Pro Tools Session Management Tips for Artists Recording at Home

Pro Tools Session Management Tips for Artists Recording at Home

The purpose of this article is to prevent some major headaches that I have found creators experience with Pro Tools. With these tips you should be able to easily send your sessions to collaborators or engineers, prevent issues with reviving your old sessions/production ideas in the future, and keep your sh*t organized.

As a mix engineer, I’ve dealt with blockers from way too many clients and collaborators in the past like, “The session won’t open anymore” or “I lost the instrumental” or “I don’t have the synth the producer used”. Some common mistakes with DAW session management result in the aforementioned buzzkills. While managing a Pro Tools session properly isn't high on the average creators priority list, it can set them up for success later when it comes time to export multitracks or switch computers. I suggest any artist just try to work these best practices into their Pro Tools workflow:

***This article assumes a few things:

  • You are an artist/producer/music creator
  • You are tracking audio at home
  • You are using Pro Tools

1) Properly importing audio files into your session

When selecting files to import, the UI offers a few modes for adding the selected files from the left pane ("Clips in Current File"), to the right pane ("Clips to Import"). Ensure that the  "Copy All" button is selected when importing audio.

I didn’t learn about the importance of this in practice until I interned at a major studio. If you select one of the "Add" options, you won't actually create a copy of the selected audio in the "Audio Files" folder of your session folder directory. That means, imported audio files (instrumentals, samples, multitracks, etc.) still live in your downloads folder or on your desktop even after you start editing and recording. The day you clean up your computer to create more storage space and empty your trash will be a day that goes down in infamy in your life as a creative, the "I lost all my sh*t" day. It is much easier to lose source files, and opening any sessions that use those files in the future will be missing the files that you THOUGHT you imported at one time.

Another scenario you could imagine, is sending a session out to another engineer, producer, or artist where the files have not been copied into the session directory. Those files will not populate on the recipients side.

Pro tools import session audio dialogue window
Zoom in on the Copy All button of the import audio dialogue window

2) Set the session tempo before you start creating

If you are new to DAWs, you probably don’t know what this means. Why it matters though, means everything.

Without session tempo being properly set, you can’t copy and paste clips effectively in a musical way, quantize midi, record to a metronome, and more. This might not be a barrier to you getting started, but it’s sure to create moments of frustration and waste your time while you are creating. I’ve had some producers send me files where they copy and pasted all of their bars off of the grid, making it frusterating to set the session tempo on my side and create a vibe with delays, additional production, etc.

3) Use auxiliary/send tracks

Ever found yourself painstakingly bypassing effects one by one to export multitracks for your engineer? Are you really attached to your effects, and now you can’t send them to your engineer? Aux/Sends solves for this. More on that in this article here.

4) Version/revision management

"Save As" a new session every time you make a major change, and add the date to the file name. This way you always know which is the most recent. It might seem obvious, but many times I’ve gotten session files from clients and they can’t even tell me which file name is the most recent one or the one they want me to use (and how often they get it wrong).

pro tools auto backup session enabled

5) Enable Auto Session Backup

This feature protects your work in the case of an inevitable computer crash. It's much less painful to lose a few minutes of work as opposed to a whole days worth of work.

You can find your session backups within the session parent folder. This automatically gets created and updates without you needing to manually hit Save... Which I still religiously do anyways. These days, my manual saves are more recent than some of my automatically created backups!

Once you open a backup file, be sure to “Save As” a new version so you aren’t operating off of the session backup file.

6) Save copy-in when sending sessions to collaborators

Sending the .ptx file will not work *womp womp*. None of your audio will be present on the recipients end! This is because the audio content of the session doesn’t live in the session file. Think of the session file as like a framework that populates with the audio files and content from other software (plugins). The rest of the content and settings live in the other folders contained within the session parent folder.

To solve for this, use File > Save Copy In and select all of the contents you want to move into the copy. This will ensure all session data and audio is copied into a nice and neat new directory you can send off to collaborators.

Don't forget to commit your midi audio prior to making your copy! Not everyone has your plug-ins. They’re going to open up the session on your end, and some of those midi instruments might not play back. Commit with Shift+Option+C on Mac and Alt+Shift+C on PC.

Save copy In pro tools

Use these settings in the Save Copy In dialogue box to ensure all of your files and settings get copied into the new directory.

Pro Tools Save Copy In dialogue Window

You don't need to be a pro to record at home like one!

When you are ready, get ready to export your tracks and get your assets ready for your engineer!

As for what's up like, 'RIGHT NOW' right now?

Record Everything Culture throws events like this one at the Meadows in Brooklyn

Last night it went off at The Meadows. Record Everything Culture is an event by rapper and producer Hooks Arthur where producers and artists get to shine. The vibe is real hip hop, sample based production, SP 404s, head nodding, etc. Think Griselda, MIKE, Alchemist, etc. Follow Record Everything Culture on Instagram and Eventbrite to catch their events in Harlem, Manhattan, and Brooklyn. This one was at a venue in East Williamsburg / Bushwick called The Meadows.

If you want to work with us or just shoot the sh*t, hit our socials, send us an email, use our contact us form, whatever works for you!

Ciao ciao.