Beat Detective - Getting Started - Pro Tools


Note: Save your session and make a duplicate of any track/s you edit BEFORE you begin working. If something goes wrong or you don't like the results of using Beat Detective you still have the original tracks. Consider adding a means of identifying what operation was performed on the track. For example, append the letters BD to any tracks processed with Beat Detective. The bass/kick drum track I'm using below for my example would be labeled "kick In.BD". This makes it obvious the track is NOT the original.

The following example is performed on a bass/kick drum track. I'm using "Beat Detective" to cut/separate each bass drum hit from within a bass/kick drum track.

  • Open the Pro Tools session you want to use Beat Detective on.
  • Select the entire track or the section of a track/region you want to use Beat Detective on.
    • To select an entire track left click on the bottom half of the track.
    • To select a section of a track:
      • Left click in the upper half of the track where you want your selection to begin.
      • Hold down your left mouse button and drag your cursor in the direction you want to make your selection.
      • Let go of your left mouse button when you've finished making your selection.

A track in a Pro Tools session after it has been selected.

  • Press and hold down the Ctrl key then press the number 8 on the keyboards numeric key pad to bring up the Beat Detective window.

The Pro Tools Beat Detective Window

  • Left click in the radio button to enable/choose "Region Separation".
  • Left click on the "Capture Selection" button.
  • Left click on "High Emphasis" and change it to "Low Emphasis".
  • Left click on the "Analyze" button.
  • Adjust the "Sensitivity" slider by sliding to the right until you see a purple line (called a trigger) at the beginning of each drum hit/transient in the track.

Pro Tools Track Analyzed by Beat Detective

I only want Beat Detective to isolate the kick drum hits. I'll adjust the "Sensitivity" slider until the beat trigger line is only at the beginning of each kick drum hit.

Tip: Carefully review the entire section/track you are working on to make sure each drum hit has a beat trigger line in front of it before continuing to the next step. Some of the lighter/quieter drum hits can be missed by Beat Detective. If a drum hit has been missed (no beat trigger/purple line) then move the "Sensitivity" slider slightly to the right to increase the sensitivity setting until a beat trigger appears in front of the missed drum hit.

  • Left click on the "Separate" button. See image below.

The Pro Tools Beat Detective Window

Beat Detective will separate each kick drum hit from within the track or selected region.

Pro Tools Track Processed with Beat Detective

If you found you missed a kick drum hit after you clicked on the Separate button you can press and hold down the Ctrl key then the z key to undo the changes and revert the track to its original state. Adjust the sensitivity then click on the Separate button

The Beat Detective window must be open to follow the next 3 tips. You will also want to enable "Commands Keyboard Focus".

  • Enable "Commands keyboard Focus" by clicking on the a/z button in the upper right corner of the Pro Tools Edit window.

Track Showing Multiple Regions in Pro Tools

Working With Beat Triggers

To move a beat trigger:

  1. Move your mouse cursor over the bottom half of beat trigger you want to move.
  2. Left click on the beat trigger and hold down your left mouse button while your drag the beat trigger where you want it.

To insert a beat trigger:

  1. Left click in the lower half of the track at the location you want to add a beat trigger.

To delete a beat trigger:

  1. Press and hold down the Alt key on your keyboard.
  2. Left click on the lower half of the beat trigger you want to delete.

To "promote" a beat trigger:

  1. Press and hold down the Ctrl key on your keyboard.
  2. Left click on the beat trigger to promote it.

Promoting a beat trigger forces it to remain at a transient even if the sensitivity level setting is decreased. Click on the Analyze button to return promoted beat triggers to their original state.


Use the "Low Emphasis" setting when using Beat Detective on instruments that produce low frequencies for example a kick/Bass drum of a drum set, bass guitar. It is also recommended for piano and rhythm guitar. Use the "High Emphasis" setting on high frequency producing components like the cymbals and hi-hats of drum kits. Experiment using different Emphasis settings to see which works best.

Use the Scroll Next and Scroll Prev buttons as needed to move to and review each drum hit Beat Detective has separated within the track. Examine each drum hit to see if the transient of any drum hit has been cut off/truncated (see the image below). The transient of a drum hit is what gives a drum hit or percussive sound it's definition in a mix. The transient is the very beginning of the sound for example when the drum stick or kick drum beater strikes the drum head.

The example below shows the beginning of the waveform of a kick drum beater striking the head of a kick drum. Notice the very leading edge of the waveform has been cut off/truncated (circled in red). Does this effect the sound? Answer: It can if too much of the transient of the waveform has been cut/removed. Remember, the transient is what gives a drum or other percussive sound some of its impact and presence in a mix. You may or may not want to remove the transient depending on the sound you're trying to achieve.

Truncated kick drum transient in Pro Tools

Adjust the "Trigger Pad" setting located in the Detection section of the Beat Detective Window. A setting of between 10 and 20ms (milliseconds) should be sufficient to decrease the possibility of truncating/cutting short the attack/beginning of the transient in most instances.

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