Speeding up MIDI Workflows with Pro Tools 12.8.2

By in AES 2017, Music Creation, Pro Mixing

Since the introduction of Pro Tools 12 just over two years ago, we started the journey of bringing new features and workflows to you, at a much faster pace than ever before.  With Pro Tools 12.8.2, we are proud to continue on that path.  While the version number screams “dot release”, it’s clear that this is far more than addressing bugs (although that is a part of the release).  This is a release rife with an important slew of MIDI enhancements, guaranteed to further the ease of music creation within the most powerful DAW on the planet.  As Avid’s Principle Product Designer, Connor Sexton puts it,


 “When you’re looking at MIDI in Pro Tools, over the years you couldn’t fault anyone for considering it an afterthought; something we had to do to remain relevant. Of course, when you really get into writing in Pro Tools, you see where there are strengths that set us apart, and you also know that there is a lot of possibility left open. When we looked out across those possible improvements we noticed how many small things could be better and with 12.8.2 we’ve cleaned them up. It’s ground work, and while we have more exciting improvements in the works, we felt we had to really take stock and address the nuances: sustain pedal merging, Notes view behaviors with the grid, working with CCs, interacting with MIDI more with the keyboard and on laptop keyboards in particular, making several basic editing and navigational operations more consistent between MIDI and Audio, and fixing up just a ton of bugs you can see in the release notes. These things are items we culled from Ideascale, our beta program, conversations at trade shows and out in the world. Things that we knew we had to make better first to truly enhance MIDI from the bottom up and make it easier to take bigger next steps without tripping over tiny obstacles.”


This release should make it crystal clear that we take MIDI and music creation in Pro Tools very seriously.  We are setting the stage for even more great enhancements and features, which are creation focused.  But, for now, let’s take a look at just a few of my own personal new favourite MIDI enhancements in Pro Tools 12.8.2.


The Left + Right Arrow Keys

These two keys are now your best friends while navigating notes in either the MIDI editor or Notes view.  You can now use the left and right arrow keys to move to the next or previous MIDI note, respectively.  Previously, the Tab key would advance to the next note.  Chords, or multiple notes, that take place at the same time on the grid/timeline, will be navigated from the lowest note, to the highest note moving forward, and the reverse order, moving back.  Now, you can easily move back and forth using the arrow keys.  Additionally, holding the “Shift” key while using the right arrow, will allow you to select multiple MIDI notes in succession.  Not only will you have the ability to navigate your MIDI notes with ease, you’ll also hear the notes as you navigate, similar to how the “tab” key worked with MIDI previously.  Speaking of “Tab to MIDI”, that function will now move to the next note-on position, without selecting it.  This creates a more cohesive set of functions between the left and right arrow keys, and the “Tab” key. Editing MIDI clips becomes far easier, quicker, and quite frankly, a lot more fun!

Selecting multiple MIDI notes in succession using the Shift + Right Arrow keys

MIDI Input Display

Located in the Edit Window Toolbar, you’ll now see a MIDI Input Display. Using this new display, you’ll be able to see MIDI data, as it’s recorded or played back as chords or notes, using a MIDI controller. Single notes will give you three different pieces of information:  the actual pitch of the note, the attack velocity of the note, and the velocity of the note when it’s been released.  Composers and song writers will find this addition extremely helpful, as it helps them to be faster and more efficient, allowing them to stay focused on the task at hand…creating.  Even if you don’t read music, the MIDI Input Display can be used to “learn” notes and chords as they are entered.  The barrier and fear of trying to figure out which note is what, or “what chord is this?” is removed in an instant with this small, but powerful addition to Pro Tools.

The new MIDI Input Display at work, showing notes and chords

MIDI Record Clips

At Avid, we are sticklers for consistency.  One of our primary goals in Pro Tools, is to have every user feel next to no difference when working with either audio or MIDI.  To bring that even closer to fruition, all MIDI clips are now coloured red, while the MIDI recording is taking place.  Once recording has stopped, the recorded clip will revert back to its default colour.  This enhancement brings visual consistency between how MIDI and audio are expected to look and feel while being recorded.

Recording MIDI clips displays a red clip while recording

While these new enhancements may seem like subtle additions, the efficiency with which you’ll be navigating through MIDI notes, chords, and clips has to be experienced to be fully understood and appreciated.  As a music creator myself, these enhancements have already become an essential part of my writing, editing, and mixing workflow in Pro Tools.  I have only showcased three of the many MIDI enhancements in Pro Tools 12.8.2.  For the full rundown of every single enhancement, please visit this link.  Additionally, make sure to check out the MIDI Enhancements video:

If your Pro Tools subscription is current, head to your account, update to 12.8.2 and get writing!  If you have been waiting to upgrade, or are considering making Pro Tools your DAW of choice, there’s never been a better time to jump in!  Visit avid.com for more information.

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I am an electronic dance music producer and DJ residing in Miami, where I've gained a reputation as "Florida's Godfather of Techno" with releases on labels such as Ovum, Plastic City, Nervous, and more. I am also a member of the Avid Pro Audio team.