Game Plan! Learn Pro Tools 11- Speed up your Session Workflow and Organization
Have you ever had a moment when you are working on a project where you started to encounter one challenge after another? I’ve been in that situation often enough that the one thing I’ve learned from this is to plan ahead more effectively with building your Pro tools sessions. Many of you might be thinking… “Planning? Who has time for it?” Indeed, this requires effort, but it has to be done to work efficiently on projects, especially ones with large number of tracks. Improper preparation can result in major delays on a project, misplacing data to where you can't locate it efficiently, as well as investing more time and money. The more information you have at the beginning of a project, the better prepared you will be to flow and work through the project. This means understanding what type of project you will be working on; what is the genre, the tempo, the style, time signature, etc. Who is involved in the song or project? How many musicians would you be working with? This allows you to set out how many tracks you are going to need.
Next, find out if the band is playing acoustic, or electronics instruments? All of this information will help you to set up a TEMPLATE that will help you work through the project from beginning to end.Finally, I like to create a checklist for myself in order to outline my plan of action, as well as get an estimate of time and work involved. Here are a few suggestions to start with when working with a commercial client: Name of client or band, number of members and their roles, date, time, location, duration of the session, what kind of coffee do they like, etc. LOL!!! You did not see that coming did you? It is also part of the plan. Many of the "obstacles" in a session can be outside the "work loop" and revolve around ancilliary things such as availability of food and water. Unless the client requests something specific, it's always a good idea to keep basic hospitality in mind.
SO NOW WE MOVE ON TO TECHNICAL ASPECTS!
You name it what!
Once you have a basic plan, it is time to create our tracks. Lets begin by opening Pro Tools. If you are on a mac, go to application>Pro Tools.
Next, choose “Create Blank Session…”
Saving your session to your main hard drive will add strain due to the fact that is trying to run your applications and your audio at the same time. If you balance the load on your computer by spreading the work across multiple drives you can ensure more reliable up-time and session stability. If you have a "tower" computer you can install extra hard drives, or, just as with a laptop or iMac, you can also use Firewire of USB drives as well.
Next, You would need to create tracks for each member of the band.
You can do this by using “track > New Track” or pressing “shift+command+n”.
It is important to note how crucial it is to NAME YOUR TRACKS. (So important we wrote it in capital letters) This is part of your session management. Leaving the tracks as “audio 1 or audio 2” will create a major headache. As soon as you press Record, the audio files will inherit the default name of the track. This not only names your files in your session but also names the recorded audio files on the hard drive as well. If you are planning to work with other creative members of the group or other engineers the first question they may ask you is “Hey, what track is audio 31?” this can be a problem.
Let me stress this out with a lot of love: “name your tracks”.
Where is the rainbow!
Finally, The tracks in Pro Tools default to a specific color. You may be tempted to leave the default color of a track, but as you work through the session and build multiple tracks, edits, re-edits, overdubs, etc..., it become a lot easier to identify song elements by color type. For example, you might have multiple "Drum & Percussion" tracks across the session, keeping them the same color will quickly help you identify tracks as the session grows.
1. Double click on the color bar of the track to open the “Color Pallet” window; the color bar is located on the left edge of the track.
(If for some reason you don’t see the color side bar, go up to the menu “View>Edit window View>Track Color”)
2. To color code a selective group of tracks, Select the first track (click on the name of the track) then press, “shift” and as you hold shift, click the last track in the group.
3. Select the color of your choice. To choose a color, simply click on a color in the grid of the color pallet window.
There are no hard rules on how to color your tracks, your own taste dictate how your sessions behave. The importance of this is in helping you keep track of musical elements of a song. It's not uncommon in modern production to have several tracks layered for each element of the music, be it Vocals, Drums, Synth, Guitar, etc...
As many of you have experienced already in your musical journey, whether it's live performance, in the studio, or simply idea creation, the process of planning and organizing a project can seem daunting. Spending time to find a workflow rhythm that works for you can save you a lot of time and headache in the future as well as allow you to focus on being creative. Nobody likes spending their days searching for missing files.
If you enjoyed these tips, please considered taking a HANDS-ON Pro Tools Training class with us at ProMedia Training. ProMedia has been the largest and most recognized Pro Tools Training organization in the U.S for official Avid Training and Certification from beginner to advanced users at over 7 locations Nationwide.