Software controls pace of pre-programmed music

Drummers could soon have the freedom to speed up or slow down the pace of pre-programmed music using software developed at Queen Mary, University of London.

Instead of using click tracks — metronome-like clicks fed through earphones — drummers will be able to lead the music they are playing along to by varying their speed by plus or minus five per cent.

Written in the graphical modular language Max/MSP, the B-Keeper software will mean that musicians can add more ‘feel’ and spontaneity to their performances while still incorporating pre-recorded tracks that are increasingly used during live shows and studio sessions.

Dr Andrew Robertson, who developed the software, said: ‘With most electronic outfits using pre-recorded material, lighting sequences and video, the simplest thing to do is play in time with the technology. But doing this means you lose subtle changes in speed, which can change the whole feel of the music.’

His solution is specially designed software linked to the instrument with microphones placed on the kick and snare drums. Using a sequencer that incorporates a tracking algorithm, the tempo of the pre-programmed music can be changed without affecting its pitch.

There is a delay of a few beats, but according to Robertson, the software will be quicker than an audience to notice the lapse. ‘Where it becomes difficult is where the drummer really speeds up…it is more suited to rock and dance music at the moment where there is a constant beat.’

Robertson has trialled the software with his own ‘space rock’ band Higamos Hogamos, and claims it has made a noticeable difference. It is now available for download at and could be made commercially available within the next year.