How To Start a Pro Tools Session

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An Introduction to Pro Tools Sessions

Starting a Pro Tools Session
Joe Shambro - Starting a Pro Tools Session

In this tutorial, we'll look at how to set up a Pro Tools session, and how to easily start using Pro Tools to record and mix!

When you first start Pro Tools, your first job will be to set up a session file. Session files are the way Pro Tools keeps track of each song you're recording, or what project you're working on.

Opinions vary on whether to start a new session file for every song you're working on or not. Some engineers favor setting up one long session - or "linear" session - where all the songs are laid out on the same session file. This method is preferred by engineers used to working in linear environments like ADAT and Radar. This is a good idea if you're not putting a whole lot of work into mixing the individual songs; this way, you can apply the same plug-in settings to everything you do.

A lot of engineers, myself included, go for a new session file for each song you're working on. I prefer this method because, generally, I'm using several different effects and various overdub tracks that might eat up valuable system resources if they're not needed. So let's get started in setting up Pro Tools session! For this tutorial, I'm in Pro Tools 7 for Mac. If you're using an older version, your dialog boxes might be different, but the

If you're looking for a shortcut, here's a session file ready to go! Download for Pro Tools 7 or download for Pro Tools 5 through 6.9.

Let's get started!

When you open Pro Tools, you'll be presented with a blank screen. Click on File, then click "New Session". You'll be presented with a dialog box for the basic session file setup. Let's look at those options next.

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Selecting Your Session Parameters

Session Dialogue Box
Session Dialogue Box. Joe Shambro -

At this point, you'll be presented with a host of options. First, you'll be asked where you'd like your session file saved; I highly recommend creating a new folder with the song name and then saving the session as the song name itself. You'll also then pick your bit depth and your sampling rate. Here's where things get a little complicated.

If you're low on system resources​ or working on a simple project, I'd recommend playing it safe; select 44.1Khz as your sampling rate, and 16 bit as your bit depth. This is the standard for CD recordings. If you'd like to record in better detail, you can select up to 96Khz, 24 bit. It's up to you, and your project, what you chose.

At this point, you'll be asked to select a file format. For widespread compatibility, I'd select .wav format. Wav format is easily transferred to Mac or PC, however, .aif is considered a more professional format. It's up to you what you use, though.

Click OK, and move on to the next step. Let's take a look at building the session layout from there.

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Adding Tracks To Your Session

Selecting New Track
Selecting New Track. Joe Shambro -

The first thing I like to do when setting up a new session is to add a master fader. A master fader is essentially a volume knob for all the tracks at once. However, it's really useful for applying effects to the whole session at once. I like putting the Waves L1 Limiter + Ultra Maximizer on my sessions to give me a little better idea what the overall sound will be post-mastering. To add a master fader, select File, then New Tracks, and then add one stereo master fader. Done!

Adding Tracks

Now that you've got your basic setup, your last thing to do will be to add tracks. Go to File, then select New Tracks. You can enter in as many tracks as you wish; I usually set up the maximum number I need to begin tracking. Click OK, and your tracks will be laid out. Easy as that!

In Conclusion

Pro Tools is a rewarding software program to use, but it can be very confusing for the first-time user. Remember, take your time and read all of your options to make sure you're not missing an important setting. Don't get discouraged if you don't understand everything at first, you'll learn quickly. And lastly, don't be intimidated! I've been using Pro Tools for 6 years, and I still learn something new - literally - every day!