Pro Audio Files

How to Record – Lesson 8: Pro Tools Basics

Hi, it’s Warren Huart here. Hope you’re doing marvelously well. Today, in lesson eight, we’re going to be talking about Pro Tools basics, and when I say basics, I mean basics, so for some of you, this might seem pretty rudimentary, but the whole purpose of the How to Record series is to really show you the most basic information so that we’re covering all of the steps — you know, because I remember learning myself, and I learned just by trial and error that I was sort of missing out on things, and then find that information later, and once I got that information, I’d be like, “Oh, now I understand why this works like this,” and etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

The reality is, this is going to be basic for some of you and of help to others. So as ever, please go to and sign up for the email list, and go — and subscribe please, thank you ever so much for all of those of you who subscribe, I really appreciate it, and of course, if you enter the email list, you’re going to get information, obviously, not only on new videos, but on giveaways that we’re doing, competitions, the mix competitions, there’s one currently running, and of course, I’m sure there will be another one after that’s finished.

Lots of fun stuff. Oh, and there’s drum samples, and of course, a Vimeo account where you can see other videos explaining drum recording and piano recording, etcetera.

Okay, so let’s get started.

Okay, so let’s open Pro Tools. Here it is down here. Now, I don’t have the latest version of Pro Tools on my HD system here. At the moment, I’m just running 9 on here. I have 10 and 11 on laptops, but we’re going to go to 12 shortly. It’s quite a big leap, but I think from what I can tell, it’s the right thing to do.

Okay, so Pro Tools is open now. Let us create a new session. You can go up to New Session under File and create a new session, or you can just use the shortcut key, which is Apple or Command+N for New. I’m running most of my sessions at 48kHz and 24-bit, so I’m just going to go okay, because that’s what it’s defaulting to. It says create a blank session. Okay.

Now, let’s call it — let’s go to our work drive here, and let’s call it Test Session. Like this. And I’m naming the session Test Session, and we’re going to save it onto this drive here. There it is! That has created a brand new session.

Now, if we have a quick look at a couple of things, let’s hide Pro Tools a second, let’s open up our Test Session here. You’ll see there’s a bunch of things going on here. There’s video files, region groups, fade files, and audio files, and what — what you’ll need to know is when you save audio, it will go into this audio file bin here.

Now, that might sound very rudimentary and obvious, but one of the biggest problems I think that I’ve had in Pro Tools, and people have in Pro Tools continuously is where audio files get saved to the wrong location. So audio file management is very, very important. We can talk about different issues that may happen, but I’ve had sometimes, when I Audio Suite things, I actually process something that was saved to the Mac hard drive, the actual hard drive itself, so it’s worth being very cognizant and very aware of the Audio Files folder and checking stuff and being very organized.

Anyway, okay, so let’s create a new audio track. Now, if we go up here to Track, you’ll see New. Also, you’ll notice that is Shift+Command+N. So Shift+Command+N will create a new audio track. Now, it immediately defaults to 1, so that’s perfect for what we need, and it always defaults initially to audio. So a mono track and an audio track. So mono audio track.

So let’s hit Create, or Return on our keyboard. It’s good if you can to start getting used to quick keys, because it will save a lot of time if you’re editing with quick keys. Okay, so Return, New. So our input is 9 for our DI. I’m just going to set my output to my console. If you’re not going through a console or some kind of summing unit, it’ll obviously just be 1 and 2.

Okay, so the most important thing, honestly, is to organize properly, so I’m going to put GTR for guitar, DI. I can not tell you how many countless times I’ve got sessions from people where I’ve got like, 100 tracks, and they’re all called Audio. For the couple of nanoseconds it takes to write down what the track is, it will save you hours of figuring things out later, so try to organize your sessions as you can. I know if you’re moving fast and you’re creating audio tracks, it still shouldn’t take more than a second to just write down what the track is.

The better organized it is, the easier it will be for you to navigate and move around your session, seeing all the names here, all the names appearing over here, so try to get as organized as possible, and then of course, if you don’t work on a session for six months and you open it up again, you might not remember what all of those tracks are if they’re all just called audio. So try to be as organized as possible. And it will help if you’re also giving the session to somebody else to mix.

Okay, so let’s grab the guitar. Let’s plug it in. Let’s go to record.

[guitar DI]

Okay, let’s go to our inserts here and see what we’ve got in the way of virtual amplifiers. So they’re listed under Harmonic, let’s go to GTR Amp, Mono.

[guitar amp]

Clean. Now obviously, we can select something a little bit more fun. Let’s go to high gain, Monster.

[guitar, distorted]

GTR Amp is pretty fun, we could do a whole thing on GTR Amp. Okay, so that is creating an audio input there. Now obviously, we can plug in a microphone, same thing. If we plug a mic in there, we’re just plugging the DI, but this could be a mic input, and we could just go straight in that one. Same thing.

Okay, so let’s create a new track again. So we’re going to go back to Shift+Command+N or go back to Track up here for New, and let’s now look at an instrument track. Here’s an instrument track. And let’s create.

Okay. Now, let’s take the output here, and make it — Okay, and let’s select an instrument. Mini Grand. Let’s see what that is. And we’ll grab our little AKAI keyboard. We’re going to plug our USB extension cable into the front of the computer here. Okay, so now, we have an extension cable, obviously, we have a USB cable, which is long enough, but the one coming out of the AKAI is quite short, so then my extension cable goes in here, and that’s going around the right way, and there it is. Okay, great.

So let’s go into record.


And there we have our little keyboard here. It’s as simple as that. It just defaults. If you go to instrument track, it just defaults to whatever is on there. I don’t have to change my input, I don’t have to do anything clever. They make it very easy.


Cool. And obviously, you can audition whatever sounds. I’m not sure what’s coming as standard these days, but I do like Xpand, it’s pretty awesome. It comes as standard. Beneath the Waves.


There’s your dance track. Okay. There’s some fun stuff in here. Organs, clavinets, electric pianos, acoustic pianos, you’ve got some loops, so I’ll go to loops, we’ll go loop 120 here, and we’ve got…


Cool. Okay, so let’s create a click track. So we’re going to go up to Create Click Track here. I like, personally, the Marimba as the factory default. Go to Marimba 2. It’s painful. I hit Option here to set it so they’re both at minus 6. Go to 120. Okay.


Two, two, three, four.

[recording drums]

Don’t really need to hear this click track, we’ll pull this down. So if you hit 7 on the numerical pad over here on the right, you can turn the click on and off. Click on, hit 7, click off.

Cool. So that’s enough for the time being. We’ll just build a quick loop like that. Okay.


Okay, so let’s go back to our guitar DI and we’ll open. Let’s go back and what should we choose… Let’s go to harmonic, let’s choose — you know, I’ll go back to GTR Amp.

Warm. Let’s go Clean. We’ll just go to Warm.


Alright. Okay. Let’s give us a bar. Turn the click on, hit 7.

One, two, three, four.

[recording guitar]

Okay, so that was a quick little funk riff there. Okay, let me have a listen. Turn the click off.


Little mistake there. Okay, so there was a little mistake in there, so let’s just take that first one again there.


Alright, firstly, a couple of things. We can turn up that drum kit there, or we can put a little compression across it, why don’t we just do that, just for the heck of it. The most basic compressor there is that comes with Pro Tools, which is Bomb Factory. Before. I like that. It’s bringing out some ambience, making it sound a little trashier.

Okay, so here we have…


Cool. So let’s take that, that’s an 8-bar loop. Let’s hit Option+R, and we’ll make it three, so it’s going to be now 24 bars, and I’m going to do that, there we go. Okay, so let’s extend this loop so it’s a full 24 beats. So let’s go back to notes, full screen so I can see it, highlight the note, drag it out 24 bars, so we’ll drag it out for 24 bars, and now we have 24 bars.


Cool. So now let’s create another track. So Shift+Command+N, creating a new track. Dun dun dun! Let’s call this bass. DI. Okay, so here we have — we’ll call it Jazz Bass. Okay. We’ll just bring out the same stereo output. Okay. Don’t need that in solo anymore.


The right input is on…


Now what we can do is we can try something fun, we can use maybe a guitar amp on this as well. Let’s have a look and see what we’ve got, option wise. Bass, here we go. Direct Tube.


Cool. That’ll be kind of fun. So let’s try a part here. Make sure our click is turned on, go to record, two, three, four.

[mix, recording bass]

So there was a bunch of different ideas in there. I like the basic groove.

[bass and click]


Alright, so there’s some simple editing. If I go into here, into lets say, quarter note, listen to this. This is a little behind, this is a little on top. You could do a couple of things. I could just cheat and take this section here, because it’s the same. And I can hit Apple+C, or just C if you’ve got the A-Z button highlighted. Just hit C, and then V, and paste it in. Then with this note here, what you can do is like, go up here to your trim tool. Here’s your trim tool. Trim to the front of it, then cut it somewhere in the middle here, highlight, I’m going to hit Command+0 and it’s going to knock it back slightly.

So there you go. You can move that, obviously, you could pick — you could use the hand tool up here, the Grabber, and move it. The Grabber tool. You could do that, like so. You can move it roughly where you want it to be.

That’s basic editing there. Okay, so let’s go back and listen to a four bar section of that. See if there’s anything else to tighten.


It’s perfectly fine to me. Okay, so I’m going to hit Apple, or Command+C, or you can just hit C if your A-Z button is engaged, and I am going to put that at the top. So what I’m going to do now is I’m going to create a new playlist. So go up to here where it says bass DI to the right hand side, you’ll see a little triangle, and then you’ll see new for playlist. Create a new playlist, now you have a new playlist, that’s fine. Call it bass DI 1. Hit OK. Now paste in like that.

There we go. Okay, so it’s a 32 bar sequence, so I’m going to hit Option+R, so let’s go for seven more of those, and here we have the bass line, drums, and the guitar.


Cool. There’s a simple funky bass line. Okay, so let’s do one more guitar part on the other side, just for fun.

Okay, so just grab the guitar here, let’s plug our DI back in. But you notice, I’m still using the same DI for every single one. Okay, so here’s a nice little trick. So highlight the guitar part that you’ve already got a plugin on, then go Shift+Option+D. What that does is that duplicates the track.

Now, I don’t need the active playlist, and I don’t need the alternate playlist, but everything else can remain the same, and what that does is basically create a new track that is exactly the same as the one above. It has the same inputs. All I need to do now is maybe go and rename it and call it Guitar DI 2, pan it the other way, away from that one, and that was a simple quick way of getting all the same inputs and outputs and everything. Nice little tip that I do all the time.

Okay, so let’s go to record.


Let’s change up the sound slightly, so we’ve got a — maybe a little bit more of an aggressive one. Punchy. Let’s see what punchy sounds like.

[electric guitar]

Cool. Now what we’re going to do is go into record, let’s turn on our click.

[recording guitar]

Cool. Let’s get rid of that for a second, let’s turn off our click.


I like that one.


So like that, so again, let’s do the same thing. Go to the little triangle here to the right-hand side of the title of the track, go up to New, and create a new playlist. We’ll put that in. Okay.

Now, there’s a couple little minor editing things. It seems like this is a little ahead at the end here, so what I’m going to do is go to my grid control up here, and I’m going to just make that say eighth notes. I’ll see a little better. I’ll see — if I make a cut just here, I moved into Slip, away from Grid, and Slip is up here. I do that by hitting F2 up here. F4 is the Grid. F3 is Spot. And Shuffle is locked, so we can’t accidentally go in there.

Okay, so we’re going to go to F2 up there. If not, you can just take you mouse, go up here, click Spot, Grid, Slip. Slip allows you — it takes you out of Grid and allows you to move things around easily. So I do my cut, which is B, I highlight by using the Grabber tool, which is up here, and then I hit Command+0 and it springs back there.

I’m going to do one more edit here. Highlight, Command+0, boom. Back it goes. Now I’m going to go to my Trim tool, which is up here. My Trim tool, and I’m going to just pull those over lightly. Like so. Now I’m going to add a fade. I’ll highlight the whole region and go here, then I’m going to hit F if that is highlighted — the A-Z button. I’ll go over here and I’ll pretend that isn’t highlighted, and I’ll hit Command+F, and then it will show me the fade it’s going to draw in, and I’ll hit OK.

But if you’re using the quick tools, the obviously just use A-Z if you’re using quick keys. Okay, now I’m going to highlight that whole part. So I’ll go back to Grid by hitting the F4. I hit F4 twice. If I hit it once, you’ll notice — see it’s moving between Grid and Relative Grid. We’ll explain Relative Grid another day. Keep it on Grid until we do that.

Okay, Option+R. 15. There it is. So now, we should have two guitar parts.


There it is, quick one. Now, let’s do some fun stuff. Let’s go Shift+Command+N, New Track. We’re going to go to stereo, master fader, here it is, and it’s on mono. We’re going to change it to stereo, and hit Create.

There’s our master fader down here, we’ll set it to our outputs on the console, 17 and 18, yours may be 1 and 2. Okay, so we set it to 17 and 18. Let’s go do some fun stuff.

Okay, let’s try some dynamics. Um… Let’s use — Let’s go to Maxim here, open it up.


Bring our threshold down.

So what’s interesting about this is with the threshold control, I’m actually squashing it heavier, which is nice, but then I can mix in the amount that I want it to be. So here, it’s like maximum effect, which is actually kind of nice.

Cool. Let’s bring up the drums ever so slightly. Just about a dB.


Cool. So there’s a quick, simple diddy. Now what I can do is I can just bounce that to disk, or I can record it back into Pro Tools. It really depends on how you want to do it.

If you go to Bounce to Disk, you go up here to Bounce To… Disk, and what I’ve got this set to at the moment is to go through my console, but I can change my output to 17-18 stereo here. Like this. I can make it stereo interleaved, of course. I’ll select 44.1 and 16-bit so we have a CD quality one that you can bounce, and then I hit Bounce. What I would suggest to do is on your session, personally what I would do is I would create a new folder like this, and I would call it “Bounces.”

It just makes your life so much more organized than trying to put your mixes into your Audio Files bin, so I just created a brand new folder there, and I called it bounces. If you want to be specific there, you can call it 16-bit bounces. I get really anal with that stuff, I have a 16 and a 24-bit one. Anyway, we’ll just call it bounces for the time being.

So create like such, and what do we want to call it? We’ll call it “Test Funk Idea,” and hit Save, and now it’ll bounce!

Cool. Now if you’re in 11, you can actually bounce offline, which means you don’t have to listen to it in real time, however, you might want to listen to it in real time. You know, I don’t — because I’m going through a console, or you might be summing, you can actually be bouncing back into your session, so you won’t be doing offline bouncing, but the great thing about offline bouncing is that when you’ve got a huge session, a bunch of stuff going on, it’s just nice to be able to do it a lot quicker than doing a real time session.

Fantastic. So that’s the most basic, basics of Pro Tools. That is, you know, me just quickly coming up with a song idea in a few minutes there. And you know, there should be — what’s great is I just found a generic beat in Xpand, which comes with Pro Tools, and I put down a simple guitar idea, added a simple bass line, then did a guitar overdub, and there I have a little quick funky idea.

I would suggest that you just try the same thing. Xpand is actually pretty useful. There’s a lot of different stuff that comes with it. Different key sounds and everything, so just with that one plugin alone, you could create a lot of great things. And of course, if you’re a guitar player or something like that, you can have even more fun. We didn’t even get into keyboard sounds you could’ve had a piano part playing on that, there’s horn stabs, and all sorts of fun things.

You know, but that’s your territory. Get creative, have some fun with it. Please, as ever, subscribe, and go to and sign up for the email list, and you can get a whole bunch of free stuff. We’ve got the drum samples, we’ve got all kinds of fun things. Vimeo access, obviously, there is going to be plenty of competitions and giveaways, so you’ll obviously be notified of all of those as well. So thank you ever so much for watching and subscribing, and I’ll see you soon!


Warren Huart

Warren Huart

Warren Huart is an English record producer/musician/composer and recording engineer based in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at

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