Learning the alternative playback modes can make your Pro Tools experience much slicker.
You hit the space bar, playback begins. You hit it again, it stops. Simple. Step 1 when it comes to learning Pro Tools. However, there is a lot more to playback than that; and if that's all you ever do, you're missing out on some indispensable features which might make your Pro Tools experience quicker, easier and more flexible.
One of the essential playback features you'll find in every DAW is a loop playback or cycle feature. Rather than having a dedicated Cycle button in the transport bar, Pro Tools' loop mode is enabled by right-clicking (or Ctrl/Start-clicking) on the Play button. Other ways of achieving the same end are available from the Options menu, by using Command+Shift+L (Ctrl+Shift+L on a PC) or by hitting '4' on the numeric keypad while it's in the default Transport mode — more on this later.
Loop playback is precisely that: playback that loops around the selection. Loop recording is different, and is accessed by right-clicking the Record button. There are several record modes, and these are beyond the scope of this article; suffice it to say that if you want to record over the same guitar solo over and over again in search of the perfect take, loop playback is fine for rehearsing, but you'll need loop record to capture it.
In loop playback, looping only occurs if there is a section of the timeline selected, and it is the timeline selection which dictates the loop. If you find you are selecting clips on the timeline and playback is beginning from somewhere else, you might have the timeline and edit selections unlinked. They can be re-linked using the Shift+/ shortcut. It's very well worth understanding the difference for the five percent of the time you might want them unlinked: so much so that I recommend the Pro Tools Techniques column from SOS May 2010 for anyone who...
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