The addition of Folder Tracks to Pro Tools, brings even more powerful workflows and possibilities for music production and creation. In this blog, I will share some initial ideas and workflows, using Folder Tracks. These only scratch the surface of what is possible with Folder Tracks.
Some basics: Open and Close Folders
If you are working on a project with a large number of tracks, you can use folder tracks to organize your session into folders and sub folders. You can put all of your tracks into a master folder which can be a very useful way to work, as you will see later. You can start by placing all the drums, guitars, vocals etc into separate Routing Folders.
Now you can use the shortcut Shift + F, to open or close the selected folder. If you have a EUCON surface, such as an S1, you can assign your user keys on the surface to this shortcut to quickly open or close your folders.
One level of folders may not be enough for more complex projects. For example, you might have a session with separate tracks for background vocals for the verse, bridge and chorus, other tracks for vocal ad libs, single line harmonies etc. You could create folders for each of these elements and then create an overall Background Vocals folder that contains all of these sub-folders and can be closed to hide everything away. Don’t forget to make use of Routing Folders to take care of audio routing, as well as track organization.
Once these nested folders are created, you can Option/Alt + click on the folder icon on the track to open all the folders that are on the same level. Using the example of background vocals, you could click on the main Background Vocal folder icon to open it up and then Option/Alt + click on the folder icon of one of the sub-folders to open all of them. A great way to keep track of all of this is to keep the Tracks List open to clearly see the folder hierarchy.
Commit and Freeze Folders
Track Freeze is a great feature which frees up CPU resources by temporarily rendering your plug-ins or virtual instruments to audio and you can use this feature on a Routing Folder. Simply click on the Freeze button on the Routing Folder track and it will render the audio that’s being routed through the track. Then simply select the members of the track, right-click and choose Make Inactive in order to free up the CPU processing.
Commit is similar to Freeze but instead of temporarily rendering the audio to the same track, it creates a new track. Using Commit on a Routing Folder is a quick way to print your stems and mixes in a single operation.
Track Presets is something that I use all the time and the ability to use it with Folder Tracks makes it even more powerful! As an example, say you have a virtual instrument preset which can be recalled that is saved with the multi-output of each sound of the VI, and routed to an Aux Input in Pro Tools. These tracks are now moved to a Basic Folder and saved it as a new Track Preset! That folder is now available to use in any new session and will it’s already organised and ready to go when recalled or brought in from the Workspace. For example, if you are using a maschine you would tend to have 16 Aux tracks and an instrument track which becomes very time consuming when you are creating, whereas now if you place all 17 racks in a basic folder and then save this as a track preset, you can pull up your maschine routing any time you need it.
Creating a MIDI Grid Editor for Programming Drums
One of our product designers came up with the idea to use Folder Tracks to organise a MIDI grid editor for drum programming. You set it up by creating a MIDI Track for each drum and setting each MIDI Track to Single Note mode by right-clicking on the small keyboard to the right of the track name. The note that you set it to depends on the drum VI that you are using but typically you would set kick to C1, snare to D1 etc. Now set the Grid to 1/16 and you can use the pencil tool to create your drum pattern.
To route MIDI to your VI then insert the VI on an Aux Input and set the output of the MIDI Tracks to the VI. Finally, select all the tracks and place them in a Basic Folder and save this as a Track Preset. Now whenever you need to use the grid editor it is easily accessible in the Workspace.
One amazing feature of Folder Tracks is the ability to edit on a folder track and the edits will apply to all the members of the folder, whether audio tracks or MIDI tracks, including folders within the folder. I’ve started using this for arranging. If you enclose your whole session into one folder you can use delete, cut, copy and paste to quickly get the arrangement to where you want it to be. The possibilities are endless.
You can even use this to create multiple versions of the mix on the timeline. I’m often asked to create new edits of the mix. I can simply copy and paste the entire song to a new track by duplicating my master folder, without affecting the original version and without having to create a new session so that you can always refer to the original version.
As mentioned earlier, these ideas and workflows provide just a sampling of how Folder Tracks can be used in your own music creation and production. Try it out for yourself and I’m sure you’ll discover your own secrets, tips, and tricks with Folder Tracks in Pro Tools 2020!