One of my favorite aspects of mixing, is that it is both a science, and an art. However, this leaves us with the challenge of making thoughtful, artistic decisions, while also dealing with the woes of Pro Tools shenanigans.
Letting technical details get in the way of our decision making happens to the best of us. Pro Tools isn’t very, well, artistically inspiring, but if you’re crazy and read all 67 pages of the Pro Tools Shortcuts Guide, you can find some useful ways to speed up your workflow and stay “in the zone”. I’ve distilled the 67 pages to the shortcuts that I find indispensable, and organized them by where I use them, in hopes that you will find them useful in your own workflow.
I use all of these shortcuts, all the time. I can’t use Pro Tools without them. I use them too much to forget them. So now, on to the shortcuts!
Note: If a shortcut is labeled “Keyboard Focus,” it means that the AZ “Arizona” Button must be enabled to use it on its own (without pressing Command or Control, that is). There are three windows in which you can enable it, and it can only be enabled in one at a time. That being said, I use it almost exclusively in the Edit Window, and all of the shortcuts below use it there. Find it in the top right corner.
For General Use:
⌘ + ` (back-tick) – Mac OS shortcut to toggle between windows. If you accidentally close the Mix or Edit Window, use ⌘ + = to bring it back.
⌘ + Option + Control + W – The “three finger salute” to close all floating windows.
“New Track” Dialog (Shift + ⌘ + N):
*Press a number to dictate how many tracks to add*
⌘ + Up/Down Arrow – Cycle through track types.
⌘ + Left/Right Arrow – Cycle through track formats.
⌘ + Shift + Up/Down Arrow – Add or remove track entry.
Beginning a New Session:
⌘ + Num8 – Beat detective for when you need to find the tempo of some tracks you just imported.
Num7 – Toggle metronome.
⌘ + Option + Control + Up/Down Arrow – Another “three finger salute” to fit all tracks into view! Omit Option for only selected tracks!
Control + Shift + – (hyphen) – Show/hide clip gain line.
Edit Window Navigation:
⌘ + Option + Tab – Enable/disable ‘tab to transients’. Determines whether the Tab key will take you to the beginning/end of a clip, or to the next transient in the audio.
. (period) and , (comma) – Nudge cursor backward and forward by your nudge amount. With a clip selected, you can nudge it as well. (Keyboard focus)
P, L, ; (semicolon), and ‘ (apostrophe) – Think of these as your “WASD” if you were gaming. They move your cursor around. ‘Tab to transient” will affect its behavior.
R and T – Horizontal zoom (Keyboard focus).
B – Slice clip at cursor (Keyboard focus)
A and S – Trim audio from the beginning/end of the clip to your cursor (Keyboard focus)
D and G – Similar to the above, these fade from beginning/end of the clip to your cursor. The type of fade used will be dependent on what you have selected in your preferences as your default fade. You can have different fade types for fade in/out, I use equal power for fade ins, and linear fade for fade out. (Keyboard focus)
Control + Drag clip – By holding you control, you constrain to vertical movement. So, if you’re moving audio to a different track, it will remain in time. You can combine with Option to duplicate what you are dragging.
Down Arrow, then Up Arrow – Drop “in” and “out” points to make a selection.
⌘ + Option + M – Enable “Narrow Mix” to fit more tracks on the screen.
Option + C – Resets clipping indicators.
⌘ + Click Insert – Bypass insert. Add Control to disable/enable the insert. This also works for busses, inputs, and outputs!
⌘ + Click Solo Button – Toggle solo safe, for aux/FX tracks and stem busses, usually.
Shift + A – Bypass/un-bypass all inserts on selected track.
⌘ + Spacebar – Record. My preferred method, although two others exist: F12 and Num3.
NumPad Enter – Add memory location.
NumPeriod (.) + Location Number + NumPeriod(.) – Recall specified memory location.
⌘ + Num5 – Toggle Memory Location window
NumPeriod (.) + Number + NumPlus (+) – “Add” current Window Configuration to specified slot.
NumPeriod (.) + Number + NumAsterisk (*) – Recall specified Window Configuration.
Control + Option + ⌘ + Click Plugin Parameter – Enable automation on the clicked parameter!
⌘ + . (period) – Warning! This stops the current recording, and casts away anything being recorded to the upside down. You’ll never see it again. If I ever use this, I usually regret it. But you should know about it.
Keep in mind that the function of the Option key is either “All”, “Opposite”, or “Default”. Option + Clicking a value will always reset it to default. Option + Clicking a track header will select all tracks. Adding Option to certain shortcuts like Tab, or Return, will make your cursor go the opposite direction.
Hopefully you learned some new shortcuts, and if you did, I strongly recommend trying them out, right now. While I was training to take part two of the Pro Tools – Expert certification test, I had to learn a lot of shortcuts, in a short amount of time. As much as you’d like to read through this article and hope to remember them in your time of need, the truth is, you probably won’t. Using keyboard shortcuts is, in large part, muscle memory, just like playing an instrument or riding a bike. That being said, here’s a printable PDF to help you along the way!
Leave a comment below if you learned something new, if you have any feedback, or if you’d like to just say “Hello!”