Everybody is looking to hire someone with a vast knowledge of the equipment they work with, and when it comes to digital recording there is no exception. While this tutorial will feature some of my own workflow methods within Pro Tools, these techniques can be applied across any digital audio workstation. Let’s take a look at how you can improve your habits when it comes to recording in a digital environment.
Properly named sessions and tracks are a major convenience, especially when working with different people on the track. Say one person records the song, another mixes it, and yet another masters it. This is pretty common in our industry, especially on major label releases. It gives the mixing/mastering engineers a great starting point when they know the purpose of each session. For example, a recording engineer could pass on a session titled Artist_Song_PreMix to the mixing engineer, who would rename the session (or create a copy) as Artist_Song_Mixed.
Track names are just as important to your workflow as the sessions themselves. When recording, it’s best to name each track because your regions get named after the track at the time of recording. This means that unnamed tracks (Audio 1, 2, etc.) will result in regions named similarly (Audio1_01). A clean session can be achieved by naming the track first. For example, a track named Guitar would result in a region named Guitar_01. Following these guidelines will give you a cleaner looking workspace, an easy to navigate regions list, and a session that works with anyone’s style.
While this might not be necessary in smaller sessions, color-coding each type of instrument will make it easy to find what you’re looking for while mixing. My usual colors include one for drums, one for vocals, and one for guitars. In larger sessions, such as an orchestral piece, you can include colors for woodwinds, strings, and brass instruments. Depending on the content, you can split up colors as much or as little as you need. There are no standard colors for an organized workflow, so find ones that work for you and try to apply them each time. Eventually, color-coding will become second nature.
Using groups is similar to the color-coding technique, but with much more control. Each group can be named, control the mix and/or edit window, and allows you to select what is controlled such as volume and pan. Automating as a group can save time, and group editing will allow you to bring whole sections of your mix up or down by an even amount. A good use of this would be a well-mixed choir. Say you’ve recorded sopranos, altos, and baritones on separate tracks and have achieved the mix you’d like between them. Unfortunately they’re too loud with the rest of the mix, so you’d like to bring them down. Toggling your mix group on will allow you to bring the level down, and you can turn the group off again after for independent editing. You can check out some other tips on working with groups in Pro Tools here.
Hopefully you’ll be able to start using some of these techniques in your day-to-day recording and mixing workflow. I’m sure you’ll notice a more streamlined work environment once you do.