Pro Tools First Tutorials

How the Pro Tools First Pre Roll feature can help self recording musicians

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Today, let’s get to grips with what I believe is one of the most useful tools for self recording artists. Its the Pro Tools First Pre Roll feature.

If you’re an artist who records your own music, then you’ll understand how tricky it can be to hit record in your DAW, then switch over to your instrument in time to come in on the recording.

Often, self recording artists will have to start their recordings a few bars early to give themselves time to switch over. If you’re recording from the very beginning of a song, then this isn’t too much of a problem. But if you want to drop in to a session midway through, perhaps to re-record a few bars of an existing take, then at times it can be almost impossible to hit record, then switch over to your instrument in time to start your take.

Equally as problematic is the fact that in normal recording mode, you won’t be able to hear your original takes on your record enabled tracks. That’s because as soon as you start recording, the original takes will be silenced.

If you were working with a producer, then this wouldn’t be a problem. Your producer could use the quick punch feature to let you listen to the take right up to the point where you wanted to start recording from, and then punch you in. Unfortunately however, if you’re recording your self, even the quick punch feature isn’t much use, because it gives you no time at all to switch from hitting record, to performing your take.

So, whats the solution? You should use the Pro Tools First Pre Roll feature.

The Pro Tools First Pre Roll feature solves this problem entirely. The pre roll feature can be set up to automatically play any given number of bars before recording begins. You tell Pro Tools First where you want it to record from in your session. You then tell it how many bars before this you’d like to hear by specifying the number of bars that the pre roll should last. Pro Tools will then automatically play the number of pre roll bars that you have specified in play back mode. It will then switch to record mode automatically once the pre roll is complete.

Here’s how to use the Pro Tools First Pre Roll feature:

Begin by clicking in the time base ruler in the mix-and-edit-windows-in-pro-tools-first/">edit window at the point that you would like the recording to begin:

Pro Tools First Pre roll - time base ruler

This will place a marker in the time base ruler, which can be seen in the image above in blue.

Then click on the ‘Pre-Roll’ icon in the extended transport window to enable the Pro Tools First pre roll feature:

Pro Tools First Pre roll - enable pre roll

If ‘Pre-Roll’ is highlighted in light green, then it is active and the pre roll will play. If it is not, then no pre roll will be played.

In the numbers next to the pre roll icon, specify how many bars of pre roll you’d like (or in other words, how many bars prior to the recording location it is that you’d like to hear). Here we have selected 8 bars. You’ll notice that the location of the start of the pre roll is signified by a yellow flag:

Pro Tools First Pre roll - time base ruler

Accordingly, when we begin the recording process (by clicking record and then play) Pro Tools first will play the session in playback mode from the location of the yellow flag. Then, it will automatically enter record mode as soon as the blue marker is reached. At that point, all record enabled tracks will begin to record signals. The record button will flash whilst the pre roll plays out. It will then be lit in solid red when record mode is entered.

Note: you can specify a time value for the pre roll instead of a number of bars by switching the time base for the session from beats and bars to mins and secs.

The Pro Tools First Pre Roll feature is really useful for self recording musicians

Its like having a producer there to punch you in. With the Pro Tools First pre roll feature, you have time to move over to your instrument from your DAW. You can also listen to a few bars to get a feel for the existing takes.

Pretty useful, don’t you think?! Do you think that this is a feature that you could make use of? Do you record your own music and struggle with switching from your DAW to your instrument quickly enough? In what ways will the Pro Tools First pre roll feature help you in your recordings? I’d love for you to let me know in the comments section below.

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