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Music

How to Create a New Session in Pro Tools

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:ShortLanguages:

Introduction

The most basic, and the first, step towards learning Pro Tools is to create a session. Everything that you do productively will usually be inside a session. Creating a new session in Pro Tools is very easy.

Open Pro Tools and go to the Quick Start dialog box, which has various options to start the session. In Pro Tools 12 and above, the Dashboard replaced Quick Start, although the options that they provide are almost the same.

Create

The first option that you see in Dashboard is to create a new session. In the Type option, choose Session to create a new session. 

If you're using the cloud to sync and collaborate sessions, select Project. This option requires you to sign in to your cloud account and create a new project. 

For the sake of simplicity, I'll be using the Session option.

Dashboard Settings
Dashboard Settings

The next step is to name the session. Ensure that you name the session in a way that is easy to you and to any other person viewing the session. 

I always follow the naming scheme of Artist Name–Song/Project Name–Month & Date. This way I can easily find the session more easily than using an arbitrary name for the session.

After you’ve given the session a relevant name, choose whether you want to create the session with a template or a blank session.

Choosing the Create from Template option gives a list of templates that Pro Tools provide by default. Template groups include Guitar, Music, Post Production and Songwriter.

Each group has various templates that you can use for your session. Select the one that best suits your needs.

You can create new templates with tracks and settings that you frequently use, so that you can create new sessions with this template.

To create a new session template, open or create a project and set the tracks and other settings how you want them to be. Once you finish setting these parameters, go to File > Save as Template.

Select the setting for File Type between .WAV and .AIFF.

AIFF, or Audio Interchange File Format, is a format that made by Apple and widely supported in macOS

WAV format is more common and supports both Windows and macOS

Using .WAV format helps you solve compatibility issues and can has wider support than AIFF. 

If you're working exclusively on macOS and don’t collaborate with others on any projects, it is safe to use the AIFF format. If, however, you share the project with others and want to maximise compatibility, use .WAV format.

Bit-Depth

Bit-Depth is a very crucial part of creating a session. Choose between three bit-depths: 

  1. 16-bit
  2. 24-bit, and 
  3. 32-bit float

16-Bit

To reduce the size of the files used in the session, 16-bit is recommended. This reduces the load on the system and is practical for CD mastering and other purposes where the end medium is CD. Use this bit-depth when the number of tracks in the session is less and there aren’t many plugins on the tracks.

24-Bit

24-bit is used for music production and voice processing sessions where there are more plugins and more tracks. 

Remember, this uses a lot more hard disk space than 16-bit files. If the hard disk is fast enough to handle the big file sizes and processing, I suggest using this format as the default.

32-Bit Float

32-bit floating bit-depth helps when there is a lot of processing done on the files and the number of tracks in the session is larger. 

This takes up much more hard disk space than the other two bit-depths. Using this bit-depth will help reduce clipping and makes processing smoother. 

This value is appropriate for fast hard drives and powerful computers that are able to process the larger files. Pro Tools versions below 10 will not support 32-bit float bit-depth.

Sample Rate

Change the bit-depth of the session later, if required, and the files are automatically converted to the specified bit-depth. 

To change the bit-depth of a session, press Ctrl-2 on the number pad and change the value in the bit-depth column. 

Use the Session dialog box from Setup to change the bit-depth.

Sample Rate

48kHz Sample Rate

The most commonly used sample rate is 48kHz, which is used in almost all digital domains.

The file size is standard compared to other sample rates. This sample rate is frequently used in film and TV productions, so if you are doing ADR for a movie or a trailer, ensure you use this sample rate. 

This sample rate is also supported in DVD and other newer versions of discs.

44.1kHz Sample Rate

When the end medium is an audio CD or a normal data CD, it is wiser to use the 44.1kHz sample rate. This reduces the size of the file and it supports the CD format. When mastering music for CDs, use this format for better support. 

Since audio CD supports only 44.1kHz 16-bit audio files, it is best to use this sample rate for music and voice-overs.

88.2kHz and 96kHz Sample Rates

88.2kHz and 96kHz sample rates are higher in both resolution and file size. These sample rates are double the normal sample rates, but if you plan to do heavy processing on the tracks, use this sample rate. 

For these sample rates to work properly, Pro Tools needs to have the correct hardware and equipment setup.

176.4kHz and 192kHz Sample Rates

176.4kHz and 192kHz are higher sample rates that take up a lot of hard disk space, but will make the processing easier and smooth. 

Hardware support is needed for this option.

I/O Setup

This list contains the input-output settings available for the session. Choose any of the default settings or create a new setting and use it.

To create a new I/O setup, open Setup > I/O. Make any necessary changes to a previous setup or delete everything and start from scratch. Once you are done making changes to the setup, export the setup using the Export Settings option and give a suitable name to it.

Now, when you create a new session, you can choose the newly created I/O Setup and use it for the session.

Other Setup

Bus Routing
Bus Routing
To create multi-channel stereo or higher channel tracks in the Audio Files folder, Interleaved option needs to be checked. 
Leaving this option turned off creates mono files for the tracks in the session. If you're working mainly with mono files, ensure this option is switched off. 
If you import a stereo file into the project while this option is turned off, you'll get two files each for the separate channels in the stereo track. The right and left channel of the stereo tracks are named with a suffix .L and .R respectively in the Audio Files folder.

If you've already set the folder for creating the session, set it the Location placeholder. You can change the location of the session by clicking on the Location button. 

To save the session in any other folder, select the Prompt for Location option. This is the option to create the session in any other folder or to create a new folder to save the sessions there.

The most recent ten sessions can be opened using the Recent tab. To clear this list, go to File > Open Recent > Clear.

To open any other session, select Open from Disk.

Conclusion

In this tutorial, I've shown you how to create a session in Pro Tools and the various options on creating a session. 

Ensure that you keep in mind what the bit-depth signifies and the sample rate that is required for the session. Keeping the correct parameters according to the project on which you are working helps you to improve both workflow and productivity.

Once you have set everything, click on the Create button and start making something awesome.

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