In this second article from guest contributor Chris Schmid, we show how to create custom macro and shortcuts for the Pro Tools Beat Detective using Keyboard Maestro.
It’s Not Just About Speed It’s About Workflow
Nowadays all DAWs basically work the same, but a great deal of why trying out a new DAW software often feels so alien and weird is because you don’t have your familiar keyboard shortcuts available. We all rely on keyboard shortcuts to speed up our workflow and get our work done on time. Working with unfamiliar software is possible, but feels clumsy and slow when you are just using your mouse.
Of course different software will always have different keyboard shortcuts, there’s no easy solution for that. Instead, what always bugs me is when you come across a part of your familiar software where the manufacturer has not provided any useful keyboard shortcuts. Maybe I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to this, but I think almost everything in well designed software should be controllable by keyboard.
If you are regularly working in “mouse-only" parts of your DAW software (or any other software) you have probably lost hours of precious time just clicking around. For me it was painful before, but since I recently switched to a huge 38” curved display I’d probably go mad without custom keyboard shortcuts. The distances across such a large display exacerbated the problem with excessive mouse movement and clicking even further.
After some searching I decided on Keyboard Maestro for creating my custom shortcuts for my Mac. It’s a lightweight program, which runs in the background of macOS and makes basically everything accessible with macros. Not just with keyboard shortcuts, but with a ton of other triggers as well. It’s inexpensive, it’s reliable and it has all the features you’d ever need. Keyboard Maestro can access everything in your Mac’s menu bar, move windows and press keys for you. The cool thing is it can even move your mouse to buttons on your screen and click on them. It can find those buttons relative to their corresponding window, so the placement of the window on your screen does not matter at all. It also puts your mouse cursor back to where it was lightning fast. The macros feel just like the stock program shortcuts.
Over some time I’ve created quite an array of custom macros with it to make my life in the studio easier. For this article I wanted to pick one example and I chose the piece of software that gave me the impulse to seek for a program like this in the first place: Beat Detective.
I edit drums a lot with Beat Detective and good as the results are, the process is incredibly mouse click intensive. Before you’ve even done anything at all, you have to capture your selection and switch to the required operation mode. All by mouse. I’m sure if you think about it, you’ll find it annoying as well.
I’ll explain how and why I created my macros, but I’ll also provide the macros as a download (see the bottom of the article), so you can easily incorporate them into your own workflow. So let’s get into a normal Beat Detective drum edit.
At least one Beat Detective shortcut already exists in Pro Tools and that’s Cmd + Num 8 which opens the Beat Detective window. Hey, it’s a start!
Before we build our macro we have to select the drum part we want to work on in our Edit window. Also I select the note value that is contained in my drum part. No need to put that into the macro, because you only have to set this once or twice per song and leave it untouched most of the time.
I also take care of a few settings that will probably stay the same for the whole song. I decide how hard I want to lock my drums to the grid and set this with the corresponding slider in Conform mode. I always switch on the “Show Trigger Time” option in the Analyse mode so I can see where the hits are going to end up. Lastly I set my smoothing settings in the Smooth mode to “Fill And crossfade” and the crossfade length to 5 ms. Then I’ll start with my first macro.
Custom macro #1: Shortcut Option + A (“Analyse”) For Analysing Your Selection And Detecting The Transients
The first step of the macro is to click the “Capture Selection” button. For this I took a screenshot of the Beat Detective window and told Keyboard Maestro to click 273 pixels right and 160 pixels down of the upper left corner which is exactly the location of the capture selection button. You don’t have to measure out the pixels yourself. You can just use the “Get” button in Keyboard Maestro and click on the button to receive the right pixel values. I checked “Restore Mouse Location” so the mouse cursor will go back to where it was before I executed the macro.
After that I used the same action with different pixel values to select the “Clip Separation” mode.
Next, I let Keyboard Maestro click the “Analyse” button in the same fashion. You can click on this image to see a larger version…
Now that Beat Detective has analysed the drum tracks within your Edit selection, it’s time to fiddle a bit with the sensitivity slider to optimise the trigger point detection. What I like to do next is to hop through the part with the “Scroll Prev” and “Scroll Next” buttons and change the trigger points that are not set right. This is a nightmare with just the mouse, because you have to constantly move your mouse between the trigger points and the buttons in the Beat Detective window. So I created a macro for this as well.
Custom macro #2: Shortcuts Option + Q And Option + W For Scrolling Between Trigger Points
This works exactly the same as before, but with different pixel values for the “Scroll Prev” and “Scroll Next” buttons. You can click on these images to see larger versions…
After I checked all the trigger points, I let Beat Detective cut up my tracks with the next macro.
Custom macro #3: Shortcut Option + B (“Break”) For Separating At The Detected Transients
First we need Keyboard Maestro to select the correct operation mode for us. To do this, we set up a mouse click on the mode “Clip Separation"
Then we let Keyboard Maestro click on the “Separate” button in the lower right corner. You can click on this image to see a larger version…
Beat Detective separates our drum tracks at our previously corrected trigger points. Next it’s time to lock our drums to the grid with the next macro.
Custom macro #4: Shortcut Option + C (“Conform”) For Conforming Our Clips To The Grid
Let Keyboard Maestro click on the “Capture Selection” button again just in case the selection got altered by accident.
Then we change the operation mode again to “Clip Conform” with a Keyboard Maestro mouse click.
Lastly we set up a mouse click on the “Conform” button. You can click on this image to see a larger version…
Beat Detective will conform our clips to the grid. At this point I quickly listen through the drums and check if there are any errors, but if you double checked all your trigger points before it should be fine. You will have all the clicks and pops from the missing crossfades and the gaps between the clips, though. We take care of that with the next macro.
Custom macro #5: Shortcut Option + S (“Smooth”) For Smoothing The Edits
Let Keyboard Maestro change the mode to “Edit Smoothing”.
Then we set it up to click on the “Smooth” button. Done! You can click on this image to see a larger version…
Your Edit selection is now corrected and you can move on to the next drum part. You can download Chris’ Keyboard Maestro macros for Beat Detective here…
Are you using custom shortcuts and macros already? Do you want to see more applications for Keyboard Maestro?
Many thanks to Chris and we look forward to his next very useful and informative additions to help us all in the Production Expert community.
Chris is an audio engineer and guitarist based in Germany. He has been doing a variety of audio work for well over a decade and he runs his own studio in the beautiful Bavarian countryside since 2011.
Chris lives for everything that's loud, distorted and heavy. This is reflected both in his guitar playing and his production style. If you are playing songs in drop A tuning and wanna throw a fuzz in there? He's your man! He is a gear nerd and is always in search for new uses (or misuses) for everything that has an input and an output jack.