Whether you are an engineer, client, or producer, knowing how to organize your session can not make you look professional, it can also save everybody time and money. I know it’s not the most exciting of jobs, but it is an essential one. An unorganized session (significantly larger ones with 100+ tracks) with no track names or color codes is a recipe for disaster. With the sheer amount of audio and MIDI data on modern DAWs, session cleanliness is of utmost importance.
This article will explain ten ways to organize your session in Pro Tools with simple tricks that can save loads of time.
1. Import Only Necessary Tracks
You will often find that you do not need all the tracks taking up excessive processing power and space on the screen. In such cases, a quick listen can help you determine which tracks are necessary for the mix and only import those.
Similarly, identify where you need the stereo stem; otherwise, just import the track as mono so that the tracks do not use extra processing power. Therefore, listening to tracks outside the session is the first step for easy decluttering of the session.
2. Organize Your Instruments By Renaming Tracks
To organize a chaotic session, rename the tracks. Play each track solo and give them an appropriate (descriptive) name. By doing this, you have a clear idea of your tracks by looking at the track name. Terms like “Audio 15” are unclear and only add to the clutter in your session.
You can double-click the track to change the name. To be quick, “Command + Right Arrow” can take you to the adjacent track name. You can also add helpful information regarding the tracks via Track Comments, which you can enable from Mix and/or Edit Windows in the View menu.
3. Color-Coding Tracks Helps
After naming the tracks, color-coding them according to type also helps in session organization. Enable “Color Track” from the mix and/or Edit Windows and click the track you want to color-code twice.
An alternate way of doing the same is through the “Color Pallet” tab in the Windows menu, which has numerous presets to change the color of the complete channel or, distinctively, the “Track Color” tabs. You can also change Clip color or set default color patterns using the “Preference” tab.
4. Edit Multiple Tracks Using Groups
Once you have named and color-coded your tracks, you can group them for better control. Select tracks you want to group and place them in a new Mix/ Edit Group by simply going to track> Group or using Command + G.
This gives you the freedom to choose which of your actions from the Edit and/ or MIx window will affect the group. You can also use Command + Shift + G to toggle the group.
5. Renaming The Busses
The next thing you can do to map out your routing is renaming the busses. To rename the busses, you can select Setup and then click I/O from the drop-down menu. However, an easier way is to go to an instrument subgroup and right-click on the bus name to rename it appropriately. For example, rename the bus “Drums” for the Drums subgroup and so on.
6. Insert Markers As A Reference Point
You can use markers as a reference point at various critical parts of the song for easy navigation. This is a straightforward way to help you stay in control. Since the markers are for your ease, you can name them whatever you like and easily remember them. Enable Markers by clicking View > Rules and pressing the “+” icon. With a full-sized keypad, you can add markers live during playback by pressing “Return.”
Quick Tip: When you start editing a mapped-out session, switching to “Keyboard Focus Mode” can save you precious minutes and accelerate workflow by allowing single key shortcuts – this makes fine-tuning, crossfading, and trimming clips much quicker.
7. Set Frequently Used Plug-ins As Default
Organizing your session does not have to be limited to rearranging and renaming your tracks. You can use other tricks to make session organization, editing, and mixing much easier for yourself – like setting default plug-ins for the ones you use the most.
Go to the Mixing Tab through the Preferences Window, and you can choose two default plug-ins to place atop the Insert Menu. The plug-ins can be compressors or EQ, anything that you use frequently – the point is efficacy.
But, what do you do if you have more than two favorite plug-ins? Use Command + Click to add other plug-ins to the Insert menu plug-in drop-down. Ensure a separate selection of stereo and mono plug-ins as they are present in different menus.
8. Create A Separate “Bounce” Folder
Most of the time, by default, DAWs send your exported and bounced files to the folder containing the project’s audio files. Retrieving bounded files or mixes becomes a huge hassle from the sea of other audio files in the same folder.
Creating a separate “Bounce” at the session’s top level allows you easily retrievable files.
9. Route MIDI And Click Tracks To An Audio File
Routing MIDI tracks to an audio file allows you to recreate virtual sounds that you created with different plug-ins should you switch studios in the production process, and the plug-in may not be available.
Similarly, routing the Click tracks to an audio file allows quick tempo reference if you need one at any point during the production process.
10. Learn How To Use The Workspace Browser
One final trick to help efficient session organization is using the Workspace Browser – which you can select through Windows and then click on New Workspace; alternatively, you can also press Option + I.
You can use this browser within the session and through varying locations of your system’s drives. Moreover, for locations that you use often, you can create shortcuts.
The built-in search engine not only helps you in locating particular files, but you can also listen to them before importing them. Moving the desired files to the Edit Window can be done by simply dragging them to the destination. This makes importing extra tracks to your session a breeze.
With the tips mentioned above, you can clean up a cluttered session and make sure you have additional tools that help edit and mix much quicker for future sessions.