Playlists are one of the most powerful, but often overlooked aspects of Pro Tools. They are a major reason why I record vocals and live instruments in Pro Tools instead of Ableton Live, which I love for everything else.

But I’ve met a lot of people who don’t know about Playlists, or why they’re so cool.

What is a playlist?
A playlist is like a different version of a track. You can edit the audio on a new playlist and change it around, but still go back to the original playlist if you want.

I think of playlists like pictures that are lying one top of one another. The top picture is the one you can see, but the others are still there.

Playlist Example 1

Playlists are exactly like that. You hear the on that’s on top (the one you can see on the screen), but the others are still there and can be heard at any time.

Playlist Example 2

What can I edit on a playlist?
Audio and audio only. You can not change the effects because these are for the track as a whole. If you change the effects, they will change for all the playlists, not just the one you’re editing.

What are playlists good for?
Playlists are great for recording vocals and other live instruments that you may want to do multiple ‘takes’ on.

For example – vocalists often need to record the same bit of a song over and over again. As you’re recording, you’ll find that a lot of takes have good parts and bad parts about them. With playlists, it’s easy to record the same bit over and over again, and then go back later and combine the parts you like.

I use this technique on vocals, guitars, basses, pianos, drums… whatever.

What are playlists NOT good for?
Playlists are really really not good for recording different instruments on to the same track.

Why?

Because if you have a track set up for guitars, then you will have guitar effects on that track: distortion, delay, compression. If you suddenly record a piano onto another playlist on the same track, it will have all those guitar effects on it. Usually not a good idea.

How to create a playlist:

  1. Click the triangle next to the name of the track.

    The triangle pulldown menu next to the name of the track.

  2. Select “New” to create a blank playlist (with no audio on it).

    Select “New” to create an empty playlist.

  3. Select “Duplicate” to make a copy of whatever audio is already on the selected playlist. This will make a new playlist, but it will look exactly like the playlist you just had up because it’s a duplicate.

    Select “Duplicate” to make a copy of the current playlist.

  4. To select between the different playlists, click the triangle again and choose the playlist you want to work with.

    Select your active playlist from the menu.