Hi Folks -

For anyone who will be at SXSW this year, come by my Pro Tools clinic on Friday, Mar 16. I’ll be speaking at 2-3pm in the Austin Convention Center… more specifically in Artist Central in Ballroom E.

I’ll be discussing Pro Tools concepts, production techniques, and the new features of Pro Tools 10, using a song I co-wrote and produced that is the theme song for USA Network’s “Fairly Legal” TV show. Some specific topics will include recording strategies, Pro Tools system optimization, editing and mixing techniques, and the use of virtual instruments. At the end, I’ll give a quick overview of educational possibilities for learning Pro Tools at a high level.

Join me for the talk, or if you want to meet up at another time, connect with me via twitter @UndergroundSun.

Hope to see you there!

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Hi Folks!

Hope all is well and that you’re enjoying the new year so far!

NAMM is here and frankly I am much more excited about it this year than in several of the years past. Seems like there’s much more of a buzz about it this year. Maybe the economy is turning around (hmm?), maybe musicians are making money again (what?), or maybe its just that we all are jonesin’ for new gear (probably!). Regardless, being the Pro Tools head that I am, I’m happy to see Pro Tools 10 in action, as well as a whole slew of new developments surrounding it. In fact, I’m giving a clinic on Pro Tools, sponsored by Berkleemusic, on Friday, Jan 20 at 3pm in the NAMM H.O.T. Zone. If you’re at NAMM, plesae come by and check it out. Stick around to say hi afterwards.

The NAMM H.O.T. Zone also features talks from other Berkleemusic luminaries like Dave Kusek and Mike King… experts in their fields for sure, as well as good peeps and good friends. Check us all out here: http://www.namm.org/thenammshow/2012/hot-zone-grid

And, for all the Berkleemusic.com peeps, all of my courses on Berkleemusic.com have been updated for Pro Tools 10, so you’ll be up to speed with using the latest version if you take any of the Pro Tools courses I authored, including Producing with Pro Tools and Advanced Production Techniques with Pro Tools.

The real question I have for you is, how many of you are using Pro Tools 10, and do you like it? And maybe more to the point, has it been worth the upgrade price? I think being able to run a session from RAM is worth it, but that requires either Pro Tools HDX or the Complete Production Toolkit… both expensive propositions. Granted there are other improvements in PT10, but that’s the most significant in my view.

I’ll post a post-NAMM report, and hit me up if you plan on being at NAMM and want to meet up.

See you soon… cheers!

df

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Hi Folks -

It seems the dust is beginning to settle at Avid. After restructuring and rebranding all of their component parts in their music divisions, Avid has finally announced some new products today… BIG NEW products.

They’re releasing three new Pro Tools HD interfaces (HD I/O, HD OMNI, and HD MADI), two of which will have soft-knee limiters so you don’t overload your input signals. Avid is also offering a software upgrade called HEAT which I’m extremely excited about. Designed by Dave Hill of Crane Song’s Phoenix plug-in, this software integrates and simulates the analog warmth of tubes and tape into every channel in Pro Tools. Read more here.

In more news, Pro Tools 8.1 is available now for HD users… download it here.

And Avid announced an upgrade of Torq for the Snow Leopard operating system today as well… read about it here.

Big news I’d say!

df

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Hey Folks -

Been a while since I’ve written here because I’ve been feverishly trying to get this new online course out to you. Its called Pro Tools: Virtual Instruments and Effects. The course starts on Monday, April 5, 2010. Here’s a video and some information about it:

An industry standard for years, Pro Tools expanded its scope and functionality with the release of Pro Tools 8, which contains six new powerful virtual instruments and twenty new great-sounding effects. In this course, you will learn how to play these new instruments to improve your overall musical productions, whether for TV, film, commercials, Web sites, video games, or the productions of artists you may be working with. You will learn what each parameter in each instrument and effect can do, how they work in concert with each other, how to design sounds based on those parameters, how to be more creative with the effects and instruments in Pro Tools, and how to improve the overall sound of your musical productions.

The first six weeks of the course cover each of the six new virtual instruments in Pro Tools: Boom, Vacuum, DB-33, XPand! 2, Structure Free, and Mini Grand. The second six weeks focus on how to use effects plug-ins by category: EQ & Filters, Dynamics Processing, Delay & Modulation, Reverb, Harmonic/Distortion Effects, and finally Pitch Shift, Time Shift, Stereo Width Phase Scope, and Dither. You will learn about the parameters that control each virtual instrument and effect and be given tasks that put your new knowledge to practical use. You will work on weekly projects that build to create several larger projects and, by the end of the course, you will have created several pieces of music using the virtual instruments and effects in Pro Tools.

You will also learn important background information about each instrument and effect, and listen to examples of how they are properly used. The course features a wide array of artist examples, including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Peter Gabriel, David Bowie, Fiona Apple, Stevie Wonder, Edgar Winter, Pink Floyd, Marvin Gaye, Talking Heads, Prince, Justin Timberlake, The Beastie Boys, Human League, Chicago, Harold Faltermeyer, Tangerine Dream, Tears for Fears, Jimmy Smith, Deep Purple, Bob Marley, The Meters, Joey DeFrancesco, Spencer Davis Group, Radiohead, Elton John, Coldplay, Thelonius Monk, Bill Evans, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Glenn Gould, Maurice Ravel, Rachmaninov, and George Gershwin.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

* utilize automation and MIDI Learn functions
* create, edit, and arrange drum beats in Boom
* adjust VTOs, Filters, Envelopes, Modulation, and Arpeggiators to create new sounds using Vacuum
* tweak the Tonewheels, Vibrato, Drawbars, and Cabinet to create new organ sounds in DB-33
* use the Smart Knobs to modify all the synthesizer parameters to edit sounds in Xpand!2
* use Structure Free to load, play, and edit sample-based instruments
* choose and fine tune a piano sound by changing the Model, Dynamic Response, Tuning, and Room sound in Mini Grand
* use EQ plug-ins for improved and more creative mixing
* utilize compressors, limiters, de-essers, gates, expanders, and side chains for many mixing applications
* make use of delay, modulation, and “spreader” plug-ins for more creative mixing
* adjust the parameters on a reverb effect to create an appropriate ambiance for a track
* set up an effects loop and add effects to other effects
* use distortion and harmonic effects to your advantage while mixing
* apply Pitch Shift and Time Shift to alter the pitch and length of audio regions
* utilize Stereo Width, Phase Scope, and Dither to put the finishing touches on a mix

Click here for more information.

Hope to see you in the course! Cheers!

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Hey Folks -

I hope 2010 has started off well for you.

I just wanted to post a quick note here to inform you about a few things:

1) A new semester for berkleemusic.com starts today. You can still sign up for courses this week.

2) NAMM is happening this week in Anaheim, CA. I’ll be there, most like on Thurs and/or Friday. If you’re going to show and would like to meet up, drop me a note here and we’ll try to make it happen.

3) I’m working on a new course for Berkleemusic about using Virtual Instruments and Effects in Pro Tools. It should be ready for next semester (starting in April). This is just a little teaser. I’m sure I’ll be posting more about it here soon.

Happy New Year. Cheers!

df

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Hey Folks -

For those of you Pro Tools users who don’t know about this blog, I highly recommend checking it out. Not only does it tell you about the latest happenings re: the AIR instruments in Pro Tools (like news about upcoming AIR releases… hint hint), you can download free and paid sounds for Structure, watch videos on how to use aspects of the AIR instruments, and connect with other AIR users.

You’ll note that a link to this blog is now in my new category “AWESOME BLOGS” on the right side of this screen. More to come there as well.

AIR Users Blog

AIR Users Blog

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In my third installment about optimizing Pro Tools performance, I’m going to cover consolidating audio regions and thinning automation data… two techniques you can use to improve the performance of larger Pro Tools sessions. If you’ve tried all of the techniques I recommended in the first two installments about this topic here on my blog and Pro Tools is still acting sluggish, try these out.

Editing density is one factor that can seriously slow Pro Tools down. Each edit in Pro Tools instructs your hard drive to find a piece of audio on the drive. For instance, if you’ve edited your drum tracks with Beat Detective, you may have thousands of small audio regions on those tracks. Making the hard drive find those little pieces of audio all over the drive in rapid succession slows the drive down and thus makes playback more difficult. To combat this, you can consolidate the tracks. Consolidating means creating a brand new single audio file that combines all of the regions on track into one.

Here’s how I consolidate tracks: First, I make sure that all my edits are clean… that is, I make sure there are fades and crossfades places at region boundaries so there are no editing click/pops. Second, I make a duplicate playlist of all the tracks I want to consolidate. I do this in case I ever want to go back to the final edited version before it was consolidated. Third, I highlight all of the regions on the track. Finally, I choose Edit > Consolidate. Pro Tools creates new audio file that combines all of the edited audio regions into one region.

In the screenshot below, you see a large number of edited audio regions on the left, with some of the regions muted. On the right, you see a consolidated version of the edited regions. Note that the muted regions are processed as silence in the consolidated file.

Consolidated Regions

Consolidated Regions

Although not as intensive as audio data, automation data can cause your Pro Tools session to choke up too. Let’s say you have volume, panning, and mute automation on each track, plus send automation and a number of automated effects parameters. All of that automation data is made up of a large number of tiny data breakpoints. To fight this, you can thin out your automation data on your tracks to help reduce the load on your computer. You can tell Pro Tools to automatically thin out your automation data automatically after writing it in the Preferences. Choose Setup > Preferences > Mixing. In the Automation section, check off “Smooth and Thin Data after Pass” and then choose the Degree of Thinning (none, little, some, more, or most). I’d recommend trying “more” first before jumping to “most”. The “most” setting has the potential to make your automation too choppy.

In the screenshot below, you can see the same region with all of the original automation data on the left and the thinned automation data on the right. For this example, the Degree of Thinning is set to “more.”

Thinned Automation

Thinned Automation

You can also manually thin out automation by highlighting a section on a track and choosing Edit > Thin Automation. This command uses the Degree of Thinning setting from the Mixing Preferences window.

Stay tuned for more ways to save processing power while using Pro Tools…

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Hey folks -

If you’ve been checking out this blog and you’re interested in learning production techniques using Pro Tools with me, why not sign up for my class? Its called Producing with Pro Tools. Here’s the course description:

Producing with Pro Tools will help you learn professional recording and producing techniques utilizing Digidesign’s Pro Tools software, the industry standard in music production. Throughout the course, I will help you hone your production and engineering skills through hands-on activities using Pro Tools, interaction with other students, and personalized instructor feedback.

Learning in an online environment might be new to you, yet all of the same elements exist from regular classroom learning, with a few notable improvements.

* Lectures are replaced by guided, hands-on practice.
* You can learn at your own pace.
* You can interact, collaborate, and trade files with me and your classmates easily in chat and Discussion Board.
* You can ask dumb questions or carry on deep discussions with personal stories while remaining somewhat anonymous.
* You can visit me in my virtual office hours from any time zone.

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

* use Pro Tools to record and edit audio and MIDI files
* operate Pro Tools with a well-rounded knowledge of the software, including many keyboard shortcuts and other timesaving techniques
* master many basic and advanced functions within Pro Tools
* set up your home studio equipment and recording environment to maximize efficiency and sound quality
* apply your knowledge of the production process to all of your current and future projects, including all of the production and engineering duties along the way

Read more about it here… and see a video with yours truly taped at Capitol Records.

If you’ve already taken me class, check out any of the other amazing offerings from Berkleemusic.

Hope to see in you class soon.

df

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With all the plug-ins and virtual instruments available in Pro Tools 8 now, it’s easy to run out of processing power and memory (RAM) within a session, especially if you’re running PT on an older computer. You might hear “rice krispies” (snaps, crackles and pops) while playing back, or even see error messages when you’ve reached the limits of your computer’s capability. In Part I of this topic, I shared how to optimize Pro Tools’ Playback Engine for the best performance. Here, I’m going to share a couple more ways to optimize performance within your session.

Make Inactive
The easiest thing to do in your PT session to lessen the load on your CPU and RAM is to make anything you’re not actually using in the session INACTIVE. You can make effects plug-ins, virtual instruments, sends, outputs, and other items inactive… even entire tracks can be made inactive. What does it mean to be “inactive?” Essentially, the inactive item does not function in the session and uses no system resources. However, the settings of the item are still saved with the session… SO, you can activate the item at any point while working in the session and all of its settings will still be there.

How do you make something inactive? To make an entire track inactive, select the name of the track and choose Track > Make Inactive. You can also Right-click the name of the track and choose Make Inactive from the dropdown menu or click the track type icon (at the bottom of the track’s mix channel) and choose Make Inactive. To make a certain plug-in, instrument, send, output, etc inactive, press Command+Control (Mac) or Control+Start (PC) and click on the item. Inactive items and tracks are greyed out.

In the screenshot below, the Xpand2 instrument and the Instrument tracks’ output (Bus 1-2) are inactive, as is the entire Audio 2 track on the bottom. Right-click on the name of the track or an item to access the “make inactive” option as shown here.

Make Inactive

Record Virtual Instruments As Audio
Virtual instruments consume a lot of processing power so it’s a good idea to record their outputs as audio when you’re done working on them. Once you’re happy with a track you’ve made with a virtual instrument, record its output as audio onto an audio track in the session.

Route the output of the Instrument track to a bus (e.g., Bus 1-2). Create an audio track and choose that same bus (Bus 1-2) as the track’s input. Play and record the output from the instrument track. Then, make the instrument track inactive so that if you need to go back and edit the original instrument track, you can simply activate the track later and work on it.

Stay tuned for more ways to save processing power while using Pro Tools…

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With all the plug-ins and virtual instruments available in Pro Tools 8 now, it’s easy to run out of processing power and memory (RAM) within a session, especially if you’re running PT on an older computer. You might hear “rice krispies” (snaps, crackles and pops) while playing back, or even see error messages when you’ve reached the limits of your computer’s capability. However, there are some ways to get around the issues… and I want to share a few with you here.

First, quit any other applications that are running along with Pro Tools. Those apps take away precious RAM and processing power that could be allocated to Pro Tools. Then, within Pro Tools, visit the Playback Engine window (Setup > Playback Engine). Set the CPU Usage Limit to the highest percentage available. This allows Pro Tools to take control of most of the processing power in your computer.

If you’re editing or mixing (and not recording any more tracks), set the H/W Buffer Size to a higher amount like 1024 Samples. This enables your computer to work with larger chunks of data and makes audio processing less intensive. Boosting this value beyond 1024 (if you have the option) might cause your user interface to act sluggish. Use your judgment. When recording, set the H/W Buffer Size to a lower value (32, 64, 128, or 256) to reduce latency.

Choose the highest number of RTAS Processors available so Pro Tools can utilize your computer’s multiple processors. You may also check the “RTAS Engine” checkbox if you’re experiencing recurrent RTAS errors that interrupt playback and recording. This option may degrade your audio playback quality on virtual instruments, but you’ll see less errors and thus your workflow won’t be interrupted as often. However, be sure to uncheck this option when mixing to ensure the highest quality of audio playback.

Playback Engine

The DAE playback buffer determines the amount of memory allocated with Digidesign Audio Engine (DAE) to manage disk buffers. A smaller buffer size might improve the speed of playback/record initiation if you’re experiencing lag time when you press Record or Play, but it might also make it more difficult for slower hard drives to play or record tracks reliably. A setting of “Level 0” might even make it impossible for your hard drive to read data fast enough to play back a PT session. A larger buffer size might improve the performance of a session with a huge number of edits; however, large DAE buffer sizes tend to increase the time lag before playback or record initiates.

I’d leave the DAE Playback Buffer parameters in their default states (Size = Level 2, Cache Size = Normal) unless you’re having an issue that Digidesign specifically recommends you to change those values.

Stay tuned for more ways to save processing power while using Pro Tools…

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