In this Pro Tools Expert Team article, we share some of our most used Pro Tools keyboard shortcuts that we incorporate into our individual workflows. Some may seem simple and obvious and others not so but the underlying reason we're sharing these tips is that as a team we believe that developing a strong Pro Tools keyboard shortcut workflow can be key to getting a quicker and more efficient overall Pro Tools experience. See how many you already use or if there are any quick wins you're missing out on...
For convenience we've presented all these shortcuts in Mac format but for windows users please use the following modifier key substitutions:
|Cmd (Command)||Ctrl (Control)|
|Ctrl (Control)||Start (Windows)|
I have the Keyboard Focus turned on and so my most regularly used shortcuts are R and T for zooming out and in on the timeline.
Next comes Cmd + E to create an edit. Strangely enough, I have not been able to wire B into my muscle memory to achieve the same thing.
Then comes Cmd + S to save the session.(!)
Others I use regularly are ones based around the Tab and Return keys.
- Tab moves the cursor onto the next edit or sync point.
- Option + Tab moves the cursor to the previous edit or sync point.
- Return takes you to the beginning of the session.
- Option + Return takes you to the end of the session.
The last ones in my selection are when I need to select everything from a certain point to the end of the session, either to close up a gap or to create a gap to insert some content. To select everything to the end, hold down Option + Shift and click on the earliest clip you want to move, this will extend the selection vertically across all tracks. Then, whilst still holding down Option + Shift, hit the Return key and this will extend that all-track selection to the end of the session. Then using Slip mode you can move the session or for smaller moves use the plus and minus keys on the num. pad to move the mega-selection backwards or forwards according to your preset nudge values.
My first one may seem a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it's Space - Play / Pause. This very much counts as a shortcut and its status is boosted by the fact that it's the most ubiquitous shortcut across most DAWs, NLE's and playback software.
My second is Cmd + B, but mostly to create an edit from a highlighted section. I sometimes replace it with Cmd + T, to trim a clip to the highlighted section. This is a more dangerous shortcut though, which is why I prefer to use the former.
And my last is Cmd + Shift + C followed by Cmd + Shift + V, to copy and paste plug-in parameters. Really handy in all manner of applications.
Control surfaces have been at the heart of my Pro Tools workflow for many years. For the last six years I've only used an Avid C|24 control surface - in this time I've made great use of the C|24 control sets:
- Transport - Rewind, fast forward, stop, play, record
- Tools & Functions and Windows - Switch between mix/edit windows, memory locations etc
- File/Utility - Save , undo, redo and enter)
I have become very reliant on the C|24 functions as I've only control surfaces with Pro Tools. As a result, I know very few Pro Tools keyboard shortcuts. This is very frustrating when I use Pro Tools without a C|24 - I know more keyboard shortcuts for Final Cut than I do Pro Tools.
Option + Shift in the Mix Window is a speedy way to insert the same plug-in across multiple tracks. Select all the tracks that you want the same plug-in on (shift and mouse click selection), hold Option + Shift and insert a plug-in as normal on an insert and multiple instances of the same plug-in will load. This keyboard shortcut also works for loading multiple instances of the same bus and for setting the same I/O across multiple tracks - which is a fast way to output multiple tracks to an Aux track (mix bus)
Cmd + E is one of my most-used audio editing keyboard shortcuts. When used in conjunction with a mouse Cmd + E is by far the quickest way to separate (split) a clip at a selection.
Under MIDI Control you will find a Tempo section. In this section, I like to use the keyboard shortcut T to tap for tempo. Use the mouse to click on the tempo information (120bpm as default) and use T to tap the tempo. This feature helps me determine the tempo of a song at the first stage of production.
Anything that makes the tracking process easier is a must for me so most of the shortcuts that I can actually remember and use on a track by track basis and are all aimed at this side of the application.
- Cmd + Shift + Right Arrow - This one I use when I'm building a session. Double click on the track name in either the Mix or Edit windows, type in your instrument or track name then use this shortcut to move on to the next track's naming window rather than hitting Next or Previous.
- Cmd + \ This one gets most use when I'm tracking a solo vocalist or instrument. I will keep creating playlists then just edit from the ones I like.
- - (Minus key) This one is so simple it's mad but when I'm creating so basic automation the - key toggles between the Volume lane of a track or selected tracks and the Waveform.
These aren't my "most used" - Alan has already taken Space Bar! These are however some very heavily used shortcuts of mine which are worth mentioning:
Ctrl + Shift + Down Arrow - I edit as much dialogue as I do music these days and the whole family of Ctrl+Shift Clip Gain shortcuts are essential. Ctrl + Shift + Down Arrow reduces clip gain in 0.5dB increments. This default value can be changed in prefs. I find I use this more than the equivalent Ctrl + Shift + mouse wheel as I find I tend to slip sideways when using this and create extra breakpoints inadvertently.
Option + F / Option + A - This pair of shortcuts are indispensable to me. Option + A zooms out horizontally to show the whole timeline and Option + F zooms in horizontally to fill the screen with the current edit selection. I use these in combination to quickly navigate sessions.
Cmd + Option + V - Paste to fill selection - This is another shortcut I've only started using a lot since I've been editing tons of dialogue. I find this incredibly useful when pasting some room tone over "umms" and "errs".
Ctrl + Option + Cmd + down arrow - Changes track height to fill screen. I use this all the time, usually in combination with Option + A to quickly see my entire session horizontally and vertically. Obviously, if your track count is too high it can't fit everything on the screen but for my typical sessions, it's perfect.
Num. - (number) - Num. - Okay, I have no idea how to write this one down but if I can explain. I use Memory Locations a lot. I use them as markers, to recall track show/hides and I link them with window configurations. To recall a Memory Location from the keyboard you hit the decimal point on the number pad, followed by the Memory Location number, followed by the decimal point on the number pad again. Much easier to do than to explain in writing!
Apart from the more obvious choices like R & T for zooming in and out of the timeline and Cmd + E for making an edit which gets constant use throughout a session some of my most used shortcuts could be described as a ‘family’ or subset due to the specific timing of when they are used:
Shift + Cmd + N – Create a new track - This task will happen at least once in every new session and sometimes upwards of 100 times. This shortcut opens the ‘create new track dialogue box’ where you are presented with options but the shortcut fun doesn’t stop there…
Once open you have a few great time-saving options to create a full range of different types of tracks without ever touching the mouse.
Within the create new track dialogue box:
- Up & Down Arrows – This enables you to adjust the number of tracks you create per row.
- Cmd + Left Arrow (or) Right Arrow – This cycles through channel routing options including mono, stereo or the different multichannel surround options available if you’re running HD.
- Cmd + Up Arrow (or) Down Arrow – This then cycles through the different types of track you can create e.g. audio, instrument, midi etc.
- Option + Cmd + Up Arrow (or) Down Arrow – Lets you cycle between sample based tracks and tick-based tracks.
- Shift + Cmd + Down Arrow (or) Up Arrow - Once you have created a row of appropriate tracks you can add another row and start the procedure again – or delete rows if you’ve made too many.
Once you start incorporating these shortcuts into your workflow you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them! Let us know in the comments below what your favourite shortcut workflows are?
Extra Useful Links About Pro Tools Keyboard Shortcuts