Pro Tools All-in-One For Dummies book cover

Pro Tools All-in-One For Dummies

By: Jeff Strong Published: 10-16-2018

A complete Pro Tools reference - from recording to mixing to mastering

Pro Tools has long been the recording industry's leading solution for capturing, mixing, and outputting audio. While it was once a tool known and used exclusively by engineers in pro studios, it is now readily available to anyone wishing to create their own recording. 

This updated edition of Pro Tools All-in-One For Dummies covers the features you’ll encounter in both Pro Tools | First as well as the versions designed for next-level recording. It guides you through the very basics of recording, capturing both live and digital instruments, how to sweeten your sound in mixing, and how to tweak and output your final master. Now get ready to make some beautiful sounds!

  • Get up to speed with recording basics
  • Pick the Pro Tools version that works for you
  • Record acoustic audio
  • Get to know MIDI
  • Discover how to set compression and EQ
  • Sweeten your final product with mastering
  • Create a final file you can stream online

Assuming no past experience with audio recording, this book shares the basics of recording and how to capture both live and digital instruments using Pro Tools.

Articles From Pro Tools All-in-One For Dummies

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Pro Tools All-In-One For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 02-25-2022

Pro Tools is an audio and musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) recording program. Aside from recording audio and MIDI tracks, you can use Pro Tools to tweak your recordings to a high level of detail, clarity, and accuracy. It features some of the most powerful editing functions available. Pro Tools also offers excellent mixing capabilities that help you mix your tracks together, EQ (equalize) them, and apply effects. Get the most out of Pro Tools by knowing how to use its keyboard shortcuts to control your music from start to finish.

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Optimizing Your Studio to Record with Pro Tools

Article / Updated 01-02-2019

Chances are that your studio occupies a corner in your living room, a spare bedroom, or a section of your basement or garage. All these spaces are less-than-ideal recording environments. Even if you intend to record mostly by plugging your instrument or sound module directly into the mixer, how your room sounds will have a big effect on how good your music will turn out to be. Face it: As a home recordist, you’re unlikely to have easy access to the resources that create a top-notch sound room. Commercial studios spend serious cash — up to seven figures — to make their rooms sound, well, professional. However, you don’t need to spend near that amount of money (you mean you don’t want to sell off the private jet …?) to get great sounding recordings. All it takes is a little understanding of how sound travels, some ingenuity, and a little bit of work. Sound isolation One of the concerns that you (and your neighbors) are probably going to have when you start recording in your home is the amount of sound that gets in and out of your room. Sound waves are nasty little buggers. They get through almost any surface, and there’s not a lot you can do to stop it from happening. You’ve probably noticed this phenomenon when somebody with a massive subwoofer in his car drives by blasting some obnoxious music. (Ever notice how someone else’s music is obnoxious, whereas your music never is, no matter how loud you play it? Amazing …) Your windows rattle, your walls shake, and your favorite mug flies off the shelf and breaks into a thousand pieces. Well, this is one of the problems with sound: It’s physical energy. The best (and classic) way to isolate your studio room from everything around it is to build a room within a room. You can easily find resources to get you started by doing a Google search with the keywords “sound isolation.” Here are a couple of places to get you started: Sound Isolation Company: Aside from selling products to help you keep the sound in (or out) of your studio, you’ll find useful information here about the process of sound isolation. Netwell: Again, this company sells products to help control sound, but you’ll also find good basic information here to get you started. For the purposes of most home recordists who don’t have the money or space to build a room within a room, the best thing you can do is to try to understand what noises are getting in and getting out — and deal with those. For example, if you live in a house or apartment with neighbors close by, don’t record live drums at night. You can also consider using a drum machine or electronic drum set (plugged directly into the recorder) instead. Another idea is to try to choose a room in your house or apartment that is farthest away from outside noise (an interior room, for instance). Basements also work well because they’re underground and most of the sound gets absorbed by the ground. Installing a little fiberglass batting insulation in the ceiling — typical house insulation that you can find at your local home center — can isolate you pretty well from your neighbors’ ears. Detached garages are generally farther away from other buildings, so sound has a chance to dissipate before it reaches your neighbors (or before your neighbors’ noise reaches your garage). Also keep these things in mind when trying to isolate your studio: Dead air and mass are your friends. The whole concept of a room within a room is to create mass and still air space so that the invading or escaping sound gets trapped. When you work on isolating your room, try to design in some space that can trap air (creating dead air) — such as a suspended ceiling or big upholstered furniture — or use double layers of drywall on your walls (mass). Don’t expect acoustical foam or carpet to reduce the noise. Using these can help reduce the amount of sound that bounces around inside the room but won’t do much to keep sound in (or out of) the room. Isolate the instrument instead of the room. Isolating the sound of your guitar amp can be much less expensive than trying to soundproof your whole room. Most commercial studios have one or more isolation booths for recording vocals and other acoustic instruments. You can use that concept to create your own mini isolation booths. One idea for a truly mini isolation booth is to make an insulated box for your guitar (or bass) amp. If you just have to crank your amp to get the sound you want, you can place it inside an insulated box to reduce the amount of noise that escapes to the outside world. You can also create an isolated space in a closet by insulating it and closing the door when you record, or you can put your guitar amp (or drums) in another room and run a long cord from there to your recorder. If you do this, remember that for long cord runs, you need to use balanced cords. Otherwise you may get a bunch of noise, and your signal may be too low-level to record very well. Sound control After you create a room that’s as isolated from the outside world as possible, you need to deal with how sound acts within your room. Sound travels through the air in the form of waves. These waves bounce around the room and cause reflections (reverberations or echoes). One problem with most home studios is that they’re small. Compounding this, sound travels very fast — roughly 1,130 feet per second, depending on altitude, humidity and temperature). When you sit at your monitors and listen, inevitably you hear the reflected sound as well as the original sound that comes from your speakers. In a big room, you can hear the original sound and reflections as separate sounds, meaning that the reflections themselves become less of a problem. For a good home studio, you have to tame these reflections so they don’t interfere with your ability to hear clearly what’s coming from the speakers. How all these reflections bounce around your room can get pretty complicated. Read up on acoustics (how sound behaves) to discover more about different room modes: axial (one dimension), tangential (two dimensions), and oblique (three dimensions). Each relates to how sound waves interact while they bounce around a room. Knowing your room’s modes can help you come up with an acoustical treatment strategy, but there are very complicated formulas for figuring out your room’s modes, especially those dastardly tangential and oblique modes. You can find out more on room modes, as well as discover some room mode calculators, on the Internet by using your favorite search engine and searching for “room modes.” Go to the website matches, and you’ll see quite a few places to start looking. Try researching these modes; this topic alone can fill an entire book. The single best source for sound control and acoustics information is Ethan Winer’s forum at Musicplayer.com. The two aspects of recording where sound control plays a major role — tracking and mixing — each require different approaches for you to get the best possible sound out of your recordings. Sound control during tracking Tracking is what you’re doing when you’re actually recording. Two things that can make a room a bad environment for tracking are: Not enough sound reflection Too much sound reflection The goal when tracking is to have a room that’s not so dead (in terms of sound reflection) that it sucks the life out of your instrument — yet not so alive that it colors the sound too much. The determining factor in how much reflection you want in your room is based upon the instrument that you record and how it sounds in the room. If your room is too dead (not enough sound reflection), you want to add some reflective surfaces to liven up things (the room, that is). On the other hand, if your room is too live (too much sound reflection), you need to add some absorptive materials to tame those reflections. You can go out and buy a bunch of foam panels to catch the reflections, or maybe put in a wood floor or attach some paneling to the walls to add some life, but you’d be stuck with the room sounding only one way. It may end up sounding good for recording drums or acoustic guitar, but then it would probably be too live for getting a great vocal sound (which requires a deader space). One solution that worked well is to get (or make) some portable panels that can either absorb or reflect the sound. The image below shows an absorber/reflector that works quite well. One side has an absorptive material (dense fiberglass insulation), and the other side has a reflective surface (wood). They are put together in an attractive frame and designed to stack easily when you want them out of the way. Even with very little woodworking experience, you can crank out a set of them in a weekend for very little money (about $50 per panel). If you make them (or hire someone to make them for you), you’ll find dozens of uses for them around your studio. Sound control during mixing Your first step in getting control of the sound of your (probably less-than-perfect) room during mixing is to get a good pair of near-field monitors. Near-field monitors are designed to be listened to up close (hence the “near” in their name) and will lessen the effects that the rest of the room has on your ability to hear them accurately and get a good mix. The next step to mixing in an imperfect room is to mix at low volumes. That takes the fun out of it, right? Well, as fun as it may be to mix at high volumes, it rarely translates into a great mix. Great mixing engineers often listen to their mixers at very low levels. Yes, they occasionallTuse high levels, but only after the mixing is pretty much done — and then only for very short periods of time. After all, if you damage your ears, you blow your career as a sound engineer. (Hey, that rhymes! Or is there an echo in here?) Try to resist the temptation to crank it up. Your ears last longer, and your mixes sound better. Even with these two things (near-field monitors and low mixing levels), you still need to do something to your room to make it work better for you. The secret to a good mixing room is to tame the reflections of the sound coming out of your speakers. Dealing with high and midrange frequencies is pretty easy — just put up some foam panels or the absorptive side of the panels. (See? I told you that you’d have a use for those panels.) Start by hanging two (or putting them on a stand or table) so they’re level with your speakers on the wall behind you. Also, put one on each sidewall right where the speakers are pointed. This positioning gets rid of the higher frequencies and eliminates much of the echo. You may also need to put something on your ceiling right above your head, especially if you have a low (8 feet or less) or textured ceiling. (You know, one with that popcorny stuff sprayed on.) You may not want to mount one of the absorption panels over your head because they’re fairly heavy. Wrapping up a couple of 2-x-4-foot panels made of dense fiberglass (the same ones used in the absorber/reflectors) in fabric would work just about perfectly. You can also place a set of these overhead panels in the corners of your room behind the speakers. Just hang them at the same height of your speakers so that they cut off the corner of the room. If there isn’t enough room to fit the panels at an angle in the corner, you can eliminate the backing from the fiberglass and bend the fabric-covered panel to fit right in the corner. Either approach will absorb sound that may otherwise bounce around behind the speakers. Another thing that you need to consider when you’re mixing is standing waves, which are created when bass tones begin reflecting around your room and bounce into each other. Standing waves have a weird effect on mix quality. They can either overemphasize the bass from your speakers (resulting in mixes that are short on bass) or cancel out some — or all — of the bass coming out of your speakers (resulting in mixes with too much bass). One of the problems with standing waves is that they can really mess up your mixes, and you may not even be aware that they are there. To find out whether you have a problem with standing waves in your studio, sit in front of your monitors and put on one of your favorite CDs. Now listen carefully. Okay, now lean forward and backward a little bit. Does the amount of bass that you hear change as you move? Next, get up and walk around the room. Listen for places within the room where the bass seems to be louder or softer. You may find places where the bass drops out almost completely. If either inspection gives you a variable experience of the bass, you are the proud owner of standing waves. Don’t worry, though. You can tame that standing-wave monster with a pair of bass traps. Bass traps absorb the energy in the lower frequencies so they don’t bounce all over your room and throw off your mixes. You can buy bass traps made of foam from some music stores, or (yep, you guessed it) you can make your own out of wood and insulation. The most common placement for bass traps is in the corners behind you when you’re sitting at your mixer. You may also find that putting a set in the other corners of the room helps even more. After you place the bass traps, do the listening test again. If you notice some areas where the bass seems to get louder or softer, try moving the bass traps around a little. With some trial and error, you’ll most likely find a place where they seem to work best. Try not to get stressed out about the sound of your room. As important as your room’s sound may be, it has a lot less effect on the quality of your recordings than good, solid engineering practices. Do what you can, and then work with what you’ve got.

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Playing with Pro Tools Plug-ins

Article / Updated 01-02-2019

Whenever you want to process tracks in Pro Tools — add EQ, effects, or dynamics processors — you use a plug-in. Plug-ins are audio-processing tools that change the sound of your original file. Some plug-ins permanently alter the original file and work offline (that is, processing happens without playing the session). This is the case with pitch-shifting, for example. Other plug-ins — reverb, for example — affect the audio file without permanently changing it, processing the audio in real time while the session plays. These two types of audio processing — offline and real-time — are some of the more powerful mixing tools available to you in Pro Tools. With them, you can EQ your tracks and add compression, reverb, delay — and a myriad of other enhancements — to your music. Your only limitations are the plug-ins you have at your disposal and the processing power of your computer and your pocketbook. The following information introduces you to the two types of plug-ins — Real Time and AudioSuite — and then show you how to route your system so you can use them effectively. Pro Tools: Real Time Plug-ins Real time plug-ins process your audio while your session plays, allowing you to make adjustments on the fly and be able to hear these changes immediately. This is handy for adding compression, delay, and reverb, for example. The drawback to this is that anytime you process as your session plays, you’re using up more of your computer’s processing power — sometimes a lot more, as in the case of reverb. The following sections lay out the basics of using Real Time plug-ins. Pro Tools requires plug-ins in the AAX, 64-bit format. Routing your Real Time plug-ins Real Time plug-ins are like the effects processors that you plug into your mixer. The sound from your tracks are sent to these effects and routed back through the mixer so you can hear the affected sound. The two ways to place these effects in your mixer within Pro Tools are by using inserts or by using sends and returns. Inserts: Inserting a plug-in basically involves putting the effect inline with the audio as it travels through the channel strip in your mixer. This means all the sound from the audio file passes through the effect on its way out of the mixer (and to your ears). When you insert a plug-in, you can choose from three formats: Mono in/mono out: One channel goes in and one comes out of the effect. Mono in/stereo out: One channel goes in, and two come out. Stereo in/stereo out: Two channels go in, and two channels come out. Sends: Using a send for your effects lets you route a portion of your track’s signal that you can then control with the Send level. These sends are routed to an auxiliary track, into which the effect is inserted. Thus you can route more than one track to a single effect. Understanding the Real Time Plug-In window When you select a plug-in (or click its name in the Inserts section of a track’s channel strip), a window opens, displaying all the controls for the plug-in. Most plug-ins usually have controls at the top of the window, similar to the ones described in the following list: Track Selector: This control lets you choose to view the plug-ins for any of the tracks in your session (except MIDI). Selecting a track without a plug-in shows no insert. Insert Position Selector: Use this to access any insert on the current track. Plug-In Selector: From this menu, choose from any Real Time plug-in that’s located in your Plug-Ins folder (the one located within the Pro Tools folder on your hard drive). Effect Bypass Button: This button (surprise, surprise) bypasses the effect, allowing you to quickly and easily compare the affected and unaffected sounds. A bypassed effect shows as blue in the Mix and the Edit windows. If you bypass some (but not all) of a multi-mono effect, the effect shows as purple in the Mix and the Edit windows. This makes it easy for you to see whether one of your effects is bypassed without having to open all your Plug-In windows. Settings menu: Clicking and holding on the arrows at the left side of the plug-in window accesses the Settings drop-down menu which lets you save, copy, paste, import, delete, and lock your plug-ins’ settings, as well as set plug-in preferences (such as where to store these settings). Librarian menu: From this drop-down menu, choose from plug-in settings you have stored. This menu is activated by clicking and holding the setting name next to the arrows for the Settings drop-down menu. Previous (-) button: Clicking this button moves to the previous saved plug-in preset in your preset list. Next (+) button: Clicking this button moves to the next saved plug-in preset in your preset list. Preset list button: Click this button to open the plug-in preset list, from which you can select the preset you want. Compare button: Click this button to toggle between your current and your previous setting. Auto button: Clicking this button opens the Plug-In Automation dialog box, from which you can set automation for your selected plug-in parameters. Automation Safe button: Engaging this button keeps any written automation data from being overwritten. Master Link button: Enabling this button allows you to control all channels of a multi-mono plug-in at once. You can see the channels of your session in the gray box above this button. The small black square represents the channels. Channel selector: This button lets you choose the channel to adjust for the plug-in. Target button: Depressing this button keeps the current Plug-In window open when you open another plug-in. With this button off, clicking the plug-in name in a track’s insert replaces the open window with a new window. Phase Invert button: This button (not available on all plug-ins) allows you to reverse the phase of the audio passing through the plug-in. This means flipping the waveform top to bottom. Working with Real Time plug-ins for Pro Tools Chances are that you’ll spend quite a bit of time using plug-ins. Unless you have a control surface, you’ll probably end up spending more time than necessary just mouse-jockeying the controls. In the following list, you find some shortcuts to make working with plug-ins quicker and easier: To make fine adjustments with your mouse: Press ⌘   (Mac) or Ctrl (PC) while you drag the plug-in control. To return a control to its default setting: Press Option (Mac) or Alt (PC) while you click that control. To move through the controls in a plug-in: Press the Tab key on your keyboard. To go backward, press Shift+Tab. For plug-in parameters that offer kilohertz (kHz) values: Press the K key after the number of kilohertz you want to enter. For example, to enter 10 kHz, type 10k. To increase the value of a parameter without using your mouse: Press the up-arrow key (↑) on your keyboard; to decrease a value, press the down-arrow key (↓). To enter a value via your keyboard: Type in the value in the parameter box and then press Return/Enter. Using AudioSuite offline plug-ins with Pro Tools Pro Tools comes with a variety of offline plug-ins — that is, effects that you can use to process your tracks so that you end up either altering the original audio file or creating a new one. These types of plug-ins are listed under AudioSuite in the main menu. The image below shows the AudioSuite menu. Each item expands to include all plug-ins available for that plug-in type. When you select a plug-in from the AudioSuite menu, a window opens, containing all the controls for the plug-in. You’re going to find the same kinds of controls for nearly all the plug-ins. They include the following: Plug-in Selector: From this menu, choose from any AudioSuite plug-in listed in the AudioSuite menu. Selection Reference: This menu lets you choose which clips are processed. By default, when you select a clip in the track, the playlist, or the Audio Clips list, all occurrences of the selected clip are processed. You can limit the processing to the track/playlist or the Audio Clips list by selecting from the drop-down menu. Your choices are Playlist: If you choose Playlist, only clips that are selected in tracks or playlists in the Edit window are processed. Clip List: If you choose this option, only clips selected in the Audio Clips list are processed. Use in Playlist: This button lets you choose whether your chosen processing happens to all instances of your selected clips throughout the session, or whether processing happens to only those you have selected. The settings are as follows: Off: When this button is disabled, your processed audio is added to the Audio Clips list but not put into the session. On: When this button is enabled, the processed audio is placed in the playlist according to the Selection reference you chose. (See the Selection Reference bullet.) If you have Clip List selected, all copies of the clip are replaced within the session. If you selected Playlist, only the clips that you selected in the tracks are replaced. File Mode Selector: From this menu, choose how your audio is processed. You have three options: Overwrite Files: This option destructively overwrites your original file. Not all plug-ins have this option. Create Individual Files: This option creates a new audio file for each clip processed. These clips appear in the Audio Clips list. Create Continuous File: Choosing this option processes the selected clip as a single audio file. This option isn’t available when you have Clip List chosen as your Selection reference. (See the earlier Selection Reference bullet.) Process Mode Selector: This menu appears if you have a selection that includes more than one clip. With it, you can select whether processing is done clip by clip or whether it affects the entire selection. Settings menu: This drop-down menu lets you save, copy, paste, import, delete, and lock your plug-ins settings as well as set plug-in preferences (such as where to store these settings). Librarian menu: From this drop-down menu, choose from plug-in settings that you have stored. Compare button: Click this button to compare the unprocessed sound with the processed sound. Preview button: Pressing this button lets you preview the audio before you commit to processing it. Bypass button: This button bypasses the effect, allowing you to quickly and easily compare the affected and unaffected sounds. (This button applies only to the Preview feature and doesn’t change the processing of the file.) Process: Clicking this button processes the clip(s) you selected according to the rest of the settings in this window. Using AudioSuite plug-ins to process an audio clip You can use the AudioSuite plug-ins to process any part — or all — of an audio clip. If you choose part of a clip, that clip is split so the selected part becomes its own clip. To use an AudioSuite plug-in, follow these steps: With the Selector tool, select the clip or clips (click and drag across them) in the Edit window you want to process. When you process audio by using the Reverb or Delay plug-ins, make sure your selection includes extra room at the end of your material to include the actual reverb and delay; otherwise, the sound will be cut off. Choose the plug-in from the AudioSuite menu. The Plug-In window appears. Click the Speaker icon in the lower left (Preview Processing) to hear your selected material. Adjust the plug-in controls until you get the sound and processing settings you want. The previous section spells out what these settings are for. Click the Render button. Pro Tools processes your audio. Be aware that the processing can take some time and always demands some computer resources.

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Pro Tools Plug-In: Fixing Your Timing with Elastic Audio

Article / Updated 01-02-2019

Chances are, at some point, you’ll have a track that works well overall but has a few timing issues. Rather than re-record and hope for a better take, you can fix the timing of your note using Elastic Audio (of course, you can also re-record just the section you want to fix with a punch recording). Here, you are introduced to the Elastic Audio process and shows you how to fix the timing of an audio performance. Enabling Elastic Audio Before you can use Elastic Audio, you must enable it in each track you want to work with. Follow these steps: Choose the Elastic Audio algorithm appropriate for your material from the Elastic Audio Plug-in Selector pop-up menu located at the bottom of the track. You have four options: Polyphonic: Polyphonic is for material that has harmonic content, such as rhythm guitar or keyboards, playing chords. Rhythmic: Rhythmic is ideal for drums and percussion instruments, as well as other highly percussive parts. Monophonic: Monophonic is your choice for bass or lead guitar or any other instrument playing single notes. Varispeed: Varispeed is used when you want to change the speed of the track for special effects. Choose Real-Time or Rendered processing from the Elastic Audio Plug-in Selector pop-up menu. The default is Real-Time. This is the option you want to use while you’re working on your track. Real-time processing requires processing power. After you’re done adjusting your track, you may want to switch to Rendered to free up the resources for other tasks. You can always switch back to Real-Time if you want to make other changes. When Real-Time processing is chosen, you’ll see a green dot to the right of your Elastic Audio algorithm selection. Viewing Elastic Audio events There are two views that you can have of your Elastic Audio events in a track: Analysis and Warp. You can find them in the track view pop-up menu. Both views show you the detected event markers for your material and let you add subtract or move them, but each has it benefits: Analysis view: Analysis view is ideal for when you have material that doesn’t have clear transients for the automatic detection of events. In this view, you can easily add or edit the events so you can then apply Elastic Audio processing. Warp view: Warp view is the view you should begin with. You can easily warp and time-adjust your audio from this view. Quantizing audio tracks in Pro Tools There are a number of ways you can adjust the timing of an audio track in Pro Tools, but the easiest (not to mention, most easily reversible) way to do this is with the Elastic Audio Quantize feature. Here is how it’s done: Enable Elastic Audio on your track by choosing the algorithm from the Elastic Audio pop-up menu that most closely matches your material. Choose Real-Time processing if it’s not already chosen. Select Warp View from the Track view selector pop-up menu. Take a look at the event markers that are detected for your track and adjust any that are not where you want them. There won’t be anything to adjust unless your material doesn’t have clear transients, such as with legato passages of polyphonic instruments. Select Waveform View from the Track view pop-up menu and select the material you want to edit with one of the selection tools. Choose Event → Event Operations → Quantize from the main menu or press Option+0 (Mac) or Alt+0 (PC) to open the Quantize menu. Select a note value appropriate for your material from the Grid pop-up menu. Click Apply to apply the quantization to your track. Elastic Audio is nondestructive so if you don’t like what you see, you can undo it, adjust the quantize value, and redo as often as you like.

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Getting Started with MIDI and Pro Tools

Article / Updated 01-02-2019

Once you start learning your way around Pro Tools, you probably want to know how to start using MIDI, right? To get started with MIDI devices and Pro Tools, you first need to know just what you have to buy to do some MIDI-ing yourself. Well, sorry to inform you that you can’t do any of this cool MIDI stuff with your vintage Stratocaster guitar or your acoustic drum set (unless you do some fancy rigging to your gear). What you do need is A sound generator: This device, which enables you to hear the music, can be a synthesizer, drum machine, sound module, or sampler. A MIDI controller: This device controls the MIDI instruments in your studio. You’ll most likely use the MIDI functions in Pro Tools for this purpose. This may also be your keyboard, electronic drum pads, or other MIDI instruments (such as the Roland GK3). A sequencer: This device records and plays the MIDI performances that are programmed into it. The sequencer allows you to program your part into the synthesizer and have it play back automatically (much like the old-time player piano). Again, you’ll most likely use Pro Tools software for this, but you can use a sequencer in your keyboard if you prefer. A MIDI interface: The MIDI interface is used to enable your computer to send and receive MIDI data. Many audio interfaces also include MIDI ports. You also find MIDI devices that include USB ports for MIDI connectivity. This sounds like a lot of stuff, but most of this gear performs more than one function in the MIDI studio. For example, nearly all synthesizers come with drum sounds, and some synthesizers even include a sequencer. In this case, this one synthesizer can do the job of sound generator, drum machine, MIDI controller, and sequencer all in one. Sound generators and Pro Tools The sound generator is the core of the MIDI studio. This is what produces the sounds that you hear. Without it, you may as well skip the rest of the stuff because (of course) you won’t hear any of your work. Sound generators can come in many different shapes and sizes: a fully functional keyboard synthesizer, an independent drum machine, a standalone sound module, samplers, software synthesizers (soft-synths), and a computer sound card. Each of these devices has its strengths and weaknesses. There are different types of sound generators. Although you may find one piece of equipment that does everything you want, here, you take a peek at all the separate features that different equipment may have to help you understand the function of each feature and decide how to configure your studio. Synthesizers A synthesizer consists of not only sounds but also a keyboard on which you can play these sounds. Synthesizers come in a variety of sizes and configurations. For example, some keyboards come with 61 keys (5 octaves), and others provide as many as 88 keys (the number on an acoustic piano keyboard). If you’re in the market for a synthesizer, you need to consider several things: Polyphony: Polyphony is the number of notes that sound at one time. Most decent synthesizers nowadays have at least 16 notes of polyphony although models that can produce 32 notes at once are not uncommon. Each manufacturer treats polyphony differently, and the GM standards allow some variations on the effective use of this parameter. For instance, a synth patch may use more than one digital sound to create the actual sound you hear. The synth patch that you love so much may, in fact, consist of four different sounds layered atop one another. In such a case, you just reduced your polyphony by three-fourths, just by using that one patch. If your synthesizer has 16-note polyphony, it’s now down to 4-note polyphony because each of those 4 notes has four “sounds” associated with it. If you use this patch, you can play only 4 notes (a simple chord) at a time, not the 16 that you thought you had to work with. Your best bet is to buy a synthesizer (or sound module) with the highest polyphony you can get, especially if you want to layer one sound on top of another or do multitimbral parts with your synth. Multitimbrality: Most decent keyboards allow you to play more than one sound patch at a time. This is multitimbrality, which basically allows you to have your keyboard divided into several groups of sounds. For example, a multitimbral synth can divide a song’s chords, melody, bass part, and drum set sounds into different groups of sounds — and then play all those groups at once. If you do any sequencing (recording or playing back MIDI data), a multitimbral synthesizer is a must-have. Otherwise, you would need a separate synthesizer for each type of sound that you want to play. Fortunately, with the GM standards, compatible synthesizers made in the last 15 years have the ability to play 16 sounds at once. Keyboard feel: Some keyboards have weighted keys and feel like real pianos, and other keyboards have a somewhat spongy action. If you’re a trained piano player, a spongy keyboard may feel uncomfortable to you. On the other hand, if you have no training in piano and don’t need weighted keys, you don’t have to pay the extra money for that feature. Sound quality: This is a subjective thing. Choose the synthesizer that has the sounds you think you’ll use. I know this seems kind of obvious, but buy the synthesizer whose sounds you like even if this means waiting and saving the money before you can buy. If you buy a synthesizer that was a good deal but don’t love the sounds, you’ve wasted your money because you’ll just end up buying the more expensive one later. Built-in sequencer: Many keyboards contain a built-in sequencer, which allows you to program and play back your performance. Units like these are usually called keyboard workstations or MIDI workstations because they contain everything you need to create a song. If you’re considering one of these complete workstations, take a good, hard look at the sequencer and the user interface — make sure that you like the way those work for you. Each manufacturer treats the process of sequencing a little differently; you can probably find one that fits your style of working. Drum machines A drum machine contains the sounds of the drum set and other more exotic drums, as well as a sequencer to allow you to program rhythms. Most drum machines contain hundreds of drum sounds, numerous preset rhythm patches, and the ability to program dozens of songs. All standalone drum machines have pads on which you can play the part. The more advanced drum machines can give your rhythms a more human feel. Effects, such as reverb and delay, are also fairly common on the more advanced drum machines. Sound modules A sound module is basically a stripped-down version of a synthesizer or drum machine. Sound modules don’t contain triggering devices (such as the keys for the keyboard, pickups for the guitar, or pads for the drum machine). What they do contain are a variety of sounds (often hundreds) that a master controller or sequencer can trigger. The advantage to sound modules is they take up little space and cost considerably less than their fully endowed counterparts (the synthesizers and drum machines, that is). If you already have a master keyboard, you may find adding sound modules to be a cost- and space-effective way to add more sounds to your system. Using samplers with Pro Tools A sampler is a sound module that contains short audio samples of real instruments. Most samplers come with sound libraries containing hundreds of different types of sounds, from acoustic pianos to snare drums to sound effects. These sounds are often much more realistic than those that come in some synthesizers. The real purpose of a sampler is to allow you to record your own sounds. For example, in the 1980s, it was cool to make a drum set from unusual percussive sounds. A snare drum can be the sound of a flushing toilet (don’t laugh, I actually did this) or breaking glass. Tom-toms can be grunts set to certain pitches. You’d be amazed at the strange stuff that people have turned into music — all with the help of a sampler. Another common use of a sampler is recording short sections of already recorded songs. This can be a melodic or rhythmic phrase, a vocal cue, or a single drum or synthesizer sound. Sampling other songs is common in electronic music, rap, and hip-hop (be careful of copyright issues before doing this, however). If you’re into electronic music or hip-hop, you may find a sampler a necessary addition to your studio. Soft-synths Because you’re using Pro Tools, your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software enables you to produce great sounds by using soft-synth plug-ins. Soft-synths are basically software equivalents of standalone synthesizers, sound modules, or samplers. As you can see below, a soft-synth’s GUI (its graphical user interface, the smiley face that the software shows the world) is often designed to look just like a piece of regular hardware, complete with “buttons” and “knobs.” Of course, soft-synths have their advantages and disadvantages: Advantage: Soft-synths cost less than standalone units because no hardware is involved. Disadvantages: Unlike regular synthesizers, soft-synths use up processor power. This can slow down your computer system and prevent you from recording as many audio tracks or applying as many effect patches as you’d like. Another downside (depending on whom you talk to) is that soft-synth programs may not sound quite as good as an external synthesizer. Countless soft-synth plug-ins are available for Pro Tools. All AAX instrument plug-ins will work with Pro Tools. You can find hundreds with an Internet search, including a ton that are inexpensive or even free. Sound cards Most sound cards that you can put in your computer (or that come with a computer) have General MIDI sounds in them. Depending on the quality of your sound card, it may sound decent or border on unbearable. To find out whether the GM sounds in your computer’s sound card are any good, go ahead and play a MIDI file on your computer. First, do a search on the Internet for MIDI files (just type MIDI into your favorite search engine). Some sites require you to pay to download a song — especially for popular or familiar tunes — but you can find many sites that allow you to choose a song to listen to without downloading or paying a fee. Click a song, and it’ll start playing automatically. You’ll immediately know whether you like the sound of your sound card. If you bought a new sound card for your computer to record audio with, you’ll generally find that the sounds are pretty good. And (happily) with your audio program, you also have access to soft-synth patches. MIDI controllers A MIDI controller is essentially what its name describes: a device that can control another MIDI device. MIDI controllers come in many different formats. In fact, a MIDI controller can be anything from a synthesizer to a drum machine, or from a computer to a xylophone. When MIDI first came out, your controller choice was limited to a keyboard, but now you can choose other options — keyboards, wind controllers (for saxophones or other wind instruments), guitars, or drums. So even if you don’t play piano, you can find a controller that resembles an instrument you know how to play. Look around, and you may find one (or more) MIDI controllers that allow you to create music your way. Sequencers Although you can get standalone sequencers and sequencers integrated into a synthesizer, you probably want to just use the sequencer in Pro Tools for this. The reasons for this are many, but the overriding factor is that you can have your MIDI and audio tracks in one place, and Pro Tools offers you more powerful editing capabilities than a sequencer that’s contained in a box and that uses a tiny LCD screen. MIDI interfaces The MIDI interface allows you to send and receive MIDI information from a computer. Many audio interfaces have a MIDI port. If you end up doing a lot of MIDI sequencing, though, and use more than one sound module or external controller — or if you have an audio interface without MIDI ports — you need a separate MIDI interface. MIDI interfaces come in a staggering variety of configurations, so you have several things to consider when you buy a MIDI interface. Use the following questions to help you to determine your needs: What type of computer do you own? MIDI interfaces are configured to connect to a serial, parallel, or USB port. You determine which one to use by the type of port(s) you have in your computer. For example, new Macs have only a USB port although you can add a serial port if you remove the internal modem. A PC has either a parallel port or a USB port (sometimes both). PCs also have a joystick port, which accepts a special MIDI joystick cable; no MIDI interface is needed. How many instruments do you intend to connect? MIDI interfaces come with a variety of input and output configurations. There are models with two In and two Out, four In and four Out, and even eight In and eight Out. There are also “thru” boxes that have one or more inputs and several outputs. If you have only one or two instruments, you can get by with a smaller interface. In this case, a 2 x 2 interface — two In and two Out — would work great. If you have many instruments that you want to connect, you need a larger box.

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Pro Tools Recording Software: Exploring Avid Eleven Rack

Article / Updated 01-02-2019

The makers of Pro Tools only offer one host-based interface, the Eleven Rack. Built for guitarists, the Eleven Rack is both a recording interface and a standalone live unit. The Eleven Rack interface has a limited number of inputs and outputs, but it makes up for this deficit by including serious power for guitar-amp modeling and effects. You may want to stick with the standard rate for CD audio: 44.1 kHz. Discovering the Eleven Rack input and outputs The Eleven Rack has the following input and output configurations: XLR analog input: This input includes a preamp and phantom power for your microphone. Analog inputs: You get two 1/4-inch analog inputs for your instruments. Analog outputs: There are two XLR outputs and two 1/4-inch outputs for connecting to an amplifier. FX Sends and Returns: The Eleven Rack comes with two 1/4-inch sends/returns to be able to connect an external effects unit. Alt In: These alternate input jacks are handy for connecting a CD player or tape deck and listening to it without having to turn on the software or listening to reference CDs from an external player while you mix. Digital In and Out channels: These channels comprise two channels of AES-EBU digital and two channels of S/PDIF coax (RCA), which you use to send and receive up to four simultaneous digital channels to and from the Eleven Rack. This is handy if you have external A/D and D/A converters. Headphone jack: You get one headphone jack. MIDI In and Out: The Eleven Rack has one MIDI In port and one MIDI Out port. Footswitch input: You can connect a footswitch to control the transport of Pro Tools, which can be handy when recording yourself — you can start and stop the session hands-free. Connecting your gear to an Eleven Rack Connecting audio and MIDI gear is much the same process for the Eleven Rack as for the Mbox Pro, with just minor variations on inputs and outputs. Here’s a rundown of them all: Volume dial: This dial controls the volume of both the headphone and main outputs for the Eleven Rack. Power Switch: As you may guess, this turns the Eleven Rack on and off. Expect it to take a few seconds to boot up after you hit the switch. Also, make sure that you have volume down or monitors off when you turn this puppy on, lest you hear a big pop. Mic Input: Use this input to connect a microphone or other instrument that utilizes an XLR connector. This input is controlled by the Gain dial on the front of the unit. With this input you have three parameters to adjust: Gain: This set the volume level of your input signal. You set this in conjunction with the level meter in Pro Tools software for the channel you have it routed to. 48v: This switch turns phantom power on and off for your mic. Pad: Engaging this switch drops your input level by some unstated amount (10–20dB is typical but Avid doesn’t say). This is handy for very hot (loud) microphone signals. Guitar Input: This is where you plug in your guitar. Avid calls this a “True Z” input because it has a variable-impedance circuit that accommodates a range of instruments such as electric and acoustic-pickup-appointed guitars, electric basses, and electric pianos. This circuit adjusts dynamically; all you need to do is plug in your instrument and start playing. Footswitch: Labeled Foot SW, use this jack to connect a footswitch or an expression pedal to control a host of parameters such as Wah, volume, and effects and patch settings. USB: This is where you connect your USB cable to go to your computer. Main Outputs: The mains out have a 1/4-inch TRS jack (stereo) and XLR left and right jacks. These are for connecting to an amp or powered speakers. These outputs don’t have a volume control. The channel faders of your session control the signal level going to these outputs. If you want to be able to adjust the volume to a set of speakers, you need a mixer or an external volume controller. FX Loop: The FX Loop is for you to connect external effect units. You can use a TRS insert cable or separate TS cables (the TRS cable connects to the left/stereo jacks). There is also a “grid” switch that lifts the ground to reduce hum if line noise is a problem. AES/EBU: Here you can connect your professional-level digital devices by using an AES/EBU connection. This jack can either pass two channels’ data at a bit depth of up to 24 bits at 96 kHz. S/PDIF: Here you can connect your digital devices with a coaxial cable (RCA). This S/PDIF connection is enabled whenever you have cords connected to these jacks and when you don’t have the Optical jacks assigned for S/PDIF signals. There are no controls you have to worry about in the front. MIDI: You can connect your MIDI keyboard, MIDI controller, or other device to these. MIDI In is connected to the MIDI Out of your device, and MIDI Out goes to the MIDI In of the other device. There are no controls to worry about on the front panel for MIDI. Headphones: The 1/4-inch jack on the front of the unit is where you plug in your headphones. After you have all your gear connected, you can get started recording. Examining Eleven Rack’s guitar-processing features The features that make the Eleven Rack special are amp modeling and effects processing. This information gives you an overview of the various buttons and dials that control this power. Edit/Back Button: Click this button to gain access to the setting for your guitar rigs (Avid’s name for your saved settings for processing and modeling). When you’re in the Rig view, you use this button to go back to a previous screen. You can also hold this button in for a few seconds to enter the user-options mode so you can tweak your settings at will. Here are the controls: Save Button: This saves your new settings. SW1 and SW2 Buttons: These buttons allow you to access a variety of menus and functions in the edit views. When a switch is active, it will be lit. Scroll: The scroll wheel makes windows and the sections easy to scroll through in the edit views. Control Button: These buttons (located above the Eleven Rack logo) toggle the associated effect on and off, and provide access to additional controls for the effect (simply push and hold). Tap Tempo/Tuner Button: This button lets you set the tempo for an effect (just tap quarter notes) or access the internal guitar tuner (press and hold for a second). Control Dials: You can use these knobs to access various controls for the amp and effects. You’ll quickly notice that these dials glow in different colors, depending on their function: Unlit: When a dial is unlit, it’s not actively assigned to any setting. As you may have guessed, turning it does nothing. Amber: This dial is currently assigned to an amp, cab, or FX-loop parameter. Green: In this case, the dial controls an effects parameter. Red: This tells you that the setting for this dial has changed from the saved setting. You can adjust it until it turns amber or green again to get back to the saved setting — or you can hit the Save button to save it. Once saved it will turn back to amber or green.

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How to Record Tracks in Pro Tools

Article / Updated 01-02-2019

Recording audio tracks in Pro Tools requires that you first choose your Record mode, create a track, set levels, enable recording, and turn on a click track (if you’re using one). After you have all these steps taken care of, you’re ready to record some audio in Pro Tools. The following information leads you through recording a single track or multiple tracks, undoing or canceling takes (recorded performances), recording additional takes, auditioning takes, and using playlists to organize and choose which takes to listen to. Recording a single track in Pro Tools Most home recordists tend to record a single track at a time. (After all, most human beings can play only one instrument at a time.) Recording to a single track — whether mono or stereo — requires the following basic steps. Open a session or create a new session. Create a new audio track by choosing Track →New. Assign an input and output to your new track from the Input and Output drop-down menus, found in the Controls section of the track. Record-enable the track. Set your recording level. Be sure that your monitor speakers are turned off or all the way down if you’re doing your home recording in the same room as your monitors because the microphone might create feedback (an obnoxious hum or squeal) if it’s too close to your speakers. Some advice: When recording, use headphones to monitor your playing. Enable the click track and pre-roll (if you’re using those features). Click the Return to Zero button in the Basic Controls section of the Transport window. This ensures that you start recording at the beginning of the session. Click the Record button in the Basic Controls section of the Transport window. The Record button blinks red. Clicking Record doesn’t actually start the recording process; it only gets Pro Tools ready for recording. To record by using keyboard shortcuts for Step 8, you can use any of the following methods: Press ⌘  +spacebar (Mac) or Ctrl+spacebar (PC). Press the numberpad 3 key — that is, if you’ve set your system so your Numeric Keyboard mode is linked to Transport. (Linking your numeric keyboard to Transport is easy; just choose Setup → Preferences from the main menu to access the Preferences dialog box, click the Operation tab, and then select the Transport radio button in the Numeric Keypad section.) Click the Play button in the Basic Controls section of the Transport window. Only after you click Play does Pro Tools actually start recording; the Record button glows a nice red while recording (not that you’ll be watching it as you play). When you’re done recording, click the Stop button in the Basic Controls section of the Transport window or press the spacebar on your keyboard. This take appears in the Audio Clips list as a new clip. The Audio Clips list is on the right side of the Edit window. If this list isn’t showing, click the double arrow at the bottom-right corner of the Edit window. Managing multiple Pro Tools tracks Sometimes you want to record more than one track at a time with Pro Tools — say, when you stereo-mic an instrument, when you record drums using several mics, or even when you want to record a few musicians at a time. Recording multiple tracks at one time follows much the same procedure as if you were recording a single track: The only difference is that you use one of the following methods to choose multiple tracks: Select the Latch Record Enable Buttons option in the Operation tab of the Preferences dialog box, and then click each track’s Record Enable button. To call up the Preferences dialog box, choose Setup → Preferences from the main menu. Record-enable noncontiguous tracks. Press and hold the Shift key while you click each track’s Record Enable button. Select all the tracks in your session. Option-click (Mac) or Alt-click (PC) the Record Enable button on any track. Record-enable a selected track. Option+Shift-click (Mac) or Shift+Alt-click (PC) the Record Enable button on the selected track. Recording multiple tracks at once takes a toll on your system. A normal and common symptom of this load is a delay between the time you click the Play button and when the recording actually starts. You can eliminate this delay by letting your system “warm up” first. This is done by following these steps: Click the Record button. Press and hold Option (Mac) or Alt (PC) while you click the Play button. The Record and Play buttons flash. Click the Play button when you’re ready to record. Pro Tools starts recording immediately, with no delay. When you’re done recording, click the Stop button. Using pre- and post-rolls in Pro Tools A pre-roll or post-roll is a designated amount of time that the session plays before or after (respectively) the recording starts or stops. For example, setting a pre-roll for two or three bars lets you get into the groove of a song before the recording actually starts. You can set pre- and post-rolls several ways. Using the Pre-Roll and Post-Roll fields in the Pro Tools Transport window To set the pre- and post-roll values in the Transport window, do the following: Choose View → Transport → Expanded from the main menu. The Pre-Roll and Post-Roll fields appear beneath the basic transport controls. Click in the Pre-Roll Counter field in the Transport window and type in the length you want. This field appears onscreen in the same format as the main counter. Press Return/Enter. Click in the Post-Roll Counter field and type in your desired value. This value, too, displays in the format selected for the main counter. Press Return/Enter. Click the Pre-Roll and/or Post-Roll button in the Transport window to enable it. The buttons are labeled Pre-Roll and Post-Roll and are to the left of the counter fields used in Steps 2 and 4. All enabled buttons are highlighted. Using the Pre-Roll and Post-Roll flags in the ruler bar of the Pro Tools Edit window The Pre- and Post-Roll flags are located along the Timebase ruler in the Edit window (this is located above the track section). The flags are colored gray when they are disabled and green when they are enabled. Follow these steps to set the pre-roll and post-roll amounts using the flags in the ruler bar: Press ⌘  +K (Mac) or Ctrl+K (PC) or choose Options → Pre/Post-Roll from the main menu to enable Pre-Roll and Post-Roll flags on the ruler of the Edit window. The flags turn green to alert you that the pre- and post-roll functions are enabled. If you want the flag to snap to the grid, click the Grid button in the upper-left of the Edit window to select the Grid Edit mode. Otherwise use any other Edit mode. Click and drag the Pre- and Post-Roll flags on the ruler to where you want them. If you want the same value for both the pre- and post-rolls, you can press Option (Mac) or Alt (PC) while you drag one of the flags. The other flag follows along while you move one. Setting pre-rolls and post-rolls within a track’s playlist in Pro Tools Playlists are the clips contained in a track and are located in the middle of the Edit window to the right of the track controls. Playlists most often display the waveform for the audio in the clips but can be set to display other things, such as automation views. In addition to all the other neat things you can do with a playlist, you can also enable and disable pre- and post-rolls. Just do the following: Choose Options → Link Timeline and Edit Selection from the main menu. Click the Selector tool and drag along your track where you want the recording to start and stop. This selects your record range. Option-click (Mac) or Alt-click (PC) the track’s playlist where you want to put the pre-roll. This both turns on the pre-roll and sets its location. Option-click (Mac) or Alt-click (PC) the track’s playlist where you want to put the post-roll. This both turns on the post-roll and sets its location. To turn off the pre-roll from within a track’s playlist, Option-click (Mac) or Alt-click (PC) near the start point of the record range you selected. To turn off the post-roll, Option-click (Mac) or Alt-click (PC) near the end point of the record range you selected.

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How to Set Up and Manage Your Pro Tools Tracks

Article / Updated 01-02-2019

Pro Tools has six types of tracks (Audio, Auxiliary Input, Master Fader, VCA Master, MIDI, and Instrument) as well as two track formats (mono and stereo). All possible permutations and combinations of these various types and formats are explained with subtlety and style here. Pro Tools track types When you work with tracks in Pro Tools, you have to keep in mind that you’re sure to end up dealing with six distinct flavors of tracks. They are Audio tracks: An audio track contains audio files and can be mono or stereo. Auxiliary Input tracks: These tracks are used as effects sends, for submixes, or for other routing purposes. Master Fader tracks: This track type contains the summed output for all the tracks routed to it. Master Fader tracks can be mono or stereo; stereo is most common. VCA Master tracks: This type of track does not pass audio but instead is used to control groups of tracks. VCA Master tracks are often used for controlling a group of tracks without needing to route them to an Auxiliary Input track. This is an easy way to route several submixes to one master fader. MIDI tracks: MIDI tracks contain MIDI data — instructions to MIDI devices on how to create specific digital sounds. Instrument tracks: Instrument tracks are blends of Audio and MIDI tracks that allow you to insert virtual instruments (such as software synthesizers) into your session. You can also route real instruments with their corresponding audio outputs into the same track. These tracks contain MIDI data while also allowing you some audio capabilities to make it easy to use both software and hardware instruments. Pro Tools track formats Pro Tools offers a bit less variety when it comes to track formats. Unless you are using Pro Tools HD or HDX, you get two — count ’em, two — choices: Mono: A mono (monaural) track consists of a single channel of audio or MIDI data. It uses, as its name implies, just one voice. Stereo: A stereo (stereophonic) track consists of two channels of audio and uses two voices. A MIDI track can’t be stereo. Setting up your Pro Tools tracks Setting up your recording project is a little like setting up a railroad: It’ll take you somewhere only if you first put the tracks in place. Getting that done is what the following information is about. Creating new Pro Tools tracks To create a new track, choose Track → New from the main menu or press ⌘  +Shift+N (Mac) or Ctrl+Shift+N (PC). Either method opens the New Tracks dialog box, where you get to choose the following: Number of new tracks: The default here is 1, but you can pretty much create as many tracks as your version of Pro Tools allows. Track format: Here you choose stereo or mono. Track type: Clicking the arrows opens a drop-down menu that lets you choose between an Audio, an Auxiliary Input, a Master Fader, a VCA Master, a MIDI, or an Instrument track. Samples or ticks: You can choose between samples or ticks (bars/beats) for your new tracks. Plus sign: Clicking this adds another tracks selection row containing all the options listed in this section so that you can add more than one type of track without having to open the New Track window repeatedly. Make your selections and then click Create to create your new track. This track then appears in the Edit and Mix windows and in the Show/Hide list located on the right side of the Edit window. If the Show/Hide list isn’t visible, click the double arrow at the lower-left corner of the Edit window. Use these keyboard shortcuts to help make your Pro Tools more efficient. Duplicating Pro Tools tracks You can duplicate tracks — creating a new track that mirrors all the input, output, effects send settings, and insert settings of your original track — in two easy steps: Click the name of the track in the Mix or the Edit windows. To select more than one track to duplicate, hold the Shift key while you click each track’s name. The name is highlighted. Choose Track → Duplicate from the main menu. The new track appears in the Mix and the Edit windows to the right of the track you’re duplicating and just below the duplicated track in the Show/Hide list. Naming Pro Tools tracks When you open a new track (choose Track → New), Pro Tools creates a default name for the track — something really helpful, like Audio 1 — but you can change the name to anything you want. You do this by double-clicking the name of the track in either the Mix or the Edit windows. A dialog box like the one below opens, from which you can use the fields to both change the name of the track and add any comments you want to include about the track. After you enter your track name and comments, click OK — you’re set! It's recommended that you name your new tracks right away; give each a name that describes what you plan to record on it. Some examples include Vox (or Vocals), Ld Gtr, Snare, Kick, and so on. This will save you confusion later on when you start to mix. Assigning inputs and outputs in Pro Tools To record with your new track, you need to assign an input to it so Pro Tools knows where your source sound is coming from. To hear the track play, you need to choose an output so Pro Tools can send the sound out to your monitors or to your headphone jack. That makes sense, right? Now, to actually assign an input to your track, do the following: Choose View → Edit Window Views → I/O from the main menu to open the I/O section of the Edit window. The I/O section shows the inputs and outputs for each track. Within the I/O section of your track in the Edit window, click and hold the Input selector until the Input contextual menu pops up. While still holding down your mouse button, move the mouse over the Input menu until it rests on the input listing you want. Release the mouse button to select your choice from the Input contextual menu. This menu closes, and the input you select appears in the Input selector. Choosing your outputs requires pretty much the same procedure, although now you start things off by clicking the Output selector instead. If you have an output you want to use for your session, such as Analog 1-2, you can set this as the default in the I/O Setup dialog box. To do this, follow these steps: Choose Setup → I/O to open the I/O Setup dialog box. Click the Output tab. Choose your output from the New Track Default Output drop-down menu. Click OK. The window closes, and all your new tracks automatically receive your chosen output upon creation. Altering your view of Pro Tools tracks Pro Tools gives you lots of options to change how tracks look in the Mix and the Edit windows. You can change a track’s color, size, location, and even whether you can see it. Showing and hiding Pro Tools tracks Both the Edit and the Mix windows have the option of including an audio tracks list in the window view. In this list, the Tracks list, you can show or hide selected tracks or groups of tracks. This list is located on the left side of either window. If it’s not visible, click the double arrows at the bottom-left of either window to open the list in that window. You can show and hide tracks in two ways: Use the drop-down menu. Click and hold the title bar of the Show/Hide Tracks list until a menu opens up. Then just choose the option you want. The Show Only Selected Tracks option and the Hide Selected Tracks option require that you first highlight your desired tracks in the main part of the Edit or the Mix windows. To select one track, just click the track’s name. To select more than one track, hold down the Shift key while clicking each track you want. When you then use the Show Only Selected option, for example, all non-highlighted tracks are hidden. Click the track name in the Show/Hide Tracks list. Clicking directly on the track name located in the Show/Hide Tracks list toggles between hiding and showing the track. You can even move a track around by clicking and dragging it to where you want it in relation to the others. If the Show/Hide Tracks list isn’t showing, click the double arrow at the bottom-left corner of the window to open it. You can also use the Show/Hide Tracks list drop-down menu to sort tracks by name, type, edit group, mix group, or voice. This menu is opened by clicking and holding the Show/Hide Tracks list title. Assigning track color in Pro Tools To make all your tracks easier to keep track of when you’re working, you can assign color groups to the waveform display for each track in the Edit window. To do this, choose Setup → Preferences from the main menu and then click the Display tab in the Preferences dialog box. This opens the Preferences dialog box. On the right side of this dialog box is the Default Track Color Coding section. Here you can choose from several radio buttons: None: Makes the display for all the tracks the same color. Tracks and MIDI channels: Assigns colors to each waveform display based upon the audio track number and the MIDI channels assigned for each MIDI track. Tracks and MIDI Devices: Bases the colors for the waveform display on the audio track number and the MIDI device used. Groups: Colors the waveform display for your tracks according to a track’s group membership. Track Type: Assigns colors according to the type of track in your session. Changing Pro Tools track size You can alter the viewed size of tracks in the Edit or the Mix windows. This can be a godsend, for example, when you have a ton of tracks in a session, and you want to see them all onscreen (pick a small size) or if you have a track that you want to edit (choose a giant-size one). Here are your options: Edit window: The Edit window allows you to choose from several different-size track views. Your options include Micro, Mini, Small, Medium, Large, Jumbo, Extreme, Fit to Window, and Expanded Track Display. You access these options by clicking the Track Height Selector (the little arrow to the left of the track name) or the ruler bar at the far-left side of the waveform display of the track. To make track size adjustments even easier, you can simply drag your track larger or smaller by clicking and dragging your mouse up or down at the bottom of your track. Mix window: In the Mix window, you can toggle between Narrow and Regular channel strip views by choosing View → Narrow Mix Window or View → Regular Mix Window, respectively. Pressing Option+⌘  +M (Mac) or Shift+Ctrl+M (PC) also toggles between the two views. Moving your Pro Tools tracks around You can move tracks around and arrange them in your Mix or Edit windows as you want them. This feature is handy if you have a group of tracks that you want to have next to each other, such as percussion and drums. You could place any submixed tracks together to help you keep track of them all without having to move all over the Edit or Mix windows. The following steps show you one way to do this: Locate the name of the track you’d like to move in the Tracks list. Click the track name and then drag the track up or down to where you want it. Release the mouse button. The track stays put where you dragged it. Moving the track around in one window changes its location in the other. Deleting Pro Tools tracks To delete a track, follow these steps: Select the track by clicking its name in either the Edit or the Mix windows. Choose Track → Delete from the main menu. Click OK.

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Creating and Managing Pro Tools Sessions

Article / Updated 01-02-2019

Before you can do any recording, editing, or mixing in Pro Tools, you have to set up a session in which to work. A session in Pro Tools is simply a song file that contains all the audio and MIDI tracks, plug-ins, and mixer settings for all your tracks. Pro Tools session files don’t actually contain the audio data; instead, they just have the audio files attached to them. Creating a new Pro Tools session To create a new session, choose File  →  Create New from the main menu or press ⌘  +N (Mac) or Ctrl+N (PC). The Dashboard opens. Here you can choose the following. Create Choose this option to create a new session in one of three ways: Local Storage (Session): This option opens a session with no tracks or routing assignments. Choose this option if you want to customize your session. Collaboration and Cloud Backup (Project, Sign In Required): Choose this option when you want to create a new session that you want to collaborate with others on the cloud. You’ll need to login in to your Pro Tools Master Account and navigate to the artist community. Create from Template: Choosing this option opens a menu of saved templates. To get started I recommend choosing this and taking a look at your options — you may find one that fits your needs pretty well. When you choose a template, all the tracks and setting assigned to that template automatically show up in your session. This can be a real timesaver if you want to create a complicated session with lots of tracks and send routing. You still need to choose the session parameters listed below to create your session. If you plan to create a lot of sessions with specific tracks and signal routing settings, save your empty session (without the audio tracks) as a template to save you time later. File Type: This drop-down menu lets you choose between BWF (Broadcast WAV File) or AIFF files. Choose the one that works best for you. (I always use WAV files because they’re compatible with other software I use. Your needs may be different.) If you aren’t transferring your files from one program to another, I suggest using the default BWF option. Sample Rate: Here you choose the sample rate of your session. Your options depend on the Avid hardware you have. For example, if you have an Mbox Mini, your choices are between 44.1 kHz and 48 kHz. If you have an Mbox, you can choose between 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz, and 96 kHz. If you have an Mbox Pro, or Eleven Rack, you can choose from six options: 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz, 197.4 kHz, and 192 kHz. Bit Depth: Depending on your version of Pro Tools, you can choose between a 16-bit rate, a 24-bit rate, or a 32-bit float rate (the 32-bit rate is only available with Pro Tools 10, HD or HDX). For most sessions select the 24 Bit radio button. I/O Settings: From this drop-down menu, you can choose between the most recently used setting, a stereo-mix setting, or from a list of other saved settings. When you click OK on your setting, you’ll be asked what you want to name the file and where you want to save it in the Save dialog box. Choose your name and location and click Save. The higher the sample rate you select in the New Session dialog box, the more work your computer processor has to do. You often have to balance your desire for the highest-resolution music possible against the capabilities of your system. The sample rate you choose depends on your goals, intended final format (CD, for example), and the speed of your computer’s processor. For example, if your session is going to have a ton of tracks and end up on a CD or be used for online distribution, your best bet is to choose 44.1 kHz because that’s where you’ll end up when you record to CD or this is the quality most online distributers want. Keep in mind, too, that using a whole slew of tracks means that your computer needs as much processing power as possible to handle mixing and processing tasks. In this case, recording at 96 kHz would likely put too much strain on your computer and deprive you of the power to do what you want during mixing. On the other hand, if you suspect you won’t use very many tracks and want the highest resolution possible — or if you have a very powerful computer and won’t go crazy creating multiple tracks — 88.2 kHz or 96 kHz may better meet your goals. Get to know your system before you record a lot of music with it. Experiment with different sample rates and track counts to see what your computer can handle. With this information, you can get a good sense of how hard you can push your system before you reach the limits of its performance. Recent Choose this option to choose from recent sessions. This is the same window that opens when you choose File  → Open Session from the main menu. Projects Choose this option to choose from collaboration project sessions. This is the same window that opens when you choose File  → Open Project from the main menu. If you aren’t signed into your Pro Tools account, click the Sign In button in the upper right. After you’re signed in, you’ll see your projects listed, if you have any. Opening Pro Tools sessions To open a session, choose File  →  Open Session from the main menu or press ⌘  +O (Mac) or Ctrl+O (PC). The Open Session dialog box appears. Choose the file you want to open and then click Open. If you have a session with more than 24 tracks and you want to keep those additional tracks, don’t open it in a Pro Tools version earlier than 5.3 (or if you do, don’t save it there) because any additional tracks will be lost when you click Save. Saving your Pro Tools sessions You have four options for saving sessions in Pro Tools: Save Session, Save Session As, Save Session Copy In, and Save As Template. As well, you can always return to a previously saved version of your session with the Revert to Saved command. Save Session This is the same Save command that you find in any computer program. As usual, you choose File  →  Save to save your session. You can also initiate a save by pressing ⌘  +S (Mac) or Ctrl+S (PC). You should get used to saving from the keyboard often to prevent losing any data while you work. You can also turn on the Auto Save function and have Pro tools save your session automatically. Here’s how: Choose Setup  →  Preferences to access the Preferences dialog box. On the Operations tab, select the Enable Session File Auto Backup check box. Save Session As Choose File  →  Save Session As to save your session with a new name and/or location. You see the Save Session As dialog box. Use Save Session As to save a variation of a session that you’ve been working on. Pro Tools users do this a lot when they're mixing because this way, they can have a bunch of different mixes to choose from. The good thing about this command is that it saves only the session data and not the audio or MIDI files, so the session won’t take up much room on your hard drive. Save Session Copy In If you want to transfer your files from one program to another (Pro Tools to Logic, for example), using the Save Session Copy In command can be useful. Choosing File  →  Save Session Copy In opens this dialog box. Here, you can change the filename, location, and file type, among other options: Session Format: From this drop-down menu, choose the Pro Tools version you want to save in. Your options include to save the session as a project or as the latest version, as well as PT7–9 or PT5.1–6.9. Keep in mind that you may lose some data if you save this session in an earlier version. Session Parameters: Use this section of the dialog box to choose the audio file type, sample rate, and bit depth. You can choose from the same options that you had when you first opened the session. If you choose Session (Pro Tools 5.1 -> 6.9), you can also choose to force Mac/PC compatibility. If you want to share this session between a Mac and a PC, you need to select the Enforce Mac/PC Compatibility check box. Items to Copy: The Items to Copy section includes options for audio files, plug-in settings, and movie or video files that may be part of the session. If you plan on taking this session to another computer, use Items to Copy function when you choose what you want to copy. Relying on Revert to Save The Revert to Save command (choose File  →  Revert to Save) is a handy feature if you did a bunch of work since you last saved your session and want to undo it without having to use the Undo command (located under Edit menu) to backtrack through the steps and undo each one. Personally, if you're in the position of wanting to undo a bunch of stuff and haven’t used the Save command since starting those changes, you choose to save the session with the Save As command. This way, you have those changes just in case you do decide to keep them. If you go that route, the changes will be sitting in a separate session file, safe and (ahem) sound. Creating a Pro Tools session template To make your life easier, you can create a session template with all the options you want already in place — track settings, window views, mixer settings, and so on — so all you have to do when you open a new session is open the template and save it with your new session name. A variety of session templates comes with your Pro Tools software. To use them, choose the Pro Tools Session Templates folder from the Software CD-ROM and drag it onto your hard drive. Open the template session and rename it as your new session. You can use this folder for all your templates so that finding them again is easy. Choose File  →  Open session from the main menu, select the template folder from the Open Session dialog box, and scroll to the template you want to use. To prepare a template, start by opening a new session and then creating your session as you want. After you set all the options to your liking, save the session file with a name that you’ll remember (like killer session template 1) so you can find it easily. To transform the session file you saved into a session template, use the following steps: Choose File →  Save As Template. The Save Session Template dialog box opens. Select Install template in system or Select location for template. If you choose to install your template in the system, you choose the category and assign a name; your template will go into the default template folder. If you choose the select the location for your template, a navigation box appears when you click OK; then you can put the template anywhere you choose. In the Include Media selector, you can chose to have certain media included in your session template. For example, you may want to use a series of rhythm-section audio files to use in multiple sessions. Check this box and each time you create a new session based on this template, the files will be there for you. Your template is saved in the location that you chose when you opened the session.

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