Getting the Most Out of Pro Tools

working with pro tools

In today’s music recording industry, as with most other fields in the current economic climate, budgetary considerations have made their presence felt, with clients demanding the same professional results, delivered in a timely manner, yet still at a cost-effective price line.

Without the luxury of time once afforded by larger budgets, recording engineers and Pro Tools operators are almost required to work in an efficient manner. Working quickly and seamlessly allows the artist to get into a creative headspace without having to wait for the technical staff to be adequately prepared.

Shortcuts for Common Tasks

Pro Tools offers keyboard and mouse shortcuts that can save users time while performing common tasks. The Pro Tools Reference Guide covers the shortcuts in greater depth, but being familiar with some of the more frequently used commands allows the Pro Tools operator to keep the recording session flowing smoothly, instead of spending time hunting through menus and submenus to perform a task.

Some of the more important ones to memorize are Global Key Commands (using the respective keys for Windows/Mac, including Alt/Option plus the action, Alt plus Shift plus the action as well as Control/Command while clicking an item) for Track Functions, List and Parameter Selection, and Controls and Editing Tools.

Markers and Location Points

Cue points, or memory locations are a great way to quickly navigate to different parts of a session. They also remember various track settings, including Show/Hide status, Track Heights, and zoom values. Some people may choose to place Memory Locations whenever they’re at a certain point in the session, but since they’re sorted numerically, taking the time to create cue points while listening to the whole song makes more sense.

Pressing Enter on the Numeric Keypad places a Marker, that can be renamed. One common way to label is Count (for the Countoff), Intro, Verse 1, Chorus 1, etc. If the Memory Locations window is open, simply clicking on the particular Marker located at the session point the user wishes to navigate to accomplishes the task. Cue points can be accessed by pressing Period (.), the number of the location point, then Period (.) again. Once the user is familiar with such tasks, the session will actually move at a quicker pace.

The Number Keypad as a Transport

Using the numeric keypad in Transport Mode, users can access various record, play and, like mentioned earlier, markers and location points. Pressing 7 to turn the Click on/off is useful when at the end of a song, so the Click doesn’t bleed through the open microphones. Operating in QuickPunch mode by pressing 6, Pro Tools operators can punch sections on the fly, popping in and out of record quickly. The basic transport functions are 0 for Play/Stop, 3 for Record enable, 1 for Rewind, 2 for Fast Forward. The location of the numeric keypad and its use as a record enable switch is also more intuitive, hearkening to the days of an actual tape machine and transport.

Improving the Workflow

Since the primary role of the recording engineer is to capture the artist’s performance while remaining transparent, utilizing these 3 quick tips improves the Pro Tools user’s workflow, assuring maximum results with minimal delay. As with anything, however, it is up to the individual user to get comfortable with each task to properly insure optimum results during the next recording session.

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