Keyboard Focus Mode
At the top right of the Edit window there’s a small box with an A and Z in it. Engaging this icon will turn it orange and engage Keyboard Focus mode, also known as Alphabet or A/Z mode. More shortcuts can now be accessed from your keyboard – some of our favourites include using the comma [,] and period [.] characters to nudge regions back and forward as well as using [R] and [T] to zoom in and out.
You can get the best from a variety of DAWs by combining their skills using ReWire. Route audio tracks from Reason or Ableton Live into your Pro Tools session by opening an instance of the DAW as a plug-in Instrument. You can route multiple channels out of a single instance of these DAWs, enabling you to mix a Reason or Live session as if it was multitrack-recorded into Pro Tools. Create a mono or stereo aux channel with an instance of the ReWire plug-in on each for each mono or stereo pair you want to record.
Instead of zooming in and out with the Zoom tool, you can use key commands. Zoom-in is [Ctrl]+[ (PC) or [Cmd]+[ (Mac), while zoom-out is [Ctrl]+] (PC) or [Cmd]+] (Mac). However, most seasoned Pro Tools users prefer to use the Alphabet mode shortcuts [R] and [T] to zoom in. Other useful zoom key commands include [Alt]+[A] – which automatically zooms to show all tracks – and [Alt]+[F], which fills the window with the selection.
When composing electronic music, getting a good groove can make or break the rhythm. Instead of relying on one of the built-in Pro Tools grooves for quantizing your audio or MIDI, why not steal the groove from a track you love? Run the track through Beat Detective and find the transients to create a groove map that you can use on your own tracks, giving your programmed beats a human feel.
If you have a controller, getting to know the different automation modes is incredibly important. But even if you only ever automate by picking up a fader or knob with the mouse, it helps to know which mode you are in. Write mode writes the current settings at the current track position as soon as you hit Play and can be useful for creating quick changes to multiple automation channels. Read follows automation but does not write any changes. Touch reads automation until a fader or knob is manipulated when it begins to write, reverting to the previous position when you release the control. Latch works the same as Touch but retains the control’s final position when it’s released.
Real-Time MIDI Properties
As well as being able to highlight sections of MIDI in order to process the data, Pro Tools has a Real-Time MIDI Properties option, which can be accessed from the Event menu or with the key-command [Alt]+ (on the numeric keypad). From the Setup window you can choose whether to display any changes to the MIDI in the MIDI pane or to display only the original MIDI data.
As well as an in-line MIDI editor, Pro Tools has a dedicated MIDI Editor pane, which can be accessed by double-clicking on a MIDI region or by pressing [Start]+[=] (PC) or [Ctrl]+[=] (Mac). This is the most common method for editing MIDI, but you can also edit MIDI using the MIDI Score Editor ([Start]+[Alt]+[=] (PC) or [Ctrl]+[Alt]+[=] (Mac)) or the MIDI Events list [Alt]+[=].
Just as it’s important to keep track of any peaking on channels to prevent digital clipping, so it is important to keep track when bussing multiple tracks together (such as on drum busses or the master outputs) that the sum of the channels doesn’t clip. Use Master channels assigned to aux busses to ensure that the buss doesn’t overload. Attenuate the master buss (or the inputs) rather than the aux fader should it do so.
Create A Quick Click Track
Click tracks can be created very simply by going to the Track menu and selecting Create Click Track. This creates an aux track with an instance of Click in the first Insert slot. In the MIDI pane of the Preferences window you can choose to add a click track like this to all new sessions, saving further time when tracking to a click.
Using Mix And Edit Groups
Grouping channels for mixing and editing can be a handy way of performing multiple similar actions on several tracks at once. Select the channels that you want in the group and press [Ctrl]+[G] (PC) or [Cmd]+[G] (Mac). From the Create Group window you can choose to name the group and which properties it has, such as whether it should be active in the Mix or Edit window or both.
Tab To Transient
One of Pro Tools’ simplest yet most effective tools is the Tab to Transient function. This enables you to move the cursor from one transient to the next simply by pressing the [Tab] key. You can toggle the Tab to Transient function on and off by pressing [Ctrl]+[Alt]+[Tab] (PC) or [Cmd]+[Alt]+[Tab] (Mac).
Learn Key Commands
Watch a professional Pro Tools engineer at work and you’ll barely see the mouse used. Key commands can massively speed up your workflow within Pro Tools. Keyboard overlays and stickers are available to make learning key commands easier, plus a list of key commands is available from the Help menu.
While not as commonly used as the Slip and Grid modes, Spot mode has some very powerful tools, which can make editing audio far simpler. When spotting regions the Spot Dialog window provides options for positioning the audio using a defined Start, Sync or End point as well as using the original Time Stamp to align the region back into its original position. The positions can be entered in whatever measurements you prefer: Bars/Beats, Mins/Secs, Timecode, Feet/Frames or Samples.
Use Sync Points
When moving a region in Grid mode, the start of the region will lock to the Grid. However, the point at which you want to lock is often likely to be a transient in the middle of the region. To do this, create a Sync point at the transient by tabbing to the transient and pressing [Ctrl]+ [,]. Sync points can also be used when spotting regions using Spot mode.
Different TCE Engines
The Trimmer tool can be used to make quick time compression/expansions to regions instead of extending or shrinking the region start/end points. In this mode, the tool will timestretch audio using one of your time compression/expansion algorithms. By default you get Digidesign’s own TCE algorithm, but several plug-ins install their own. Select one from the Processing pane of the Preferences window.
Smooth And Thin Automation
When writing automation, Pro Tools can capture an incredible amount of detail, much of which isn’t always entirely necessary. In the Mixing pane of the Preferences window you can choose to Smooth and Thin automation data after a record pass. This can be set to the rather ambiguous settings None, Little, Some, More or Most. We find that using this on Some leaves plenty of information, without creating too many data points.
Timeline Insertion Follows Playback
Sometimes, when stopping playback, you want the timeline to remain at the point at which you stopped the playback as if paused; at other times, it would be more useful to return to its original point. These two modes of operation can be set in the Operation Pane of the Preferences window. However, there is also a button under the Tools icons for switching/displaying the mode you are currently in. To change it, use the key command [Start]+[N] (PC) or [Ctrl]+[N] (Mac).
Save EQ And Compression Favourites
If you find yourself regularly using the same EQ and compressor on channels, you can define a favourite for each in the Mixing pane of the Preferences window. The two favourites will appear at the top of the plug-ins pop-up menu when choosing an insert, enabling you to quickly add your favourite processor to each channel without having to find it in the list each time.
In large mixes you can frequently end up with too many tracks on the screen at any one time. To aid you in mixing, use Mix/Edit groups for sections of the mix, then right-click on the group to ‘Show only tracks in group’. You can hide and show individual tracks quickly from the track list on the left of the Edit window or by right-clicking on the individual track in the mix window and selecting Hide.
Beef Up Your Kick
If your kick track is lacking sub, create a new mono aux/instrument track with an instance of the Signal Generator plug-in followed by a gate. Use Signal Generator to generate a 60Hz sine wave and route a send from your existing kick to the gate’s sidechain input. Configure the gate so it is fully closed when the kick isn’t triggered – using the Attack and Release to shape the sine wave – then mix the 60Hz sine wave under the kick drum to give your kick some real depth and more beef.
Name I/O Channels
Naming your I/O channels and busses in the I/O setup window and saving the outcome as a preset may seem like a pointless exercise, but it can really help to speed up the process of fault-finding when you can see at a glance where everything is going. We have presets saved for a variety of common system setups, with busses and inserts all named so we can quickly bring up the correct patch without having to first trace where the cables are going.
Using Region Groups
Multiple regions can be glued together to behave as if they’re one. This can be useful for editing multiple mic channels at once, for example, or for creating a single region out of a number of edits. To create a region group, highlight the regions you want grouped and hold down [Ctrl]+[Alt]+[G] (PC) or [Cmd]+[Alt]+[G] (Mac). Regions separated by tracks will still behave as a single region, but will display a broken group icon within the region.
Define Your Pan Law (Pro Tools 9 Only)
Pro Tools 9 brought a new feature for determining the behaviour when panning a channel. In Pro Tools 8 a hard-panned channel would be at unity, while a centre-panned channel would be at -3dB to counter the fact that as a centre-panned signal it is in both left and right channels simultaneously. By using the Pan Depth command in the Session Setup window ([Ctrl]+ (PC) or [Cmd]+ (Mac) on the numeric keyboard) you can change this from a -3dB attenuation to -2.5dB, -4.5dB or -6dB, thus changing the stereo width of your tracks.
VCA Channels Pro Tools 9|HD/(Pro Tools 9 with CPTK Only)
VCA channels are a Pro Tools|HD feature that is now available to Pro Tools 9 users with the Complete Production Toolkit. If you have several channels all automated independently that you wish to control you could buss them to their own aux, but any automation on the aux would be post-effects. VCA groups enable you to control a whole number of channels from a new fader, which works alongside any automation on the channel to control the channel faders themselves. Used on a big mix with lots of automation, VCA channels can save a lot of effort.
Routing Channels (Pro Tools 9 Only)
Routing send effects or buss channels in the latest version of Pro Tools has been made much simpler with the option of choosing a track directly or routing to a new track directly when creating a send buss or output. Routing to a new track brings up a Create Track window with the option of naming the channel, which also names the buss at the same time, so you will be able to see at a glance exactly where everything is routed.
Tags: 25 Tips, Home, Music Production, Music Recording, Pro Tools 9, Pro Tools Tutorials, Software Workshops, Tutorials