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When making music, it would be possible that we would want to build a music theme around an audio clip that we have found and like. For achieving success in this, it is essential to know the exact tempo and measure structure that our desired audio clip has, so we can then build our own drum tracks (or additional melodies, as well, but having in mind the melodic scale, if any, used in the audio clip) with that same tempo and measure structure. I have used this technique with more or less succes some few times. I will illustrate this example with an audio clip that I found on a web music store; it belongs to a song called Chor Javon, that became quite popular in Middle East countries through many remakes made from the original tajik song. So the first thing is to present the audio clip in question: chor javon sample.mp3

To create the drum track, instead of choosing some percussive samples that I had apart, I took them directly from the audio clip. The fact was that there was not time in the audio clip where the drums were isolated, so they were all the time merged with the voice. This means that I could not get clean percussive samples, but I found that allowing the voice on the percussive samples would create an interesting effect. These are the samples that I took from the audio clip to be used in my drum track: bass drum.mp3, cymbal.mp3, stick.mp3

Below are two images of waveforms taken from the audio editor Cool Edit Pro 2; the upper image corresponds to the drum track that I created with the percussive samples in FL Studio 5, while the lower image corresponds to the audio clip from where I took the percussive samples. I have put these images here to explain how to find tempo and measure structure on a given audio clip.

You can see that the upper waveform, which consists of an isolated drum track, shows clearly the measure structure, while in the other waveform it is harder to distinguish. The musician has to use his hearing capabilities when the waveform is too confusing to distinguish the drum beats visually. Another option would be to use an equalizer to attenuate the frequencies not belonging to the drums, trying to make the beat more visible, but this will not work everytime, since harmonics on a waveform usually merge in a mess.

There is an option on the audio editor to change the horizontal rule of the waveform display, which is usually set in minutes/seconds format, to measures/beats format. In Cool Edit Pro 2 this can be done by right clicking on the rule, then clicking Display Time Format and finally choosing Bars and Beats. We are working here with the omnipresent 4/4 measure structure, so the numerals on the rule should have the format as seen on the images. In the left end of the rule you can see the tempo, which in this case is 134 beats per minute. The numerals have the meaning: measure:beat.tick. So for instance, 2:2.08 would mean second measure, second beat of that measure and eight tick of that beat (the program divides each beat in 16 ticks).

Cool Edit Pro

Cool Edit Pro

When working with an audio clip, it is imperative to define exactly where the starting point of the clip should be, so it will be correctly synchronized when placed on a sequencer's piano roll. And obviously, we should not leave any unnecessary silence on the beginning, which would cause a delay that would have to be corrected. The starting point of the audio clip has to be the starting point of the first measure.

Each audio clip that we could examine would present its own characteristics, different from other audio clips. Depending on these, the work can be easier or more difficult. The clips that have sections with isolated drum tracks will be usually easier to study. If the drum hits are sparse and/or brief, the work would be even easier. The oppossite characteristics would make harder to find the structure. When I finally have an idea on where the bars that divide the measures should be, I right click on the horizontal rule, then click Display Time Format and finally click on Edit Tempo... Then I enter a tempo value and check if the bars adjust where they should. If not, we must try another values until finding the correct one.

When I manage to have the measure bars placed in the right spots, I set the marker on the bar that divides the first and second measures, then right click on the horizontal rule again and set the time format to Decimal (, so I can see how many seconds and thousandth of seconds a measure lasts, as seen on the images below, where 2:1.00 is the equivalent of 0:01.792, just a measure duration.

Cool Edit Pro

Cool Edit Pro

After finding this value - in this example, 1 second plus 792 thousandth - I go to FL Studio and set the tempo on that program to the same value found on Cool Edit Pro - in this example, 134 -. In the image below you can see how after setting tempo to 134 and marking the bar that divides the first and second measures, the time display shows 0:01:79 (1 second plus 790 thousandth), which is pretty accurate. So the timing work has finished succesfully.

FL Studio

After working on a drum track that had the correct timing characteristics and adding the audio clip to the composition, the final result was chor javon.mp3. Note how sounds the combination of the drum beats on the audio clip with the drum beats arranged by me in FL Studio when they sound together.

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