Play Quantize - A love hate relationship or a romance waiting to happen?

Dedicated to the one or two others out there like me that can’t always hit the beat, as well as maybe some of those that can. Thanks @jamieh :slight_smile:

Play Quantize…kinda like that 5th grade teacher that would constantly remind you…it is farther… as in car …not further. She seemed like a pain at the time, but upped your skills in the long run.

For the 1st year or so with Scaler, the delay that Play Quantize introduced was maddening and I never kept it on. That is until one day a few months ago that I asked myself a question. Why would a bunch of smart engineers and people that have forgotten more about music than I’ll ever know, take the time and effort to put a feature in, not just in 1 place, but 3 or 4? And not just a simple feature either…this thing is bad a$$. There had to be more to it so I dug in and figured a few things out.

My keyboards skills are pretty simple and my timing is $%&*! so now I use it all the time to both practice and “play”. I play a lot with Scaler in a stand alone configuration (Tone2 in my case) and much of my time is spent figuring out ways to stitch together parts and pieces of the various built in performances, instruments sounds, external synth sequences, etc. The chords are interesting, but not (at the moment) as interesting as the performances.

Play Quantize helps me bring those pieces together in time. Sure I could do it with it turned off and quantize in post , or fire up my DAW and play with a metronome all the time, but that would defeat my goal of improving my timing and general keyboard skills.

All that being said, I’ve spent some time exploring the various settings and how I can use them, and while I’m still not 100% sure how every thing works together, it is a very helpful feature. FWIW, here are some simple things I’ve learned about Play Quantize that might help others like me who might be timing impaired or who are new to some of this stuff. :slight_smile:

[My standard caveat…this is from a novice perspective so take it accordingly.]

  • You can think of Play Quantize as causing Scaler to only sound notes when your key press is in time with the beat Scaler is synching to at that moment (more or less) I think of it as a silent metronome acting like a sonic trigger.

  • If you hit a key early or late and hold the key down (or if you have Latch turned on and release the key) Scaler will trigger your sound on the next beat. Depending on the settings you have turned on in Scaler, this can either be quite obvious or frustratingly mysterious.

  • Probably the most important thing for me - Since there is no indication of the current tempo Scaler is following (hence my tempo blink feature request), you need to get used to holding a key and waiting for a note to sound and using that as your start. (Obviously if you are in a DAW you have a metronome feature but we are trying to develop our timing here)

  • With limited keyboard skills I started slow and simple - 1st with Arpeggios with 1 note and then to more complex and faster performances. It has been great to experience the progression from only a few beats in time to staying darn close for an extended period on some pretty fast stuff with transitions being seamless.

  • The Settings: Cord Duration, Quantize on Chord / Beat in Playback Settings play a part but you can generally get started in default mode with few issues. However, you need to remember that by default Scaler is synching to the beat so if you try to tap a key at 120 BPM and you are set to 60 BPM, you will only hear every other beat. Or fewer if you are not perfectly on beat.

  • If I want to play between beats, I set Chord Duration to 1/2 BEAT with Play Quantize To set to Chord Duration to get the most control but I’m constantly tweaking things not always knowing what difference it is making. [For example, I cannot tell if the global setting of Humanize/Quantize has any impact on the process of keypress/trigger timing.]

  • Some perform settings seem more conducive to this than others but I suspect it might be because I’ve not figured out the timing so I make/hear lots more mistakes. The Bass and Melody performances took a while to get the hang of.

  • Some internal instruments seem better than others but again this is probably due to their attack and release and how it impacts my timing. My goto instrument at the moment is Substantial…fairly fast attack with a nice long release that helps me feel the tempo (and sounds pretty cool)

  • I often initially play with no Chords bound to simplify things until I get a sense of the performance. f I play a chord by hand, this can sometime impact things by triggering a key release event that I can hear Turning the Humanize/Quantize feature on can minimize this and some perform types are more noticeable than others.

As you might deduce, I’ve really come to like this feature especially not only for skill development, but for the world of variations it exposes as you learn to surgically extract pieces from performances. It can be frustrating both due to lack of skill and lack of understanding, but if you are one that sometimes does not always hit the beat but want to, you might make friends with Play Quantize

You’ll find Play Quantized toggles for the different performance modes in Settings under Legato, Arpeggio, and Expressions.


Nice one and great explanation. I love play quantise in NI Maschine and in Scaler. It’s particularly useful when you are performing expressions (performances and phrases) as being slightly out of time can be audibly ugly. With latch on it’s just a real easy way to hear things rather than focus on playing. Yes indeed it could do with further ancillary guidance like a flashing indicator. That will come.


With out a timing indicator it’s useless to me when the DAW isn’t running. How would you even use it that way? When you push the first chord there is always a gap I guess because Scaler is always counting. That makes no sense to me because the first press should be what starts the count. In any event I never seem to have a problem hitting sync without it on.

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Yeah…that’s what I’m working towards but I’m a long way from there. I have been surprised how helpful it is but that’s likely because I’m so bad without it. :slight_smile:

When you drag and drop any midi to ezkey, and then drag it out, you will find that ezkey achieves a natural quantification for you.

I must not have made my point clearly.

It is easy to quantize your keystrokes after the fact or even during recording…however, if you are not on time while playing the expressions in parts and pieces, you’ll never rebuild them afterwards. You will have missing notes and transitions that as @davide says are audibly ugly.

My other point was the value of getting it right the 1st time. :slight_smile:

You don’t! Hence the title ‘PLAY Quantise’ It is intended to lock to the metronome on point, so think of it as a play along when everything needs to sound bang on and using expressions can multiply that element of offness. It’s particularly useful in a live situation. it is of no use when your DAW (or potentially standalone scaler) is not running. NI Maschine users (like myself) have been living off it for years.

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Now that makes sense. TMacD was asking for it to be on by default so that confused me as to its purpose. When I have a click going I can see it’s usefulness.

As I said, as a practice tool and to riff a bit, I use it almost every day without a metronome and love it. If I’m on it sounds spot on and if I’m not, I know it with immediate feedback. Since I have it on more than off, I would love it to have a default option but it sounds like I might be in the minority re this use case.