How to Loop Record in Pro Tools

Introduction

During recording sessions, there are instances where certain sections of a recording will need to be recorded in several passes. There can be several reasons for this. For example, an instrumentalist might be trying to get the timing of a part just right for example when recording guitar solos. It can also occur during the recording of voice overs where the person being recorded wants to try doing a line using different intonations or simply trying to get the timing or intonation of a line just right or a vocalist may do several passes of a part in a song and these passes can function as backing vocals or they may record several passes of a main vocal to get them “in the zone”.

For amateur engineers, their first instinct in such a situation might be to have several tracks and record each pass on each track separately. While this would get the job done, it may be easier and help in saving time if a recording engineer were to use Pro Tools Loop Recording feature.

Loop Recording

One key aspect of loop recording that needs to be understood is that this recording method is non-destructive. This means that even though the multiple passes are being recorded over the same selected region, one pass isn’t deleted when a subsequent pass is recorded. Each pass is stored and can be accessed later either on its own or as part of a longer audio clip that contains all the recorded passes one after the other.

Note: There is one exception to this rule and that is when a take is stopped before it reaches the halfway point of the clip, that take is discarded and the previous take remains.

How to Set up Loop Recording

In order to do a loop recording one must first set the Pro Tools recording mode to Loop.

To do this, simply go to

Options > Loop Record

loop recording in pro tools

Alternatively, to set your session to loop record mode you can right click on the record button and select Loop. This applies to the record button in the transport controls section at the top of the Edit window or the one on the floating transport controls

loop recording pro tools 2
loop recording pro tools 3

When Loop recording mode is set, you will notice that the red record button changes from its default state to a new button with a curved arrow and a red dot.

loop record on button indication

The Keyboard shortcut for setting up loop recording is

Alt + L on a PC

Option + L on a Mac

With loop recording now active, a selection needs to be made to indicate the section where you want the loop recording to take place. It may be beneficial to link Timeline and Edit selections to make this part easier. This way making a selection on the timeline also makes a selection in the edit window. By default, this feature is turned on but if it is off on your session, the button to toggle it can be found on the tool bar.

link timeline and edit selection pro tools

The next step is to make a selection in the section where you want the recording to occur as shown in the picture below. Note that if you set a pre-roll, it will only apply for the first pass.

making loop record selection pro tools

Next, make sure the track is armed for recording by clicking the Track record enable button.

track record enable button pro tools

Next click the record button located in the transport controls section.

transport controls section pro tools

To begin the recording, press the Space bar key on your keyboard.

When you have recorded the desired number of takes, simply press space again to stop the recording.

Upon stopping the recording, the clip displayed will be that of the most recent take. To access preceding takes you will need to access the alternate takes menu.

Accessing Alternate Takes

To access your alternate takes, use the grabber tool and right click on the clip of the most recent take and select Matching Alternates.

Alternatively, you can use the selector tool and Ctrl + click or Command + click on the clip to bring up the alternate takes menu.

Which clips are displayed on this list will be determined by the selected Match Criteria. By default, this list will display all the clips from the current project as shown in the example below.

matching takes pro tools

From the picture above, we can see that the clips I can select from are the two stereo files from the instrumental I recorded over which are labelled in yellow as Alive [Upbeat Rap Rock Type Beat 90 bpm] Prod by Revere L and Alive [Upbeat Rap Rock Type Beat 90 bpm] Prod by Revere R along with the recorded vocals labelled Main Vox_03 to Main Vox_03-05

The latter is ticked to indicate that it is the currently displayed clip as it is the most recent recording.

To display only my recorded vocal takes, I would need to adjust the match criteria to only display tracks that were recorded on my Main vox track.

To single out clips from the loop recording, I would click the match criteria option from the matching alternates menu.

This will bring up a dialogue box where you can select what criteria Pro Tools will use to display tracks.

alternates match criteria pro tools

From here I can select either one of the following choices to act as the match criteria

Track ID- This will single out clips that were recorded on the current track regardless of the relationship between the clip name and the track name. In this case, the “Main Vox” track.

Track Name- Will single out clips that have the same base name as that of the selected track.

Clip Rating Will show clips that have the same clip rating as the selected clip. 

The section labelled “In Addition To:” allows us to select Time Stamp criteria.

All – Will match any clips that include the time location of the cursor or selection.

Clip Start-   Will match clips that have the same start time as the current selection.

Clip Start and End – Will match clips that have the same start and end time as the current selection.

Within Selection- Will match clips which start and end within the selection.

None- Selecting this option will only apply the filters in the Alternate Matches section.

In most cases, the best options to pick would be Track ID and Clip Start and End. This will show clips that precisely match the current selection.

 Having selected a match criterion, the Alternate match criteria window can now be closed.

To listen back to the alternate takes that match the selected criteria, either ctrl + click or command + click with the selector tool or right click with either the selector or grabber tool.

alternate take playback pro tools

As mentioned above, clicking on one of the clips under the Alternates makes that the active clip that will be played back.

If you prefer, you could have all the alternates displayed on screen in the edit window at the same time. This way it is easier to solo the clips and audition them in order to select the best take.

There are two ways to do this from within the matching alternates menu:

  1. Expand Alternates To New Playlist
  2. Expand Alternates To New Tracks

If you want to comp together the best parts of each take then expanding alternates to a new playlist is the best option. Selecting this option will have all alternate takes in a new playlist under the track with the topmost clip being a single audio file that contains all the loop recorded takes (provided you did not select “clip start and end” in the time stamp criteria section in which case pro tools will not show the clip containing all the alternate takes) . An example of what this would look like is shown below.

clip start and end pro tools

If you want to process each take separately then expanding to new tracks will be the best option. Selecting this option will place your takes in new tracks which can be independently processed as shown below.

expanding new tracks pro tools

Conclusion

Loop recording is a very useful feature in Pro Tools that allows us to record multiple takes of a recording in quick succession. It can speed up a recording session when incorporated into a producer or engineer’s recording workflow. Its use can be applied in both musical and non-musical recording scenarios and it enables us to compare takes to select the best recording, comp the best parts of multiple takes and even process multiple takes separately as desired. All in all a very useful Pro Tools feature to have in your audio engineering arsenal.