Another Common Pro Tools Problem

Another Common Pro Tools Problem
0 Comment
By Doug Olson
In my last post, I wrote about Pro Tools’ not-so-well-known “Link Edit and Timeline Selection” feature, and some of the headaches it can cause if you aren’t familiar with it. Here’s a similar problem students at our recording school, people who produce music for fun, and even professional recording engineers run into fairly often.
It goes something like this: you’re working on a track, and everything is going smoothly, when for no apparent reason, Pro Tools changes its playback behavior. Instead of playing back from your desired start point, say, at the start of the second verse, it simply picks up where you last stopped playback. If you’re trying to focus in on a particular section of a song, this is annoying – you have to stop and reposition the cursor every time you want to play back. To make matters worse, if you make a selection, the moment you stop playback, it disappears. You end up scratching your head and wasting studio time.
What’s happened is this: you’ve accidentally switched to a mode called “Timeline Insertion Follows Playback.” In this mode, Pro Tools functions like a tape machine – unless you rewind, whenever you hit “play” it picks up where you left off.
What caused the accidental switch? Most likely, you caught the “N” key when you hit the spacebar to stop or start playback. Like this:
What does the “N” key have to do with the way Pro Tools plays back? It turns out Pro Tools has three “Keyboard Focus” modes:
One (and only one) of the three modes is always active. You can change the active mode by clicking on the little “a…z” boxes. The active mode will highlight yellow.
In the image above, the active mode is Commands Keyboard Focus. In this mode, nearly every key functions as a shortcut of some kind. The “N” key serves to toggle the “Timeline Insertion Follows Playback” preference – hence the change in playback behavior when a wayward finger catches that key. To get back to “normal” playback mode, where the cursor always returns to the same spot, just hit the “N” key again, and you’ll be back in business.