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Microphone Month 4

Avoid “Snap-to-Gridlock”!

When working on any music project (remix or original), at some point you’re going to want to move your clips around. In almost every project, you need to do things like line up an a cappella vocal track, line up loops or Groove Clips, syncopate a drum clip, create fills, extend the intro, add a break, or other functions. Using your software’s “Snap to Grid” feature makes this a much faster and easier task by making sure your MIDI or audio clip stays aligned to a rhythmic or time-based value. Virtually all sequencing and audio programs have this feature; for this discussion we’ll use SONAR as an example.

Snap to Grid simply sets up a framework for your editing moves to follow. For example, if you set the grid value to Quarter notes, when you move or paste clips they will automatically line themselves up to the nearest Quarter note on the grid. Depending on the type of editing you’re doing you’ll probably want to change the grid values several times: choosing “Measure” for moving an 8-bar phrase or an entire verse of a song; or “Beat” (including Quarter, Eighth and Sixteenth notes or other values) when you’re creating a drum groove or a short riff. Using your mouse to do this can slow you down and also could limit your creative application of this function. Learn the shortcut keys!

The first thing you need to know is a quick way to enable and disable the Snap To Grid Icon. Use the keyboard shortcut “N” key to toggle Enable/Disable. When disabled (Icon is gray), clips will move freely. When enabled (icon is blue), your clips will move in the increments you’ve selected.

To change the Snap properties, hold the “Shift” and “N” Keys together or click the down arrow on the Snap to Grid Icon. The most used setting is “Musical Time” set to a note increment like Whole, Half, Quarter, etc., which you choose based on your needs.

Shortcuts to change the Snap Properties settings:

  1. Hold “Shift” and “N”
  2. Press “Tab”
  3. Move “Up” and “Down” arrows keys to desired setting
  4. Press “Enter”

A setting many people disregard is the “Mode” feature. This determines HOW your clips will move. Most commonly used (and the default for SONAR) is “Move By.” This means the clip will move forward or backward by the selected increment. If you’ve set the grid to Quarter notes and move a kick drum clip that lands on beat one, it will move by Quarter notes to beat two or three or wherever you place it.

But SONAR also offers the option to “Move To” a grid point. If your kick drum hit occurs a Sixteenth note after the beat and the Grid is still set to Quarter note, the clip will advance to the next Quarter note position it finds. Try using this when you’re creating drum patterns, using a Sixteenth note Grid. By selecting and moving a high-hat part or perhaps every other snare drum hit you can come up with lots of variations on a single pattern.

Shortcuts to change the Mode settings:

  1. Hold “Shift” and “N”
  2. Hold “Shift” and “Tab”
  3. Move “Up” and “Down” arrow keys to desired setting
  4. Press “Enter”

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