Timebase in Pro Tools

In Pro Tools, material (audio or midi) on a track is associated with a type of Time Scale. All track types can be set to either sample-based (for the Sample Time Scale) or tick-based (for the Bars/Beats Time Scale). Different tracks can be set to different timebases as needed.

Audio tracks are sample-based by default. This means that audio clips have absolute locations on the timeline and are tied to specific sample locations. If you change the tempo or meter the audio will not move. This is helpful, for instance, if you import an audio clip and want to build other audio or midi tracks around it and end up changing tempos or meters a few times. You don’t want to affect the original clip. 

However, MIDI and instrument tracks are tick-based by default. This means that midi clips are fixed to bar and beat positions and move relative to the sample timeline when tempo and meter changes. So if you change the tempo, the midi will either speed up or slow down accordingly. 

A good tip to keep in mind is Elastic Audio-enabled tracks can be switched to tick-based in order to automatically follow tempo changes in your session and conform to the session’s tempo map. 

And lastly, you select whether a track is sample-based or tick-based when you create it, but you can change timebases later as needed. 

Hope this helps!
Peace – and HEY make it a great day!


Powering Up Your Music Production System in the Proper Order

Did you know that it is important to power up your system and equipment in a certain order? In the early days, for me, I didn’t know that!

Because systems are typically composed of both hardware and software, preparing your system for use might involve more than simply turning your computer on and launching your DAW of choice. The larger the system, the more important it becomes to follow a specific startup sequence. Starting components out of sequence could cause a component to not be recognized, prevent the software from launching, or cause unexpected behavior.

The recommended sequence is as follows:

  1. Make sure all your equipment, including the computer, is off.
  2. Turn on any external hard drives that use external power (wait about 10 seconds for them to spin up to speed).
  3. Turn on any MIDI interfaces and MIDI devices (including any MIDI control surfaces) and synchronization peripherals.
  4. Turn on your audio interface. Wait at least 15 seconds for the audio interface to initialize.
  5. Start your computer.
  6. Turn on your audio monitoring system, if applicable.

    If your audio interface gets it’s power from the computer, it doesn’t need to be powered up in advance.

    That’s it! When you get in the habit of always starting your recording or mixing sessions this way, it will ensure that everything works properly as it should!

    Till next time – Peace!
    And, HEY, make it a great day!


Recording from sound modules without effects

If you’re involved with a lot of production work and do a lot of MIDI work like I do, you record a lot of projects using your sound modules. All sound (tone) modules automatically put effects on the sounds by default (so they sound better). Even free plug-in modules that come with recording software like Pro Tools do this. So if you use Xpand, Sampletank, etc. or you use outboard gear like Roland or Motif – you’ll want to know this!

When I use my Motif-Rack, I always go to the Effects Insertion Bypass screen and turn off the reverb and chorus. I am a piano player by trade and thusly do a lot of production work which involves piano tracks. I end up recording MIDI piano tracks dry, no reverb, no chorus. And if I use anything else – percussion, strings, etc. I also record those dry – no effects.

Why? Because for one, I don’t want chorus on a lot of my tracks (which Motif-Rack puts on all sounds by default!). I only use chorus as an effect once in a while (for the keys work I do). And two, the reverbs I have available as plug-ins in my DAW are better (i.e. Waves reverbs) than what Roland or Motif is going to give me.

On Pro Tools’ free instrument software plug-ins such as Xpand and Mini Grand, they always come with reverb (hall) or chorus or some kind of effect. Xpand down at the bottom has 2 effects – fx1, fx2. (If the green light is on – they are engaged) deselect those, and use the ones that come with your software. Sampletank has a place toward the bottom to engage effects but by default does not have them on when you create an instantiation and open the software.

Try to record dry and then use other software plug-ins or hardware outboard gear for your reverb, chorus, plate, etc. Your music will sound better for it!

And, HEY, make it a great day!!

Unmount hard drives from within Pro Tools

Have you ever tried to eject a hard drive from your system that you used in a Pro Tools session while Pro Tools was still up and running? It didn’t work, did it?

Here’s the scenario and solution:

You’re working in a Pro Tools session and the client gives you a hard drive (or flash drive) to grab wav files from. So you take care of that, go to the desktop, and try to eject the hard drive (command E) since you’re done with it. You get some dialog box that says the hard drive is in use and can’t be ejected.

Now, in the old days, I always closed the Pro Tools session I was working on, closed the application, and then went and ejected the drive. I didn’t know any better. Well there’s a much better way!!

From within Pro Tools, go to the ‘Window‘ menu command on the menu bar at the top of the screen. Under Window, go to ‘Workspace‘.  On the left side it will show all hard drives on the computer. Select the one you want to eject (the client’s hard drive). Then, at the top right of that same window there is a drop down arrow (in a circle), select that. Three quarters of the way down the menu list it says ‘Unmount‘. Select it and it will unmount (eject) the hard drive!

[This is an earlier blog of mine and pertains mostly to earlier versions of Pro Tools. I had Pro Tools 8 when I wrote this.]

Awesome, right!? Knowing this little tidbit helps save time and makes you look more professional in front of the client! All in a day’s work!

And, HEY, make it a great day!

Organizing sessions in your DAW

I don’t like wasting time while working on a mix. Being organized in a session is critical. A lot of time can be wasted looking for tracks again and again and again! (Like I used to do in the early days!)

Because I use templates (see the post dated Feb. 23, 2015 ‘Creating and using templates in Pro Tools 8’), a lot of my tracks are already organized how I like them, before I ever start. Sweet!

It is important to set up all your sessions the same way. That way you always know where certain tracks are going to be and can get to them quicker. A lot of time can be wasted looking for the aux track that has the reverb for instance. Or trying to find the bass track. Or . . . you get the idea.

I always organize the mix window from left to right (top to bottom in the edit window). I always start with the click track. Next are the drums (kick, snare top/bottom, hh, toms, overheads, room), Bass gtr, keysguitars (elec. then acoustic)lead voxbackground vocals. I follow this with a group of Aux tracks (for reverbs and delays). And then last is the final master fader.

The click is always far left – the master fader is always far right. I always know they are there. Or in the edit window the click is always at the very top and the master fader is always at the very bottom.

What if you have a percussion part or a tambourine or something else? I worked out an order (for me) that puts these extra parts in their respective group. Basically I go low to high (in sound or timbre) or main instruments part and then auxiliary instruments.

In a later blog I will talk about sub mix groups.

And HEY! Make it a great day!


Demystifying Pro Tools Preference Settings part 3/3

OK today let’s first go over the Editing tab. There’s really only one item I want to make sure you know about. At the bottom of the page is ‘Levels of Undo’. This preference sets the maximum number of actions that can be undone. The maximum is 32 levels of undo! That’s a lot! You can “back up” 32 times. Sometimes I use this to my advantage – I may try something knowing that I can go back and undo whatever it is I’m trying. For instance, in editing I might try to edit two different sections together a certain way not knowing if it’s going to work or not. And then if it doesn’t work I can just back up until I see my two sections as they were in the beginning before I did any editing at all.NOTE: The one thing to keep in mind is that setting this to a lower number can speed up the performance of slower computers.
The next tab in the preferences setup is Mixing. Under the Setup section I like to use the Default EQ and Default Dynamics windows. Here I set the EQ and Dynamics processors that I use most often. After setting them, they will show up when you’re in the mix window and you click on an insert. The plugin appears at the top of the insert selector pop-up menu.
Next under Automation be sure ‘Smooth and Thin Data After Pass’ is selected. Pro Tools will automatically smooth and thin the automation data created in an automation pass if this is set. Be sure to set the ‘Degree of Thinning’ also. I have mine set to “more”. I would leave this higher – either ‘more’ or ‘most’.
And finally, notice ‘After Write Pass, Switch To’. This determines what happens after you write the first pass of automation. Touch mode writes automation only while a fader or switch is touched or clicked with a mouse. When the fader is released, the writing of automation stops and the fader returns to any previously automated position. Latch mode works in the same way but continues to write automation until you stop playback.
So that’s it for the Preference settings in the Setup menu! I hoped this helps. I hope this lessens any intimidation you might have felt while looking through this particular menu item!
Until next time –
And HEY! make it a great day!

Demystifying Pro Tools Preference Settings part 2/3

In the last blog post I covered the first tab under pro tools preferences – Display. Today I will cover Operation Preferences. First section is Transport: The very first selection ‘Timeline Insertion/Play Start Marker Follows Playback’ is important and I use it all the time. When selected, the Timeline Insertion and the Play Start Marker both move to the point in the timeline where playback stops. When deselected, the Timeline Insertion and Play Start Marker do not follow playback, but return to the point in time where playback began. Many times I leave this deselected because I want to play a section of my song and I want playback to start from the same place every time. This way I can listen to the same section over and over for whatever reason. If you select it, then when you are in playback mode, wherever you stop and then restart, playback continues from wherever you stopped.**This can also be selected/deselected from the Edit window – underneath the Edit Tools – the farthest right icon (looks like a rt. arrow with vertical line and play button).

The Numeric Keypad mode determines how the numeric keypad functions. The main thing I set this for is memory locations. Whether you have it set for Classic or Transport will determine how you recall different memory locations using the numeric keypad. This will be a personal preference for you. I use Transport setting, just because that is how I prefer to move to my memory locations when using the numeric keypad.
The really BIG ONE is Auto Backup. You DEFINITELY want to have this selected! This determines if pro tools automatically backs up your sessions! If hard drive space is limited you may only want to keep the last 3 backups and backup every hour. I think I normally keep the last 5 or 10 sessions and backup every 20 minutes. Ask yourself how much work and time you are ready to lose and have to re-do? Sometimes when I am working on an intense session or one with heavy work changes or with a client where a lot is happening, I will keep more back ups and back up at more frequent intervals. Other times it’s not that critical so I decrease the number of backups and frequency. But every backup takes up hard drive space, so keep that in mind! As terabyte hard drives continue to come down in price, this becomes less of an issue!
On the right side is the Record preferences. The default settings here should be adequate for most people most of the time. I believe the default settings are Latch Record Enable Buttons (selected) and Link Record and Play Faders (selected). Also make sure Open-Ended Record Allocation is set to ‘Use All Available Space’.
That’s it for the Operation preference! We’ll cover some others preference settings next time, so until then . . . .
HEY! Make it a Great Day!!

Demystifying Pro Tools Preferences part 1/3

I remember how terrified I felt going to the Preferences (under Setup) tab! I looked at all that and said “Maaann! I am NOT touching anything here! I didn’t understand it and I CERTAINLY wasn’t going to change anything!! Wow! I think the first 3 or 4 years were like that – maybe even longer! It seemed too confusing to me and I just didn’t bother to change anything, much less even get in there! But now, I am in there all the time, changing settings the way I need to, when I need to, to help accommodate my workflow.Let me see if I can make it less intimidating for those just starting out. There are definitely a few things in there that are worth looking at. So – Go to Setup > Preferences . . . Today we’ll deal with just the first tab – Display. First off, if you aren’t very familiar with the different functions in either the edit or mix window, you can set pro tools to tell you what the different functions are. Under Basics – select Tool Tips: Function & Details. That way when you hold the cursor over an icon, tool or abbreviated name, pro tools will tell you what it is or what it does. This is a great way to learn your way around!
Another neat function under Basics is ‘Organize Plug-In Menus By:’ menu drop down. When you are choosing an insert plug-in, the way the list shows up can be selected here. You can choose a Flat List, Category, Manufacture, or Category and Manufacture. Typically I just use Category, but you may choose to do it by manufacture for instance. Kind of helpful!
Below the Basics area is the Meters area. I sometimes need to change how long the setting for the Peak Hold or Clip Indicator is seen – either 3 seconds, Infinite or none. And I have used all 3 settings at one point or another.
The only other area under the Display tab is the Color Coding which I talked about on 5/18/15. Next time we’ll talk about the Operation tab.
And HEY! Make it a great day!

Stay organized by colorizing the tracks in Pro Tools

To help stay organized in Pro Tools, I colorize my tracks, MIDI channels, and sometimes regions. My master fader is always one color, the aux tracks are always a certain color, all the drum tracks are the same color, vocal tracks are all one color, etc. Separate colors can be assigned to audio and MIDI regions, tracks, markers, and groups. Default colors are automatically assigned to tracks, but I always override the default and set my own color scheme.[This is done on pro tools 8] First you have to go to preferences and change the color coding options.
To change color coding options choose Setup > Preferences. Click the Display tab. Under Default Track Color Coding I usually select Track Type. But I have also at times selected Tracks and MIDI Channels or Groups, depending on what I was working on and which was easier for my workflow. If you want to change the colors of Regions, you will also do it here. Under Default Region Color Coding choose one of the options listed, such as Track Color, Tracks and MIDI Channels, or Groups for instance.

At the top of this area there are two other Color Coding options which I always leave selected. The first one, Always Display Marker Colors divides the Markers ruler at the top of the edit screen into different colors per section. In other words, if you have gone through the trouble to label the sections of your song Intro, V1, Chorus1, V2, Chorus2, Bridge, etc., each of those sections has it’s own color on the ruler bar. Very cool and it makes it really easy to see your different sections of the song at a quick glance.
The other option which I always have selected is MIDI Note Color Shows Velocity. So for those of us who use MIDI (and I use a lot), when you pull up the velocity window underneath a MIDI track, it shows you different colors which tell you how hard (velocity) the notes were struck (played). I can tell at a quick glance if notes are too soft or too hard just by looking at them.
**NOW – to change the color of the tracks – go to the mix window, at the very top or the very bottom of each track is a solid horizontal colored bar. Double click this bar and a palette window opens up. This is where you choose which color you want. Check out the drop down menu to select Tracks, Regions in Tracks, Regions in Region List (Very cool!), Groups, and Markers. Play with the Saturation and Brightness sliders and watch what they do! **See pics below
Explaining all this sounds complicated, but it is really a very simple process. And in the end this will improve your workflow, and THAT my friends is what it’s all about!!
Work smarter – Work better!
And as always – Make it a great day!!

** The top pic shows track colors. The 2nd pic shows clip colors.

Creating and using templates in Pro Tools 8

Even though Pro Tools offers QuickStart session templates, you may choose to do what I do, which is create your very own unique template to start a session. I have created quite a few “job-specific” templates like: song-writing, audio+midi, rock band, jazz band, basic midi, etc. Each of these templates have features that are unique for each of these session setups.There are two different ways to create a template:
1) Start a new session, set it up how you would like, save and close. On a mac system, after creating the session and closing it, go to that session file using the Finder window. Select the file, and type ‘Command+i’. That’s the command we use for ‘information’ on the folder or file. On the dialogue box that comes up select the box for ‘Stationary Pad’. Then command+w to close the window. It is now a template. Next time you select it a dialogue box comes up asking if you want to edit the template or use it as a new session.
But, there is now an easier way (which was not in place prior to pro tools 8 I think).
2) Start a new session, set it up as you would like. BEFORE closing, select File>Save As Template. It will give you a choice to either save it in a QuickStart category or in another folder of your choosing. I have a specific folder labeled ‘Templates’. This is a fairly quick way to take care of things. If you need to make changes to the template, simply open up the session, make the changes, and follow the same setup for saving it as a Template. Use the same name and it will overwrite the old version.
When I start a new session I always go to my Templates folder, find the one that is closest to what I will need, open it, and save it under a new name under a new folder for my new session. It saves a lot of time, I have a session that has 95% of what I need, and I can start recording sooner!
Hey! Make it a great day!