Accelerated Playlist Comping in Pro Tools

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

Playlists are a powerful Pro Tools feature used in recording sessions for organizing takes, and in editing to comp the best moments of a performance. Playlists are virtual lanes nested within a track that allow you to record, store and edit many takes on the same track while maintaining positional reference on the timeline. In Pro Tools 12.6, some new improvements to Playlists were introduced, including shortcuts for navigating playlists while in Waveform view (Shift + Up or Down Arrows), Preferences for Automatically Creating Playlists when Overlapping Clips While Recording and while Editing, and New Visual Feedback for identifying tracks with available playlists at a glance.

Pro Tools 2018 has even more playlist comping enhancements that will enable faster and efficient workflows! Before these new enhancements, in order to quickly compile the best moments of different takes, you either had to be in Playlist Track view on the Edit Window, (which takes up a lot of screen real estate and doesn’t show what you need to see), or sort through takes using the Playlist Selector Menu and manually copy and paste clips between playlists.

In Pro Tools 2018 you can now build a comp by sending clip selections to a Target Playlist that you choose. The Target Playlist can be any playlist on a track, whether it’s the main playlist or the tenth. There are several ways to select Target Playlists. Let’s look at one option. To select a Target Playlist, go to the Playlist Selector Menu. On the new Target Playlist Menu, select what playlist will be the target, and it will then be displayed in Blue Text next to a Target Icon.

The new Target Playlist Menu embedded in the Playlist Selector Menu

In Playlists Track View, the new Target Playlist button turns blue; clicking this provides another way one can assign a Playlist as the Target. Also, with a key command (see the key command grid below*), you can assign the Target Playlist of the tracks with the edit selection on them.

Select the Target by clicking the Target Playlist Button in Playlist Track View

The playlist selector will be blue if the Target Playlist is the Main Playlist or if no Target Playlist has been assigned in a track with multiple playlists. It will turn orange if the Target Playlist is not displayed in the Main Playlist view.

Playlist Selector is color coded to show important information at a glance

With a batch of new shortcuts, one can quickly copy or move clip selections to the Target Playlist all while in Waveform View or any other Track View. You can also quickly summon the designated Target Playlist to the Main Playlist, and toggle between the last two viewed playlists as well.

Shift + Command + Up Arrow (Mac)
Shift + Control + Up Arrow (Win)

Cycle In Audio from Previous Playlist

Shift + Command + Down Arrow (Mac)
Shift + Control + Down Arrow (Win)

Cycle In Audio from the Next Playlist

Shift + Opt + Up Arrow (Mac)
Shift + Alt + Up Arrow (Win)

Copy Selection to the Target Playlist

Shift + Opt + T (Mac)
Shift + Alt + T (Win)

Move a Selection to the Target Playlist

Shift + Command + Right Arrow (Mac)
Shift + Control + Right Arrow (Win)

Designate the current Main Playlist
as the Target Playlist of tracks with the edit selection on them

Shift + Right Arrow

Bring the designated Target Playlist to the Main Playlist

Shift + Left Arrow

Toggle between the last two viewed playlists

*Set of key commands designed to accelerate your workflow with playlists

All these key commands are mapped in EUCON, and can be made available for quick and ease access in softkeys on Avid Control Surfaces, such as the S6, S3, Dock and the free Pro Tools Control iPad App.

One can assign these new playlist commands as softkeys on the Pro Tools Control iPad App

By compiling takes this quickly while in Waveform View, you can take advantage of screen real estate to monitor all channels in multiple mic scenarios (i.e: Drums, Horns or Background Vocals) when editing. You can also use the saved screen real estate for other tools or plug-ins as well.

Additionally, you can also cycle audio within a clip selection which allows you to quickly audition and paste-in selections of audio from alternate playlists while keeping your comp in the Main Playlist. A “home” icon briefly appears to indicate that you have cycled back to the original audio, indicating no change has been made.

Cycle audio from alternate takes within a selection.

Also, new Playlist Preferences have been added in Preferences > Editing > Tracks for user customization.

New preferences added in Pro Tools 2018 (in the red box) and 12.6 (in the blue box)

These enhancements also come with rich visual indicators to help you while you’re working with these new features.


  •  Blue Target icon – Playlist currently displayed as Main Playlist has been designated as the Target Playlist
  •  Gray Target icon – Playlist currently displayed as Main Playlist has been disabled as the Target Playlist (after performing undo of “Designate as Target Playlist”)
  •  Green Checkmark – Clip selection has been successfully sent to Target Playlist
  •  Red Circle with Line – Clip selection is on Target Playlist and can’t be sent to Target Playlist


Working with Playlists allows you to work efficiently and extract the best takes from recorded material for years, and now, Pro Tools 2018.1 allows foreven faster and smoother editing workflows. All users with a current upgrade plan or subscription are entitled to Pro Tools 2018.1.

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I work for Avid as a Pro Audio Solutions Specialist in the Brazilian territory and Latin America. I’m very passionate about music and audio in general. Though my focus has always been music, I have also worked with post-production and live sound. In 2013, two records I worked on were nominated for Latin Grammys, one as recording engineer and the other as mix engineer. I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with some of the greatest minds and talents of the industry!