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Pro Tools: 2 Editing Basics

Pro Tools Tutorial: 1 Overview | 2 Editing Basics | 3 Mixing Basics

The Edit Window

Now that you’ve recorded or imported audio into your session, and it’s placed in a track, you’re ready to edit.

The Edit window is the main display area for Pro Tools, where tracks are stacked horizontally and clips can be moved to the right and left along the timeline. This is where all Editing operations occur, and audio can be moved, trimmed, deleted, copied, etc.

Make sure the Edit window is open by selecting Window > Edit from the Pro Tools menu bar at the top of the screen.

If you wish, you may have the Edit window fill the screen by going to the uppermost left-hand corner of the window and clicking the little green + button.

Controlling Playback Operation

Transport Controls (Pro Tools)

There are three settings that should be selected to ensure headache-free operation. They should be set via the menus as follows.

  1. Pro Tools > Preferences…> Operation > check box for: “Timeline Insertion Follows Playback”
  2. Options > Link Timeline and Edit Selections (select and leave checked)
  3. Options > Scrolling > Page (select and leave checked)

You can start and stop playback by pressing the space bar.

There is also a small set of transport controls (i.e., Play, Stop, Rewind, FF, go to the beginning, etc., represented by the blue square, green triangle and red circle) in the upper border of the edit window. If you’d prefer a bigger, floating transport display with some more controls, choose Window > Transport.

Pro Tools (screenshot) dialog window for Transport

Let’s Make Tracks!

If you’ve recorded new audio or imported audio to a track, you already have at least one mono or stereo audio track in the Edit window.

You can freely drag and drop audio between tracks, or drag audio from the “Clip List” to a track. The number of audio-channels, i.e., mono or stereo, must match the type of track: a mono file goes in a mono track; a stereo pair goes in a stereo track.

Working in the Edit Window

Pro Tools uses non-destructive editing, so your original files are never permanently altered by editing or mixing. You can always get back to your original sound file, even after trimming, fading, or cutting parts out in the edit window.

As long as you use Save As… regularly, naming progressive versions of your session in a logical, sequential fashion, you can always go back to an earlier version of your project. There are also multiple levels of Undo, via Edit > Undo in the toolbar (or Command-Z on a Mac OS computer, Control-Z on Windows OS.)

Get to Know Your Editing Modes and Tools

Near the top of the Edit window are the tools you’ll use to edit your audio:

Zooming and Adjusting your View

There are several options for zooming in/out to get a closer, or wider, view of your project.

The Zoom Tool (Magnifying Glass Icon)

Pro Tools: Edit Toolbar- ZoomWhen the magnifying glass tool is selected (once clicked it is highlighted in blue) simply clicking on a track with the mouse will zoom in. To zoom out, hold down the Option key and click.

You can also click, hold, and drag to select an area of a track. When you release the mouse button your view will zoom in so that the part you selected fills the visible area.

And you can hold down the Option key (Mac; Alt key on Windows) then use a scroll wheel on your mouse (or scroll gesture) to zoom in or out.

There are vertical and horizontal zoom buttons to the left of the Zoom tool: Click the right arrow to zoom in horizontally, Click the left arrow to zoom out horizontally. You can also click either of those arrows and drag to the right or left to change the zoom level.

Zoom Controls (Pro Tools)

Use the left-hand set of up-and-down zoom buttons to change the vertical height of the waveform display. (The other set of up/down buttons is for MIDI tracks, used for digital music production only.)

These actions all have keyboard shortcuts: Command-[ (left bracket) zooms out; Command-] zooms in (on Windows: Control-[ and Control-].)

Note: If you get zoomed in too far and need to get your bearings, double-click the Zoom button to zoom all the way out.

You can also adjust the track height to facilitate viewing. At the far left of each track, to the left of the track name, there’s a small triangle in a circle. Click on that, and a menu pops up allowing you to choose a variety of preset heights for that track.

Moving Clips

Pro Tools: Edit Toolbar- GrabberSelect the Grabber tool (the hand icon) by clicking on its icon (or use the F8 key) then click and drag an audio clip to a new location, either on the same track or a different one. Double-clicking with the Grabber tool will open a dialog box to rename the clip.

Trimming

Pro Tools: Edit Toolbar- TrimThe Trim tool (the icon with the arrows, to the right of the Zoom tool — also accessed by the F6 key) allows you to quickly trim off the end of a region, as well as restore previously trimmed parts. Click in the left or right edge of a clip and drag to the left or right to trim-off, or reveal audio. If clicked with the Trimmer tool within a clip, everything from that point to the closest edge will be trimmed-off.

To restore a cleared part of a region, click on the edge of the region, hold, then drag back to “reveal” the cleared audio. Be careful, there are three Trimmer tool settings: the Standard setting behaves as described above. TCE is “Time Compression/Expansion Mode” and does not eliminate audio, but rather stretch or squeeze the length of the clip. With the Loop setting the trimmer adds duplications of the clip or as long as you drag out.

Selecting/Cutting/Clearing

Pro Tools: Edit Toolbar- SelectorThe Selector tool (the icon with the waveform, to the left of the Grabber — key F7) can be used to select and cut any part of a region. It’s a good default tool, for selecting where to start playback. Select a segment of audio to edit by clicking, holding, and dragging with the mouse. Clear the highlighted audio by pressing the Delete key.

Separating/Splitting

To separate or split a region into sub-regions, using the Selector tool, click once to place the cursor where you want to make the separation; then go to Edit > Separate Region > At Selection (on the keyboard: Command-E on Mac, Control-E on Windows).

You can also select a chunk in the middle of a region with the Selector tool then use the Edit > Separate Region > At Selection command to create three sub-regions.

Naming Clips: Helps Organize Your Project

With the Grabber tool, double-click on a clip in the timeline and rename it in the box that pops up. If you know the region by its existing name, you can find it listed in the Clip window (to the right of the Edit window) then double-click to change the name.

Copying

Select part or all of a region and go to Edit > Copy (or keyboard: Command-C on a Mac, Control-C on Windows.)

Pasting

Select the destination (by highlighting it with the Selector tool) for what you copied and go to Edit > Paste (or Command-V).

Applying (or Deleting) Fades

Select part of region(s) to fade or crossfade, using the Selector tool. Then go to Edit> Fades> Create Fades… (or Delete Fades). The shortcut to create fades (after you’ve selected the area) is Command-F.

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The Smart Tool

Pro Tools: Edit Toolbar- Smart ToolIf you click the bar just above the Trimmer, Selector and Grabber tools, all three icons will be selected. In this mode, the tool will change automatically, depending on where you place your mouse. Near an edge, it switches to the Trimmer tool. Close to the bottom edge, it becomes the Grabber tool. Close to the middle and top, it defaults to the Selector tool.

In an upper corner, it changes to a Fade tool — click and drag to create an in or out fade. In a lower corner, it can create a crossfade.

Scrubber

Pro Tools: Edit Toolbar- ScrubberClicking on the speaker icon to the right of the Grabber tool allows you to “scrub” audio: click down at some point in a sound clip, and drag to the left or right. You can scrub quickly or slowly, depending on how you move the mouse.

If you’re zoomed-in close, the Scrub tool can help you find small clicks or pops that are hard to see by looking at the waveform display.

Pencil Tool

Pro Tools: Edit Toolbar- PencilThe Pencil tool can be used in two main ways. When zoomed-in very close, so close that the waveform display changes to a single line, you can use the Pencil tool to re-draw the waveform. This is most useful for fixing clicks or other audio glitches.

You can also use the Pencil tool, when the track display is set to Volume view (or any automation line) to draw a volume curve, raising or lowering the volume of the track.

Edit Modes

You can select Edit modes from the buttons in the top left of the window. The modes are listed here in order of probable utility.

  1. Slip: 90% of the time you’ll want to be in Slip mode. In this mode you can freely edit and move audio regions to any arbitrary spot along the timeline. Deleting audio in Slip Mode will leave a hole, a blank space.
  2. Pro Tools: Mode Buttons- ShuffleShuffle: In Shuffle mode, audio regions “snap” to adjacent regions or the beginning of the track. Shuffle does not allow regions to overlap, and is useful for sequencing regions for back-to-back play. Deleting audio while in Shuffle Mode will close the hole, sliding audio to leave no space between the edges of adjacent clips.
  3. Spot: In Spot mode, you can only move regions to exact time locations; when you click on a region in Spot mode, a box will pop up asking the time you want to move it to. You can sync the head or tail of a clip, or a sync mark within a clip, to a certain time,
  4. Grid: Mainly useful for musical applications. Works like “snap-to-grid” in graphics programs.

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Thanks to the Knight Prototype Fund for supporting this Transom Online Workshop resource.

Jeff Towne

About
Jeff Towne

Jeff Towne has been producing radio programs since he was a teenager, back then with a portable Marantz cassette deck and a Teac four-track reel-to-reel tape recorder, and now with digital recorders and computer workstations. After honing his broadcasting skills at High School and College radio stations, Jeff has spent over two decades as the producer of the nationally-syndicated radio program Echoes. At Echoes, he has done extensive recording of interviews and musical performances, produced documentary features, and prepared daily programs for satellite and internet distribution. As Transom.org's Tools Editor, Jeff has reviewed dozens of audio recorders, editing software, and microphones, and written guides for recording, editing and mixing audio for radio and the web. Jeff has also taught classes and presented talks on various aspects of audio production. When not tweaking audio files, Jeff can probably be found eating (and compulsively taking pictures) at that little restaurant with the unpronounceable name that you always wondered about.

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