Introduction to Beatgrids

This article describes what Beatgrids are, what they look like, how to make and edit them as well as what they are used for.

WHAT IS A BEATGRID?

A Beatgrid is a series of markers that point to the location of beats within the track.

Beatgrids are used for advanced mixing functions such as track Sync, precise effects synchronization, looping and accurate BPM representation.

An accurate Beatgrid helps the software lock onto these markers and not have to rely on the averaged BPM value – a value that may not be accurate enough for the software to use effectively.

WHY USE BEATGRID?

Normal BPM analyzing gets the average BPM of a track. This process may not always get the most precise information about where each beat is actually located.

Some tracks’ BPM values may also change throughout the track (such as with tracks that are recorded live, or onto analog tapes, or the artist changes the BPM on purpose). When this happens, the BPM value may be out and you will need to setup a Beatgrid or adjust the Beatgrid so there is more accurate representation of where each beat is located.

The Beatgrid also displays where the beat or downbeat is within the track's waveform for visual aid when DJing and cuing. 

WHAT DOES A BEATGRID LOOK LIKE?

A Beatgrid is comprised of several elements within the track’s waveform in ITCH.

Downbeat Marker (thick red line)
The first Beat Marker.

Beat Markers (white lines)
A series of thin white lines within the tracks waveform showing the location of each beat within the Beatgrid.
 
Bar Markers (thick line with bar number)
Every 4 beats will be a ‘bar’ marker. Each bar has a number which shows which bar the track is at. This helps users align phrases within a music structure (such as 16 or 32 bars).
 
Beat Warp Marker (thick red line)
A manually created Beatgrid Marker. These are shown as a thicker red line, much like the Downbeat Marker. These are able to be  manually set for bars, and the audio can 'warp' around these points, good for when the tempo is changing.

 

HOW TO CREATE A BEATGRID

You will need to have Beatgrids enabled in the Setup screen of ITCH (this is on by default for Xone:DX users).

A Beatgrid will be applied to a track by either analyzing it using the Analyze Files button in the offline player, or dragging the track to a virtual deck to be analyzed.

ITCH will automatically place the Downbeat Marker on the first transient in the track (ie. the first beat or loud noise) if the track has been analyzed. This is the first Marker in the Beatgrid.

Once your track has a Downbeat Marker, the Beatgrid will take the BPM value present within the track information and lay a series of markers over the track where the software estimates the rest of the beats (transients) in the track are located.

The Beatgrid is displayed as a grid of white markers over the track’s waveform. If this is correct then the markers will be on each of the track’s transients/beats.

NOTE: Beatgrid information is saved inside the track file (like waveforms, loops or cuepoints).

 

Once the Beatgrid is created you will want to check if the beatgrid is correct and if needed, edit the grid.

 

CHECKING THE BEATGRID IS CORRECT

It is a good idea to check for drift of the Beatgrid by scrolling through the track. You can see if the Beat Markers are positioned above transients/beats or not further into the track. Just because a track starts off with the Beatgrid looking right doesn't mean it will stay that way.

Start with the downbeat marker, and scroll further into the track one or two more times in the track (after a breakdown is often the easiest place to check) and possibly somewhere near the end of the track.

NOTE: You may need to check more often if the tempo is changing a lot (which would require you to possibly set many manual Beat Markers).

TIP: For Allen & Heath Xone:DX users press to turn on and illuminate the SCRUB/SLIP button to enable platter movements to Scrub fast throughout the track.

If the Beatgrid is perfect you won't need to do anything further. If the Beatgrid isn't perfect, you may need to edit the beatgrid.

EDIT GRIDS

You can manually set or adjust your Beatgrids using Grid Edit Mode. To enter Grid Edit Mode, click on the area that says GRID EDIT. Alternatively, you can use the keyboard shortcut alt + spacebar (repeated pressing toggles between the Virtual Decks). When in Grid Edit Mode, the Grid Edit area will flash blue, and the edge of the overview area will be colored blue.

To save any changes you've made to a Beatgrid, press Enter. Pressing Esc or clicking the Grid Edit area will exit Grid Edit Mode without saving any changes you have made to the Beatgrid.

There are two main ways to manipulate a Beatgrid’s timing;

Stretching / Contracting the Grid (Adjust)

This effectively alters the Beatgrid’s BPM, and either stretches it or contracts it to fit. To stretch / contract the grid, hold alt + click and drag with the mouse to move a white marker, or use the arrow keys.

Tip: Use the keyboard shortcut shift + the arrow keys to fast stretch / contract the grid.

You can also tap the spacebar in time with the beat to have Beatgrid adjust to the tempo you're tapping. 

Slipping a Grid (Slip)

This keeps the Beatgrid’s BPM the same, but moves the offset of the grid earlier or later (ie. moves the entire Beatgrid at once).

You would need to slip a grid if the Beatgrid’s timing was off by a consistent amount throughout the song’s duration, or your first Downbeat Marker was set incorrectly yet the Beatgrid tempo was correct.

To slip the grid, hold alt + click and drag with the mouse to move a red Downbeat Marker, or use the keyboard shortcuts; Hold control and use the arrow keys.

Tip: Use the keyboard shortcut shift + control + the arrow keys to fast slip the grid.

Beatgrid Keyboard & Mouse Shortcuts

Function Keyboard Mouse
Enter Grid Edit Mode Alt + spacebar Click Grid Edit area
Exit Grid Edit Mode Esc Click Grid Edit area
Save Grid Edit changes Enter  
Set Downbeat Marker x Alt + double click
Delete Downbeat Marker Delete  
Delete all Downbeat Markers Shift + delete  
Slip Beatgrid Ctrl + arrow keys Alt + click & drag a red Downbeat Marker
Fast Slip Beatgrid Shift + ctrl + arrow keys  
Contract/Stretch Beatgrid Arrow keys Alt + click & drag a white marker
Fast Contract/Stretch Beatgrid Shift + arrow keys  

 USING SYNC WITH BEATGRIDS

Using Sync with Beatgrids (Smart Sync) snaps the Beatgrids of two or more tracks together for a perfectly beatmatched mix. 

 

Beat Position Indicator 

The Beat Position Indicator is a display of where the track's playhead within the current bar. The playhead will illuminate and move through a 4/4 count in time with the track’s tempo. This indicator will change color depending on the Sync state.

Beat Sync Mode 

Press Sync to engage Beat Sync mode for the first deck.  

Engaging Sync for the first deck will engage Sync mode for that deck. This deck's tempo will become the Sync tempo for any further tracks entering Sync mode.

Press Sync on the next deck to match the tracks’ tempos together. This will snap the Beatgrids, speed and the bar position of this track to any other tracks in Sync mode. Beat Sync will maintain this snap even if the track's Beatgrid changes (ie. you have manually set a Beat Warp Marker).

Press Sync again to re-sync the track if it has gone out of time.

NOTE: Tracks that sound out of time may have an incorrect Beatgrid or Sync may be disabled for the track.

Beat Sync and Motorized Platters (Numark NS7 and V7)

ITCH hardware with motorized platters will experience 'wow and flutter' due to the motor movement. This may result in your tracks falling out of Sync with each other as the wow and flutter move the playhead position slightly forwards or backwards and mimic a user’s manual adjustments of the platter.

This can take the sync state out of the blue Beat Sync mode and put it into the yellow Tempo Sync mode.

You may need user adjustment of the platters to keep the tracks in perfect Sync. Turn off the platter motors to avoid this issue.

Arm Beat Sync Mode

You can arm Sync by pausing the deck and pressing Sync.

Pressing Play on the hardware will start playback and automatically Beat Sync the track to other tracks currently in Sync mode.

NOTE: Numark NS7 and V7 users should enable 'Instant Playback' in the Setup screen when using Arm Beat Sync Mode for instant Syncing when pressing play when using motorized platters.

EXAMPLE:

You are playing Track A and the playhead reaches the 3rd beat of bar 2.

You have a track cued up on the first beat of Track B.

Press play on Track B – this automatically jumps the playhead of Track B to the 3rd beat of that bar to match Track A’s bar position.

Tempo Sync Mode

Tempo Sync mode is when the deck tempo will match decks in Sync mode, but the track’s position in the Bar will not be locked as with Beat Sync.

Adjusting the platter or playhead while a track has Sync engaged will disable Beat Sync and put you into Tempo Sync.

This allows you to keep tracks at the same tempo but drop the track when desired.

Adjusting the platter will create an offset, this offset will be maintained, even if the track's Beatgrid changes (ie. a Beat Warp Marker is placed and the track's tempo changes). This will allow the track to warp around tempo changes without losing Tempo Sync.

You can adjust the position of tracks in the bar, manipulate the platter, scratch or juggle the track while still keeping the tracks’ tempo matching. i.e. If you drop a track out by exactly 2 beats behind a track on another deck in Sync, then the yellow Sync state will continue to stay at the same tempo as the other Sync track.

Disengage Sync

Press SHIFT+SYNC on the hardware to disable Sync for the deck.

You can also click the OFF button to the right of the Sync button.

NOTE: For some Numark NS7 and V7 users, use the DELETE key as the SHIFT key on your hardware.

OTHER USES FOR BEATGRIDS

Track Skip

You can use the Xone:DX platter to quickly skip through the track live and perfectly in sync. This allows you to jump quickly to a breakdown, or find the perfect part of the track to mix with. Press and illuminate the SCRUB/SLIP button to enable platter movements to scroll fast throughout the track when using sync - one full platter rotation will equal 8 bars of movement.

Loop

Beatgrids allow for more precise auto-looping, snapping to the transient Beat Marker positions rather than using the BPM value.

It also allows you to move the loop forwards and backwards using the Loop Move buttons while maintaining perfect sync.

Effects Sync

ITCH snaps the time of the effects to the Beatgrid for precise or fine tuned effects control.

Needle Jump

Some controllers have the "Needle Jump" feature which means you can jump to another part of the track while staying perfectly in sync and snapping to the Beatgrids. If your controller has a "Needle Strip" or Needle Search" then it will have this feature.