Online Session Drummer | Mark Feldman

Beginners Pro Tools Tips 1: Why Does the Cursor Keep Jumping Back to the Beginning?

Why Pro Tools Tips for Beginners?
In this series, I’m going to give you beginners some tips that I think might be helpful. It wasn’t that long ago that I was just learning Pro Tools, and I vividly recall many of the things that drove me crazy. I’m hoping that these articles will save you from some of the frustration that I experienced early on.

When I first started using Pro Tools, one of the things that made me nuts was that I’d play back a track or tracks and when I stopped the playback, the cursor would jump back to the beginning of the track automatically. That just didn’t make sense to me. My intuition told me that the cursor should stop and STAY where I left off during the play back.

The “Blue Arrow” in Pro Tools

Here’s the little thing that I didn’t understand, and it’s really easy to fix.

What is That Little Blue Arrow?
First of all, you have to understand what the little blue arrow (real name: “play start marker”) means and does. Look at the image to the right. See that pink circle? Inside it is the “blue arrow” I’m talking about. Wherever that blue arrow is, that is where the the playback will begin. That is the default setting in Pro Tools, and why the cursor jumps backwards. It’s moving back to the play start marker. And that will always happen unless you use the tip I’ll show you below to make your playback work like a tape machine.

One Handy Shortcut: if you want that blue arrow to move to the beginning of your track, simply hit the “Return” button and it will snap back to the beginning immediately.

The problem I described at the beginning of the article (having the cursor snap back to the beginning of the song) happens when the play start marker is located at the beginning of the track (all the way to the left), but it can be just as frustrating when the cursor snaps back to the blue arrow regardless of where it is located in the timeline.

As mentioned above, by default, the cursor snaps back to the play start marker. But I often want the cursor and playback to behave like a tape machine would; such that the playback will begin again where I left off when I stopped the last playback. I’m guessing some of you would like to make your playback work that way too. Read on.

Here is the Answer: Pro Tools Tip for Beginners #1
Have a look at the illustration to the left. That button inside the pink circle is the “insertion follows playback button.” In the image, that button is blue which means it is engaged. Simply click that button (you’ll know you’ve clicked it when it’s blue) and you’re good to go; playback will now “act” like a tape machine. Wherever you stop the playback is where it will begin again when you next hit the play button.

Simple, right?

And for those of us who don’t read user manuals, thank god for Google.

By the way, here are two other blog posts you might find interesting:

1) I’ve compiled a list of 31 useful keyboard shortcuts to speed up your workflow in Pro Tools. You can find my article about that here: 31 Pro Tools Shortcuts for Mac: a Cheat Sheet on PDF

2) I made a tutorial on being able to change your mix from stereo to mono with the turn of a single virtual knob. You can watch that video and read about how to do this here: Switch Your Pro Tools Mix to Mono by Twisting Just One Dial

Feel free to ask me any questions.

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