Let's Talk Tools - Understanding the Pro Tools toolbar

Pro Tools has helped me immensely when it comes to recording musical ideas, sending them to friends, collaborating, and lots more. I do a number of podcasts, and PT has become the standard program for me to record, edit and mix in.

The tools I go over here can be found in many other programs, such as Logic, GarageBand, Ableton and more.

I want to go over the Pro Tools toolbar, so that people who are brand new to Pro Tools can jump right in and start editing audio right away. Most tools have extra options if you click on them and hold, but I'm going to go over just the basics in this post.

It's beneficial to learn these tools so you can understand them, and get back to making music! Let's dive in.

Zoom Tool - Pretty self explanatory, but the Zoom Tool zooms into wherever you click on the Edit window. It'll keep zooming each time you click, and if you'd like to zoom out, just hold Option + click. If you double click this tool, the entire session will fit within the Edit window.

Trim Tool - The Trim Tool will allow you to trim audio from the top or tail of the audio region. This is helpful when you have dead air at the beginning of a track or want to make big cuts in groups all at once. The Trim Tool can also be used with MIDI tracks. I find it helpful when trying to extend or shorten a note. Another great use of the Trim Tool is when you're editing automation. You can make a selection (using the Select Tool) and then use the Trim Tool to edit the automation in your selection.

Select Tool - The Select Tool is a tool you'll use constantly. It can select regions, notes, sections for copying or pasting and much more. You can also place it at certain parts of a region to split a track (using the keyboard shortcut Command + E). Also if you double click a region using this tool, it will select that entire region.

Grabber Tool - Some folks call this the hand tool. The Grabber Tool is helpful for grabbing entire regions or MIDI notes to move them. If you hold down the Option key while dragging, you will make a copy of whatever you're dragging.

Scrub Tool - The Scrub Tool mimics what audio engineers would do when they only had a reel to reel tape deck. You would take your hands and place one hand on each reel and rock the reeels back and forth to find an edit point. This is called scrubbing. In Pro Tools the Scrub Tool allows you to place the cursor on a region and hear the audio over the speakers so you can dial in on an edit point. It's also helpful for previewing whatever you're scrubbing.

Pencil Tool - The Pencil Tool is helpful in many ways. You can draw MIDI notes, write automation (including volume, pan and more), and even create fade outs using its multiple drawing methods.

As I had said before, many of these tools have additional functions if you click and hold on them. For example the Trim Tool turns into the TCE or Time Compression Expansion tool if you hold down on it.

Another really important point about the toolbar is that above the Scrub, Select, and Grabber Tools is a bar that lets you activate the Smart Tool. The Smart Tool combines the Scrubber, Select and Grabber tools in one, depending where your cursor is placed on the region. The Smart Tool also has a helpful fade in and fade out feature if you hover your cursor in the top left or right corners of a region.

Want me to go further into detail on any of these tools? Reach out on Twitter or Facebook