The Song Path: Recording: Using Playlists in ProTools

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Playlists – you’ve probably heard people talk about them when mentioning Pro Tools (and for many years heard people bemoaning the fact that there wasn’t a dedicated shortcut to create a new playlist).

Well, there is a shortcut now, so there’s no excuse!! (it is control and \ by the way) The main question is: what are these playlists and how can we use them when recording?

A playlist is effectively what it says on the tin – it is a list of the clips that the track plays. Huh? Well, say you’ve recorded one take of a vocalist singing their lead vocal for the song. Next step you want to do another take. You don’t want to record over what you already have (which you can do and it won’t destructively delete the audio unless you tell it to), but you probably don’t want to create a new track and have to apply all the same settings. This is where playlists come in to the equation…

So you create your new playlist and record your new take in the new playlist. Suddenly the vocalist wants to hear the way he or her sang the last chorus. Easy. You can switch back a playlist and listen. Then create another new playlist and hit record to do another take. So at a very simple level, it is like having layers of tracks available within tracks – all of which you can switch between to listen and edit the audio.

Naming of the playlists is also taken care of with the number of the playlist incremented with each new playlist. So if you name your track ‘FM Vox’ then the second playlist you create will be called FM Vox.01 – which is not ideal since you will actually be on Take 2 by that point.

 

 

A good technique is to name your tracks as usual (ie FM vox) and then create a new playlist before you start recording. That way it will increment to 01, and you have the un-numbered playlist, which you can use for your Comp at the end of the session, with all your takes available in the playlists below.

So in the screenshot shown above – I have created a playlist called FM Vox.01 ready to record. The Piano and the bass tracks shown also that they are on take 01.

This is a technique used throughout the recording industry and made easier by the fact that it works with groups as well. So in the case of an orchestral recording for a Film Music session, the orchestra record tracks (including the room mics and the spot mics) will be grouped and named as suggested above. Then when the engineer opens the session for the cue they are recording, he will create a new playlist, rename the first track to have the latest take number in. Then click New playlist, and it will automatically increment the playlist title of all of the tracks to match that of the latest number in the group.

So in this next screenshot – I have grouped the tracks and changed the name of the bass playlist only to be .09.

 

 

So when I click the arrow at the end of the track name, and click NEW, or hit the key command (control and \) you end up with the following:

 

 

 

So it can be very useful to quickly re-name tracks on location – which is a great help in the field when you have a lot of groups to record and have both a schedule and a take list to adhere to.

There’ll be more on playlists soon, as part of the mixing section of the Song Path..

 

 

 

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