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Pro Tools 9 Essential Training with musician and producer David Franz demonstrates concepts and techniques necessary for recording, editing, mixing, and mastering in the industry-standard software for music and post-production. The course covers creating music with virtual instruments and plugins, editing with elastic audio for time and pitch manipulation, creating a musical score, and mixing with effects loops. Exercise files accompany the course.
When you record into Pro Tools, you'll often be wearing headphones. Creating a good headphone mix is imperative to helping you capture the best performances while recording. For the most basic headphones setup, plug in your headphones to the headphone jack on your interface. Some interfaces have two headphone jacks, like the 003. Turn the headphone Volume knob all the way down at first. Then press play in Pro Tools and turn up the headphone volume to a level that is comfortable, neither too loud nor too soft. The headphone jacks on your interface receive the main output.
In this particular case, and in most cases, it's Analog 1 and 2. However, at the moment, we can't really tell what the overall volume level is coming out of Pro Tools. What we need to do is create a stereo master fader track, so let's do that; New > Stereo > Master Fader. Now we can tell what the overall volume is from this session, and we can control it with this fader right here, and this is the level that will feed your headphone jacks.
Monitoring the Analog 1-2 output is usually fine for just recording one person at a time, but getting the levels of each track in the mix is very important. When you record, the mix of the headphones can either help or hinder the person recording in a few different ways. For example, if a vocalist's voice is too prominent in the headphone mix, the vocalist might sing a little flat and with less energy. However, if the vocalist's voice is too low in the mix, they might push their voices and go sharp to rise above the other instruments in the mix.
So try to get a good balance between instruments in the mix, and most likely you'll have to boost the instrument that you're recording just a little so it can be heard above the mix. Adding effects to the headphone mix can give a special energy to the instrument or create an inspiration for the instrumentalists or vocalists. Vocalist in particular like to have some reverb and/or some delay on their voices while they are recording, so I recommend setting up an effects loop for this purpose. We've already got one set up in here, so check it out.
These tracks are bussed on a send to this auxiliary track, where it's being affected by this D-Verb, which is a reverb plug-in. And you can set up multiple effects loops in this similar style for any kind of affects that you want to add. So what happens if you want to record more than one person at a time, and they each want their own personal headphone mixes? Well, you can make as many separate headphone mixes as you like. The only limitation is the number of separate outputs you have on your interface.
Let's say you're recording a guitar player and a bass player at the same time, and they each want their own separate headphone mixes. We can use the main mix through Analog 1-2 for one of them and mix it the way that they want it. But let's set up a separate second mix for the other player. What I'm going to do is show sends F through J, and I'm going to up here, press Option on a Mac or Alt on a PC, and choose Output 3-4. That's Analog output three and four.
Go up to View and Sends F-J and choose Send J, so we can see the controls for each one of these tracks. And now I can build a completely separate second mix for the guitar player, and I can bring these levels up however we want. The final step here is to create a New Stereo Master Fader track, and it automatically goes to Analog 3-4, and we will use this track to adjust the overall output for this second headphone mix.
So to recap, we've got all these tracks with sends being routed to Analog 3-4, the second output, and that's for our second separate headphone mix. And all of these send levels can be different than the main mix levels, so that's how you get a second headphone mix. Creating a good headphone mix--whether it's simply getting the right balance between the tracks for one person, adding effects, or even creating multiple different mixes for multiple people recording at once--is important for capturing the best recorded tracks that you can.
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