Until version 8, Pro Tools didn’t offer any effective comping tools to its users. Now, that’s changed, and you can throw out the old convoluted comping workflows and do it this (much easier) way.
The first thing you need to do is enable a new setting. Click on the Setup menu and then on Preferences to bring up the general options screen. There are a bunch of tabs at the top of this screen — click on the Operation tab.
Under the Record section you’ll find a checkbox labeled “Automatically Create New Playlists While Loop Recording” — click this, then click OK.
Make a selection of bars in the Arrange view where you want to loop record. Be sure to include some breathing space — maybe a bar on either side — so that the musician isn’t thrown right into the take each time the loop resets. It takes a moment to get your bearings! In some situations, it won’t be necessary — perhaps a guitarist playing a chord progression gets into the flow more if the loop just goes round and round the same few bars without any padding.
Once you’ve selected an area, press Alt+L to enable Loop Recording.
You’ll need to change the track view, so click on that small arrow in the top left corner of the track header, navigate to the Track View submenu, and click on Playlists.
Before going to record, set a pre-roll (and if you want, a post-roll too… if you’re into that kind of thing!). Simply click the word Pre-roll on your Transport so that it’s highlighted green and enter the amount of pre-roll time you want. Four beats is pretty standard, though many want a bit longer.
This isn’t a count off, which involves the click track playing for a set amount of time before coming in at the record point. Pre-roll involves playing a certain amount of the whole track before the record point. The pre-roll will only play before the first loop through.
At this stage, it’s time to record some takes! Hit Record and then press Play or bang the space bar when you’re ready to go. You’ll record new takes over the same selected area again and again, so stop recording when you feel you have enough material to work with.
When you press Stop, if you have Playlists track view selected, you’ll see something like this:
It’s time to listen back to your recordings. When you press play, you’ll hear just the last of your takes, because it’s the one on the master playlist. To audition the others, just press the Solo button on each playlist, or Shift+S when the desired playlist is selected. These Solo buttons work a little differently to typical track solo buttons and simply allow you to switch between playlists. You can’t listen to more than one at a time.
You can switch between tracks on the fly as you listen, easily enabling you to compare even the shortest and smallest of sonic details.
As you’re listening, you can rate regions. Simply right-click on a region and select a number from the Rating sub-menu. When you’re finished and ready to comp, you can hide regions which you’ve rated too low to be useful. Right click on the name of any playlist while in playlist track view, go to the Filter Lanes submenu, then to Show Only Lanes With, and Regions Rated >= 1-5 where you can select a threshold.
It’s best to work linearly most of the time when creating a comp track. Once you’ve decided which of the playlists is going to kick it off, select the desired portion and go to Edit > Copy Selection To… > New Playlist.
A new playlist will be created and will, as the most recently created playlist, take over as main playlist. From here it’s an easy process of making selections and pressing Ctrl+Option/Alt+V to send them up to the main playlist in exactly the right spot.
You’ll end up with something like this — the top playlist is our comp, the ones below are our takes:
A final tip — one you will hopefully remember from the basics of Pro Tools editing — crossfades are your best friend when you’re slicing and dicing audio together. Simply select some audio over the end of one region and the start of another (usually this works best in Slip rather than Grid) and press F.
Easiest thing ever — especially if you’ve done much comping in versions past!