Info about BPM and PPQ for Cakewalk SONAR users


  The abbreviation PPQ represents Pulses Per Quarter note and BPM represents Beats Per Minute. There are times when it is helpful to know the number of "pulses" per minute or the length of a pulse in a time increment such as milliseconds.

  There are many explanations of this available on the net and you can find calculators that will help you make a conversion. This is an attempt to make some personal notes. I have found that many explanations or calculators omit some small detail that impairs a clear understanding of how the conversion is made.

 The abbreviation PPQ always references a quarter note regardless of time signature.

  The abbreviation BPM references the time signature. In most discussions about music a beat is related to the denominator of a time signature. e.g. 1 beat on 4/4 time line is a 1/4 note while 1 beat on a 6/8 time line is a dotted 1/8th note. However, In Cakewalk's SONAR program a beat is always referenced to a 1/4 note regardless of the actual time signature in your project. This means people working in SONAR with some time signatures may have to correlate their increments to an equivalent pattern expressed in 1/4 notes.

  In SONAR the abbreviation BPM is more properly thought of as QPM or quarter notes/minute

  If you are working with 4/4 or 3/4 time signatures the following description will be straight forward. If you are working with something like a 6/8 time signature you'll need to correlate your units to quarter notes.

  For the remainder of the discussion the term "pulse" will be replaced with the more contemporary term "tick". The terms are interchangeable but "tick" has become more common in help files and instruction manuals.

  To summarize, when working in SONAR a comparison between PPQ (ticks/quarter note) and BPM (quarter notes/minute) is easy when the units are described with similar terms. If you are working with time signatures that do not reference a quarter note the calculations are a bit more complex.

Calculating ticks per minute:

 BPM x PPQ = ticks/minute 

 (quarter notes/minute) x (ticks/quarter note) = ticks/minute

Converting ticks to milliseconds:

  There are occasions when it is useful to convert ticks to milliseconds. The following equations make it simple:

  (quarter notes/minute) x (ticks/quarter note) = ticks/minute

  (60 seconds/minute) x (1000 milliseconds/second) = 60,000 milliseconds/minute

  (ticks/minute) x (minute/60,000 milliseconds) = ticks/millisecond

  Here's an example:

  (125 quarter notes/minute) x (960 ticks/quarter note) = 120,000 ticks/minute

  (120,000 ticks/minute) x (minute/60,000 milliseconds) = 2 ticks/millisecond


This page was prepared with the generous editing assitinace of members of the Cakewalk user forums. I want to extend a special thanks to:

drewfx1, quantumeffect, brundlefly, 57Gregy, Janet, Beagle, crg, Moshkiae & rsp.