MIDI Editing and Performance Features in Avid Pro Tools 2018

By in Audio Post, Music Creation, NAMM 2018, Pro Mixing

Last year, Avid introduced several MIDI editing improvements in Pro Tools and there are even more in the latest release. Let’s take a look at the new features that will enable you to quickly capture performances and edit MIDI so you can stay in your creative flow and turn ideas into music.


Retrospective MIDI Record

Have you ever played along to a track and nailed that perfect idea, only to realize you weren’t actually recording? Now, you can add your MIDI performances into Pro Tools retroactively.

When I first saw this feature, I thought, “Wow! How cool!” Whether you’re starting a new song or are in the midst of developing a track, this feature will capture your improvisations and spontaneous creativity and you won’t need to worry about recording. This means you can focus on playing and not break the creative flow. Get ideas out of your head and onto the Pro Tools timeline as they happen.

Here’s how this magic works. During playback, Pro Tools will go into a “listen mode” any time a MIDI or instrument track is record-enabled, but not actually recording. When you stop playing, navigate to the events menu or use the shortcut, shift+Option+Z, and Pro Tools will add the performance to the timeline. It’s that easy.

New Shortcuts for MIDI Editing

Last year, Pro Tools introduced left and right arrows to move to the next or previous MIDI note, respectively. This workflow has been expanded with even more shortcuts for transposing, trimming note-on and note-off positions, as well as adjusting MIDI velocity.

Using the Up and Down arrows, you can transpose a MIDI note higher or lower by a semitone. Shift + up or down to transpose a MIDI note higher or lower by an octave and control up or down to transpose a MIDI note higher or lower in key.

The key is determined by the key signature located in the key ruler.

Pro Tools defaults to the key of C major so if you need to change the key of your session, select the plus sign at the far left of your key ruler and choose from a list of key signatures grouped in major and minor modes. If you want the key signature to start at the beginning on the song, make sure the “from” field is showing bar one, beat one, then click OK.

If you want to trim notes that play for either too long or not long enough, Pro Tools has you covered. Control-left or -right moves the note on position by a single grid value. Option-left or -right moves the note off position by a  single grid value. Adding the shift key to either key command moves the note on or off position by the next highest grid value.

If you’re unsure if the velocity is quite right, try using the command key + up or down. This will increase or decrease the velocity of a note, or group of notes, by five steps. Add Shift, and then you can adjust the velocity by 15 steps.

Up/Down Arrow

Transpose one semitone

Shift + Up/Down Arrow

Transpose one octave

Control + Up/Down Arrow (Mac)
Start + Up/Down Arrow (Win)

Transpose in Key

Control + Left/Right Arrow (Mac)
Start + Left/Right Arrow (Win)

Move Note On position one grid value

Option + Left/Right Arrow (Mac)
Alt + Left/Right Arrow (Win)

Move Note Off position one grid value

Control + Shift + Left/Right Arrow (Mac)
Start + Shift+ Left/Right Arrow (Win)

Move Note On position two grid values

Option + Shift + Left/Right Arrow (Mac)
Alt + Shift + Left/Right Arrow (Win)

Move Note Off position two grid values

Command + Up/Down (Mac)
Control + Up/Down (Win)

Change Velocity by five

Command + Shift + Up/Down (Mac)
Control + Shift + Up/Down (Win)

Change Velocity by fifteen

*Keyboard shortcuts relate to Mac computers. Please see the table, below, for their Windows counterparts.

Extract Chord from Selection

Seeing this feature for the first time was another, “Wow!” moment for me. Often, I’ve been given a MIDI track and have had to work out the chord progression myself. Now, Pro Tools can analyse the MIDI or instrument track, and copy all the chords into the chord ruler at every quarter note.

This feature is a helpful way to identify chords based on the performance played on an Instrument or MIDI track, eliminating the need to manually enter chords in the chord ruler or Score Editor.

For more information on all of the new features in Pro Tools 2018, check out What’s New here. Like these MIDI improvements, the new features streamline creative workflows and help you work smarter and faster.

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