bases tempo on quarter notes, the equivalent tempo in half notes also is half that – in other words half note = 100 on the sheet and 200 BPM in the DAW (when based on quarter notes) are the same tempo.

In the end it all comes down to taste and whatever makes most sense in your situation. Similarly, the time signature is used to communicate "where the rhythm is felt" and thus specified by the composer. In this context I'd expect the DAW to base the BPM on the lower number (denominator) of the time signature, or at least make if configurable.

After looking into this I find it weird that the BPM behaviour is hardcoded to quarter notes and there is no setting for that in Reason – I'd like to see the option "sync with denominator". I'd be interested to see how other DAWs approach this.

EDIT: More experiments with different DAWs/ audio software:

  • Reason:
    • Denominator can only be power of 2 (2, 4, 8, 16, etc.)
    • BPM always refers to quarter notes per minute
  • Reaper:
    • You can set denominator arbitrary (e.g. 5/7 time signature)
    • BPM always refers to quarter notes per minute, not regarding the time signature
  • Audacity:
    • Doesn't feature time signatures (AFAICT)
    • You can add a rhythm track (specifying BPM for this track), setting beats per bar, but no signature (denominator), thus the BPM always reflect the BPB setting). This gives you all the flexibility, but syncing tracks with different time signatures, needs you to do the calculation yourself. This generates a simple audio track with given click/ beat sounds btw.
  • Live:
    • You can set time signatures per event (different ones as well), but they must have a denominator with power of 2 (2, 4, 8, 16, etc.).
    • BPM always refers to quarter notes no matter the event or project time signature.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.