Setting Up Pro Tools

The hassles of recording can be daunting at the beginning, but with a little bit of knowledge and guidance, you’ll soon be zooming between sounds without even thinking about it. If you’re new to pro tools or just want to refresh what you already know, this is the guide for you.

I’m going to explain where each and every software tool is on your screen as well as what they do and how they interact with one another. This will set up your first session in no time!

Pro tools will be used throughout this guide.

I’ll show you a brief history of the program and then move on to the interface.

There will be a section on how to get Pro Tools, step by step. Then, I’ll make a quick rundown of basic commands for recording, editing and finding audio files (sources). Lastly we’ll go over how to make edits in Pro Tools.

Note: Most computers today have at least three cores, but if you’re recording in a multitrack project, your computer will more than likely crash. The safest way to be able to work with multiple tracks is to go on a laptop or use Apple’s “Logic” software.

History of Pro Tools

Pro tools was released in the late 90’s and has now been commonly used by audio enthusiasts and professionals alike. Pro tools started as a standalone application which has now evolved into AVID’s flagship software.

Pro tools has a steep learning curve and can be very confusing for beginners, but once you learn the basics of the application, it’s an extremely powerful and versatile audio software. Pro Tools is used by professionals in all genres of music production. From pop to country, classical to disco and everything else in between.

Pro Tools Parts

Pro tools is made up of three parts; the arrangement, session and control room.

The arrangement is where you can just have one track open and it’s a real-time environment. You can easily drag anything from the arrange window onto your timeline or tracks. This is where you will be editing most of your tracks when you’re working on a recording project.

The session window is where you can have multiple tracks open and create your own session. Each track has their own separate controls and settings, unlike the arrange window which only has one track. You can edit multiple tracks in the session window, but once you hit the record button for these tracks, it’s closed to all edits until it is saved as a project. The session will also be saved as a project once you hit “record” on all of your tracks.

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The control room is where you can set up your speakers and monitor your mixes as you’re recording. You can also edit the output of your headphones from here as well as set up a metering system to be able to hear specific frequencies while working in the arrange window. The control room only needs to be viewed by clicking on it, there is nothing that needs to be edited or configured in here.

Pro Tools Setup

The Pro Tools setup is where you can set up and configure all the things that you need for your pro tools project. You have a variety of options to choose from, but it’s best for beginners to only set up their basic needs. The options that we will be covering in this guide are as follows:

• Enable or disable the virtual instruments – very important for digital music producers who want to use plugins for their projects and save money in the process.

• Enable or disable the virtual mixer – another helpful feature for saving money, this will also allow you to have a mix of elements such as reverb or distortion without having to buy and install a physical mixer.

• Enable or disable Pro Tools’ key and mouse – This will allow you to have smooth control over your software. Using the function keys can take a while to get used, but it’s better than using your keyboard’s arrow keys or hitting Alt+F5.

• Enable or disable the virtual speakers – this is a great way to save money by not buying and installing speakers.

• Install your preferred audio file format – this is a good idea if you want to be able to move your project files while recording. Some people like the .WAV format because it’s open and easily editable, but others prefer the .DTS format which is more reliable. There’s no right answer here, just research what you want to record and edit in your projects.

• Enable or disable the metering system – miscellaneous, but if you’re curious to know how much headroom you have when you’re recording, this is the place to be.

• Enable or disable the channel strip plug-in – here’s where it gets tricky, most of Pro Tools users don’t need to use this and if they do, they already know how. If a virtual console is installed this will replace your channel strip plug-in.

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• Set up your MIDI alerts – This allows you to view MIDI alerts instead of having to go through the MIDI when you set up a virtual keyboard or other instrument.

• Set up the output and input – You can choose between DA or ADAT connectors here.

• Enable or disable AAF export – this will allow you to export your files in the format that is used in audio post production. This is a great way to give your projects a uniform flow if you’re working with multiple collaborators.

• Enable or disable the optional extensions – You can have a variety of features enabled and disabled here. More than likely you will be using some of them, but most are not needed for basic and beginning users. This is for more advanced users who want to use third-party plugins free of charge (thus saving money) or want to spend money on updated software versions.

• Enable or disable the optional third party plugins – this will allow you to use more advanced effects such as compressor/distortion/EQ, etc.

• Enable or disable the optional third party plug-ins – this is where you can install additional third-party virtual instruments, plug-ins, and virtual mixers. You can also choose to disable all of the plugins that are not needed on your computer in case you’re not planning on using them.


At this point you should be up and running and have all your settings ready for recording. If you’re having trouble with your setup or using the software, it’s best to take some time and research your specific needs. There is a lot of information out there on the subject, but you can also always reach out to us if you need further help. Good luck and have fun making music!