Change Tempo in REAPER without Stretching (Timebase)

If you have ever tried to change or find the tempo of a song or a project in REAPER, then you know that the process can be a bit frustrating. If you have a project with good tempo but it has time-stretched items, then that is not useful at all! The answer to this conundrum lies in the Timebase properties of any given project, track, or item. Once you know where to look, it’s pretty easy to solve.

Recommended Read: Creating Tempo Maps in REAPER

But What is Timebase?

The Timebase affects how audio items respond to tempo changes, MIDI item contents do not apply. REAPER has 4 timebase settings, these can be applied to a whole project, a track, or a specific item.

The items will obey the timebase of their track if their timebase is set to Track default, and tracks will obey project timebase if set to Project default, changing the Timebase setting to anything else will override Project or Track timebase given the case.

To demonstrate this, I will show the Master track on the Track Panel, and adjust the Tempo envelope with the mouse.

Time

Items based on Time are bound to their position in the timeline, regardless of the tempo of the project they’re in. This means that no matter how you change the tempo of your project, if the item starts at 30 seconds and ends at 1:30, it will always stay that way, no position or rate changes.

REAPER Time

Beats (position, length, rate)

Items based on Beats (position, length, rate) are bound to their start and end position relative to the project’s musical measures. This means that if an item is set to start at bar 3 and end at bar 5, and you change the tempo, the item will stretch to fit its start and end “musical position”, changing the item’s playrate.

Beats position, length, rate REAPER

Beats (position only)

Items based on Beats (position only) are bound to their starting position relative to the project’s musical measures. This means that if your item starts at bar 3 and you change the tempo, it will always start on bar 3, but not necessarily end at its original end position.

Beats position only REAPER

Beats (auto-stretch at tempo changes)

Items based on Beats (auto-stretch at tempo changes) behave very similarly to items based on Beats (position, length, rate), the key difference is that if there’s a tempo change along the duration of the item, it will create stretch markers that accommodate these changes. This setting can only be applied in item properties.

Beats auto stretch tempo changes REAPER

Project Timebase

So if you want all of the items in your project to behave a certain way, project settings is the fastest way to do it.

To open project settings go to the top left to your main toolbar and click on the i button, or press Alt+Enter.

project settings REAPER

Another, more reliable way of opening project settings if you have changed the REAPER defaults, is to go to file and select Project settings.

project settings REAPER

Once you get to the Project settings, go to the Timebase for items/envelopes/markers option, and select either Time or Beats (position only).

 Timebase for items/envelopes/markers REAPER

Track Timebase

If there’s only a few tracks that you want to behave differently than the others, you can change that by using the Track Panel context menu.

Select the tracks which you want to change the Timebase to. Then right click on the Track panel, and go to the option Track timebase.

Track timebase REAPER

Here, select either Time or Beats (position only).

Item Timebase

Now let’s say that it’s only a few items that you want to ignore tempo changes.

So, select the items which you want to change the Timebase to.

Item Timebase REAPER

Right click one of them and select the option Item properties…, or press the F2 Key.

Track/project default timebase REAPER

This will open the Media item properties dialog. Just below the Position and Length options you’ll find the Item timebase option.

Media item properties REAPER

Here you can select either Time or Beats (postition only) and click Apply at the bottom.

Conclusion

Different timebases work better with different workflows. If you’re a music producer and primarily use loops and samples on your work, you probably want to use Beats (position, length, rate). If you work primarily with recorded audio, you probably want to work most of your time using Beats (position only) or Beats (auto-stretch at tempo changes). If you work on podcasts or sound for media, you may like Time timebase better. I encourage you to check them all out and see how they fit with your work! I hope this article was useful, and have fun!