Tips and Tricks - ProMedia Pro Tools Training

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Tips and Tricks - ProMedia Pro Tools Training

Tips and Tricks

Tips and Tricks (54)

Hit Dance Music - Sidechain Compression Made Easy!

Before we begin, we created a session that you can download and listen to after you read this article, and use as a template for other songs. This template can assist you in creating SideChain Compression in your own mixes. You will find this link at the bottom of this article.

Compression is a very commonly used technique in Hit Dance Music for making various instruments within a song swell up and down. They usually swell down when a kick drum, or beat hits, and back up in between the space between hits. I’ve created a session that you can download and use to listen to, and use as a template for other songs, if you like. This a quite simple process that will go a long way in dance music, so buckle your seatbelts and keep your hands and feet in the car throughout the duration of the ride. Here we go! And if you like what you see below, feel free to join me for a hands-on Pro tools class in person at ProMedia Training.

First, I created an instrument track,


And then inserted Boom on it:


I’m going to use it as a trigger, or sidechain, for the other tracks that need to swell or pump. By programming a quarter note bass drum pattern, also known as “four on the floor” to musicians, this will be the source of the other tracks to swell between. Here’s how I did it. You can follow along, or download the session, which is already done.


Modern Song Production: Vocal Layering

There is a lot of back and forth in music about “genre” and “sub-genre” mainly because everyone likes to think of themselves as different from everyone else making music. Truth is, most of us are looking for the same thing- radio play. If you haven’t noticed, radio is still the primary medium that most of us hear our new music. Getting played on the radio equates to money, mullah, dinero, cheddar, cake etc.... Furthermore, it means that the more our songs are played on the radio, the higher up the Billboard charts the song will climb, hopefully landing in the Hot 100 and Top 40. Look at the Billboard charts today and you will see music and bands from every genre imaginable: dance, hip hop, country, rock, whatever it is you want to call it; but Pop Music is what it truly is. Now that we have that out of the way we can start looking at what most of these songs have in common.

If we start listening to what a lot of the Top 40 songs have in common, it becomes obvious that there is a lot of presence in the vocal sound and tone. Listen to songs by Usher, Carrie Underwood, Lil Wayne, Five Finger Death Punch, Kylie Minogue, and even Justin Beiber, we start to see how present and “big” the vocals of these songs sound, right in your face! The sound is telling you “this is something to pay attention to”. DISCLAIMER: Even though we are talking about vocals, this same technique is also utilized for instruments as well, such as guitar, drums, key’s, etc… This “popular” sound utilized by top producers today is accomplished by vocal layering and placement techniques. Let’s look at some basic principles to help you with layering.


The Importance of Session Templates

joshharris1It’s been almost 20 years since digital recording has been a part of the mainstream. Back in the day, tracking sheets and mix notes were a part of everyday recording sessions, and we weren’t using words like file management and session templates. I fondly remember my first Pro Tools rig: a beige G3 with an Audiomedia 3 card, running Pro Tools 4.x. If I remember correctly, I was limited to 8 tracks of audio, but boy was it cool to have 8 tracks! At the time, I was extremely ignorant to the importance of workflow, and I just plodded along, with sessions taking as long as they took. That was back in the mid to late 1990’s, and now that I’ve been working in the business as a full-time producer, engineer, remixer and songwriter for over 10 years, I am constantly looking for ways to streamline my workflow.

Learn more about JOSH HARRIS...


Layering Sounds

There's a certain feeling I get when I listen to a finished piece of recorded music. A finished production just hits me in a particularly different manner than roughs or 'almost finished' tracks. Yes, part of it is the mixing and mastering, but a bigger part of it is the layering of sounds. As a keyboard player, I spent most of my younger years experimenting with layering synth and drum sounds via MIDI for both live and studio applications. Getting a handle on this part of the production process does not happen overnight, and it requires quite a bit of experimentation to dial in that perfect combination of frequencies.


Down The Rabbit Hole

Digging deeper into Pro Tools keyboard shortcuts

For those of you that read our last article on keyboard shortcuts, I hope that you’ve already started to see an improvement in your workflow. However, there are many, many more shortcuts that will allow you to become even more proficient with your sessions. In fact, there are so many shortcuts, they have been split up into two different sections comprised of the normal shortcut commands and a special feature called Command Focus. We will be taking a look at a combination of these two mentalities to help you gain workflow efficiency.

One of the key things to note about Command Focus is that it’s the same for Mac and PC. First of all, let’s take a look at how the Command Focus shortcuts can do for you. One of the main things you have to remember is that Command Focus is always active, you cannot turn it off, all that you can do is tell your session where you are focusing these commands (hence the name Command Focus). You will find this feature active in one of three areas in the Edit Window and one area in the Mix Window.


Vocal Effects In Your Mix

It goes without saying that you will want to use effects (fx) in your mix. We all like to hear a little reverb, maybe some delay, or any number of creative fx tools we have available to us in audio land. In fact, many of your favorite songs have an effect that is instantly recognizable such as Peter Frampton’s “Show Me The Way”, or any T-Pain song. It's hard to even imagine what certain songs would sound like without the creative use of fx in the mix. While we have discussed topics such as using reverb and delay in the past, I want to show you some new tools now available in Pro Tools that will really speed up your work flow and help you with complex routing and documentation.


Let’s Make A Record

Where do YOU begin?

recordinginsessionWhere do you start when you want to write and record a new song? Sometimes the hardest part is simply knowing where to begin. Let’s be honest, making a song from scratch can be an overwhelming task, especially since you are using creativity alongside technology, it can feel like you’re always hitting a brick wall. In this series of articles, we will be looking at various ways to approach the song making process and how Pro Tools can help you make your creativity come to life. We will be discussing the various phases of song production and the relevant technology you should be aware of.


Music Production: Working With Elastic Audio

One of the truly innovative feature modern DAW’s like Pro Tools have introduced to the world is the ability to manipulate audio in ways never thought possible. Amongst the myriad of features relating to editing and recording is a very powerful tool known as Elastic Audio. This feature is built into Pro Tools and gives us the ability to treat our audio as if it were a rubber band, hence the name, Elastic Audio.

The musical world around us has changed quite dramatically over the decades, and we now find ourselves in a world of endless possibilities when it comes to making music. In the past, it was always guaranteed you had to have a “band” in order to make music, but now with the help of modern technology musicians without a formal “band” can take the reigns and express their creativity without hinderance. One of the easiest ways to help expand your musicality is by the use of sample libraries. No matter what type of music you make, there is a sample library hopelessly devoted to you, yearning for you to make it sing and dance. Take the scenario of a singer/songwriter who needs backing drums, unless you can hire a drummer & studio, your best bet is to utilize a drum sample library. I guarantee you will find really amazing sounding libraries in every genre of music you can imagine. Check out website such and to see the variety available catering to all musical styles.

Now that we have found a suitable drum loop library, we can use the Workspace Browser to search for and audition the loops. Window Menu < Worspace:




Moving Vocals & Tracks Between Sessions

How many of you have had a musical idea that can go in several different directions? I bet most of you have, it common with the creative cycle and it comes up quite a bit in production. Lucky for you, Pro Tools has some great feature that lets you quickly and easily deal with this situation.

Importing your vocals, or any track, from one session to another is a feature that has many different benefits in multiple situations: creative experimentation, music production, mixing, post-production, and re-mixing.


Let’s All Get On The Bus

Using an audio bus for effective routing and mixing

When most of us think of a bus, we usually refer to our local public transportation system, and in reality these busses perform much the same function as an audio bus would in our D.A.W. or mixing console. Think about how a bus works, it has a specific path it follows and at any time someone can get on that bus and ride it to its final destination. Furthermore, there are many different busses each following their own path with their own passengers. This is exactly the same purpose of an audio bus, except instead of people, the passengers are audio signals. Also, if you think about it, a bus is only effective to get people from one point in the city to another. It generally doesn’t take you outside the city. For our purposes, the “city” is our mixing console. This is where the concept of an audio bus came to be. As recording started to get more complex and users were offered more audio tracks to work with, there was a need to be able to easily have control of those tracks. For our purposes, we will be looking at using a bus and return to control a “sub-group” of tracks. In our next article we will look at how to use busses for effect sends.



Better Living Through Shortcuts: Speeding up your workflow in Pro Tools

searchinfoforarticleThere are many things that can get frustrating during the songwriting process: melody ideas, chord progressions, loops, the list goes on and on. Making this whole process a little more tedious can also be the constant digging through menu’s to find features and functions. It also doesn’t help that you are constantly pointing and clicking with a mouse the entire day. Luckily for you, and me, Pro Tools has many keyboard shortcuts that can easily speed up your workflow and have you spending less time with the mouse. *For the purpose of this article we will be using a full size keyboard with a numeric keypad.


How to create a send to a Reverb

Have you ever run out of processing power trying to get a reverb on each of your tracks? This is a common problem if you put a reverb plug-in directly onto each track. Reverb is probably one of the most DSP hungry plug-ins you can run. The more efficient and professional way to use Reverbs, and other additive types of effects like delays, chorus, flangers, etc,, is to insert the additive effect onto a stereo Aux Input track. Then, create sends from each track that go to said aux track, and bring up the send levels from each individual track, adding as much effect as you like to each! So here is a quick guide how to create an Aux Track, insert a Reverb or other additive effect, and then effectively create sends to the Reverb!