Streamlining Pro Tools For Engineering Efficiency
Setting Up A Session
When creating a session with lots of inputs things can get a little tedious when changing parameters track by track, so here’s a fast keyboard-based method to starting a new file, setting up the tracks, and prepping them for drums.
1) Type Command+n (Cntrl+n on Win) for a new session.
2) Name it, save it.
3) Type Command+Shift+n (Cntrl+Shift+n on Win) to create new tracks.
4) Use the up and down arrows to select how many tracks, or just type in a number.
*Side note: To create other types of tracks (like a stereo aux track) within the new tracks prompt window, hold down the Command button and toggle between left and right arrows for mono or stereo, and up and down arrows to select audio, aux, master, MIDI, or instrument tracks.
After creating the tracks, it’s time to start changing their inputs and outputs. Since the inputs are usually all different, there’s no fast way of assigning them unless the tracks are being imported from a previous template. Outputs, however, are commonly rerouted to the same destination (like sending all drum tracks to an aux drum bus channel). Rather than painstakingly change them one at a time, here’s how to change multiple outputs at once: Select the desired tracks while holding down Shift. Then holding Option+Shift (Alt+Shift on Win) use the mouse to select a different output for one of the tracks. By doing so, the outputs for the other selected tracks should change automatically.
Option+Shift is a useful shortcut for other additional multitrack changes. It’s a great way to add plug-ins (it never hurts to have identical plug-ins on every drum track to eliminate delay-based phase issues), insert additional sends, and most importantly to record-enable multiple tracks at once.
Tabbing And Tightening
One of the cleverest navigational maneuvers in Pro Tools is the Tab To Transients feature. By turning it on in the upper left window, the Tab key will instantly take the cursor and place it at the beginning of the next transient. This makes editing, especially in a song that was recorded without a click, as easy as it is precise.
Have a sloppy bass player and want to move all the notes to match the kick drum? Using the tab feature, strip silence, and the grabber tool, it takes very little “eyeballing” to line up the notes. Here’s how to take one sloppy performance and line it up with a better one (assuming that their parts are supposed to be in rhythmic unison):
1) Select the sloppy bass region.
2) Type Command+u (Cntrl+u on Win) to open the Strip Silence window.
3) Adjust the Strip Silence so that it separates every note into individual regions. (Strip Silence doesn’t work so well with more legato parts, so that may require some manual separating of notes.)
4) Put the cursor just to the left of the first kick note.
5) Tab to the beginning of the kick transient.
6) Type Command+4 to engage the grabber tool.
7) While holding down Control, click on the first bad bass note.
8) The sloppy bass note should now be moved to where the cursor was, thus lining it up to the beginning of the kick.
9) Repeat for all flams.
Prepping For Transfers
With remote recording situations audio files are constantly being sent back and forth, occasionally crossing platforms. The following few shortcuts will cut down on packaging time and prep the files for any session.
For the smoothest of transfers all files need to be consolidated and start at zero so that the engineer on the other end can open the files and easily line them up with the start of the song. To do so, start by selecting the last region within a single track. Press Shift+Return (Shift+Enter on Win) and all the regions up until the start of the session should be highlighted. Now consolidate the regions into one file by pressing Option+Shift+3 (Alt+Shift+3 on Win). Pro Tools will create a new audio file that is perfect for transferring.
To drill and memorize every shortcut mentioned in this article is not the best method of honing those shortcut skills. Instead, use these as spring boards to finding whatever shortcuts work best for you. That said, you don’t need to dive very deep to fool everybody else in the mix room. As Fast Hand Lewis points out (see sidebar), “You only need to know a couple of things and then you look like a pro!”