A crucial part of knowing Pro Tools is being able to navigate a session quickly and efficiently. When time is expensive and tempers are short, the session needs to run as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Be it tracking, editing, mixing or mastering - learning keyboard shortcuts is key to succeeding in the Pro Tools digital recording/editing/mixing world. Let's get started.
- The less you use the mouse, the faster you will be able to navigate Pro Tools.
- A list of the shortcuts covered in this tut can be found here.
1. Creating Tracks
OK. You've just opened a blank Pro Tools Session. You are about to record multiple tracks to Pro Tools. Let's create our tracks. "Command + Shift + N" will bring up the New Tracks menu.
OK. Try not to use the mouse now! You can enter the amount of tracks you need using the keypad. You can cycle through mono/stereo/5.1 types using "Command + Left/Right " (arrow keys). You can select the type of track (Audio/Aux/MIDIetc) using "Command Up/Down" and you can add/remove a row of tracks using "Command + Shift Up/Down". As an example, let's create 6 Mono Audio Tracks, 2 Stereo Aux Tracks and a MIDI track:
- Enter "6" in the number field (or simply use the Down/Up arrow keys to cycle through numbers) to allow for 6 audio tracks.
- Then "Command + Shift + Down" to add a row.
- "Up" to say 2 tracks, "Command + Right" to make them stereo, "Command + Down" to make it an Aux track.
- "Command + Shift + Down" to add a row.
- "Comand + Down" to cycle to MIDI track.
- Then hit enter.
- "TAB" will cycle through the track number fields.
2. Assigning Inputs and Outputs
Brilliant. Pro Tools has now created these tracks. The default view is the Edit Window. But we want to cycle to the Mix window. Use "Command and '+='" Now, we'll need to organize our I/O setup on the tracks. There are a few nifty shortcuts to learn here (as well as I/O settings, these shortcuts can be used on send and insert parameters).
Change parameter on ALL: "Option" and click on, for example, output on Audio 1 Track and select outputs 1/2. All tracks now have 1/2 as their output.
Cascade ALL: "Option + Command" and click parameter. Now for example, Audio 1 has input 1; Audio 2 has input 2, Audio 3 input 3 and so on.
Note that Aux 1 and Aux 2 have input 1 and 2 again (and not the expected 7 and 8). This is because I only have 6 available inputs in my hardware. So Pro Tools will begin cascading again as soon as it reaches 6. You can apply the change ALL or CASCADE parameter shortcuts to SELECTED (as opposed to ALL) tracks if you add "Shift" to them.
Change parameter on SELECTED tracks: "Option + Shift" and click.
Cascade on SELECTED: "Option + Shift + Commnad
To select multiple contiguous (next to each other) tracks, use "Shift" and click.
To select multiple non-contiguous tracks, use "Command" and click.
3. Naming Tracks
It's very important to name tracks as soon as possible because Pro Tools automatically names the file you record after that track. So if you have a big session, it may be difficult to remember what "Audio 1" was in the Edit Window, Region Bin and in your Audio Files folder. So double click on the first track where it says "Audio 1". You will get the following Naming window:
Name the track. To cycle between next track and previous track use "Command + Left/Right". To cycle between the comments and name fields, use "TAB".
4. Keyboard Focus: The Three Options
You may have noticed a few "A-Z" icons in the Edit Window. Each of these is a "Keyboard Focus" mode and when enabled (yellow) it will allow you to use the Keyboard to control specific functions.
Group: allows you to select/unselect edit/mix groups you create (see "Creating Groups").
Edit Window: probably the most important. See "Keyboard Focus: Edit Window".
Region Window: allows you to control various regions with the keyboard.
5. Creating Groups
Let's select the first 3 tracks (remember, that's "Shift" and click) and create a group using "Command + G". Name it as you wish. Create a group for the next 3 Audio tracks, and then the 2 Aux Tracks.
As you can see, next to each group's name is a letter. With the Group Keyboard Focus enabled, you can use the letters on your keyboard to select/deselect these groups. If you wish to change the letter assignments or group attributes, use "Command + G + Up"
6. Keyboard Focus: Edit Window
There are too many shortcuts in the Edit Window Keyboard Focus to go through in this tutorial alone. So I am going to provide what I believe are the most useful. (Remember, for these to work, you have to have the Edit Window Keyboard Focus selected. The "A-Z" should be yellow.)
To move your cursor within the Edit window Up/Down/Left/Right use P ; L " respectively. This is great when editing, moving regions around, and even tracking. Let's say our cursor is in the first track
We can move through tracks very quickly now, this is great in large sessions. We can also select contiguous tracks by using shift together with the shortcuts. Now, if the cursor is in a track we can use:
- "Shift + R" to record arm the track (or groups of tracks!)
- "Shift + S" to solo it
- "Shift + M" to mute it
- "Shift + I" for input monitoring (Pro Tools HD only).
Here are other important edit window short
"Command + Ctrl" and click: makes inactive (an inactive plugin will free up the processing power it previously used. It is grayed out when inactive)
"Command + D" duplicates the selected region. It is automatically placed at the end of itself. Great if you need to loop something without using Loop Playback, for example a drum over and over.
"Ctrl Up/Down" in edit window resizes the track.
I hope this helps get your work flow in tense situations smooth and fast-moving. At the very least it should help with your confidence in Pro Tools. The only way to really learn these is to use them. I've attached a list of all the shortcuts covered in this tutorial. Feel free to print them out, put them on your wall and use them whenever you need! With time, they will become second-nature and soon you'll be flying through your Pro Tools sessions!