There 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.
Let’s begin with some simple transport commands:
With the multitude of times during a session you play and stop, it really speed things up to use these shortcuts as opposed to clicking on the buttons with the mouse. Another easy way to Play/Stop is by using the Space Bar.
Another important aspect of working in Pro Tools is editing. All of the editing possibilities revolve around the use of the tools along with the modes. These button are found across the top of the edit window. As many of you have already experienced you are constantly selecting between tools and an easy way to speed this up is to use the keyboard instead of the mouse.
Pressing F6+F7+F8 simultaneously will activate the Smart Tool
The Smart Tool is a combination of 3 tools in one as well as some other hidden features. It combines the Trimmer, Selector & Grabber Tools into a single function often eliminating the need for tool switching.
As long as we are looking at the top of the Edit Window, it is worth nothing there are keyboard shortcuts for zooming in & out of your session, without having to use the Zoomer tool.
- Zoom Out / Zoom In
- command + [ - mac command + ] - mac
- control + [ - pc control + ] - pc
One of the most used features you’ll come across in Pro Tools is the creation of new tracks. Unlike other DAW’s, Pro Tools does not assume it knows what you intend on doing in your session so it is up to you to tell it what kind of tracks you want. If you look at the Track menu in Pro Tools, you’ll see the first option in called “New...”, designated by the keyboard shortcut: Shift + Command + N, which give you the New Track window.
Within this window you also have some hidden keyboard shortcuts that allow you to select Track Type, Track Format, and adding additional track lanes.
- If you press the Command + Left Arrow / Right Arrow this allows you to change the Track Format
- When you press the Command + Up Arrow / Down Arrow it allows you to change the Track Type
Furthermore, if you press the Command + +/- keys on the numeric keypad, this allows you to add additional track lanes so you can create a variety of track all at once. When you use these command you might wind up with a New Tracks Window that looks like this:
Once you have some tracks within your session, you can really start speeding up your session workflow by utilizing shortcuts that are centered around track functionality, such as multi-track input/output assignment, track functions, and plug-ins. Let’s look at the example of adding a plug-in to multiple tracks. The first thing to do is to select all the tracks you want to make the change to. Do this by Shift / Command clicking on the track names to select them.
Once you have the tracks selected, hold Shift + Option before selecting the plug in you want to launch. This will add that plug-in to all the selected tracks.
This is a very quick and effective way to apply the same change to a selection of tracks. This shortcut can be used for many things such as Track Height, Track Display, Automation Enable, even Input / Output assignment.
Utilizing shortcuts that can actually speed up your workflow is the best use of your creative time.
While we are on the subject of working with tracks, there are even shortcuts to select the Record, Solo, or Mute buttons on tracks. The trick to remember with using this shortcut is to always remember that it focuses on the track your Insertion Point (cursor) is on.
As you can see, there are many different ways Pro Tools allows you to control your workflow to best suit your needs. Join me next time as we keep on exploring more shortcuts. Until then, feel free to explore the entire keyboard shortcut list by going to the Help Menu and opening the Pro Tools Shortcuts .pdf. You’ll find roughly 60 pages of shortcuts!
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Mihai Boloni is a talented engineer and long-time Pro Tools educator who is fortunate to draw from thousands of hours logged in studios around the globe. Mihai is a Certified Expert Instructor who has an array of Pro Tools experience, which ranges from songwriting, post-production, and dropping' big fat bass across the land. As an industry professional he knows first-hand the value of Pro Tools mastery for artists, producers and engineers. Mihai is a dog lover and the proud father of 2 beautiful Irish Setters.