What is quantize ?
Quantization, or quantize [kwãta.iz] is a technologic process, brought to us by the emergence of computer assisted music creation. This process allows us to correct rhythmic imperfections in a recording, in other words, quantization is reajusting the timing of any played notes.
However note that timing or rythme accuracy does not mean it will sound better, we’ll get back to this point later...
In order to understand well what is quantize, we need to do a little bit of music theory?
Measure the time
Caution, what is written below is only tru for the 4/4 rhythmic signature, which is the only time signature available on the Joué Play app for now.
In music, time is calculated in bar and beats with the following mathematical relation:
Then, we can divide more precisely time, in half-beats for example:
Or in quarter-beats :
Quantization process is based on this time division to snap notes on the grid. Depending on which quantization degree you choose, the note will go to the nearest beat, half-beat or quarter-beat.
In real terms, what does it do ?
Very good question ! In the new version of the app, you will find a new button “quantize” available inside any track sound selection menu. For instance, select your drum track, on the top left corner, click on the magnet button, then you’ll see a gauge going from 0 to 3.
This gauge will determine the quantization strenght, starting from 0 which stand for “no quantize”. Eeach level is associated to a grid (time) sub-division as seen above. On strenght 1, it will bring the note on the nearest quarter-beat, on strenght 2, it will bring it on the nearest half-beat and finally, on maximum strenght, it will bring the note on the nearest best. It is also possible to select a srenght between two level in order to keep a little bit of imperfection, which can make a rhythm or a melody more humanized or interesting.
To illustrate what is explained above, here’s a drum recording which has some timing issues. We will be able to correct this using the quantization!
Using the firt degree of quantize, the result is much better. We can see that the orange note has been moved.
However, if I go further and select a strenght two quantization, my rhythm changes. It is not the rhythm i wanted anymore, as we can see the yellow note has moved to far.
I’m decing to go with a strenght one quatization there. For drum tracks, this degree of quantize is often the best, as hats are likely to be played on quarter-beats.
Let’s see a melodic track now. I played few chords on my key pads, but they are not quite on time.
I want each chord to be played on every beat, this is why I am selecting a third degree quantization.
And it’s perfect, just the way I wanted!
If you want, you can trigger quantize live, meaning that the timing adjustment will be done automatically while you’re playing !
In order to do so, you just need to activate quantize before you start recording your loop. Then record a rhythm, a melody or even chords, everything will be just on time, depending on the quantize degree you chose.
This feature can be very interesting especially for live performances. No need to go back to the app to apply quantization, it will be done automatically !
As you can see, quantization can be relevant to fix few mistakes or imperfections, but careful not to over do it. With this tool, you might loose the human feeling in a recording, the swing or groove of the rhythm, it should be used with care, and keep practicing our timing to awake the J.Dilla lying in you.
If you apply quantize to each track, you’ll get something too robotic, in some genres, musicians will choose to play slightly out of time in order to add some flavor to their performance, which is called groove, as if they were late or early, but they manage to follow the tempo !
Some DAW softwares allow their user to add groove to a track, but again, nothing beats natural groove, the groove you are playing, the groove you feeling.
For instance, here are two drum track. On the first, everything is on the grid, perfectly on time. On the second, the hats are playing a little bit late, and we can feel the difference !
When somebody teels me about groove, I naturally think of Kaytranada who knows how to make a groovy beat, we can notice in his songs that nothing is perfectly on time. But we can also talk about Flying Lotus and many other talented artists...
Now it is up to you to find the right balance between groove and perfect timing !
A creative use
As we have seen, this new feature has a direct impact on the location of notes. In other words, quantization moves the notes played, and this can give ideas! Indeed, why not use Live Quantize to experiment with a melody, try to shift the notes and see, or rather hear, what comes out.
For example, with the Keys pad, you can play a series of notes at random, without any rhythmic accuracy, and then try to use quantization to create a new melody from scratch.
There are no rules with music, and even less with quantization! Replay your favorite songs (with our tutorial series) or create your own in no time with the Joué Play.