Switching to Pro Tools for Writing

SamProduction

Lets start with debunking a myth.

Pro Tools is only good for recording, Logic is only good for writing

I have seen this for years on all manner of forums, articles & blogs all over the web, and it has always slightly rubbed me up the wrong way. It doesn’t matter how many times I see it, it still gives me a shudder. All DAW’s essentially perform the same task. There are of course slight differences in workflow or routing behaviour etc, but the choice of software should ultimately come down to your own workflow.

For as long as I can remember my go to software for writing sessions has been Ableton and/or Logic. I had my sample libraries set up right, user preset libraries for Impact, project templates etc – I was in a good place. I of course had some grumbles, but on the most part I was happy.

On starting a new writing project over the last couple of months I decided to move to Pro Tools for writing. My main reason for this was to keep one project (with multiple back up versions) for production & recording as switching between Pro Tools & Ableton, importing new audio & vice versa tends to get a little tedious…

All hail AAX & Offline Bouncing

The first (and perhaps most major) difference I noticed was how my CPU usage dropped hugely. Avid’s new AAX format has definitely caused some controversy, but I am now a massive fan. The channel counts in this new writing project are often exceeding 120+ and freezing tracks has always been a necessity, but no more! Pro Tools doesn’t have a traditional track freeze function, but with a couple of extra clicks offline bouncing can be used to render any midi or audio track to an audio region.

Playback

The playback options in Pro Tools are definitely the most flexible of any DAW – including the abilty to loop selection, or leaving a constant looped phrase while editing any part. This is especially useful when recording multiple passes of verses & allowing myself to make some edits to a chorus without either affecting playback or re-setting loop points when I stop recording.

Mirrored Midi Editing 

If you write a part in midi, duplicate it a bunch of times, copy it to the next chorus etc… and you decide you want to add an extra grace note at the end of the phrase, you can simply turn Mirrored MIDI Editing add the note, and all copies of the region will automatically update too. This is a huge time saver, and for my workflow works far better than its counterpart methods in Logic.

Offline Effects

I tend to render lots of midi parts to audio, and apply FX to them as inserts, which can eat up a large amount of CPU, so the ability to process & render FX directly onto the audio has seen a dramatic workflow improvement. By selecting a region(s) and going to AudioSuite, choosing an effect, tweaking and hitting render – a new audio file with FX has replace the original region, meaning no need to insert a CPU hungry FX unit. Another extra bonus is that you can now see when reverb/delay tails end & also reverse them with the reverb and all.

Group Editing

Another recent change I have made when writing drum & percussion parts has been to be placing samples into their own audio channel, and programming rhythms in audio tracks. Piling some specially selected samples on top of each other to get the best elements from each can always be a little fiddly to make sure all samples are duplicated etc… By selecting all your kick channels & grouping (cmd+G) you can quickly duplicate chorus kick patterns for all included tracks. By making groups inactive (cmd+shift+G) you can make edits independent of groups to fine tune parts etc…

Using Multi Instruments

Although easily possible in both Ableton & Logic, the method of creating an Instrument channel and setting your midi output to channel 2 in Kontakt (or any multi instrument) to trigger a different sample bank is so simple & bug free that Pro Tools just seems to win at this.

 

In general – my long term usage of Pro Tools for recording, editing & mixing has now engulfed my writing workflow too. The myth that its midi functions aren’t up to scratch are exactly that, a myth… Give it a try, and if its not for you, its not for you!