No matter what type of work you do, chances are you will have to Import, Edit, and Manipulate audio file samples and loops in Pro Tools.
Long before Pro Tools ever existed, people have utilized audio loops and samples in music production, post/tv production, and songwriting. Whether on tape, hardware sampler, of computer software, creative use of samples has become a part of our societal norms. Before we go any further, let's first define what a samples and loops are. A sample can be described as: A portion of a previously recorded sound. For example, Kanye West used a piece of Chaka Kahn's "Through The Fire" for his 2003 hit "Through The Wire" - check out the side by side comparison on whosampled.com
A loop can be described as: A portion of audio that can be continuously repeated (without sounding unnatural). The most obvious example of loops are drums, which when placed end to end sound like a continuous drum part. The most famoust drum loop sample of all time is from "Amen, Brother" by The Winstons. That drum part has been sampled and looped in over 2700+ songs, including by people such as Tyler, The Creator, Slipknot, Jay-Z, Skillex, DJ Shadow, Galantis, and so many more. Check out the side by side comparison on whosampled.com
Now that we have established what we're dealing with, I'll show you how easy it is to import samples and loops into your Pro Tools session.
The easiest way to add samples to your Pro Tools session is to import them via the Workspace browser. Not only does this browser window allow you to search your entire computer for audio (as well as Video, MIDI, etc...) files, you can also audition the files, as well as sync them to the tempo of your session via the Elastic Audio features of Pro Tools. To open the Workspace, go to the Window menu in Pro Tools, go down to New Workspace, choose default (of you can use the keyboard shortcut of Option + I)
Once the Workspace browser is open, you'll notice it is layed out very similar to a browser window on your computer system with a Navigation area on the left-hand side, and the main browser area arranged in columns.
Once you search and find audio files, you will notice that you can audition the files by pressing the play button at the top of the browser, or in the Waveform column.
One of the many advantages of auditioning files this way is the ability to hear the fils in context with the session. Your session could be playing back while you audition how each of the samples would sound to help you determine if it's useable of not. Along with the preview, you also have the option of using Elastic Audio while you audition the files, making sure they play back at the same Tempo as your session. Yes! For those of you working with drum, and music loops, this feature is your new best friend. Along with auditioning the audio file while your session is playing back, it also plays the file back at the same tempo as your session. For Ex: audition drum loops of various tempos and hear what they would sound like with the rest of your song playing, all before you ever import any files into your session.
To activate Elastic Audio in the Workspace Browers, click the metronome icon at the top of the window
Depending on what type of sample you are importing, you also have the ability to choose which type of Elastic Audio processing you want to apply. This takes into account the different ways timing can be processed based on the type of sound, whether it's Polyphonic, Monophonic, or based on Rhythmic timing more than pitch. When you right-click the Elastic Audio button, you can select which type of processing you desire:
After finding the audio files you want to import, you can quickly drag-and-drop them to the Tracks list in the Edit window. This will result in the file(s) being placed on a new audio track, which is named the same name as the file itself, while the file is placed at the beginning of the session. See example below:
Drag-and-drop from the Workspace to the Tracks list. You can also drop directly to the timeline in the Edit window.
The new file is placed at the beginning of the session on an auto-created track. Pro Tools automatically determines if the track needs to be Mono or Stereo.
Once you have your audio files imported there is a very good chance you will have to edit the files to make sure they are the correct length. When you purchase sample and loop libraries there is no guarantee the files are perfectly edited, there is a good chance you will have to edit and fine tune the file. In the example above, the audio file is quite long and has several different drum patterns as well as individual drum samples in it. In order to make sure you use only the part you can use the Trim Tool, which allows you to trip (think crop) the beginning and end of the file. Select the Trim Tool by clicking on it, or pressing F6 on the keyboard.
Once selected, click and drag from the beginning or end of the audio file.
Trim from the beginning
Trim from the end
Once you have decided on your edit points it's now a decision on how you want to work with your edits. If your sample is an individual hit, such as a drum hit or sound fx, you might choose to place a copy of the files wherever you might need them throughout your session. If the sample can be looped, such as a drum loop, you might want edit the length of the loop. The quickest way to create a loop is by using the Trim Loop Tool. Right-click on the Trim Tool, from the dropdown menu select "Loop"
Right-Click the Trim Tool, select Loop from menu
Once you have this tool selected, you can now click and drag your audio sample to draw in a length. Example below:
Start with the sample you have edited, click and drag at the end, or beginning
The end result will look something like this. The original sample (loop) is now playing back over a much longer length of time. This technique is not only effective for music, but also for Film/TV Post Production. Many elements such as ambience, needs to occur over a length of time, therefore the samples are Trim Looped to cover the required gap.
Blaze your own path
Sampling is nothing new. People have been using samples long before Pro Tools was around. With each technological step forward, people have have more unique and efficient ways to work with samples and loops. Because of this there are tons of resources available for aquiring samples. Whether you're working with Music or Film/TV Post Production, Samples are an everyday part of life. The convenience, as well as cost savings, of having pre-recorded material can allow creative people to have an outlet that would otherwise require lots of money, or people, and time. Imagine if you had to spend a day recording "street noises in a busy city" to use in a film. The time spent recording cost more that using samples of city noises. In music, samples are such a way of life, they have created entire music genres. Here are some resources to get you going.
The Loop Loft
Big Fish Audio
p.s. Here is a nifty documentary on the evolution of Sampling