In this tutorial, aimed at both Pro Tools and Pro Tools First users, we will have a closer look at the Nudge feature in Pro Tools. It is as simple as pressing the plus or minus key to move a clip to the right or left. However, it has a ton of variations and hidden features worth exploring and waiting for you to incorporate it into your workflow.
First, a short definition of the Nudge feature.
The Nudge feature is set of key commands that let you horizontally move objects on the Timeline by a pre-defined amount, called the Nudge Value.
The interface for the Nudge feature is pretty simple:
- Nudge Value Display ➊: The Nudge Value Display is one of the components that are always visible on the Edit Window Toolbar. It has two elements, the numeric Nudge Value, and the Nudge Value Selector.
- Nudge Value ➋: The numeric display shows the currently selected Nudge Value, but you can also click on it to enter any custom value.
- Nudge Value Selector ➌: The Nudge Value Selector, the little downward arrow to the right, opens the Nudge Value Menu.
- Nudge Value Menu ➍: The Nudge Value Menu lets you choose from a list of Nudge Values. The listed predefined values depend on the selected Time Scale in the lower-half of the menu. In this screenshot, I selected Bars|Beats, so the available Nudge Values represent musical values (1/2 note, 1/4 note, etc.). The option at the bottom "Follow Main Time Scale" does exactly that, it sets the Time Scale to whatever is selected on the Main Timebase Ruler.
- Nudge Command ➎: The plus and minus keys on the numeric keypad ➏ are used as key commands to nudge a specific Edit Selection or Objects vertically on the Timeline to the right or the left by the current Nudge Value. It has many variations, using various modifier keys. Holding down the option and command key when pressing the plus and minus keys ➐ lets you increase or decrease the Nudge Value ➋.
Mac Keyboard vs. Windows Keyboard
Mac and Windows keyboards have a different layout of their modifier keys. I use the Mac keys in this article, but if you are using Pro Tools on a Windows computer, here is the quick "translation".
For abbreviations I use the following: sh = shift, ctr = control, opt = option, cmd = command
Whenever you want to use the Nudge feature, you have to ask yourself three fundamental questions that determine the outcome of your nudge "activity":
- What objects do I want to nudge?
- How do I select those objects?
- Which part of the selected object will be affected?
1 - What Objects You Want to Nudge?
The Nudge feature is most often used with Clips, to move them on the Track Lane to the left or right by a specific amount, the Nudge Value. However, a Clip is only one type of objects that you can move with the Nudge command. You can use the Nudge feature on any of the following objects in the Timeline Area, each one with its own specialities, conditions, and exceptions (that you have to pay attention to):
➋ Fade Areas
➌ MIDI Note Events
➍ MIDI Controller Data
➎ Automation Breakpoints
➏ Clip Gain Lines
➐ Tempo Events
2 - How to Select an Object?
Before you can use any menu command or key command to edit an object, you have to tell Pro Tools first which object(s) you want to edit. Of course, you do that by selecting the object. However, there are two fundamentally different procedures on how to select objects in Pro Tools.
- Time Selection: Please note that, technically, you don't nudge the object(s) directly, instead, you nudge an Edit Selection. This basic concept applies to other edit procedures in Pro Tool as well. With the Selector Tool ➊, you can drag along a Track Lane or Ruler Lane to draw a so-called Edit Selection. All the objects (for example, Clips) that are "inside" that selection are the target for any edit command. That means you are selecting the objects not directly, but indirectly via the Edit Selection, which is marked by the Edit Selection In Point ➋ and Edit Selection Out Point ➌ on the Main Timebase Ruler. Even if you use the Grabber Tool ➍ to click on a Clip, you are not selecting that Clip. You still make an Edit Selection, selecting a time range from the left to the right border of that Clip. That's why that standard Grabber Tool is also referred to as the "Time Grabber Tool". Here are a few examples where I made an Edit Selection that defines the objects that I want to move with the Nudge command.
- Object Selection: If you right-click the Grabber Tool Button on the Edit Window Toolbar, a popup menu lets you choose any of the three variations of the Grabber Tool. The third option is the Object Grabber Tool ➎. This lets you make a different type of selection on the Track Lanes because, this time, when you click on a Clip (or sh+click on multiple Clips), you are actually selecting those Clips individually ➏ without any time selection (object-selected Clips will have a yellow frame around them). This can make a huge difference when you want to nudge specific Clips on a Track Lane and on different Tracks that are not adjacent to each other. You can also use the Object Grabber Tool to select individual Fade Areas ➐ to nudge them at the same time, which provides the most flexible procedure for nudging. Please be aware of that the MIDI Editor is inconsistent because it has only one Grabber Tool. It always acts as an Object Grabber Tool ➑ that lets you select individual MIDI Note Events to nudge them. The mouse cursor automatically changes to the Marquee Tool ➒ if you move outside a MIDI Note so you can lasso-around Note Events to select them if you want to nudge a large group of notes.
3 - Which Part of an Object Is Affected?
When you nudge a Clip, you are moving the entire object, the Clip itself. However, there are up to four areas of an object (selection) that you can nudge. I demonstrate that here on a Clip, but the concept applies to other objects or selections as well (with some restriction).
- Move Entire Object: This is the basic Nudge command that is available for all objects, regardless of how they were selected. It just moves the object(s) without changing them, in this example, the Clip ➊. You press the plus key to move the Clip to the right and press the minus key to move the Clip to the left.
- Trim Right Border: This Nudge command works only on Clips, Fade Areas, and MIDI Note Events. It functions exactly like the Trim Right Tool, just using key commands instead. Cmd+plus trims the right border ➋ of the Clip to the right, and cmd+minus trims the right border of the selection to the left.
- Trim Left Border: This Nudge command works only on Clips, Fade Areas, and MIDI Note Events. It functions exactly like the Trim Left Tool, just using key commands instead. Opt+plus trims the left border ➌ of the Clip to the right, and opt+minus trims the left border of the selection to the left.
- Slip Edit: This is a special Nudge command that only works on Clips. It is a so-called "Slip Edit", which is a very common procedure in video editing. You keep the left ➍ and right ➎ border of the Clip fixed against the Timeline and, instead, move (slip) its content "underneath" ➏. For Audio Clips, that means you shift the underlying audio material of the Parent Audio File, and it even works on MIDI Clips to all their MIDI Events. Of course, this requires that the Clip has enough "handle" on both sides. This procedure uses the key command ctr+plus and ctr+minus.
Exceptions and Specialties
And finally, once you wrapped your head around all the basic functionality of the Nudge feature, there are always some exceptions and specialities you have to pay attention to.
- Clips must be "covered": Clips are only nudged by an Edit Selection if they are completely "inside" a selection.
- Clip Borders must be "aligned": To use the Nudge commands to trim Clips or Fade Areas, their border must align to the Edit Selection border (which is always the case with object-sections).
- MIDI Note Events: MIDI Note Events are only moved by an Edit Selection if their start position (Note-on) is "inside" the Edit Selection (which is always the case with object-sections).
- Score Editor: You can also nudge MIDI Note Events in the Score Editor. Nudge-trimming notes will change the actual note appearance (i.e., 1/4 note, 1/8 note, etc.) and also the selection procedure is a little bit different because the musical staves function as the Timebase Ruler.
- Fade Area: Nudging Fade Areas is the most flexible procedure because it can affect the Fade Area, but also the length of the Clip itself, depending on what you nudge-move or nudge-trim.
- Nudge without Objects: If you hold down the shift key for any of the above Nudge key commands (except Slip Edit), then you can nudge the Edit Selection without affecting (nudging) any object.
- Clip Gain Line: To nudge the selected Clip Gain Breakpoints of a Clip Gain Line, you have to use different modifier keys with the plus and minus keys: Sh+ctr+Plus/Minus.
- Automation Breakpoints: Any Automation Breakpoints inside an Edit Selection are moved with the Nudge command. Moving that Edit Selection over existing (non-selected) Automation Breakpoints while nudging will delete those Breakpoints (even if the Edit Selection doesn't have any Breakpoints "inside").
- MIDI Controller Data: Moving any Edit Selection (that includes MIDI Controller Breakpoints) beyond the left or right border of a MIDI Clip will extend that MIDI Clip accordingly because MIDI Controller Data is stored with the MIDI Clip.
- Conductor Ruler: Please note that of all the Conductor Ruler's individual Events (Markers, Meters, Key Symbols, Chord Symbols), only the Tempo Events can be moved with the Nudge command.
- Edit Cursor: Although the Edit Cursor (a single-point Edit Selection) doesn't specifically select an object, you can also you the Nudge command just to move the Edit Cursor left or right by the Nudge Value.
What Is This Series About?
In this series of tutorials, I will pick individual topics to demonstrate basic concepts, functionalities, and workflows in Pro Tools. It is not a step-by step-instruction to learn Pro Tools, instead, by focusing on important aspects, I hope to provide a better understanding of how to use Pro Tools. The discussion and the screenshots are based on the free version "Pro Tools | First", but they also apply to the standard or HD version of Pro Tools. This makes these articles suitable for new Pro Tools users who are starting to learn the app, as well as for existing users who want to improve their understanding and knowledge of Pro Tools.
Graphically Enhanced Manuals
I hope you found this tutorial helpful. If you are interested in learning more about Pro Tools, check out my book “Pro Tools | First 12 - How it Works” or any other title in my "Graphically Enhanced Manuals (GEM)" series. All the books are available as PDFs from my website, printed books on Amazon, and interactive multi-touch iBooks on Apple’s iBooks Store.