Adding and Using Beat Tracks

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A Beat Track is a "channel" which is not actually assigned to any output. It's only purpose is to have markers in the sequence which have been set at points where a beat or some other repetitive musical component is found in a song. A beat track helps easily sequence movements between lighting channels so that the movements fall at appropriate musical points. An example would be an arch that moves from one end to another between two beat marks.

HLS supports creating beat tracks in a couple of ways. One way is to manually press a button or click a mouse while a song is playing to set the beat. Another way would be to apply a filter to the audio and then manually "turn on" the beat track at points identified through the filter.

Add Beat Track Channels

Figure 5-5

First, channels must be added so you can use them as beat tracks.

  • Open the Channel Manager (Manage Channels -> Manage Raw Channels)
  • Since we are going to look at three different ways to create a beat track, go ahead and Add 3 channels named "Beat".
  • Keep the Universe as 0 since these channels will not be associated with real output.
  • Use the color Selector to set colors for your beat tracks (see Figure 5-5).
  • When done, select Save Changes.

Setting Display Group for Beat Track

Figure 5-6
  • Next, assign all of the beat tracks into their own Display Group.
  • Create a Display Group named "Beat" and add all three channels (See Figure 5-6).
  • Set the "Beat" display group as the group to work with.

Beat Track From Clicks

Creating a Beat Track from Clicks is one of the easiest ways to create a Beat Track. Clicks must be quick and not everything will line up perfectly, but it can give reasonably good results.

Figure 5-7
  • Activate the Beat Track by clicking Manage Channels -> Select a Beat Track Channel.
  • Select the Beat Track you want to use and click OK (See Figure 5-7).

Figure 5-8
  • Check the box Beat Track Active to let HLS know that you are planning to record clicks for a beat track (see Figure 5-8).
  • Press the Play / Pause button to play the song.
  • Press the CTRL key or the Left Mouse button at each beat in the song.

Figure 5-9
  • When the song is complete, there will be two grid cells filled in at every click received. Your beat track has been created. (See Figure 5-9)

Beat Track from Filters

This is a very powerful feature of HLS and one that can come in handy when setting up beat tracks. You get to this by clicking Audio File -> Apply Lo or Hi Pass Filter or Band Pass. The DSP Filtering window will open (See Figure 5-10).

Figure 5-10
  • Hi Pass Filter: This filter will filter the audio to only show the portions that are in higher frequencies, such as a female vocal or high (in pitch, not volume) notes.
  • Lo Pass Filter: This filter will filter the audio to only show the portions that are in lower frequencies, such as bass drum and other low (in pitch, not volume) notes.
  • Band Pass filter: This filters on BOTH high and low frequencies. The Frequency value is the "desired" frequency. A band pass filter will filter OUT both the high and low frequencies that are further away from that frequency.

Applying the Filter:

Figure 5-11a
Figure 5-11b
  • Choose the filter you wish to use, enter the needed information, and click OK. You can also use the "Stay Here" option to apply the filter and continue working with the audio without closing the Filtering window. (See Figure 5-11a and 5-11b for an example of the audio before and after applying an 8 khz filter to attempt to isolate a cymbal sound.)

Figure 5-12
  • Once the sound has been isolated, manually add effects where the sound is present. In the example, Beat Track 2 is being used to mark two cells with a Level effect at each cymbal sound (see Figure 5-12).

  • Tip: To speed up this process, you may find that using the CLICK filter AFTER applying the DSP filter will allow you to click accurately with the sound you want isolated rather than manually drawing in the effects.

  • Once finished with the filter, return the audio to normal by choosing Audio File -> Remove Filter.

Common Sound Frequencies:

  • 200 Hz and below: The bass of the mix. The bottom end of the sound.
  • 200 – 400 Hz: The body of the low end instruments.
  • 400 Hz – 1 kHz: The low mid/mid area of the mix. The body of guitars and vocals reside here.
  • 1 – 3 kHz: Snare drums and kicks start in this range and extend almost to 4 kHz.
  • 4 – 8 kHz: High-mids, the top end of most drums, guitars, and organs. Also the body of cymbals is in this range, bottoming out in 3 kHz range.
  • 8 – 10 kHz: Cymbals mostly live here. You’ll also find the top end of vocals here.
  • Summarized from:

Visual chart of instruments and frequency ranges: frequency chart


  • Watch this video uploaded by Joe Hinkle. (Note: This video link starts at the 3:22 mark, where discussion of the DSP filtering begins.)

Cleaning up a Beat Track

Whether manually clicking or using filters, some of the beat track marks may be slightly off from where you want them. You can slow a song down and use the oscillioscope to "cleanup" the marks.

  • To move a mark left or right, Click on the FIRST grid-square, release the mouse button, and then move it using the mouse and dragging.
  • When the timing mark is placed where you want it, click on it again (or press escape) to exit selection mode.

Setting Beat Track as a Sticky Channel

You can set a single beat track or multiple tracks (up to three) to remain "stuck" to the top of the sequencing window by setting Sticky Channels.

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