In part 13 of our Getting To Grips With Pro Tools series, we are going to take a look at using the Edit & Mix group feature. For mixing this can be a real time saver. If you create a group of all your drum tracks, then when you hit Solo on the Snare track all the drum tracks will be soloed.
To Create A Mix Group In Pro Tools
Highlight the track names in the Edit or Mix windows you want to group and then use the shortcut Command+G on a Mac or Control+G on Windows. This will bring up the Create Group window that you can see above. If you only want to group the tracks for mixing then select Mix from the Type section. Don't forget to give the group a sensible name so that you can choose it from the Groups list easily. You can also edit which tracks are in the group so if you missed one then you can add it now. Once you are happy you can click the OK button.
You can expand that to other groups like backing vocals, guitars, strings etc. It can make managing a mix so much easier, as for example, you can mute a section with one click. Once grouped all the faders in a group will move together but if you want to move just one fader temporarily, you don’t need to turn the group off, make the change, and turn it back on again. Just hold down Control (Mac) or Start (Windows) and move the fader. Once you release the modifier key then the group will work as before.
Modify Groups In Pro Tools
If you find that the Solo buttons don’t follow the group then Right Click the Group name in the group list in the bottom left hand corner of the Mix window and select Modify...
and in the Modify Group window make sure Solos is checked under Mix Attributes.
Free Up Headroom Using the All Group
The All group is created by default in each new session. Its ID letter is “!” so in the mix window it can be toggled using shift+1. In a simple session it can be useful for freeing up headroom if your master fader has started to clip. The option/alt key can be used for “do to all” for many things but option-clicking on a fader will set it to 0dB rather than performing a “do to all”. By toggling the all group and pulling the highest fader down to unity you should be able to free up the necessary headroom while keeping the relative levels of your session intact. If your session contains submixes and dynamics processors on groups of tracks or side-chained key signals from pre-fade sends then this method might not be appropriate but for simple sessions this offers a quick fix. Just remember to toggle the all group off and option-click your master fader back to unity afterwards.
Suspend All Groups
The first source of frustration for the new user using groups is groups being on when you don’t want and not being on when you do. Very often switching individual groups on and off is unnecessary just to make a quick tweak. Instead use CMD+Shift+G/Ctrl+Shift+G to suspend all groups.
If you want to suspend a mix group for a single action, hold Ctrl/Start while moving the grouped fader (or whatever it happens to be). This will isolate any grouped parameter from the group for as long as control is held down. This is very similar to a really useful feature Pro Tools offers when it is used in conjunction with a control surfaces. “Clutching” is a way of suspending mix group behaviour by moving a fader while touching another fader. While I first came across this as an Icon feature this seems to work on every control surface with conductive fader caps that I’ve tried including the Artist Mix and the Command 8.
Check out our free video tutorial on using the Clutch feature...
4. Group Letters Follow Names
Groups are identified by ID letter. If you only have a handful of groups it is easy enough to manage them but as things get busier you might well need to enable specific groups quickly and easily. Using command focus to address the groups list you can enable and disable groups just using their identifying letter. Lots of people (perfectly logically) begin at “a” and continue through the alphabet but I have often found it useful to use a letter which is less arbitrary to identify the group. So instead of drums being “a” and guitar being “b” why not use a memorable letter which is relevant to the name? For example drums is group “d”, guitar is group “g” etc. Then to toggle a group on or off simply press your new, easy to remember letter.
5. Null Groups for VCAs
In Pro Tools HD and in v12.2 in Pro Tools Standard as well, VCAs work as master faders for mix groups. They can be used in a very similar way to bussing to Aux Inputs and submixing but there are crucial differences in terms of signal path. The ability to be able to mix large sessions from a handful of faders controlling many source tracks and the way a source track can simultaneously be a member of more than one mix group with a reasonable level of independence can let you concentrate on the big picture without sacrificing any control. One helpful feature of this method of mixing is that the VCA offers level control over the source tracks even when the group is disabled so you can have the source track faders for blending relative levels and VCAs available for balancing groups of channels from a handful of faders without having to manage the on/off status of the mix groups. No-group groups!
Free pureMix Tutorial - 4 Ways To Disable and Enable Groups
Groups are a useful way of controlling various parameters on multiple Pro Tools tracks at once but sometimes you may need to go back and adjust individual tracks within the group to get the balance just right. In this free Pro Tools Quick Tip tutorial from pureMix, Mark Abrams takes us through 4 quick and easy ways to disable and enable your groups in Pro Tools.
Using Groups, Shortcuts & Stems To Take Control Of Large Pro Tools Sessions
In this premium video tutorial, Russ shows how we can use groups together with shortcuts to manage large Pro Tools sessions.
Next time in Getting To Grips With Pro Tools we will look at Clip List Management. As you record & edit in your session the Clip List down the right end side of the Edit window will get bigger and bigger. The size of this list can impact on the performance of Pro Tools. If you notice Pro Tools is getting slower to respond, then it might be time to prune the Clip List.