Welcome to Pro Tools Expert a huge community for users of Avid Pro Tools for both music and post production. With over 3 million visits a year, we’ve grown to be the place to come for training, resources, tips tricks and news. We offer advice for users of all versions of Pro Tools both current and legacy formats. We’re independent and are not affiliated with Avid or their associated companies.
Entries in tricks (108)
Some users are having an issue when running Pro Tools updates with all plug-ins going missing.
Despite reinstalling Pro Tools the issue remains - here is how to fix it on a Mac.
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Russ shows how to take Xpand and turn it into a really gutsy killer synth.
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Red light fever is that condition that seems to grip even the most seasoned performer. They can knock a song, guitar part or even interview out of the park without even thinking, then the minute you hit record they go to pieces. Here are my top 5 tips for helping to beat the fever.
- Help Them Relax
The aim of a good record Producer or Video director is to harness the natural talent of the person they are trying to capture. The first cause for red light fever can often be traced back to a Producer or Director ramping up the tension. I know we all have a lot of work to do in a finite amount of time, but often a time set aside at the start of each day just to chat things through and talk about expectations can save hours later on.
- Don’t Tell Them You’re Recording
You’ve seen me say this before, but if you have a red light in your studio disconnect it, or a camera with a red light to show record, cover it up. In my experience some of my best takes were the ‘rehearsals and sound checks. Which leads me to my next one…
- Record Everything
Leave your DAW in record, your camera rolling and you’ll often capture the happy accident in a moment you least expected. It takes time to go through the stuff afterwards to review, but you’ll be surprised what you find on the cutting room floor.
- Be Prepared And Make Sure Your Artist Is Too
If you have to keep retaking because the bass player keeps forgetting the chords to the middle eight, or the vocalist is reading the words that will just ramp up the tension for everyone involved. That goes for the Producer or Director too, the army are right ‘prior preparation prevents piss poor performance’ - make sure you know exactly what you are doing before starting Production, which leads me to the final and most important tip…
- Stay Out Of The Way
I recently shot what was for everyone involved a complex project with a band. I sat down with them after the shoot and they paid the biggest compliment possible ‘we forgot your team were even there’ was their response to our presence. As Producers and Directors our job is to capture great performances from great performers, this is often achieved by staying out of the way, letting them be themselves and simply doing our job of making sure we get it.
So, there are 5 tips, are there any you would like to add?
This nifty site helps all of us become a Pro Tools shortcut Ninja.
Ever get sent audio to drop into Pro Tools and you don’t know exactly where to put it?
Fear not, there’s a big chance that Pro Tools knows where it should go - Russ shows you how.
Often a bad vocal gets blamed on the performer and yet some of the best vocal performances have been ruined by bad technical issues with recording engineers getting a great performance down badly. Here are our 5 common mistakes made when recording vocals.
- Wrong microphone
It is said that a bad workman blames his tools, that may be true sometimes, but using the wrong microphone on a vocal can make life very hard. If you have little money for your home studio then you need to make sure you buy a microphones with vocals as one of the primary applications for the mic. If you have the good fortune to own a lot of microphones then make sure you put a selection up in front of the artist and listen to them before making your final selection. The right mic can often mean that the need for eq and compression is then left to a minimum.
- Level headed
Make sure you understand gain structures in recording, it’s fundamental stuff, but essential if you want to make great recordings. Too low and you’ll have more hiss than bacon frying, too high and you’ll have more clipping to deal with than a poodle parlour. In the ‘wonderful’ days of analogue pre-amps and tape were more forgiving when clipping occurred - not so with digital, get that wrong and it will sound like Indiana Jones is cracking his whip in the background. Which leads me to my next point…
- Coach The Singer
I’ve lost count at the amount of times I’ve seen engineers increase gain instead of asking the singer to move from across the room towards the mic. Your singer needs to be comfortable, yet at the same time be singing in the right place to capture the best possible performance. Forget trying the whole ‘testing 1,2,3’ rubbish with them, that will just remind them they are about to do something technical. Simply ask them to sing through the song a few times to get relaxed, and whilst they do this then you can sort out your gain and other settings… oh yes and record perhaps their best take.
- Treatment Hell
We are big proponents at Pro Tools Expert of getting stuff down to ‘tape’, rather than fixing in the mix. However, if you overcook the compression, EQ or yes, heaven forbid track with autotune on, then there’s no way to recover it later. If you want to get a certain sound when tracking then use splits on the mic and get a clean safety version of the vocal down too, just in case. It does no harm and can save a song later.
- Monitors, Monitors, Monitors
Even before a singer arrives you have work to do and that is make sure you have decent monitoring for them. A good pair of headphones (enclosed) should also be high on your shopping list. If you’ve ever wondered why seemingly great singers suddenly start going out of tune in a studio, it’s normally because they can’t hear either themselves, the track or both. Make sure your singer is comfortable and has what they need in their monitors, for some it takes two or three passes of the track until they have what they need.
Recording vocals can be scary even for the most seasoned professional, so make sure you are ready to get down their best takes. Any more tips?
Russ repsonds to a request for some production ideas from the track The Veldt from Deadmau5. Check them out, all done using just stuff in Pro Tools.
MIDI and samplers can seem like the ideal way to get down parts when you don’t have the real instruments and players to hand, but here are 5 common mistakes made when doing it.
- Impossible Playing Techniques
Take a look at the end of your arms now, you should (if you are lucky) have two hands, so why do so many programmers insist on having drum parts play 3,4,5 or more hits at the same time. Yes the bass drum can kick as you hit the cymbal and snare, or the drummer may have some clever contraption, but these are the exception, not the rule. The same is said for many other instruments, for example the bass guitar, not many bass player can play a low G and one at the twelfth fret at the same time without the need for an operation - you get the idea? If you want them to sound real then make sure they sound like a real human is playing them.
- Incorrect Range
A top tip, go to a site like this one and understand what range an instrument can play in, otherwise you’ll have violins playing part that not even a cello can do and trumpets sounding like the horn on the Titanic. The same is the case for drums, don’t try and repitch a snare so high the skin would pop - it may sound cool as an effect, but not for real.
- Timing Tighter Than A Computer’s Bank Manager
In the world of quantize and step input there is a time and place for using spot on timing, however real players seldom play like that - even the best session players. They often push and pull the beat as the song plays. Drummers will often speed up into fills, not because they can’t keep time, but just to add extra energy. If your track sounds like an atomic clock, then that’s a dead giveaway that no human was ever near it.
- Can You Feel It?
A good band will play to each other, you know the nod on stage as the bass player and drummer drop into the pocket and push and pull with each other, or the guitarist syncopating with the keyboard player. I find it odd how 5 people can seem to get into a groove, yet one person on a computer can’t do the same thing, you would think it would be easier? Feel is not the same as timing, timing is about when you hit the beat, feel is about how hard you hit the beat and both matter.
- Bad Sounds
There’s no excuse for using bad sounds anymore. There are amazing libraries from people like Scarbee, Spectrasonics, Synthogy and UVI, as well as all the FREE ones we have on this site. So make sure you choose your sounds carefully when coming to lay down a part, also make sure they are sounds that would co-exist together in a normal setting. If you want to be creative then of course, go ahead and put a Fender Strat with a Harpsichord and early Mongolian flute. However, if you are going for realism then choose wisely.
There really is no excuse for bad arrangements, we have the tools at hand, a little more thought and care can take them from fakes to fabulous additions to a track.
What are your hot tips?
Waves guru Michael Pearson Adams looks at something this doesn’t happen to everyone, but we felt that we should address it for those of you who it may happen to. Sometimes after you’ve updated from one version of Waves to another of your Waves plugins bundle, things might not always go as smoothly as planned. Watch this video for the most likely problem, and how to resolve it.
Community member Michael Costa has released his latest Groove 3 title ‘Mastering In The Box’.
Everyone who uses a DAW at some point will attempt to “master” their production. Many however, will fail. This new series from studio wiz Michael Costa will show you the basics of mastering in the box using typical plug-ins and how to address many common issues found in recordings, as well as as more advanced techniques to solve other trickier problems.
Michael starts off with an introduction to mixing in the box as well as a video on what happens during mastering and why. He then dives in and shows you the basics plug-ins used for mastering and how to apply them and when.
- 19 Tutorials / 3.5 Hours Total Runtime
- For all beginner to intermediate engineers, mixers & producers
- Written by engineering and mixing guru Michael Costa
- Simple to use video control interface for Mac & PC
- Watch Online, Download, Stream to iPad, iPhone & iPod
Russ shows how you can get your first ideas down fast using AIR Ignite and then move them to Pro Tools to put the finishing touches to them.
There’s nothing better than an amazing lead vocal, we all have our favourite vocalists, but often the unsung heroes (forgive the pun) are the backing vocal performances.
If you are yet to attempt backing vocals, or struggling to get them right, then follow these tips to getting better backing vocals.
- Create Backing Vocals That Suit The Song
If you have an intimate ballad then the BV may simply need to be a shadow vocal sitting behind the main vocal. This will often be a simple double, or a basic harmony, which can thicken or add an extra weight to the main vocal. If it’s a full blown rock ballad then it might need the full choir effect, but as with any other instruments in a track make sure they fit - sometimes a track may need no BVs at all.
- Decide On The Language
Some backing vocals simply sing the main vocals and harmonize, in other cases they highlight certain parts of the vocal. There’s still a place in music for Ohhs, Ahhs and Doobie, Doobie Doos, not to be confused with the Hanna Barbera talking dog, who might work on a track but costs a fortune to keep fed.
- Tracking Tips
When tracking your own over dubs through headphones, then here are a couple of things that might help keep you in tune and in time. Firstly try panning the original into one ear and have your live monitor in the other, secondly if you don’t like doing that then just feed the original through your headphones and take one of the ears off so you can hear yourself - be careful not to have it too loud to prevent spillage when recording, panning it to the ear you are using can help prevent that too.
- Tuning And Timing Are Relative
If you plan to stack your vocals then take care not to over tune or over time correct them. The main reason stacked vocals sound so big is because of the tiny changes in pitch and time between each take. If you over-do either tuning or timing correction then you defeat the object of the exercise and in turn end up with a very loud, phasey set of backing vocals.
- Use Eq And Compression Creatively
You’ll often find that backing vocals, especially large sets of them, benefit from some extensive eq and compression. I often roll most of the bottom end out of big stacks and also compress heavily to create a wall of sound. Alternatively you can get some cool effects on a double tracked vocal by rolling off a lot of top end, so it sits behind the backing vocal without being too distracting.
So 5 tips that should help those new to backing vocals - what are yours?
Welcome to my first post on pro-tools-expert.com. This place needed some Aussie influence and now I’m here :)
OK onto the subject. A couple of weeks ago, there was a comment on the website suggesting that we put up a video helping you learn how to move your Air Strike, Transfuser or other VI content files onto other drives, so you can stay with the file management system you’re using rather than filling up your system drive.
First up I’m going to remind you that all those VI’s come with a pdf in the folder that explains the basics of how to do this, however, there are some things to watch out for that can slow you down to a crawl.
As you’ll see in the video, I’m using Pro Tools 10.3.2. MAKE SURE that you go to the Avid website and double triple check that you’re using the most up to date version of the Content Location File for your version of Pro Tools and VIs.
Scroll down to find the links to the content location file you need. REMEMBER that Structure content location is not set by one of these content location settings files, its set within the preferences of the instrument itself. So stop looking for one :)
Cheers and chat soon! Michael PA
Mixing, mixing, mixing, we all want to get better mixes - it seems no one is entirely satisfied with their mixes. As it’s often said, most mixes are not finished, simply abandoned. However there are ways to get to your desired result faster.
Here are our top 5 tips to faster mixes…
- Decide What Kind Of Mix You Want
Too many people start pushing up faders and adding plug-ins hoping to discover a great mix. Why not try listening through to the song and deciding what kind of shape and dynamics you want the song to have. Once you have a plan, then the mix will be far easier to achieve - those who fail to plan, plan to fail.
- Delete Some Tracks
I was with hanging out with uber engineer/producer Vance Powell last week and we both agreed that one of the first things we do is start going through the tracks and muting the tracks that add nothing. Does it really need 18 guitars, or 8 tracks of percussion loops? Be brutal, it can get you fired if you are working for a client, but who wants to put their name to a mess?
- Move Your Unused Plug-ins
If you are one of those people who has only the plug-ins they need, then you’re unique. Most of us have far too many plug-ins cluttering up our DAW. Take half an hour to move the ones you don’t use often, or have never used and put them in your unused plug-ins folder - my guess is that it’s between 50-80% of them. They slow up load times, sessions and distract you when you are mixing.
- Delete Plug-ins
I got sent a mix last week, it was 28 tracks and every track had around 3 plug-ins on it. The first thing I do when I get tracks to mix is disable every plug-in. On this occasion the track sounded a hell of a lot better without them, in fact it sounded great. I added an instance of UAD ATR102 and iZotope Ozone to the master bus and bounced it. Sometimes less is more.
- Take A Lot Of Breaks
That seems like a contradiction, take breaks to work faster? Yes, take a least 10 minutes off an hour, get a coffee, some fresh air and come back to the mix with a new set of ears. You’ll be amazed how much difference regular breaks will make to your productivity.
So, there’s 5 from us, what are yours?
Russ responds to a a podcast questions and shows how those having to record into Pro Tools from legacy devices may not need to depend on sync.
Russ goes right back to basics and shows users how to create, record and save their first Pro Tools session.
We are thrilled to welcome to the team Michael Pearson Adams, until recently Michael was Pro Audio Application Specialist with Avid in the USA and previously North America Product Specialist with Waves.
You may have seen Michael on product tutorials for both Avid and Waves or on stage at NAMM and other shows. With his excellent teaching and presentation skills, we are thrilled to have him join us in serving the community. As you can see from the picture above, Eddie Kramer gives his thumbs up to the news.
Michael will be bringing hot new video content, particularly in-depth Pro Tools and Waves videos. If you have a video you would like to see then email us.
You can find out more about Micheal PA at his website here