Mike Slinn
Mike Slinn

Pro Tools Setup and Install

Published 2020-03-01. Last modified 2022-04-03.
Time to read: about 19 minutes.

This site is categorized under Pro Tools.

State Buttons

Count In

Make a Click Track

You must make a click track before count-in is possible. To make a click track, select the Track / Create Click Track menu, as shown in the image below.

The track will be called Click N, where N starts at 1 for the first click track in the song. The new click track will be selected, and any other previously selected tracks will be deselected.

Click tracks are actually normal tracks, with an insert called Click II. Left-click on the insert, and the Click II settings will appear, as shown below.

You can select different sounds for the click track by clicking on Classic Click and Classic Click Acc. Each of the preset sounds has 2 versions: the normal version (Classic Click), for Click 1, and the accented version, which is louder (Classic Click Acc), for Click 2. Both sound the same except for volume. Both Click 1 and Click 2 have independent volume sliders.

The following image shows me selecting cowbells for the click sounds.

Another setting for the Click II insert is Follow Meter, in blue. Leave that enabled. We will set the meter in the next step. The two rows of buttons with notes in them only work when Follow Meter is disabled. Let’s not go there.

Once the click track is configured, you could make it really thin by clicking on the down arrow, then selecting micro or min.

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Configure Count In

Right-click anywhere within the red area at the top of the window and enable MIDI Controls.

A new area opens up to the right of where you are working, as shown in the rightmost image above.

You can turn off the click track at any time, even when playing, by clicking on the little blue square with a metronome in it.

The tempo of the song can be set by clicking on the number (120.0000 in the image above right) and typing in a new number, for example 100 (for 100 beats per minute).

Double-clicking on the value of the Count Off (2 bars in the image above) brings up the Click / Countoff Options dialog, as shown to the right. Here you can establish when the click track can be heard (just for recording, just for playing, or both), and how many bars of lead-in that the click track will play for when recording.

Double-clicking on the value of the meter (4/4 in the image above right) brings up the Meter Change dialog, shown on the right.

Caution: the Meter Change dialog’s Location indicates a place in the song the meter should change. If it is not set to 1| 1| 000, then the meter will not change at the start of the song, but somewhere in the middle instead. If you want to establish the meter for the entire song, press Enter before opening this dialog, which rewinds the play head.

The clicks can be sent to MIDI devices with the Output selector.

New Effect

  1. Left-click on an empty channel send and select new track…
  2. Name the new track (here I named it Medium Reverb) and disable Create next to current track. This track will be known as the effects return track.
  3. Drag the new effects return track to the far right if it is not already placed there. Placing all the effects return tracks on the right side of the mix view helps keeps the session organized.
  4. Pro Tools automatically creates a new bus named after the new effects return track, which routes to the new aux input track of the same name. This is known as the reverb return track.

  5. Place a stereo effect plugin on the insert of the Reverb aux input track by left-clicking on an empty insert. For example, the stereo D-Verb plugin is located under multichannel plugins > Reverb / D-Verb (stereo)
  6. The plugin control window appears.
  7. Ctrl-click on the left side of the send to show the miniature send level fader.
  8. Adjust the slider to increase the level of the wet signal.
  9. Ctrl-click the Solo button to enable safe solo on the reverb return track.

Add Existing Effect to Another Track

  1. Press Ctrl-= to reveal the Mix window.
  2. Click on an unused Send for the track.
  3. Select track / NameOfEffect
  4. The slider will be visible. Adjust the slider to increase the level of the wet signal.

New Pro Tools Recording

  1. File / New (Ctrl-N), ensure that Create from Template is enabled, select the Default template, which Mike made.
  2. Name the song
  3. Click on Location... and set it to E:\media\proTools\
  4. Ensure Interleaved is enabled.
  5. Save File name actually makes a new directory of that name, and within it, a file of that name with the .ptx file type.
  6. Click on Create.

Setup For Beats and Bars

Many types of grids and quantizations are available. For looping to work properly, several settings must be set to beats and bars. This is not obvious!

  1. Ensure Grid mode is enabled
  2. The display must be set to Bars|Beats
  3. Ensure the grid is active, and quantized to something reasonable, perhaps 1 bar:
  4. Set a count off and disable wait for note. This gives the musician a chance to get ready before starting, instead of starting recording when the first note is played.

Settings

  1. Display the clip list, and perhaps the MIDI editor if you are working a lot with MIDI data:

Make A PlayAlong Project

  1. Copy from template as above
  2. Drag an MP3 into blank space at the bottom of the Pro Tools menu

Add MP3

  1. Drag from Windows File Explorer or from MusicBee into the Track panel (left-most panel)
  2. Move the new track to the top
  3. Right-click on the track and select Conform to Tempo and Remove Warp, if enabled, or the clip will play back too fast.

Record Track

  1. Take safety off (green I)
  2. Record arm the track (Audix, for example)
  3. Record arm the project
  4. Play to record (or space bar)

Multiple Takes

Use playlists for multiple takes. To add new playlist(s) to selected tracks:

  1. Select the track by clicking on the track names in the edit window. Use the normal Windows Shift-click and Control-click to extend the selection.
  2. Use Win-\ to move the current waveform into a new playlist entry. As always in Pro Tools, the Alt key means “do this to all”, and Shift means “do this to selected”, so:
    1. Win-Alt-\ creates a new Pro Tools playlist on all tracks (including inactive ones).
    2. Win-Alt-Shift-\ creates new playlists only on selected tracks.
  3. Once there are multiple takes, listen to them one at a time by soloing any given take.
  4. To copy a selected portion of a solo’d take into the waveform, click the up arrow for that take.
  5. Use Win-\ to make a new take from the waveform, and name it with .c (consolidated) suffix.

Loop Recording

Looping over a portion of a song while recording take after take is a good way to finally get a difficult passage.

Alt-L toggles loop recording. You can also right-click on the recording button to enable loop recording.

Other important settings to make this work property are:

  • Grid mode
  • Selector tool
  • Main counter set to Bars | Beats
  • Grid is active (solid green) and set to 1 bar
  • Enable count off (2 bars, for recording)

Now that everything is set for loop recording:

  • Select the track(s) to record on (Control-click on the track names)
  • Make a new take for the selected tracks (Win-Alt-Shift-\)
  • Record-arm the track(s) to record on
  • Select some bars, anywhere on the edit area, to record into.
  • Control-space to start loop recording.
  • Space when you have enough loops recorded

Define An External MIDI Device

MIDI tracks can accept inputs from virtual and physical MIDI channels, or they can accept inputs from predefined Pro Tools MIDI devices. It is probably better to define MIDI devices. To achieve that, use the menu Setup / MIDI / MIDI Studio Setup, shown to the right.

Below you can see that I defined a MIDI instrument called Roland Handsonic HPD-15.

When defining MIDI channel inputs, the new MIDI instrument will appear as a choice (more on this later).

NOTE: Defining a Pro Tools MIDI device causes that MIDI input / output to be removed from the list of predefined inputs and outputs.

I saved the definition into E:\media\proTools\ProTools MIDI Studio Setup.dms.

MIDI Percussion Track Using Xpand!2

Xpand!2 needs a MIDI track per input (maximum of four, on MIDI channels 1-4), plus an instrument track. These 2 videos showed me how:

Step-by-step

  1. Make a new stereo instrument track (Ctrl-Shift-N); this track will accept MIDI input data and output an audio signal. I called this track Beats.
  1. Click on an empty insert slot for the new track, select multichannel plug-in / Instrument / Xpand!2 (stereo). Refer to the Xpand!2 User Guide.
  2. From the Preset pull-down menu at the top of the Expand!2 dialog, select 29 Multitimbral / 03 Soundtracker:
  3. Turn off Xpand!2 instruments B, C and D.
  4. Click on the displayed instrument for channel A and select 025 Percussion / Djembe+
  5. Make a new MIDI track (Ctrl-Shift-N)
    By default, MIDI tracks accept input from all MIDI sources. This means all MIDI devices transmitting on any channel should be ‘heard’ by this MIDI track.
  6. Assign the new MIDI track’s output to channel 1 of the instrument track that has Xpand!2 loaded.
  7. Once an input device works, you can assign the new MIDI track input to a specific hardware or software device, so other MIDI inputs do not accidentally get routed to this track. The following setting causes the VMPK to work, and disables all other MIDI devices, such as the Roland HPD-15.
    The following setting disables the VMPK and enables the Roland HPD-15 because the drum pad is connected to the MIDIPLUS 8x8 input 1:
    If Pro Tool MIDI devices were defined, they would appear before the predefined choices:

Recording MIDI

You should already have set up a click track and set the tempo (beats per minute) and meter (4/4, 3/4, etc.)

  1. Record arm the MIDI track(s) (not the instrument track)
  2. Press Enter to rewind the play head
  3. Press Ctrl-space to start recording
  4. Play the MIDI devices
  5. Press space to stop recording

The MIDI data will remain in the MIDI track. When that track is played, the data is sent to its assigned instrument track, which makes sound. Control the volume of the sound, and apply effects, by adjusting the instrument track.

Editing MIDI

  1. Ensure that the smart selector is set
  2. Double-click on the lower half of the MIDI track recording (the instrument track will not show any data). The MIDI editor will appear, and all the MIDI data will be selected. You can move all of it left and right to adjust when the notes sound, or up and down to reassign notes to the data. Each note might correspond to a different sound.

Export MP3

  1. Highlight a track that spans the entire timeline
  2. File / Bounce Mix (Ctrl-Alt-B)
  3. Before saving, choose the directory (E:\music\renders) and press the Use current folder button.
  4. Save

Modify Group of Tracks

  1. Right-click on the group to modify
  2. Click on Modify…
  3. Select the tracks to add / remove to / from the group:
  4. Click the Add >> or << Remove buttons, as appropriate.

Grid Mode

Ctrl-Mouse Slip tracks