Streamlining Pro Tools For Engineering Efficiency

Streamlining Pro Tools

Fig. 4 Grid modes on the far left and tools on the right.

Tools And Grids

To go further into the matrix of editing, one can engage the left hand on the keyboard as a means to aiding the mouse with changes to the type of cursor-tool and the type of timeline (both are located in the upper left corner of the edit window). To switch between various cursor-tools, type Command+1, 2, 3, or 4 (Cntrl+1, 2, 3, 4 for Win) to toggle between the magnifier, trimmer, selector, and grabber, respectively. To switch between slip and grid timelines, type Option+2 and Option+4.

The following is a step-by-step process for a basic edit using key commands. At first it might seem a bit too much to memorize, but over time, with projects that require lots of edits, shortcuts tend to sink in. For this exercise let’s assume there’s a verse in a song that needs to replace another verse, that it was tracked to a click, and that it has already been appropriately labeled with markers.

Shortcut Editing Exercise:
1) Start by navigating to the good verse with the numeric keypad (period+marker number+period).
2) Turn on grid mode with Option+4.
3) To select the entire verse, type in the numeric navigation for the very next marker while holding down Shift. At this point the good verse should be highlighted.
4) Press c to copy.
5) Navigate to the bad verse with the numeric keypad.
6) Press v to paste.

Fine Tuning

After making the edit, it’s time to finesse it with crossfades and make it sound seamless:

1) Put it in slip mode with Option+2.
2) Zoom into the beginning of the edit using either the zoom tool (Command+1) or r.
3) Switch to the trimmer tool with Command+2.
4) Drag the edit start so that it does not occur in the middle of a note.
5) Switch to the selector tool with Option+3.
6) Using the mouse, select a small amount of both sides of the edit.
7) Press f to crossfade.
8) Repeat these steps at the end of the edit.

Smart Tool

Some engineers swear by it, some engineers swear at it, but the Smart Tool, which is essentially the three main editing tools combined into one, is worthy of a mention. It eliminates many left-hand shortcuts by switching tools automatically with Pro Tools predicting which one is most likely needed. There’s barely any learning curve to this automatic-transmission engine, so give it a shot. To turn on the Smart Tool, click in the space just above the selector button to highlight the trimmer, selector, and grabber functions.

Streamlining Pro Tools

Fig. 5 Grouping saves tons of time when editing multiple tracks at once.


Most editing can be expedited and simplified using groups. In order to create a group, select the desired tracks and type Command+g (Cntrl+g for Win). Label appropriately. This is particularly useful when editing a drum performance and all 12 tracks of the drums need to be moved and crossfaded identically. Another less-obvious yet incredibly useful shortcut is Command+Shift+g (Cntrl+Shift+g for Win) to turn groups on and off. This comes in handy when doing things like muting unnecessary audio from sparsely used tom tracks, or switching between editing the entire session and individual tracks.

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