Pro Tools Fundamentals - 5 Tips For Using Groups

09-13-2014 10:00 AM

1. Free Up Headroom Using the All Group

The All group is created by default in each new session. Its ID letter is “!” so in the mix window it can be toggled using shift+1. In a simple session it can be useful for freeing up headroom if your master fader has started to clip. The option/alt key can be used for “do to all” for many things but option-clicking on a fader will set it to 0dB rather than performing a “do to all”. By toggling the all group and pulling the highest fader down to unity you should be able to free up the necessary headroom while keeping the relative levels of you session intact. If your session contains submixes and dynamics processors on groups of tracks or side-chained key signals from pre-fade sends then this method might not be appropriate but for simple sessions this offers a quick fix. Just remember to toggle the all group off and option-click your master fader back to unity afterwards.
2. Suspend All Groups

The first source of frustration for the new user using groups is groups being on when you don’t want and not being on when you do. Very often switching individual groups on and off is unnecessary just to make a quick tweak. Instead use CMD+Shift+G/Ctrl+Shift+G to suspend all groups.
3. Clutch

If you want to suspend a mix group for a single action, hold Ctrl/Start while moving the grouped fader (or whatever it happens to be). This will isolate any grouped parameter from the group for as long as control is held down. This is very similar to a really useful feature Pro Tools offers when it is used in conjunction with a control surfaces. “Clutching” is a way of suspending mix group behaviour by moving a fader while touching another fader. While I first came across this as an Icon feature this seems to work on every control surface with conductive fader caps that I’ve tried including the Artist Mix and the Command 8.
4. Group Letters Follow Names

Groups are identified by ID letter. If you only have a handful of groups it is easy enough to manage them but as things get busier you might well need to enable specific groups quickly and easily. Using command focus to address the groups list you can enable and disable groups just using their identifying letter. Lots of people (perfectly logically) begin at “a” and continue through the alphabet but I have often found it useful to use a letter which is less arbitrary to identify the group. So instead of drums being “a” and guitar being “b” why not use a memorable letter which is relevant to the name? For example drums is group “d”, guitar is group “g” etc. Then to toggle a group on or off simply press your new, easy to remember letter.
5. Null Groups for VCAs (HD Only)

In Pro Tools HD, VCAs work as master faders for mix groups. They can be used in a very similar way to bussing to Aux Inputs and submixing but there are crucial differences in terms of signal path. The ability to be able to mix large sessions from a handful of faders controlling many source tracks and the way a source track can simultaneously be a member of more than one mix group with a reasonable level of independence can let you to concentrate on the big picture without sacrificing any control. One helpful feature of this method of mixing is that the VCA offers level control over the source tracks even when the group is disabled so you can have the source track faders for blending relative levels and VCAs available for balancing groups of channels from a handful of faders without having to manage the on/off status of the mix groups. No-group groups!