How to Nudge in Pro Tools

What is Nudging in Pro Tools?

When working with audio, engineers will often find themselves having to move clips along the timeline to determine when these clips play relative to other clips in the session. In Pro Tools, like in most other Digital Audio Workstations, moving a clip to the left will make it play earlier while moving it to the right will make it play later. While Pro Tools offers several ways of determining the position of a clip, the Nudge function allows engineers and producers to use keyboard shortcuts to move clips along the timeline using pre-determined and adjustable values. These values are referred to as the Nudge Value.

Nudging functions independently of the selected edit mode. Regardless, most engineers will rarely use nudging when in Spot mode, since this mode allows us to manually key in the precise start time of whatever clip we want to move. Even when in Shuffle mode where moving a clip would also move adjacent clips in the same track, using the nudge function will only move the selected clip(s).

 It is important to note that while nudging can be applied to a single clip, it is also possible to nudge several clips in a track or several clips contained in several tracks at the same time.

How to Configure the Nudge Value

                To configure the nudge value, first click on the Nudge Value Pop-up Selector. This opens the Nudge value pop-up menu.

nudge value popup selector

Nudge value pop-up selector

nudge value popup menu

Nudge value pop-up menu

The nudge value pop-up menu allows us too select both the unit of measurement in terms of timescale as well as the nudge value.In the case of the above example, my session had been set to Bars|Beats as the timescale since the audio I was working on was a piece of music. An engineer doing audio post-production for a film or TV show might opt to use Timecode or Feet+Frames.

Note that the timescale selected will also determine what kind of divisions will be available for setting the nudge value. For example, in the picture above, we can see that the selected timescale was Bars|Beats and as a result the divisions available range from a full Bar to as small as 1/64 Note.

Often after selecting a timescale, the pop-up menu will close. To set a nudge value based on the selected timescale simply click the nudge value pop-up selector again to open the nudge value pop-up menu.

How to use the Nudge Function

To nudge a clip.

  • First decide what timescale and nudge value best suit the current project and select them from the Nudge Value pop-up menu. To demonstrate I will use an example from a music project. Given that the clips in this project were purely musical in nature, I would select Bars|Beats as my timescale and 1/4 note as my nudge value.
1/4 note nudge value pro tools
  • Select the clip or segment to nudge using the selector or grabber tool.
  • Use the keyboard shortcuts to nudge the selected clip(s). The keyboard shortcuts are the Plus(+) and Minus (-) on the Num Pad to nudge clips, by the selected nudge value, to the left and right respectively. If the keyboard one is using does not have a numerical keypad such as in the case of some laptop keyboards, the comma (,)and Period (.) keys can be used instead. If these alternatives don’t seem to work, ensure that the Keyboard command focus mode  is active by clicking the “az”  button that is on the edit window.
nudging a clip

Nudging Timeline and Edit Selections

In addition to nudging clips, Pro Tools also allows us to nudge selections without affecting any media in the underlying clips. This can be useful for when you have nudged a clip but want to select a different clip. By default, making an edit selection also makes a timeline selection as the to are linked.

nudge timeline

From the above example, we see that the making of a selection on the clip (Edit selection) also makes a selection on the timeline as indicated by the two blue timeline selection markers. Timeline and edit selections can be unlinked and thus nudged independent of each other. To unlink them, make sure that the “Link Timeline and Edit Selection” option is unchecked from the Options dropdown menu.

link pro tools timeline and edit selection

Once this is done, an Edit selection can be made without simultaneously making a Timeline selection. Edit selections are marked with Edit selection markers (indicated by the red arrows).

Edit selections can be nudged using the + and – keys on the numeric keypad if the selection does not encompass an entire clip as shown below.

edit sections pro tools

However, if an edit selection encompasses an entire clip, as shown below, then pressing the + or – keys will nudge the underlying clip by default.

nudging underlying clips

In this case, holding SHIFT while pressing either + or – will nudge the selection without affecting the underlying clip.

nudge without affecting the underlying clip

Trimming a Clip using the Nudge Function

It is possible to trim the start and end points of a selected clip using the nudge function.

As with the nudging examples above, a timescale and nudge value woud need to be set from the nudge value popup selector. The desired clip would then need to be selected in the edit window.

Having selected a clip:

Hold Alt (Windows) or Option (mac) and either the press either the Num Pad (+) or Num Pad (-)  to trim the  start point of the clip by the nudge value.

Or

Hold Control(windows) or Command (Mac) and use the + or key to nudge the end point of the selected clip.

Conclusion

From the above guide, we can see that Incorporating the use of the nudge function allows audio engineers to have a faster editing workflow in any situation. The fact that this function can be applied across different timescales makes it applicable both when editing sound for film/TV and when working with audio from music recordings and allows for a faster and more simplified editing experience.