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Pro Tools: Solo Modes

Avid Pro Tools Tips & Techniques By Julian Rodgers
Published October 2022

When you solo a track in SIP mode, all tracks other than the soloed ones show a dark orange mute button, indicating that they’ve been temporarily silenced.When you solo a track in SIP mode, all tracks other than the soloed ones show a dark orange mute button, indicating that they’ve been temporarily silenced.

Is it time you ventured beyond the default solo modes?

It’s easy to take the humble solo button for granted. After all, it is fundamentally a simple thing. ‘Press here to hear just this track’ — how much more to it can there be?

Anyone who has used Pro Tools will know that the solo features can be frustrating in use. The most common reason for this frustration is pressing solo causing unintended muting of other tracks. It doesn’t have to be this way, and if you understand why it’s happening, the most common causes of soloing issues can be avoided. What’s more, some really useful features are available if you look more deeply into the solo options.

The default behaviour of the solo buttons in Pro Tools is Solo In Place (SIP). This mode mutes the output of all tracks which aren’t in solo; it’s the exact opposite of mute. You can see this behaviour in the Pro Tools UI: when you solo a track in SIP mode, the other tracks’ mute buttons turn dark orange, indicating an ‘implied mute’. This mute is implied because it isn’t explicitly invoked by clicking the mute buttons, rather it is a consequence of soloing another track.

Say you have a vocal which uses a post‑fade send to feed a reverb... If you solo that vocal track, you’ll hear the vocal dry with no reverb, because soloing the vocal track has caused an implied mute on the reverb return.

Point Of No Return

This SIP/implied mute logic is simple but sometimes counterproductive. Two examples illustrate these shortcomings. The first is losing the contribution of effects returns. For example, say you have a vocal which uses a post‑fade send to feed a reverb on an aux input in the conventional send‑return fashion. If you solo that vocal track, you’ll hear the vocal dry with no reverb, because soloing the vocal track has caused an implied mute on the reverb return.

The solution to this is to ‘solo safe’ the reverb return by Cmd‑clicking (Ctrl‑click on a PC) the solo button on the reverb return, causing the ‘safe’ channels to be excluded from this implied mute behaviour.

The second example is a submix of related tracks, for example drums, which are routed via a bus through an aux input. If you solo the aux input to hear the submix of drums you hear nothing, because the individual tracks feeding the aux are muted by the SIP solo on the drums aux. You can solo safe the aux so that you can use the individual solo buttons on the source tracks, or you can solo safe the source tracks so you can use the solo...

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