20 Intermediate Pro Tools Tips

September 10, 2008 – 9:15 pm by Jonathan Grand

Top 10 Pro Tools Tips for the Newbie is now the most read article on Moozek, and it was also featured on StumbleUpon – whoever submitted it, thanks for the initiative! As a way to thank everyone who suggested slightly more advanced tips after the first 10, here’s a revised compilation of 20 tips – that includes some well kept secrets too! Enjoy.

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1) Create an effects template session so you can quickly load your favorite send/return effects. Save it with all the delays, reverbs and other plug-ins with the settings you tend to use. Then use File > Import > Session Data to import your template effects into your session.
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2) Label your inputs, outputs and auxiliary buses in Setup > I/O. It makes routing operations so much easier. As an alternative, you can also rename them by right clicking on the assignment (input, output, send) in the mix window.
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3) In the same way, label each track before you start recording. This avoids having file names encoded with numbers, that don’t say anything about where they belong.
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4) Use Mix groups! It’s a great time saver. An organized session with well grouped tracks allows you to mute/solo/edit whole sections, such as drums, guitars or background vocals.
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5) Remove unnecessary audio files from the audio regions list frequently. Click Regions > Select > Unused, Regions > Clear… and then click Remove. This way, Pro Tools will not load those files when the session is started.
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6) Record each take to its own playlist. Create a new playlist (01) and start recording take 1 there. That way 01 = take 1, 02 = take 2 and so on. Keep the original playlist as a comp track.
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7) The first thing to do when mixing is (usually) to clean up all extra recorded noise in all the tracks. Learn to use Strip Silence (Edit > Strip Silence) correctly to do this quickly.
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8) Use the track show/hide feature to keep your window organized. Instead of deleting tracks, make them inactive (to save DSP) and hide them – just in case you need them again.
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9) Happy with the results? Consolidate your audio files and save it as a new session! Select the desired tracks and/or timeline range, and go to Edit > Consolidate. Besides simplifying the process of exporting audio to other DAWs, this will improve performance as well.
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10) Check the disk allocation. Specially in Macs, where you can be tracking the best takes of your life to the Trash bin… without even knowing! This happened before to a lot of people. Try and explain to your clients that you need to re-track everything because the files got deleted when you emptied the Trash.
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11) You can avoid recording to the wrong drive by opening the workspace browser (Window > Workspace) and, in the A (Audio) column, select T for Transfer, P for Playback or R for Record, according to each drive’s function. That way, Pro Tools will know if you’re trying to do something wrong – it will only record to the drives you specify.
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12) In most studios I’ve worked at, there are strict naming rules for sessions and audio files. That system helps when several people have to work on the same files, and they need to know who worked on what, and when. But this can be also useful for you to remember what you did! Find out what fits you best in your personal studio, and stick to a rule for naming folders and session files, that includes the date, maybe the time, and names of bands and songs.
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13) File > Get Info… is a good place to note down important information about the session. Anything you can think of. Same thing for the little comment spaces in each track.
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14) Ctrl+click the 1-5 zoom preset buttons to save 5 custom zoom settings.
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15) Set your favorite plug-ins to open with your own default settings. In the plug-in window, load your preset or settings, click the tiny double arrow button in the upper left corner, and select Set As User Default.
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16) To have your favorite plugins on top of the Inserts menu, Ctrl/Command+click its name in the list. Do this again to remove it.
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17) Need to make a quick edit in a parameter that is locked by groups? Ctrl/Command+Shift+G disables/enables all groups.
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18) Quickly compare your mix, before and after plug-ins. Select the tracks of which you want to bypass the inserts, press and hold Ctrl+Alt / Command+Option, and click the insert. If you click the second insert, all second inserts in all selected tracks will be bypassed.
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19) Press and hold Ctrl/Command when editing in Grid mode, to temporarily switch to Slip mode.
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20) Make sure you are using the Pro Tools Auto backup feature. Set it to save automatically a session copy every minute or every 5 minutes: Setup > Preferences > Operation > Auto Backup.
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Thanks to James Meeker and others from Moozek, Gearslutz, DUC, and Harmony Central forums for giving suggestions after the first article ( Top 10 Pro Tools Tips for the Newbie ). A lot of these tips are based on those suggestions, and people wanted to be credited.
Disclaimer:
With that being said, techniques for using a software are creditable mostly to the software engineers (in this case, at Digidesign.) Tips and shortcuts are common public knowledge – they are used because the engineers implemented them, and because they are based on documented features in a product manual. Nobody owns the intellectual property to Ctrl+Shift+G. It’s like owning the credit for the way I like to use a linear phase EQ in the master bus.
Every time I write something, it’s assumed that I am thankful to everyone I ever learned from (the list would be bigger than this whole blog.) Like most people, I don’t know the exact origins of most of the information I remember. Moozek is a blog, in its right to share information from public sources. If people reply with more tips, I learn with those tips, and I might write about it, obviously presented in a different way (not  quoting directly anything). Those people might be credited – if it makes sense. This article was written from scratch and if you find here any direct paragraph from any source you know, please let us know. One does not own information one learned from a public source of information. We own only what we create. No one owns these tips. We own only the intellectual property of the text used to transmit these tips (which is not big deal, but avoids that people copy part or whole of it, take credit and get away with it.) That is what this blog believes in.

  1. 9 Responses to “20 Intermediate Pro Tools Tips”

  2. Nice tips man.

    Best regards

    Tox

    By Tox on Sep 11, 2008

  3. Excellent!

    By Van on Sep 17, 2008

  4. Sorry you had someone get on your ass (well, I assumed as much from the disclaimer) that’s pretty sad. Shame on whatever douchebag thinks he invented shortcuts or tips and deserves credit.. and hopefully douchebag reads this comment.

    Good tips, I haven’t used ProTools in a while but used to quite a bit, so most of this was good reminders for me! Thanks man.

    By Andrew on Sep 9, 2009

  5. This is one grate tips list, my favorite is defiantly “Ctrl+click the 1-5 zoom” ha ha, I would kill for this one few days ago.

    By Pro Tools Demo on Oct 3, 2011

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