Lesson 7

Editing Digital Audio in Pro Tools

Recording audio into Pro Tools is only the beginning of the creative process. Once your audio is recorded, you can now turn it into a flawless performance. In this lesson, you will start to learn many of the techniques that the professional engineers use in major recording studios for editing audio.

Great, now that you have recorded your tracks, you want to make them sound perfect. How do you do that? Editing digital audio can be a slow and tedious process. But, the rewards are great. If you have ever edited audio on an analog tape machine, you will appreciate how much easier it is to do in the digital world.

Before you can get our hands dirty in the editing mode, you need to understand a few basic editing concepts. If I am a little long winded in this lesson, just hang in there! You will appreciate this lecture, once you start to edit your audio.

Nondestructive Editing

This is where the magic lies in Pro Tools. Basically, you can cut, paste, trim, separate, or delete audio data without harming your source audio files in any way. You are editing in the virtual world. When you edit an audio file by chopping it up, changing it, or whatever, all you are telling Pro Tools to do is to look for audio data in different places. Your source track is intact and Pro Tools is just virtually chopping it up.

The following visual may help here:

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 7.47.03 AM Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 7.47.20 AM
Original audio file. Edited audio File.

When you are using Nondestructive editing, you are not creating new audio files, you are simple directing Pro Tools to different places on the hard dive within your original audio file. Just remember that having a large number of edits on an audio file will require your hard drive to do a lot of locating. That is one really good reason to have a fast hard drive. The good news is that most computers will have no problems locating your edits.


When you are editing in Pro Tools, each track, or section of a track, is called a Clip. Remember our Audio Clips List? Each time you record, edit, or import audio, a new clip name will appear in the Audio Clips List. The same concept applies for MIDI tracks, except that they are stored in the MIDI clips List.

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 7.47.55 AM
Audio Clips List.

You can drag any clip from this list to an audio track and move it around and also arrange them in any order.

Reviewing Clips

We already covered these, but here is a brief review, just to make sure the concepts are starting to sink in. You will be working with all of these when editing in Pro Tools.
Whole File Audio Clips

These are created when you are recording or importing audio. They reference an audio file in its entirety.

User Defined Clips

You define these. They may include, renaming an existing clip, recorded audio, or edited audio. You have created the clip with a record or edit function.

Audio Created Clips

These clips are created automatically by Pro Tools. They may include punch recording, multiple takes, etc. Pro Tools will also name these clips for you.

Offline Audio Clips.

These are audio clips that can’t be located by Pro Tools. They are displayed in italics and are dimmed in the Audio clips list.

Multi-Channel Audio Clips.

These clips consist of multiple clips and audio files for stereo and surround-sound tracks. They are easy to spot because they have a pull down triangle located next to their name. If you click the triangle, you can now see the channels.

Edit Playlists.

We have already covered Playlists in Lesson six. An
Edit Playlist is one or more clips arranged on an audio or MIDI track.

The Evolution of A Track’s Playlist

When you record an audio track into Pro Tools, the Edit Playlist usually contains an entire whole file audio Clip.

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 7.48.35 AM
A Whole File Audio Clip on a track.

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 7.50.00 AM
Audio Clips Playlist with whole file audio Clip. The Playlist is about as simple as you can get.

When you start to edit a whole file audio Clip, the
Audio Clips Playlist becomes more and more complex as many distinct regions are created.

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 7.50.30 AM
The whole file audio Clip with many edits.

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 7.51.01 AM
The Audio Clips Playlist has now become more complex, containing all of the edits to the whole file audio Clip.

Pro Tools will now use this edit Playlist to direct the hard drive to the right place when playing back the audio. The original audio file is not cut up; Pro Tools is just playing back edited parts of it very quickly!

Editing Tools

When you are editing in Pro Tools, you will use six tools in the Edit Window to help you get the job done.

The tools are located in the
Edit Window.

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 7.51.20 AM
The Edit Tools in the Pro Tools Edit Window.

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 7.52.21 AM The Selector Tool

This tool is used for selecting track material for editing and also to place the cursor on any point in the track for playback.

To use the
Selector Tool, click on the Selector Tool icon. This will enable it for your edit tool.

Click anywhere in a track to start playback from that point.

To select material to edit, simply click, and then drag across the portion of the track or tracks that you want to highlight. Once the material is highlighted with the
Selector Tool, you can perform other edits.

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 7.53.08 AM
Example of a selected portion of an audio region

If you double click a track with the
Selector Tool, it will highlight the entire track.

If you triple click with the
Selector Tool on a track, the entire Edit Playlist for that track will become highlighted in the Regions List.

Practice using the Selector Tool on an audio track from a Pro Tool’s session. Remember, practicing each new concept is very important if you want to master Pro Tool’s editing techniques.

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 7.53.45 AM The Grabber Tool

When you select the Grabber Tool, you can either choose the Time Grabber, Separation Grabber, or the Object Grabber.

To change between the three, click and hold the arrow below the Grabber Icon. You will see the following:

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 7.58.16 AM
Time, Separation, and Object Grabber tools select window.

Time Grabber function allows you to select or move entire audio and MIDI regions, MIDI events, and Conductor track information.

Separation Grabber allows you to separate selected material into new regions, so that you can edit or move those regions to a new location.

Object Grabber lets you select multiple, non-contiguous regions. You do this by shift-clicking each region that you want to include in a selection.

Practice with the
Grabber Tool using the Time, Separation and Object functions to get a good feel for what they do.

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 7.58.37 AM The Scrubber Tool

When using this tool you can move back and forth over an audio region so that you can find the exact point where you want to perform an edit. This concept was originally used in analog tape editing. An engineer would move the analog tape back and forth across the tape player’s playhead at slow speed to hear where he wanted to insert an edit or splice into the tape.

Select the
Scrubber Tool and click and drag over an audio track, moving back and forth across the track to hear you audio.

Practice with the
Scrubber Tool on an audio track. See if you can locate good spots to make an edits.

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 7.59.02 AM The Trimmer Tool

You will use this tool to:

Shorten or expand a region.

Lengthen or shorten MIDI notes.

Scale Automation data
(automation data controls the automation function of a track. This can include volume, panning, and other data that is part of the automated features of a Pro Tools session).

Scale Controller data. (this is data created by a MIDI controller such as a MIDI keyboard, a wind controller, etc.)

When using the
Trimmer Tool to edit audio, you will either cut off the beginning or end of an audio region, or lengthen a region’s start or end points.

Here is a “real world” example:

When I am recording my saxophone, right before I play, I hit the music stand and make a loud noise. I then go on to play the best solo of my life. Instead of getting rid of the entire solo, I just use the
Trimmer Tool to trim out the unwanted stand crashing noise.

Using The Trimmer Tool:

Select the Trimmer Tool and move the cursor to the start or end of an audio region. Make sure that the Trimmer Icon is visible.

To reverse direction of the
Trimmer Tool, press the Option key on the Mac while clicking or press the Alt. key on the PC.

When you do your first trim of a region, Pro Tools will automatically add the trim to the
Regions List as a new region. The new region’s name will be based on the original audio file’s name. That way you will be able to tell where the new region was created.

Practice with the
Trimmer Tool.

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 7.59.32 AM The Pencil Tool

The Pencil Tool is used to redraw audio waveforms. This can be especially useful if you want to get rid of pops, clicks, or other noises that may be present on an audio track.

The Pencil Tool can also be used to:

Insert MIDI notes.

Edit MIDI velocities (volume).

Draw automation and controller data.

You can also delete MIDI notes by pressing
Option (Mac) or Alt (PC). This will turn the Pencil Tool into an eraser.

Pencil Tool has seven different functions. Click on the arrow below the Pencil Tool Icon to see the following:

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 7.59.53 AM

Each of the icons represents different ways or shapes to draw with the
Pencil Tool. Free Hand and Line are great for editing audio. While the other shapes are usually best for automation and MIDI data.

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.00.15 AMThe Pencil Tool is a Destructive Tool. This means that it changes the original audio file permanently. You can however; go up to the Edit Pull Down Menu and select Undo to undo your pencil drawing. Just be aware that if you don’t undo your pencil drawings, the original audio file will be changed!

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.01.03 AM The Zoomer Tool

The Zoomer Tool is used to make a track larger. Think of it like putting an audio file under a microscope. Every little detail is much easier to see!

Click on the
Zoomer Icon to select the tool. Once you have selected the tool, click on the area that you want to make larger. This will zoom you out one level. If you keep clicking, you will keep zooming out.

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.01.27 AM Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.01.49 AM
Original Audio File Zoomed out 1 level.

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.02.16 AM
Zoomed out several levels.

To move back a level,
Option Click (Mac) or Alt Click (PC) you will now see a “-“ sign appear in the Zoomer Icon.

Normal Zoom and Single Zoom

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.02.38 AM
When you are using Pro Tools, the Zoomer Tool offers two different zoom modes.

Normal Zoom mode allows you to continuously use the Zoomer Tool.

Single Zoom
mode allows you to make a single zoom and then return back to the tool you were previously using. The Single Zoom Icon has an arrow to the right of the magnifying glass. That way you can tell if you are in the Single Zoom mode.

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.03.16 AM The Smart Tool

The Smart Tool allows you to use the Trimmer Tool, Selector Tool, and Grabber Tool all at the same time! Just click on the bar located above the three tools to make the Smart Tool Active.

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.03.51 AM The Edit Modes

The Pro Tool’s Edit Window uses four different edit modes to help you edit data.

When you start editing in Pro Tools, you will need to select one of the four modes. This will provide you with different methods for moving and editing your MIDI and audio material.

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.04.21 AM Shuffle Mode. When you are using this mode, preexisting track regions are “shuffled” around to make room for a newly placed region.

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.04.29 AM Spot Mode. When you are in this mode, the Spot Dialog Box
will prompt you to specify a location for your new region or edit.

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.04.54 AM Grid Mode This mode allows you to drag regions and MIDI notes and snap them into place to the nearest user defined grid boundary. This mode is great for placing regions directly onto a beat. If you select Absolute Grid

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.05.01 AMSlip Mode. When you are in Slip Mode, regions can be moved freely from one track to another. This is a great mode to use when you want to place a region without any time or grid restrictions.

Practice experimenting with the different modes by moving audio files around in a session that you have already recorded. Or, take one of the sessions from the PSU CD ROM and use the
Save As… command to work on a new session. See how each mode reacts and works. When you are editing in Pro Tools, you will usually use a combination of all of the modes.

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.06.20 AM Tab To Transients

When you are in the
Edit Window, select the Tab To Transients button by clicking on it once. This button allows you to use the Tab Key to move from one transient to another (a transient is a high peak in a waveform). This is especially useful for drum parts, which tend to have a lot of transients. Those transients usually define the beat of a song.

To move backwards from transient to transient, press
Option-Tab (Mac) or Control Tab (PC).

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.06.39 AM Link Sections

When the
Link Timeline and Edit Selections button is selected, Pro Tools links Edit and Timeline Selections. This allows you to link the Conductor track and the Edit tracks together. When this button is highlighted, if you select an area on a track the area will also be selected in the conductor timeline. I usually just leave this on.

Crossfading And Fading Audio Edits

When you are editing audio, you want to create smooth transitions between and among edited audio regions so that you don’t hear pops, clicks, sudden dynamic changes, or other unwanted noises.
Crossfading will help you to smooth transitions between regions.

Pro Tools Reference Guide can be found on your Pro Tools CD. There is a thorough explanation on Crossfades and Fades. Please read through the pages on Crossfades and Fades in Pro Tools.

Creating A Crossfade

Open up the Pro Tool’s Session from your
Pro Tools Course Disk Files titled Crossfades. (Make sure that it is copied to your hard drive).

Once the project is open, go to the File Pull down menu and select Save Session As.. or Save As and save your project as your name Crossfades. This way you won’t overwrite the original file.

Notice that we have two guitar tracks. We are now going to create an edit in the
Guitar L track so that the track plays longer.

Make sure that you are in the
Edit Window and that you are in Slip Mode .
Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.11.03 AM

Solo the Guitar L track so that you are not hearing the Guitar R track by selecting the Solo button.

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.11.28 AM
Guitar L solo button selected.

Go to the Waveform pull down menu, (the down arrow located to the left of the Guitar name) Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.11.48 AM and select Large. This way the waveform will be easier to work on.

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.12.08 AM Making the Waveform Larger.

We are now going to use the
Zoomer Tool so that we can see our edit points better.

Select the
Zoomer Tool Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.12.40 AM so that it is highlighted. Select Normal Zoom.

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.13.02 AM

Click on the waveform for the Guitar L track several times so that it is easier to see.

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.13.22 AM
The Guitar L. track after using the Zoomer Tool.

Click on the Selector Tool Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.13.45 AM so that it is highlighted and then select a portion of the Guitar L waveform by clicking and dragging to highlight a selected area. It does not matter which part of the waveform you select.

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.14.02 AM
Selected area of the waveform.

Go to the
Edit Pull Down menu and select Copy. This will copy the selected guitar waveform to the clipboard.

Single click in the
Guitar L track to the right of the waveform just after the initial guitar waveform so that a blinking line appears.

Go to the
Edit Pull Down menu and select Paste. You should now have two guitar waveforms.

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.14.45 AM
Two guitar waveforms.

Play back the track and notice that we have a gap between the waveforms. Our goal is to make a seamless track.

Select the Grabber Tool Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.15.01 AMso that it is highlighted. Grab the second waveform and move it closer to the first waveform. Listen to the track again. You may have to move it several times before it sounds good. If you hear a pop or other unwanted sound between the two tracks, don’t worry, we are going to fix that! Also, don’t worry if the track does not make musical sense. The goal right now is to create a good edit using a Crossfade.

Once you have closed the gap between the two waveforms, you may notice that there is still a slight pop where the new waveform starts.
Even if you don’t hear a noticeable pop, try this exercise anyway. You are going to be fading the two regions together. We are going to select an area between the two regions where the two waveforms come together.

Click on the
Selector Tool Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.13.45 AM so that it is highlighted, and then select the region between the two waveforms where the pop occurs. Remember, it does not have to be a large region, select just enough so that you cover the transients where the noise occurs. You may have to experiment a little before you find correct fade point. Also make sure that you select a region that overlaps both waveforms.

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.15.53 AM
Selected region for my fade.

Now go to the
Edit pull down menu and select Fades and then Create Fades. You will now see the following dialog box:

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.16.24 AM

We are going to create a Standard, Equal Power Curve for this exercise so click on the OK button. You should now see the fade in your audio track, or you may see the following dialog box:

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.17.01 AM
If this appears, just click on Adjust Bounds.

Your fade will now appear in your track.

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 8.17.18 AM
Fade showing between the two audio waveforms.

Playback your track and listen again. The track should sound better. Anytime you are working with audio regions and you want to get rid of noise or pops, make sure to create a crossfade between the regions where the noise occurs.

To view a brief tutorial on creating Crossfades, click on the following link:

Clip 11

Pro Tools Project 11: Creating A Crossfade

Use the Crossfades session and create a crossfade for the Guitar R track.

Save your Crossfade Project and post it on Moodle. Don’t send any audio files. Just send the session file. For example, I would send Pfenninger Crossfades.ptx

Pro Tools Project 12: Creating A Loop

Open the Loopy Session located on your PSU Course Projects Folder. Using the skills that you developed from this lesson, make the session repeat at least 3 times with smooth transitions between each section. Make it musical and work with those crossfades!

Save your Loopy Project Don’t send any audio files. Just send the Session file. For example, I would send Pfenninger Loopy.ptx

Recap: Lesson 7

You should now be more familiar with:

Nondestructive editing
The Selector Tool
The Grabber Tool
The Scrubber Tool
The Trimmer Tool
The Pencil Tool
The Zoomer Tool
The Smart Tool
Pro Tools Edit Modes
Creating a loop in Pro Tools.

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