How To Warp A Whole Track with relative Success

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Chris Cowie
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How To Warp A Whole Track with relative Success

Post by Chris Cowie » Sat Aug 14, 2004 9:56 am

I originally posted this in the general forum but thought I should have posted it here.

I see many posts on the troubles of warping a whole track for DJ'ing.

Ok so thsi may be a longish post so I apologise in advance. But after many hours of taking the long route marking every bar an extremely time consuming process I have discovered a MUCH EASIER WAY.

The following applies to any Dance material. House, Techno, DNB, Hip Hop etc. Im not talking about Beatles tracks or music recorded with live musicians. Those type of genres take a little longer...unless the track in question had Tony Thomson (X Chic) on drums.

A couple of interesting points to bear in mind before I begin.

1. When recording from vinyl REMEMBER no matter how well calibrated your decks are the tracks will drift slightly. This makes warping a little bit more difficult but the upcoming method still works. AND DONT FORGET keep the pitch control a 0%.

2. If recording from an external CD (although why anyone would need to do this I dont know). But the same applies. Some older CD players do have wow and flutter. If your recording from old 8 track cartridges your buggered.....

3. If you have MP3's and convert to wav....especially if the MP3 was lower than 96kbps your going to have some trouble with warping a track. I dont know what it is but converted MP3's are a little more problematic when warping.

[/b]To Begin

1. First use an audio editor like Sound Forge, Wavelab, Cool edit etc. Preferably extract the material straight from the CD within your computer. If you have to record from vinyl record directly in to your audio editor. DONT record in to Cubase, Logic, or even Ableton Live for that matter.

2. Edit
The Start Point Exactly. I cannot emphasise this enough. But also dont panic about it. If your slightly off warping a whole track is still easily achievable. If your way off then your going to have trouble. But some tracks start a little weird. (for eg, a quarter bar intro with reverse cymbal or some other musical tone to catch the listeners ear) Do you really need that? If not edit it out. After all your probably not going to mix that during your DJ set.

3. At this point its also a good idea to maximise your track in your editor. Im assuming most of you have some sort of mastering tools. I use Waves L1 or L2 and maximise everything at -0.01db. Some tracks particularly older ones may need a little more attention as they sound a little weak compared to todays loud and proud stuff. Then I will bring out something like Isotope Ozone to add some sparkle. But be careful. Just check with one of your favourite CD's to make sure your in the right ball park for loudness and EQ. As well all know theres nothing worse than a low cut record. The beauty of using Live is that we can have all our files at the currently fashionable
I want it loudest :)

4. Save your file under a different name like Leftfield 'Planet Phunk' Forged/cool/lab". This means you still have the original untouched, maximised version.....not that your going to need it if all goes well. Important Many current CD's dont need any Maximisation or mastering whatsoever so DONT just become a mastering engineer just for the sake of it. Take a look at Dave Clarke's "Devils Advocate.....NO MAXIMISATION REQUIRED there...:). Just look at the waveform on many of todays CD's and you will see they are totally flatlined. Of course if your recording from Vinyl your going to have levels all over the place so some sort of levelling/maximisation is required.

I maximise everything and many DJ's have commented on how punchy the sound is when IM DJ'ing so its worth the effort


Open up Live and drag in your edited/maximised track to the arrangement page NOT THE CLIP VIEW. Wait for live to draw the waveform then click on the WARP BUTTON (Obviously). Now this is where a bit of guess work is required. The Original Tempo Of The Track. The stuff Im working with is usually around 128-145 BPM. I always set the master tempo to 135.
Thats live's master tempo not the tracks tempo I usually have an idea of the original tempo of the track I am about to warp and in the little box under the Warp Button I attempt to guess the tempo of the song with a little trial end error. I dont use any sort of BPM counter

Important When you are doing this switch on Lives Metronome...It goes CLICK clik clik clik :). I know that most of you are doing this, but maybe some of you are using a drum loop to match tempo DONT DO THAT. I did this for a while and it simply doesnt work as well as the metronome.

After some trial and error with guessing the tracks original tempo I usually get it right or as close as possible. If the metronome and the track are in sync for even as little as 8 bars I know im in the right ball park and believe it or not I am ready to start warping. Even better if you are getting 16 bars or more without any drift. I would also say that some tracks are spot on for the entire track (in sync with the metronome of course). But this is rare.....
I dont know why but I have an inkling why...later I will mention this

WHen I first started warping tracks as soon as the metronome and track went out of sync
Lets say bar 17 for eg I would then double click the warp marker at bar 17 Turning it yellow and move it so that the beginning of bar 17 was in time with the metronome. Of course this meant by the time I got to bar 21 I was out of sync again.....So on and on I went warping every four bars. During my early attempts I was practically warping every bar which as you know Is a very Time Consuming and frustrating Process......There had to be an easier way

The easy Way

Ok, lets say you have the original tempo fo the track as accurate as you can get it. You dont have to be 100% accurate because with this method you will eventually get the exact tempo as it changes when you move the warp markers. The mistake I was making and I believe many others is that we are warping the track from LEFT TO RIGHT. The more you warp from left to right the more out of sync the track is later on so more warping is required Very annoying I always thought and knew there had to be an easier way. IM Now warping from RIGHT TO LEFT......

Heres what I do now: I let the track play along with the metronome for up to three quarters of the whole song. You will obviously notice that the track and the metronome are way out of sync by the time you get to bar 127. So what I do is find a spot For eg the end of a break down and move the warp marker 127 so that it hits the first beat of bar 127 in the song. Important I DONT make this marker yellow I Simply Move it DONT MAKE YELLOW...Yellow is not good :) :)

The first time I did this I was amazed that with one simple move of one marker I had practically got the whole track in perfect sync from the beginning of the song right up to bar 127, 133, 145 etc etc. This method has even worked when moving the last marker possible where there is still a beat and the whole track is in time. Many of my tracks dont even have a single yellow marker. So the point is WARP FROM RIGHT TO LEFT.

The Benefit of this method is obviously it saves an incredible amount of time, and it keeps the integrity/groove of the track in place. If your warping every bar your definitely losing the feel of teh track especially if the track has a certain swing feel to it.

Nothing In Life Is Perfect
Some tracks are just plain difficult. Even using the above method I still get great results moving the marker much later on in the track (remember not marking it yellow......Yellow Not Good....... then the rest of the track is way off. I cant explain this (again I have some ideas later). so then I have to start warping every few bars. Some tracks I still have to warp every couple of bars but this is extremely rare.

At the end of the day the method described above works better than any other method I have tried. I have warped around 200 tracks and can usually warp a whole track within 5 minutes. Sometimes less if the track is spot on all the way through. There Im just checking the metronome is in sync.

Some interesting points

1. Those difficult tracks that simply go completely out of sync for no reason. Why?. I was warping a track recently everything was fine right up to bar 117 and then train wrecking city. I couldnt work it out and it annoyed me so much i called the artist. He told me he edited out a section in sound forge......Ahaaaa Obviously to his ears it was accurate, and to mine for that matter, but its obvious the slightest shift in timing can upset the applecart. So just be aware of this sometimes. In saying that its still not a problem. When this happen obviously insert the yellow marker and then later on hopefuly every four bars you will have to insert/make yellow markers every four bars. Maybe less, maybe more. This is when we have to go Yellow.

2. Another example above was when I was still using Vinyl and at a certain point in the track at exactly the point I wanted to mix in I could never get the track I was about to mix in to stay in sync. I knew the label called them up and the guy told me that they edited the track themselves.....Same deal as above :)

3. Pre DAW Tracks I was recently warping some early R+S material and was having a hellish time. using the above method I was in sync but at some points for no reason the metronome was a little off. I can only put this down to the early sequencers using hardware samplers drifting slightly. Kinda obvious really because no early Atari sequencer would trigger a kik drum or loop 100% accurate all the time due to the inherent midi delay. Not noticeable as such to the human ear but when warping you will notice it, or should I say your computer program will notice it and make it glaringly obvious to you. Dont Worry About This If you were playing these tracks from vinyl the drift is there. I have quite a few tracks where the metronome is not spot on and its not a problem when mixing. After all NO DJ on the planet could mix 2 records with 100% absaloute sync.

The Impossible to Warp Tracks
Ok nothing is impossible but I was trying so very hard using every method to warp 'Dave clarks' The Wolf. I dont know what the hell he was doing but nothing I did would get that track warped with success. Yes I could get it in time but the feel and sound was completely lost. So there are some tracks that simply wont warp no matter what you do.


I think many of us are a little to obsessed with warping tracks so that they are 1000% accurate. Of course accuracy is important but remember if the metronome is 98.5% there (of course 100% is better) then you will be fine.

I hope this post helps some who are struggling with warping tracks and I certainly dont mean to come across as aloof. And for those that know how to do this I dont mean to be 'Mr Cool'. I was just searching for warp methods and could find anyone mention the above method.

Apologies for the long post

peace :)

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Post by lummux » Sat Aug 21, 2004 4:03 pm

Thank you!

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

That works superbly! I had just started to put warp markers throughout an entire song, when I thought I'd have a look at the forum, whereupon I found your fabulous time saving advice...

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

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Post by ditroiamusic » Thu Sep 16, 2004 7:44 pm

I can't thank you enough. I was having a hell of a time. Very cool of you to post this.

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Post by Boulderdash » Thu Sep 16, 2004 9:34 pm

Thanks indeed for the long post. The Part with the not-yellow-Marker is explained very well in the manual. I was messing around with yellow markers too and was very surprised when I read this.


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Post by xeb » Tue Sep 28, 2004 1:59 pm

that method is basically setting the bpm very accuratly rather then warping... by stretching a marker near the end to line up nicely you're stretching the entire track around a number of beats - ie, setting the bpm

a couple fo useful tips with this:

- you dont' need to edit out the start of the track to the first beat... just drag marker 1 to the first beat

- if further warping is needed then the quickest way to do this is by dividing the song in half, placing a warp marker there, then divide each the half in half again, place another warp marker, etc etc until its accuratly warped. this will always be as quick, and usually quicker than going through left to right and doing a warp marker every X bars

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Post by JacksinMS » Wed Sep 29, 2004 7:40 am

mabe I just not getting it, but how do I:

"move the warp marker 127 so that it hits the first beat of bar 127 in the song. Important I DONT make this marker yellow I Simply Move it DONT MAKE YELLOW"....

If I want to make a warp marker it has to be "yellow"...

I tried warping the break but it seem like after that after 30 or so bars I still had to drop a warp marker to make it perfect.

I tapped the beat with the metronome & it was a close as one can get to on beat so thats not the issue.

Tried going backwards and syncing it up that way but still had to use warp markers & the entire process of making the track on point seemed to take alot longer than 5 mins.

Grrrr.. please help.

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Post by Boulderdash » Wed Sep 29, 2004 7:52 am

Without turning yellow: You just click the marker an move it. Don't double click! Only moving means that all markers get "scaled" on the whole track. This works mostly with electronic music, which has already a tight tempo.

Imagine the track containing, let's say, 100 bars. You set Marker 1 on the beginning of the first bar (this marker you have to MOVE, make him yellow, becaus it's the only "fixpoint" in the song). Now you advance 4 bars. Marker 4 should align with the start of bar 4. Slide him there (only clicking once and draggin, no yellow ;) ). Therefore the markers get "stretchet" and line up roughly with the beat of the song. Now you can advance and correct (again, only clicking once!) the markers of lets's say bar 20, 50, 80. The stretching gets finer and finder the more far you get from the first marker.

Really a PITA to describe it, someone should make a video tutorial :) In the manual it is also explained very well.


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Post by Patch » Wed Sep 29, 2004 8:30 am

The method described here is just plain ol' time stretching. Great for anything that's been produced with studio equipment (samplers, drum machines, etc, etc...) but WILL NOT work if you're trying to warp music played by a live band. I've been warping tracks by The Beatles and have to place a warp marker on pretty much every 1/4 bar in order to mix the Beatles tracks with the rest of my set (Hip-Hop and Breakbeat tunes - all made with studio equipment). THIS IS WHAT MAKES LIVE DIFFERENT FROM ACID AND COOL EDIT PRO AND THE LIKES. Being able to get a track recorded by a live drummer who was pissed out of his face in perfect time with a drum machine is something special...

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Post by buchnaner » Fri Oct 01, 2004 12:45 am

so is this technique in reference to dj-ing w/ live? this whole process still confuses me ... :?

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Post by kent_sandvik » Fri Oct 01, 2004 7:46 pm

It also depends on the sequencer/DAW used for the recording, if the passages vary (doe to inconsistent BPM coming from the DAW environment itself) then one can't make any assumptions about the total BPM for the whole track. Same if the producer has fun with BPM changes along the track. Personally I just don't rely on a global BPM, so I beatmark per 8 or 16 bars, or sometimes 4 bars. It's Ok, it won't take that much longer, and then I know it's accurate.

I'm also including a kick loop and sometimes a hihat loop while beatmarking, this way I could quickly hear any 'flaming' happening when the beatmarks don't line out with outside materia. --Kent

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Post by JacksinMS » Sun Oct 03, 2004 10:30 am

Whoa, if I knew how to make a video I would because I don't want anyone to feel as dumb as me.

Thanks Boulderdash, worked like a charm as soon as I "moved" the marker & not "set" it. Breezin through the process now!
Singles, Mixes, Photography, & Acidic Art

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Post by experimedia » Mon Oct 04, 2004 6:29 pm

Chris's method is great and works very well. I would simply like to add the method I use for dj'ing with live which for me works very well. My outlook on it is if your going to dj digitally why not do something an average vinyl dj couldn't do.

Rather than importing and warping an entire track I prefer to cut the tracks into phrases before bringing them into Ableton.

To do this I use Sound Forge myself which I use to explain this example....of course any solid wave editor will work.

1. I usually start by finding the first downbeat...bypassing all the intro crap for now. I drop a marker on the first beat. Then I drop another marker so that my region covers usually 4 measures which is often times the length of a phrase. Now sometimes its hard to tell if you selected the perfect timing down to the millisecond and chances are you wont get it right on.

2. What I do to make sure I am at least close before I start cutting is I use the move selection equal distance keyboard shortcut (on PC : 'Shift+>' to go forward : 'Shift+<' to go back).

3. I do this command and drop a marker at the end of every selection aka every 4 measures. When I am most of the way through the track dropping markers every 4 I find a region that seems pretty basic and play it to make sure the timing is perfect (ie: starts at the right position in the beat and ends in the right position on the beat). If its not I just undo (ctrl+z) until I am back to the first region on the first beat zoom in (scroll up) to the end of the region (end of 4 measures) until it is zoomed close enough to see each point and guesstimate slight adjustments.

4. Then I repeat step 2 and 3 again and make sure the timeing stays as precise as possible even towards the end of the track. This sounds like it may be tedious and sometimes it can be with a difficult track but shortly after starting to use this method I was usually able to have my timing perfect on the 1st or second attempt.

5. I then go back to the beginning of the track if there is any intro stuff/build up etc. And go backwards from the initial region dropping markers. If I want I can cut off parts of the intro or outro, or all of them together...or add silence so that everything comes out even.

6. Last I save several versions of the track to experiment with. First I will save a full version. Then one with any intro and outro cut off. Then I will start cutting it down into measures. I will copy and paste to new ('Ctrl+E') different segments...say 16 regions (16 selections of 4 measures). Then down to 8 regions. Sometimes down to 4 selections, or 2, or 1.

7. I will usually always save a couple files consisting of only 4 least one from towards the beginning and one from towards then end. Right there that pretty much gives me my bpm when loaded into Ableton...and when I load the longer peices (4 measures x 16) I will know the exact bpm to set it on and be confident that the timing will be perfect.

8. Then if I want I can cut them down into even smaller pieces in Ableton easily...however it may suite me.

9. To me the advantage of this is actually being able to cut up the tracks on the fly while you are playing them. So its like doing remix/edits live on the fly while also mixing/battling multiple tracks. Sometimes I will even have parts of the same song on two separate tracks. Like a sample loop from the track or effect that I can throw in whenever I like. Using this method is a great way to work if you like the change tracks constantly. I like to use 30 or more tracks in a 70 minute set. Of course it depends what kind of tunes you are working with and personal preference. I myself have been doing eclectic mixes of dark Electro, IDM, and Techno using this method.

10. Then of course you would take it further by adding fx/eq/filters to your channels, or sends...whichever you prefer.

This way if a vinyl snob (guilty of that myself in the past..but ableton changed that) tries to say...why don't you just use records...tell them...try to do this with records (which actually I am sure an exceptional vinyl dj could do with the right high end mixer, 3-4 turntables, multiple copies of the same record, fx and repeaters.

I dunno I hope this gives some people some ideas...and most of all I hope I explained it in a clear enough manner. This method works wonders for me and I just thought I would share. After a long time of djing I got really bored with just mixing two or three records in and out of each other. I enjoy the ability to be able to disassemble the tracks phrases and rearrangeing, chopping, cutting, and mixing them all together with other tracks as well as throwing in my own loops. Ableton together with a midi controller (novation x-station for me) for me gives me unlimited possibilities when it comes to djing and beyond.

Again I am not trying to debunk Chris Cowie's method, just trying to add some other ideas...that may work for other people.

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Post by kent_sandvik » Mon Oct 04, 2004 6:38 pm

Yes, this is a good idea. If Ableton provides multiple loop points in combination with saving envelopes and retrieve those, then there's even no need to have multiple copies of the original file, maybe later... --Kent

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A couple of questions about Chris's method

Post by mforness » Fri Oct 08, 2004 9:09 pm

1. He mentions to open up the track in arrange view and not in session/clip view. Why?

2. I have been using the tap method for tapping out the tempo for a song; then hitting the warp button for the track; and then saving the clip/track to get it's BPM.

I tried Chris's method of using trial and error. I must be missing something. He says to load the track in arrange view; set the global tempo to 135 (or whatever); then hit the warp button on the track. I don't understand this b/c this makes the track tempo the same as the global tempo; so then the track is set at and sounds right at this tempo though this is not the real tempo of the track. So when I change the track's tempo to something other than 135 it sounds off. What am I missing here?

Thanks for any suggestions...

Chris Cowie
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Post by Chris Cowie » Sun Oct 10, 2004 3:13 pm

I can see there are some errors in my explanation of my original post, and some queries that I think I should answer:


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