Your Complete Guide to Pro Tools

The music industry can seem quite overwhelming when it comes to choosing the software that works for you. From Ableton to Cubase, there is an extensive range of platforms available, each with their own niche, functions, features, and reasons for making it your own.

However, perhaps considered an underdog in the industry, there’s Pro Tools. You may have seen this audio platform mentioned here and there, but perhaps you’re now wondering why you should be thinking about it? Could this be the software you’ve been looking for?

Today, we’re here to tell you that it’s definitely worth your consideration. We’re going to be venturing out into the depth of the Pro Tools software, detailing where it came from, what it does, and why, or if, you should consider it as your digital studio of choice.

A Brief History of Pro Tools

A Brief History of Pro Tools

When you think of the digital music industry, you may think of original platforms, such as Ableton, which date back to the turn of the century and the early 2000’s where the digital music industry really started to find its feet.
However, Pro Tools far exceeds them all with an initial release all the way back to 1989, almost three decades ago.

With nearly 30 years of experience behind them, it’s safe to say you can expect big things from a company of this magnitude.

Currently available in nine different languages, Pro Tools was originally developed and coded by a UC Berkeley graduates; Evan Brooks and Peter Gotcher. In fact, the development of the software had begun as far back as 1984, but it was until 1989 that a stable release went public.

Brooks had majored in computer science and electrical engineering, and originally were designing and selling digital drum sound chips and other solutions for editing audio on the known antique Akai S900 and Prophet 2000.

Most notably, they also started to work on an emulator software package for Mac computers that could allow different sample files to work on keyboard and MIDI controllers, regardless of the brand or model that they were.

This solution was titled Sound Designer and was released on Brooks’ own MacMusic platform; a dial-up service before the internet was as accessible as it was today. Due to the success of the project, Gotcher and Brooks collaborated on making the software more accessible to the everyday user with a complete range of audio management features.

This was then rebranded into Sound Tools; the first release of what would become Pro Tools. As the solution took off in success, implementing a 24-bit version, 48 unique editing tracks, and virtual MIDI synthesizers over the next decade, securing its place in the music industry.

Come 1999, Ricky Martin’s number one hit, Livin’ La Vida Loca, became the first number one track to be recorded, edited and mastered within the Pro Tools platform.

Fast forward another decade and a wealth of new features; Pro Tools continued to impress with such applications as designing and mastering the audio files for industry-hit games such as Guitar Hero, Rocksmith, and DJ Hero.

Come today; Pro Tools is used by hundreds of thousands of users around the world. In addition to helping musicians create and produce their tracks, the software is also extremely popular in the entertainment industry and is commonly used for television, film, radio and other audio productions.

The software is regularly updated by its current developers, Avid Technology, and new releases and features are released nearly every year, ensuring you always have the powerful tools you need to succeed.

Which Pro Tools is Right for Me?

Which Pro Tools is Right for Me?

Since its initial release back in 1989, Pro Tools has come a long way in terms of features and functions. However, this is all to the user’s benefit. Pro Tools offers a complete audio production experience, meaning you can record, edit, master and produce every single aspect and element of your music from idea to final piece, all within the Pro Tools work environment.

In short, it doesn’t matter whether you’re new to the music industry and you’re looking for a software solution that can turn your idea into a reality, or you’re a highly experienced producer that’s on the hunt for an audio solution that gives you full control over your projects; Pro Tools has the tools you need.

To cater for this level of experience, Pro Tools offers three different versions of this software which is designed to provide you with the best interface, dependent on your individual skill level. These are titled Pro Tools: First, Pro Tools, and Pro Tools Ultimate.

While each version differs in functionality, the core software and functions will remain the same. Here’s a basic breakdown of each version and what it can provide;

A Comparison chart of each Pro Tools version

It’s also worth noting that Pro Tools: First is completely free to download and use, so you can try the software out for yourself before committing to one of their premium packages.

There are also a ton of other features that vary from version to version. For example, if you’re starting out with Pro Tools: First, you’ll be supplied with a library of over 500MB of audio samples to play with, whereas the original and Ultimate versions with come with a 2GB library. The kind of variation is relevant to the built-in plug-ins that you’ll receive, and the included software.

A complete list of all the differences in version can be found here on the official website.

The Complete List of Pro Tools Features

Before we really get into the wonderland of features that Pro Tools provides, it’s worth mentioning that this list could, in theory, be endless. Over the last 30 years, Pro Tools has released countless features and functions into their software package, and we’ll be here all day if we wanted to include them all (check comparison link above).

However, to give you a comprehensive introduction to the software, we’ve singled out the best, most important and downright interesting features to give you the broadest perspective on what this software is capable of. Let’s get started!

A Highly-Detailed Audio Production Suite

Pro Tools is a complete audio production suite. From the moment you have an idea for a track, to the moment where you’re making the final touches before you release it to the world, Pro Tools has everything you need to see you through.

Some of the leading features (that we’ll discuss in detail below), including powerful recording abilities, score editing features, industry-leading sound processors and a complete mixing solution to fine-tune your tracks.

Most notably, Pro Tools allows you to utilize up to 128 unique audio tracks for all the different components of your track, a superior 512 unique instrument tracks, and up to 512 MIDI tracks, all of which can be combined into your final product.

The interface is highly functional and expertly designed to provide you with the best experience. As we mentioned above, it doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out or have years of experience behind you, Pro Tools is easy to learn, effortless to use, and rammed with features for you to discover.

Advanced Editing Tools

When you’re making music, it’s not uncommon that the sounds you create are going to be perfect the first time around. It doesn’t matter if you’re recording audio from an external source or using the built-in or downloaded plug-ins and MIDI applications; Pro Tools has made the editing process of production effortless.

With just your keyboard and mouse, or any controller you may have access to, you’ll be able to completely reshape your sounds from the ground up with an ultimate level of precision we simply haven’t seen with other DAW applications.

Of course, you’ll have access to all your traditional features, such as trimming clips, editing your notes, and adding fades and any of the extensive range of effects on offer. This is all controlled using the Smart Tool, which means you can maintain accuracy while minimizing the risk of mistakes.

Perhaps you’ve recorded a bad note that’s the wrong pitch? No worries; simply implement the Elastic Pitch tool to make the correction.

Superior Recording & Production Opportunities

Easily the most important and most beneficial feature of Pro Tools is the fact that it prioritizes its ability to control and manipulate sound. It doesn’t matter if you’re recording sound directly into your system using your instruments, microphones or MIDI controllers, or producing the sounds using the software on your computer; Pro Tools excels in every way.

Some of the leading recording functions include loop recording and track playlists, but you’ll be able to combine them all together to create your track flawlessly, even when you’re using multiple passes.

Another high-profile feature is QuickPunch. This means if you make a mistake while you’re recording, you can simply QuickPunch the errored area to make a creation. This feature prides itself on being non-destructive, which means that it won’t affect the rest of your track and take extensive amounts of time to correct. It’s as simple as turning the feature on and off.

Rapid Mastering and Mixing Capabilities

Once you’re happy with your final sound project and you’re nearly ready to export it, you’ll already be aware that it’s time to mix and master your tracks your tracks to perfection. This means panning, EQ, automation, and effects. Fortunately, this usually daunting task is a breeze when you’re using Pro Tools.

Most notably, the platform is completely compatible with a range of EUCON-enabled control tools, such as Pro Tools S6, Pro Tools Control, and Artist Mix. These are all solutions provided by Pro Tools to help you have the maximum level of control while you’re mixing, practically with the push of a single button.

On the other hand, if you don’t have access to these controllers, you can use the built-in mixing functions that are included with the software. There is a ton of features available, ranging from Track Freeze, VCA Masters, and a professional metering setup, all of which come together to provide you with the opportunity to mix every element of your track stress-free.

If you want to experiment with your mixing, you can even store previous versions of your track with the Project Revisions tools, enabling you to save a version that you can easily return to if you don’t like the changes you’ve made. Want more control? Simply download the remote-control iPad app for even more flexibility with your options.

Highly Compatible Control Availability

Let’s be real blunt with you for a moment. Pro Tools works with every single MIDI controller that exists. If you need a template for the MIDI controller to work, the chances are that the budding and highly enthusiastic Pro Tools community has made it for you.

With this outstanding level of compatibility, the opportunities you have for creating music with Pro Tools is infinite. Once you’ve plugged in whatever MIDI controller you have access to, you’ll be able to use the built-in MIDI editor to create richer, more inspirational sounds, as well as tweaking the notes, the key, adding different layers to your tracks and editing the individual instruments until your heart’s content.

As we mentioned above, Pro Tools even contains a score editor, so you can use your MIDI controller to create your sounds, and then use the editor to create your music using notation if that’s how you prefer to work.

This ability to plug in anything and make it work is simply out of this world, and if you’re a serious musician who wants the opportunities to create anything that comes to mind, it’s easy to see why Pro Tools could be the solution for you.

Not sure whether your future and unreleased MIDI controllers will work? Pro Tools is regularly updated, so this never becomes a problem. You’ll also be able to plug in your turntables, audio inputs, and any other sources of audio you may want to use.

Ultimate Creative Plugin Solutions

While Pro Tools comes with over 60 AAX plug-ins that supply a wealth of different functions, ranging from effects, mastering tools, and virtual MIDI controllers for creating your sounds, the opportunities here is effortless.

Some of the built-in effects include stunning reverb, expansive EQ settings, amp emulators, virtual instrument creation and a complete toolkit for enhancing, tuning and shape your sounds. If you plan on upgrading to a Pro Tools subscriber account, you’ll have access to another 17 plug-ins, or you can sign up for Avid’s Complete Plug-In Bundle, which will grant you access to every plugin that Avid releases.

Of course, the software is also compatible with a range of plugins, VST’s and samples that you download for yourself.

Cloud Collaboration

Since we’re all living in the modern age, the chances are that you’re not the only working on your projects. Perhaps you’re a part of a band, or you’re collaborating with other producers, or perhaps creating a duet with another artist.

Of course, thanks to the busy lives we lead, we can’t always be present at the same time as everyone else, perhaps not even in the same country. However, when it comes to Pro Tools, this really doesn’t matter. With Cloud Collaboration, you can effortless connect to the other people you’re working with, allowing you all to work together on a project.

This feature is officially titled the Avid Cloud Collaboration and allows you to work with up to ten other people on a single project. The connection is password-protected and highly secure, and you’ll even be able to upload your projects, so you can save space on your computer, or access them from anywhere in the world.

Integrated Social and Audience Building Tools

Unlike the vast majority of audio production platforms, Pro Tools comes with access to the exclusive Avid Artist Community. Once you’ve made your mixes, songs, tracks or albums, you’ll be able to share your creations directly from the software into this online platform.

Once here, you’ll be sharing your music with some of the industry’s leading musicians, talent scouts, musicians, and exclusive artists, all of which will have the opportunity to find and listen to what you’ve made.

Of course, from a promotional standpoint, this is unprecedented access that you simply can’t find with any other platform. Who knows who is going to listen to your music, and where this simply play could take you and your creations.

All Audio Production Purposes Covered

While you may typically be interested in using Pro Tools to create your music, Pro Tools is an extremely dynamic solution that doesn’t stop there. If you’re in television, film, video game, or radio production, Pro Tools continues to provide professional, premium-quality solutions that work for you.

From directly within the software, you’ll be able to play HD videos and manage your Avid DNxHD sequences from inside the Pro Tools work environment timeline. This means if you’re creating an ambient sound, soundtrack, or simply adding effects to a video sequence, this can all be controlled from with the software.

There’s no need to use separate dedicated programs. The features don’t stop there. You can also edit your video clips with absolute precision using the timecode feature, making sure that everything is lined up and positioned perfectly for your final product.

Once you’re happy with the basis of your audio/video clips, you can then polish them up, so they mix and sound perfect, regardless of whether you’re working with music, sound, or even dialogue.

Use the recording features we’ve mentioned above to record your podcasts, voiceovers, or your sound effects, guaranteeing this software’s position as an industry pioneer.

Other Pro Tools Software and Solutions

While we’ve been speaking about Pro Tools, the music software, this isn’t the only product that Avid Technologies produces. Below, we’ll explore some of the other leading products that can help you achieve the best production experience.

Media Composer

As we’ve already discussed, Pro Tools is an epic piece of software that combines everything you would want in your DAW software, as well as video editing for a complete entertainment experience.

However, introduce Media Composer into the works, and you’ll have a full video editing and managing platform at your fingertips. This software is the entertainment industries most used video editing platform, used by the leading figures and producers in the industry.

There are multiple versions available whether you’re starting out or looking to replace your current platform, and there’s a range of features, plug-in opportunities and, of course, up to 4K resolution compatibility. In short, it’s
everything you need to go from an idea to a fully completed production.

What really sets Media Composer apart from the rest is the fact that it’s taken traditional long and time-consuming processes and streamlined them into easy-to-use features. Whether you’re editing, mastering, or tweaking your clips, many of the functions can be completed with a push of a button.

Sibelius

If you prefer working with your music in the traditional notation format, Sibelius is the way forward. The platform can seamlessly integrate with the Pro Tools software and provides you with an exclusive level of control over the sounds you’re producing.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re working in a concert hall, stage production, a classroom, or working as a composer or producer, this software is suitable for you. As with all Pro Tools solutions, there are multiple versions of the software available, including a free First edition, and the premium, feature-full version titled Ultimate.

With built-in Cloud Collaboration, the ability to download songs and user-made tracks from the online community, and even the opportunity to plug in your own instruments to record your tracks or learn how to play certain songs, this software has got it all.

Summary

As you can see, there really isn’t anything bad to say about Pro Tools or any of Avid’s other leading products. It’s easy to see how the software has maintained and retained its industry-leading status over the last three decades, and we expect to see big things from them in the future.

It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a solution to get you started on your sonic ventures or upgrading and expanding your horizons using your production expertise, Pro Tools and Avid is sure to have the exact solution you’ve been looking for.

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