Liner Notes
Red Guitar Pick
The FATpick Blog

Starting with FATpick v2.4, every song in FATpick includes a customizable metronome track that's synchronized to the tempo and time signature of the song.

The metronome can be found at the bottom of each song's track listing in the mixer panel. The metronome works like any other track: it can be independently managed in the mixer via its own volume, solo and mute controls.

When active, the metronome plays a metric pattern of accented beats indicating the song tempo and how beats are grouped both between and within measures. For example, in 4/4 time the metronome plays a tone for every, beat with accents on beat 1 and beat 3 to mark the down beats and to stress the start of each measure. In 6/4 time beats are grouped in triplets, with an accent on beat 1 and a lesser accent on beat 4 to mark the start of each triple. (Beats are grouped differently in other time signatures.)

Metronome Track in the Audio Mixer Panel

By default, the metronome will be active the first time you play a song unless the song already includes another drum track, in which case the metronome track is still available but muted (silenced) on open. On subsequent plays the metronome track configuration is restored to the one you used when you last played the song. In other words, the metronome audio configuration is "sticky", just like every other track. After you've played a song, FATpick remembers how you configured the audio mix and restores that configuration the next time the song is opened.

Both of these behaviors - the "mute or unumute on first open" and the specific sounds used to accent each beat in the time signature - can be controlled via the metronome track configuration found under Gameplay Settings.


Contents


Accent Patterns

You might be familiar with a classic mechanical style of metronome - the kind with an upright pendulum that swings back and forth to make a clicking sound the selected tempo. Set the metronome to 60 beats per minute and you'll hear one click every second. Set it to 120 beats per minute and you'll hear one click every half second.

Wittner Metronome (photo By Paco from Badajoz, España - Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1058005)

FATpick's metronome track is a little more sophisticated than that. Like its mechanical equivalent, the metronome track will play a sound at each beat in the appropriate tempo. But while a simple metronome generates a monotonic series of undifferentiated sounds, the metronome track uses not just the tempo (beats per minute) but also the time signature to add accents that represent the way in which beats are organized into measures and sub-groups, much like you would when counting out loud to keep time.

For example, in 4/4 time each measure is conventionally divided into two sub-groups. We count out "one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four,...", but we usually stress beat 1 and beat 3 slightly to emphasize the down-beat/up-beat pattern.

In other words, it's more like:

one, two, three, four; one, two, three, four, …

Beats are organized in pairs, with two pairs per measure.

In fact this is one of the things that distinguishes 4/4 time from 2/4 time. 2/4 time is counted:

one, two; one, two, …

Every down-beat/up-beat pair is the same, while 4/4 time groups each pair of pairs in measures to imply a slightly different phrasing.

This is sometimes described as a rhythm's "pulse" - the pattern of strong and weak beats that create a rhythmic structure that'a a little more nuanced - and a lot more expressive - than what's implied by a simple, mechanically-rigid, interpretation of beats-per-minute and beat-per-measure alone.

FATpick applies similar logic to create a metronome track that expresses not just the current tempo of the song (in beats per minute) but also the metric pattern of those beats as implied by the time signature. And should either of those values - the tempo or the time signature - change mid-song, the metronome track will change to match.

The metronome track uses three (optionally distinct) sounds to express these patterns - accents that indicate where each beat fits in to the larger metric scheme.

  • A strong tone is played for the first beat of every measure — beat 1 if you're counting out loud.

  • A moderate tone is played for the other down beats — the beats that mark the start of a sub-group within a measure. In 4/4 time this is beat 3.

  • A weak tone is played for all other beats. In 4/4 time you can think of these as the up beats: beats 2 and 4.

Examples

Using the notation S, M and w to indicate strongly, moderately and weakly accented beats (respectively) here are some examples of how the new metronome track counts out various time signatures:

  • 2/4 time — in 2/4 (or 2/2) each measure is composed of one group of two beats — Sw, Sw, …
  • 3/4 time — each measure is composed of one group of triplets, the basic waltz — Sww, Sww, …
  • 4/4 time — each measure contains two groups of two beats — Sw Mw, Sw Mw, …
  • 6/8 time — measures are composed of two triplets — Sww Mww, Sww Mww, …

Metronome Settings

The style, sound and behavior of the metronome track can be configured within the Gameplay Settings menu. To get there: 1) click the gear (cog) icon in the header navigation found in the upper-right(ish) corner of the application window; 2) choose Gameplay Settings from the general settings menu; then 3) scroll down to the section labelled "Metronome".

You can also use the link provided in the metronome track description in the mix panel to jump directly to the metronome track configuration section of Gameplay Settings.

Metronome track configuration options in Gameplay Settings

Default Mute Status on New Song Open

The drop-down menu labeled "Default Status" determines whether or not the metronome track will be audible the first time you open a new song to play. There are three options available:

  • Active (not muted) - when this option is selected the metronome will always be on by default

  • Inactive (muted) - when this option is selected the metronome will always be off by default, but still available if you'd like to enable it.

  • Mute if Other Drum- in this case whether the metronome track is audible the first time you open s song is context-dependent. If the song you are playing already includes a drum or percussion track, the metronome will be muted by default. If there is no other drum track in the song, the metronome will be active by default.

Note that once you've played a song the metronome track's mute/unumte status is determined by the last configuration you used with the song.

Also note that the "Restore Default Track Settings" button on the track mix panel will revert the metronome track's mute status back to the value determined by this setting, as if you had just opened the song for the first time.

Accent Beat Tone Selection

You can use the drop down menus to assign a sound or tone to each type of accented beat. As we launch this feature there are about 50 different percussion sounds to choose from (and an alternative set of 50 that's activated by the chiptune style toggle). We have plans to both refine and expand the metronome sound "kit" over time, but there's a mind-bogglingly large variety - more than 100,000 possible combinations - already available. (To be fair, some of those combinations are much more useful or compelling than others, which is why we plan to "refine" as well as expand the configuration options.)

Note that even if you assign the same sound to more than one of the accent types it is still possible to distinguish the role of each beat. The accents are also expressed in dynamics: beats with a moderate accent are hit a little harder - louder and with a sharper "attack" - and beats with strong accent are hit harder still. The dynamics cues are a little more subtle (especially when heard in the context of the other tracks) but if you were to set all of the beat to used the "closed hi-hat" sound, for example, you can still distinguish the strong and moderate accent beats if you listen closely.

Chiptune Style

The "chiptune style" toggle changes the timbre (sound) of all the accent tones generated by the metronome by switching to an entirely different sound synthesis model.

To generate backing audio tracks - both for the metronome and other percussion tracks and for all other virtual instruments - FATpick typically uses a moderately a complex combination of 1) FM synthesis, phase distortion, envelope shaping and related "softsynth" techniques that (digitally) combine and filter oscillators to generate arbitrary sound waves in a manner similar to an analog or digital synthesizer ("electronic keyboard"); 2) sample-based wavetable and granular synthesis using literal audio recordings of actual, real-world instruments; and 3) digital signal processing that combines the two.

When the chiptune toggle is enabled, the metronome track will ignore these more sophisticated audio processing techniques and fall back to a much simpler form of sound synthesis, which sounds a bit the "buzzy" sound associated with old-school video games (like the Gameboy-era Mario Bros theme for example). Lo-fi, for sure, but chip music has a certain charm for some. More to the point, pulsing a single oscillator is actually a great way to generate the kind of short buzz, beep or chirp we might want to use as a metronome "tick".

If you want the metronome to sound like a real kit or a drum machine, leave the chiptune-style toggle disabled (the default). But if you'd prefer a distinctly "digital" tone that stands out from the other tracks in the mix, the chiptune mode may be exactly what you're looking for.

When the chiptune-style toggle is enabled all of the sounds made by the metronome track will be generated by the simple, single-oscillator synthesis engine. When the toggle is disabled the "standard" audio generation engine will be used.

Presets

The presets dropdown menu contains more than a dozen metronome configurations that you can apply by simply selecting an item from the menu.

Several different metronome styles are represented - from "click tracks" that play a very brief click or beep on each beat - to realistic, if simple, drum loops like the canonical rock-and-roll kick/snare/hat backbeat.

You can use these presets as-is, or treat them as templates that provide a starting point from which to create your own custom set up.

Note that it's possible, maybe even likely, that the list of preset metronome patterns will change from release to release. Your configuration (whether custom or selected from the presets) will be preserved regardless, but we're not ready to promise that preset list will be remain exactly it is now.

Try It Button

Click the "Try It" button to hear a preview of the metronome track using your current configuration.

The metronome will play two measures in 4/4 time, repeating the accent pattern "S, w, M, w", twice.

The pulse pattern - and therefore the metronome track itself - will sound a little different in other time signatures, but the familiar 4/4 beat should give you a pretty good idea of how well your configuration is working.

Also See

FATpick also includes a stand-alone metronome tool that can be used for free-style rhythm practice. Currently its capabilities are a little different than those of the metronome track but we expect the features to converge over time.


PHOTO CREDIT: Wittner metronome by Paco from Badajoz, España - Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

FATpick
Also see more posts or tagged .
Or, go to the latest posts from the Liner Notes blog.