We look at how to improve our workflow with the magic use of key commands, also known as hot‑keys or keyboard shortcuts.
In this month’s workshop we’re going to look at how we can improve our workflow with the magic use of key commands, also known as hot‑keys or keyboard shortcuts. Whatever you want to call them, Studio One has many ways of letting you use your QWERTY keyboard to speed things up.
In Mac world we’re often talking about Command (Cmd) and Option (Opt) keys either by themselves or as modifiers to other key combinations. In Windows world these same keys are known as Control (Ctrl) and Alt. Shift appears to be universal. I’ll be using Cmd/Ctrl and Opt/Alt to refer to these identical key functions. I’m going to assume that you are savvy enough by now to know what I’m talking about, where they are on your keyboard and which one refers to you.
You can save and export keyboard mapping schemes and even load up ones from Cubase, Pro Tools and other DAWs if you find them more familiar.
Most basic commands to navigate through different windows and views are dealt with by the Function keys. The three main Studio One views are toggled using F2 for the Editor, F3 for the Mixer, and F7 for the Browser. Probably no surprises there, but what might be a surprise is that the Browser has a bunch of other Function keys assigned to it that let you be a little bit more specific about what you’re seeing. For example, F6 toggles the Browser and opens the Instruments tab, F7 opens the Effects tab, F8 the Loops, F9 the Files and F10 the Pool. So you can go directly to the right part of the Browser on a single Function key and then toggle it closed again with the same key.
F4 opens and closes the Inspector for whatever track is currently selected. F11 will bring up the Channel Editor for the selected track, giving you quick access to the inserted plug‑ins. F12 does something similar, but it hides and reveals all floating windows that you might have pinned open. F12 is your friend when your screen has got overloaded with floating windows. In fact, if you hold Shift and press F12 it will nuke everything except the Arranger, giving you a wonderfully clear screen. Pressing it again brings back the chaos.
Modifier keys are also handy in other places. Shift+F3 will toggle the top half of the Console. Holding Cmd/Ctrl while using F2 or F3 for the Edit and Mixer views will kick them into floating windows rather than integrated ones.
F1 has always been about Help. Studio One has a comprehensive Help system that is context‑sensitive. So when you press F1 it will automatically go to the page in the manual appropriate to whatever is in focus. Don’t know what something does? Click on it and press F1 to find your answer.
Roll Your Own
Before getting deeper into your hot‑keys you should know that all of the shortcuts and combinations can be edited and new ones created. In fact, you’ll find that every command or action you can think of is available for mapping to a key. These can be taken even further with the in‑built Macro command system, where you can combine key commands to do all sorts of things. I covered this in a previous Workshop. For now, you’ll find the Keyboard Shortcuts database under the Studio One menu or as a tab in the Options window.
On its left is a huge list of every available command or action. Use the search box to find the particular thing you’re interested in, then hit a key or combination of key and modifier to see if it’s available for assignment. This is also a quick way to find out what various keys do. It’s a little strange because you don’t get a cursor in the box to allow you to type the key, or press backspace or delete to remove what’s currently there. The box is active once clicked, so just press a key, and if something is mapped to that key it will be highlighted on the left. Studio One lets you assign the same key to multiple things, but that may not be helpful. You can save and export keyboard mapping schemes and even load up ones from Cubase, Pro Tools and other DAWs if you find them more familiar.
If you do find that there are commands you use a lot, I recommend mapping them to somewhere over on the left of your keyboard (assuming you use the mouse with your right hand; put them on the right if you are left‑handed). Then they’ll be easily accessible around where your free hand falls on the keyboard. For instance, Mute is mapped sensibly to the M key, but if it’s something you use a lot during editing, consider assigning it to a key that’s less of a stretch, like maybe the backslash key, which is unassigned, or F, which is assigned to toggling Autoscroll (who needs that?). You can assign multiple keys to the same command so you don’t have to lose the original functionality.
Navigating Your Song
The mouse wheel gets a lot of use in navigation. With the mouse pointer in the Arranger you can scroll up and down with a spin of the wheel. Holding Shift will scroll your tracks left and right. Hold Cmd/Ctrl and the mouse wheel zooms in and out vertically of all the tracks equally. Adding the Shift key zooms horizontally into the timeline. You can also zoom horizontally by hovering the mouse on the timeline and wheeling without any other keys held. Opt/Alt+Z zooms out so you can see your whole song with all the tracks on the screen. Oddly, it also seems to pull your whole arrangement into an overview that fills only half the available screen space, which seems a bit unnecessary.
The big time saver is Shift+S, which zooms you directly into whatever you’ve got selected. A quick note: navigation keys tend to toggle, so you don’t have to find Opt/Alt+Z again after a quick Shift+S; you can just hit the same key combination again to zoom back out to where you started from.
Now that you’re navigating, zooming and opening views like a pro, it might be nice to find keys for some of the common things you might actually do to your tracks.
When editing anything, whether it’s parameters in the plug‑in, fader and pan controls, or anything that moves, there’s a quick way to get back to zero or the default setting. Cmd/Ctrl‑click, and whatever it is jumps back to zero. No more slowly trying to centre something or typing in a default value: just hold Cmd/Ctrl and click, and you’re there. If you want to try moving something slowly, then hold Shift and you’ll find that you leap into a new dimension of resolution and can make tiny movements with large strokes of the mouse.
In the Console, Solo and Mute (S and M, respectively) seem obvious enough, but there are cleverer functions called Global Mute and Global Solo. Their names don’t really describe their functions very well... The idea is that these will toggle all the currently soloed or muted tracks in and out of their state. So, maybe you want to solo the guitar tracks and then hear the whole track again. Pressing Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+S will remove all the solos, and hitting it again will put them all back. I often find myself soloing track after track and then having to walk my way back, clicking all the solo buttons, until everything is playing again. This shortcut bypasses that very neatly. Global Mute does the same with multiple mutes, switching them on and off again with Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+M.
Other handy things in the Console include selecting one track and then holding Shift to click on another track: every track in between the first and last you clicked will be selected. Using Cmd/Ctrl‑click will add tracks to a selection. Once selected you can do useful things from the right‑click menu like add them all to a bus or FX channel, and Studio One will generate the channels and sort out all the routing for you. These are not assigned to shortcuts by default, but you might find it useful to do so.
There are loads of other commands that don’t have a key assignment, which you can explore and discover in the Keyboard Shortcuts window. A handy example is Select Muted Events, which automatically selects all the clips or events in the Arranger that are muted, then with a press of the Delete key you can remove them all from clogging up your project. Mixdown Selection is another good one to have on a key. Whatever events you have selected can be automatically mixed down to a stereo track, with all their effects. It’s a great way to quickly simplify your songs and fold multiple tracks down to a single one. You can do all these assignments and more in the Keyboard Shortcuts window.
Learning to navigate swiftly through Studio One is half the battle when trying to improve your workflow, and making the Keyboard Shortcuts work for you is the easiest way to feel like a pro.