Learning to master your transport panel is an important skill. However, improper use of the panel can create havoc and disrupt your workflow. In this tutorial, I'll talk about using the virtual keyboard and jog wheel. You'll learn how to record MIDI data even when you don’t have a MIDI keyboard, and how to control the playback of your project like they used to do in the olden days. Let’s get started.
The Virtual Keyboard
The virtual keyboard is a lifesaver for those who don’t have a MIDI keyboard at their disposal. With the virtual keyboard, you can use your keyboard or mouse to play and record MIDI notes. This is far easier than drawing the notes using the Pencil tool. You can activate the virtual keyboard by using the right-click context menu on the Transport Panel and selecting Virtual Keyboard, or by pressing Alt+K on the keyboard.
Once the virtual keyboard appears, you have the option to choose between two different layouts, namely the computer keyboard and the piano roll. You can select the preferred one by pressing Change The Virtual Keyboard Display Type or by pressing the Tab key.
In the piano roll mode, you have a full seven octaves that you can use to record, while the computer keyboard mode has two rows of keys that you can use to record. The notes in the computer keyboard display is shown as how it would appear in a normal MIDI keyboard. In order to switch between the different octaves, use the Octave Offset option or press the Left/Right arrow keys on the keyboard.
The computer keyboard mode can be used to record drums or other percussion instruments, while the piano roll mode can be used for other types of instruments. The piano roll mode has the option to add modulation and pitch bend effects onto the notes that we are recording. On the left side of the piano roll, you have two sliders which will help you to do this. The left slider is the pitch bender, while the right one adds modulation to the notes. Press a key on the virtual keyboard using the mouse, and when the cursor changes to a crosshair, move the mouse up or down to adjust the modulation, and left or right to introduce pitch bend to the notes.
Recording the MIDI data is similar to how you record using a standard MIDI keyboard. You can start by adding a MIDI or Instrument track and enabling the Record option. Once you are done with that, start recording notes by pressing the various keys on the keyboard or by clicking the notes with the mouse. You can also adjust the notes’ volume by sliding the Note Velocity Level meter up or down. The Up or Down keys on the keyboard can be used for this same purpose. However, it’s preferred to adjust the volume of the notes by using the Pencil tool once the recording is done, so that you can concentrate more on the performance, rather than focusing on the volume of the notes.
An important point to remember is that once the virtual keyboard is activated, the usual key commands are blocked, and reserved for the virtual keyboard. The only exceptions are:
- Num [*]
- Num 
- Num [/]
- Delete or Backspace
You can reactivate all the keys to their normal states by closing the virtual keyboard by Alt+K or by using the right-click context menu.
The jog/scrub can be considered as a two-in-one item. It contains the Shuttle Speed Control and the Jog Wheel. Let’s get into what each does.
The Shuttle Speed Control allows you to play back the project
at any speed, backwards or forwards. This helps you to move to any location in
the project very easily and quickly. If you move the shuttle speed wheel to the
right, the playback will start and the further you move the wheel to the right,
the faster will be the speed of the playback. If you move the shuttle speed
wheel to the left, it will start the playback backwards, and similar to the
previous one, it will play at a slower rate as you move the slider to the left.
The other important item in the jog/scrub is the jog wheel itself. This item is something that the old engineers would love. It is similar to the scrubbing that you do on a typical tape deck machine. You can manually move the cursor back and forth by moving the jog wheel to the left or right. You can move the wheel endlessly to any direction to reach the location that you want the cursor to be.
Just like the tape deck machines, the playback will be stopped if you click on the jog wheel and you will be able to move the cursor to the precise location.
To move the cursor to the left or right by one frame, click on the + or – buttons in the center of the jog wheel.
Conclusion For Now
So far, you have learned how to use the transport panel, how to record music when you don’t have a MIDI keyboard, how to revive the old tape deck machine, and to control the playback speed of the project.
Learning how to control your project is one important skill that any engineer must have. No one wants to work with an engineer who doesn’t know how to adjust the speed of the project or to move to a certain part of the project.
In the next part of this tutorial, I will show you how to use the pre-roll and post-roll meters, the audio level controls, MIDI activity meters, and markers.
What are your thoughts on using the transport panel? Let us know in the comments below.