Do you use playlists in Pro Tools? Do you know what they are?

Playlists are very cool and can be quite useful. Basically, each track in Pro Tools can have as many playlists as you want. These playlists are basically different “versions” of that track.

1. Recording Takes

The most common use of playlists is keeping track of takes. Let’s say you’re recording a vocal and you want to record several different takes. You have two options, you can create a new audio track for each take, or you can use playlists.

The way it works is by clicking the drop-down menu on the left-hand side of the track in edit window and selecting “New…”

Playlist Menu

You can create a new playlist for each take, and simply switch between them all, or copy and paste (“comp”) the best parts to a new playlist.

But wait, there’s more!

Using playlists for takes is an obvious feature. However, my favorite thing about playlists is that they allow you to store or hide regions that you may not have use for in your mix, but you want to be able to refer back to them later at the click of a button.

Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about:

2. Editing

Between the recording stage and the mixing stage is the all-important editing stage. What that involves for me is primarily fixing timing issues and improving the overall “tightness” of the tracks.

For example, there may a be a few notes on the bass part that come in a bit early, I’ll go in and edit those. This, however, involves chopping up the audio. This is where playlists come in handy. I’ll create a playlist of the original audio, then do all my edits on a separate playlist. That way I can quickly revert back to the original recording for comparison purposes (to check to see if I’ve done too much editing).

3. Destructive Processes

Sometimes you may want to do off-line processes to an audio region. In Pro Tools, these processes are found in the AudioSuite menu. Basically, all you’re doing is applying a specific effect to the audio file, rather than applying it in real time with a plug-in.

Whatever destructive process you’re performing, whether it’s simply normalizing the audio or adjusting the gain of the audio, it’s important to be able to get back to the original file in case you change your mind later. What do we do for this, class? That’s right. Playlists. Create a duplicate playlist with the original audio file…just in case.

4. Mixing

Here’s another way I use playlists – during the mixing stage. You may remember from my article/video on the Master Fader that I route all of my tracks through an Aux track (labeled “Submix”), and then I route that submix out the main outputs/master fader. (I explain this a bit further in my video on Record to Disk.)

I do virtually all my mix-downs to a stereo track in Pro Tools by routing the output of the Submix track to the stereo mix-down track. Here’s where playlists come in handy. I will obviously do many versions of a mix before the final one. I’ll create a new playlist for each mix, that way I can quickly switch between the various mixes as I finish them and compare one to the other. This is a huge time-saver, especially once you’ve done four or five mixes on a song.

Video Demonstration

I thought it would be good to do a quick video on these four different uses of playlists. Here it is:


So, do you use playlists?