Online Session Drummer | Mark Feldman


Pro Tools vs Logic Pro X

I have been thinking about this for a while. And I’m done.

Pro Tools, why do you treat me so badly?

After all, do I not pay the $39 every month? You are, dear Pro Tools, the most expensive DAW out there.

And still you’re #1.

You’re like that abusive spouse. You hurt me. You hurt my wallet. You hurt me with the frustration that I experience when you prevent me from working for no reason.

I’ll tell you more, but first, the video:

Can’t you hear my frustration in this video? Can you see the despair in my eyes?

Ok, dramatic, I know.

But, Pro Tools has indeed robbed me of precious time in the studio. I remember going downstairs to my studio ready to work. Chart in hand. Song in my head. Ready. Prepared to lay down the track.

I figured that I’d come down, turn on my interfaces, check levels, and get it done in a couple of takes.

Dear Pro Tools had other ideas in mind that day.

She did not work.

No signal came through the mics into the tracks. And why?

There was no reason.

The next day, miraculously, she worked!

This has happened to me multiple times.

And when I talked to friends who record from their own studios, do you know what they would tell me?

“Oh yeah, Pro Tools is just quirky. It does weird stuff sometimes for no real reason. Did you ever hear the term ‘ghost in the machine’? Well, that’s what ghost in the machine means. Weird stuff happens and there really is no rhyme or reason for it. That’s just how it is with Pro Tools.”



The most expensive DAW on the market and it just acts weird sometimes so deal with it?


That’s not acceptable at all.

And many other friends–for many months now—have been telling me that I should just use Logic Pro.

So, that’s my next stop.

I’ll let you know how it goes…

Feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments.

SoundBetter Review: can studio drummers get work there?

SoundBetter is a marketplace where professional musicians can offer their services to the world. There have been many different social media platforms that focus on music–Reverbnation and Soundcloud both come to mind–but SoundBetter is different because it focuses on commerce.

It’s a place where a novice music creator can find professionals to help them mix, produce, play or sing on their tracks and otherwise collaborate with. For a fee.

And SoundBetter takes a cut, which is understandable.

If you go to the site and browse a bit, you’ll see that there are musicians with significant credits on their resumes. And that is a big part of SoundBetter’s marketing; you’ll see they promote the fact that the sidemen of famous artists can be found on the platform.  And their marketing is backed up by facts. You will find people who have played with all sorts of top talent from many different genres.

From what I have read, if you are a consumer, you can definitely find what you want as you craft your music.

But what if you’re a session musician and you hope to find more work? Can you get traction here?

Remember, that the SoundBetter platform has been around since 2012, so it’s not exactly new. What is the ecosystem like there?

I made a video about SoundBetter and in it I discuss what I think are the possibilities for getting session work on the platform and elsewhere. I’ll delve into the details and give you my assessment of what your chances are for success if you’re thinking of jumping into the mix (no pun intended). Watch it below and start planning your marketing attack in search of more sessions!

Pro Tools Click Track Sounds for the Online Session Drummer

If you’re new to Pro Tools, this might be helpful.

I recall not having any idea where to go to change my click sound in Pro Tools and it drove me a little bit nuts at first. There was also an issue with which sound to use. Some of the click sounds in Pro Tools are horrible. In the video below, I’ll take you through–in just under four minutes–the sound I hate the most and the one I use most often.

I’ll also show you how to make the change in Pro Tools.

Just check out the video below for the details…

Why I Make Drum Charts

Lately, in the studio, I’ve been doing much more detailed charts.

They serve me well.

It takes a little longer to make my charts this way. And, as a studio drummer working out of one’s own room, that’s OK.

But, when you’re in a studio with a bunch of people on the clock, with the room costing a certain amount per day or hour, and each musician and the engineer all getting paid, there’s a different dynamic.

In the latter case, what I usually do is hand write something as quickly as I can in order to be able to read the form.

But, in my own room, I can be a little more thoughtful. “On the clock,” you’ve got to go more on gut. You’ve got to really keep it moving.

I also, had a thought about making charts that I thought was interesting. I share it in the video below.

The 11 Skills Studio Drummers Must Have

Now that the technology allows it, remote studio drumming is exploding. Actually, it’s not limited to studio drummers. Session playing in general is open to more musicians of all types than ever before. So, if you’ve ever daydreamed about becoming a session drummer, you should know that it IS possible. But, are you ready?
Studio Drummer
You’ll need to think this through. If you start marketing yourself as a studio drummer but don’t have the goods, you’ll be in for a rude awakening. It’s not going to work out for you unless you crush it on the job.

The worst thing you can do is play on a session before you’re ready. You don’t want to crash and burn; word travels fast and you’d be closing doors on yourself and your future studio drummer business.

So it’s really important to evaluate where you are with your skill set. Do you have what it takes? Do you have all the right training? Have you practiced the right things?

Let’s talk about the details. What are the skills that make for a world-class session Drummer?

Based on my own experience as a studio drummer and observing and studying some of the world’s best, here are the 11 skills I think you need to consider:

1) Reading

This is the language of music. As a drummer, you must be able to read rhythmic notation.

There are many reasons that being able to read will benefit you. However, as a session drummer, one reason stands out as the most important one: charts.

Understanding rhythmic notation will allow you to summarize the song at hand in chart form. And that means that you will be able to “learn” songs very quickly.

It’s pretty much the secret ingredient for being able to listen to a song a couple of times and then nail it on the first try when you actually sit behind your drums. The secret is your chart, and you can’t make one if you don’t know how to read rhythmic notation. This is essential. Don’t overlook it.

2) Groove/Feel/Pocket

If you don’t have this, nothing else written here will matter. If your groove isn’t happening, it’s game over. So, next time you’re lamenting that your single stroke roll doesn’t sound like Vinnie Colaiuta’s, just remember, groove is what will make money. Focus on that.

How to get it? That is the topic of a whole other article, but you’ll need the ability to play in time with ease, and your subdivisions must be spot on and consistent. That and a lot of listening–and importantly trying to emulate what you listen to–will help.

Playing along with a lot of music is important. I remember playing along with the Zeppelin song “Houses of the Holy” and not being able to stay “back.” I got excited and always pushed the time, getting ahead of Bonham’s pocket. I worked on it until I could easily stay with him. And emulating Bonham definitely helped my pocket. A lot of your practice should be devoted to picking apart and trying to sound like the drummers you like.

3) Technique

I know I just told you not to worry about your single stroke roll. The truth is that–of course–technique is important. But rather than focusing on having blazing speed, the kind of technique that makes a difference here is touch. If you can develop good technique, every note you play on the drums will sound better. And if the sounds you get out of your drums aren’t stellar, your career as a studio drummer will be short-lived at best.

Focus on a loose grip, a bouncing stroke and the evaluate the sound that you are creating with different techniques. This is a massive topic, and it requires that you make a “deep dive,” but make no mistake about how important this is.

4) Versatility

It’s pretty important that you have a depth of genres within reach if you’re going to be an online session drummer. As a studio drummer, you never know what is going to be thrown at you, so you want to be able to handle anything. So, get to work. Being versatile will pay off big time.

5) Sound

As discussed in #3, the basis of your sound is how you strike the drums. But additionally, you need to understand your gear. Drum brands, sizes, heads, tuning and muffling all come into play here. Your familiarity with the sounds of different types of recordings will come into play. But the most important thing is that you have good sounding equipment–both drums and cymbals–and know how to tune well. Great sound is just as important as anything else on this list. Overlook it at your own peril.

6) Musicality/Taste/Song Sense

You have to be a song drummer if you want to be successful. That takes taste and it means being ego-less in your playing. Less is more (I know, you’ve heard this a million times, but it is true). Make sure you are mature enough in your playing that you understand how to play only what is needed and how to support the structure of the song without overplaying. You also need to keep in mind that the drummer should add excitement to the time keeping. It is your job to keep the time-keeping interesting. The balance between interesting and bombastic is a fascinating one and it will come with experience. Lots of listening to the recordings of different players will help too.

7) Confidence

This will come with time, but you DO need to be confident. Your confidence will show in your playing. A strong groove usually comes from a confident player. Tentative playing will not make it in the studio. But don’t worry, when you have the goods, you’ll know it, and confidence will follow from that.

8) Attitude/Personality

This is important to help you get the jobs. If you are an introvert, consider how to break out of your shell. The music business in general relies on relationships. You need to be able to interact with many people and fit in. If you’re likable, you’ll work more. A positive vibe always helps. If you’re dark and complain a lot, no one will want to work with you. Make sure that your personality helps you rather than hurts you.

In musician-speak this means that you need to be a “good hang.”

9) Programming

As a drummer, I had a tendency to focus on only my physical playing, rather than being able to program drum tracks. Eventually, I realized that I was missing out on potential work by not learning how to program drums. It’s not that hard to learn, especially when you know how to actually play the real thing. But I implore you to learn this skill so you can get that work. Lots of drummers do both and you need to be competitive with them.

10) Audio Engineering/Production/Mixing

Oh, how I avoided learning this. Oh, what a mistake that was!

But, I finally saw the folly of my ways and dove in. I’m glad I did. The future is in this direction. If you want to be a studio drummer, it is important to have your own tracking set-up. And that means, unless you’re going to hire someone, you need to understand how to be an audio engineer yourself.

You’ll want to seriously consider learning how to mix as well. If someone wants a fully finished drum track from you and you can only provide the raw stems, you’ll be at a disadvantage.

It’s my belief that the future will favor the drummer who can play, program, audio engineer AND mix. (Can you say Aaron Sterling?)

11) Playing to a Click

I saved the best for last. It’s hard to overstate how important this is– particularly in today’s environment. There are plenty of drummers who’ve gotten fired because they can’t do this. So don’t be one of them—work on this until You can do it in your sleep.

You should be able to play to a click with only a very small amount of concentration.

The idea is that you’ll know the click is there, and you can lock in with it easily while still focusing on the other things you need to listen to.

At first this will seem like a tall order, but just practice it. Playing with a click is a skill like any other and it can be learned with practice.

You Can Do It

Yes, I do believe you can do it. I’m doing it and it’s only because I’ve worked hard and persevered. Don’t give up–just work hard and have fun. There’s nothing like playing in the studio–it can be a magical experience. The work is hard but the pay-off is worth it.

5 Crazy Glyn Johns Stories from his Book, Sound Man (Legendary Music Producers 1)

7-crazy-stories-glyn-johns-legendary-music-producers-1Glyn Johns has had a stunningly successful career as a music producer. For one thing, imagine that you have a technique for placing microphones named after you–that alone is somewhat impressive. Just Google “Glyn Johns drum mic technique,” and you’ll see what I mean.

Interestingly, as Johns describes in his book, the discovery of this mic placement method was stumbled upon–as the result of a significant mistake. And that mistake happened during the recording of Led Zeppelin’s very first album for Atlantic.

It’s just one of the fascinating tidbits from his autobiography.

But beyond just this influential microphone placement method for drums, there is his body of work and the many huge artists that he worked with. It’s kind of hard to argue the assertion that…

Glyn Johns is One of The Most Successful Rock Music Producers of All Time

Simply consider who he’s worked with and what records he’s produced and it’s shockingly impressive. Here are a few of the artists: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Eagles, The Steve Miller Band, The Who, Led Zeppelin and many others.

It’s a mind-blowing list.

The stories I’m describing here can be found in Johns’ autobiography, Sound Man.

It’s not a particularly “deep” book. You won’t learn much about Johns’ personal life and you won’t hear his deep philosophical thoughts on life. But what you will read are many tales from his side of the mixing console. And for music fans, musicians, aspiring producers or audio engineers, that lack of depth or introspection won’t diminish the pleasure of hearing these tales from a life spent making music with rock’s royalty.

Here are 5 Crazy Stories About Legendary Music Producer Glyn Johns

They are in no particular order. And don’t worry, I’m not giving everything away here; there’s plenty more in the book, but these 5 anecdotes will whet your appetite.

#1) Would You Turn Down the Chance to Produce The Allman Brothers?

Glyn Johns did. In fact, he was being offered the chance to produce their very first album. He flew down to Georgia to meet with them. He was invited to come to their studio to hear them rehearse. As Johns put it:

…they were not ready to make an album yet. It was very early days for them. They clearly had potential, but were still a little rough round the edges. For some reason they had decided to use two drummers in the band. This is not an easy thing to pull off, and they were still figuring out how to play with each other. This made the rhythm section quite stiff and unsettled, which was the reason I passed.

#2) Q:The Moral of This Particular Story? A: Clive Davis is a Dick

CBS Records had a policy of only allowing their staff engineers to work on the albums made by their artists. In addition, they paid less then any other record label at the time. These two things were enough for Glyn Johns to decide not to make any records for the company. Clive Davis, who ran CBS at the time (1970), asked Johns to meet with him in NY to try and persuade him to change his mind. Johns’ aversion to Davis is described eloquently in the following quote from the book:

This [editor’s note: Johns’ decision not to work for CBS] eventually resulted in me being invited to New York by Clive Davis in order for him to convince me that I was making a huge mistake by refusing to work for CBS. He was running the company and was well on the way to his “guru” status in the industry and more especially in his own eyes. I have never met anyone with quite such a high opinion of himself. He told me that even though CBS paid a third less than anyone else in the industry at that time I would make more money with them, as they sold more records than anyone else. Summoning teams of sycophantic administrators to unravel piles of royalty statements from Janis Joplin’s latest release on the desk in front of me in his palatial office to prove the point. I could not wait to leave, returning to my hotel feeling like I needed a long hot shower. All he managed to do was confirm that my original decision was correct.

#3) What Could Have Been The Greatest Super Group of All Time

This tale finds Jann Wenner and Glyn Johns returning from a trip in 1969 and arriving at NYC’s LaGuardia airport. Wenner was editing an interview he did with Bob Dylan while they were on their flight, so it was an interesting coincidence to run into Dylan himself as they went to get their luggage. Wenner introduced Johns and Dylan, and next–I honestly find this hard to believe–Bob supposedly pitches Johns on the idea of making an album with himself, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

Dylan, knowing that Johns has worked with both the Stones and Beatles, asked Johns if he can find out if there is any interest. According to Johns, some of the the members of each band were interested, but Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger both were clear in their lack of any interest in doing it.

Just imagine what that album might have been like.

#4) 1970 Started with a Party at Ringo’s House on New Year’s Day

If you wanted to grab my attention, the above sentence would be just the way to do it. And the story is all about drummers. Here’s what Johns writes:

My overriding memory of that evening is hearing the sound of drums being played in another room in the house. I went to investigate and found Keith Moon giving Ringo’s four-year-old son, Zak, a lesson. Zak idolized Keith, who was his godfather. Amazingly, twenty-five years later he took Keith’s place in The Who, being one of the few drummers in the world who could come close to filling his shoes.

#5) Glyn Johns and The Beatles: How Phil Ramone “puked all over” Let It Be

The story that Johns tells of his time with The Beatles revolves around Let It Be (originally planned to be titled Get Back). He got a call in 1969 to come to Twickenham Studios, a film production workplace where The Beatles had filmed A Hard Days Night and Help!

The Beatles were to rehearse there and get ready for an album and a performance that was to be filmed for a television special. The idea for the “Get Back Project,” as it was conceived by Paul McCartney, was that The Beatles were to “get back” to their rock roots. For perspective, the album that had most recently been released as they got together to rehearse was the White Album.

The rehearsals and everything else were to be filmed and Glyn Johns was called in to handle the audio. On receiving that call–from none other than Paul McCartney himself–Johns writes:

In December of 1968, while sitting at home on a night off, I answered the telephone to a man with a Liverpudlian accent claiming to be Paul McCartney. I thought it was Mick Jagger trying to be amusing, so I told him to stop messing about and asked him what he wanted. The man persisted, and much to my shock and embarrassment, it really was Paul McCartney. He told me that he had an idea for the band to write all new material and then record it live in front of an audience for a TV show and for release as an album. The venue was to be discussed, but it would be somewhere exotic. He then asked if I would be interested in making the record with them. I felt like I’d won the lottery. He told me that they were all to meet at a soundstage at Twickenham Film Studios on January 2nd, 1969, when they were to start rehearsals, and asked if I could be there.

I turned up on the appointed day with enormous anticipation. After all, they were the biggest band in the world and were at the height of their career. I had worked with many successful artists but I have to say, this was quite different. I have always loved vocal harmony and had constantly been blown away by the extraordinary sound that the blend of John, Paul, and George achieved. Add to that their songwriting and their reinvention of recorded sound, and you can imagine how I felt as I walked through the enormous doors of the soundstage at Twickenham that morning.

Johns continued to be involved in the project as it moved venues during its creation, and as the famous rooftop concert took place. He was asked at one point to make sense of all the recordings and create an album from everything. Here’s what happened after that:

Having delivered the mixed master of my version of Let It Be, I approached each member of the band separately, asking if I could have a production credit on the album when it was released. I made it quite clear that I was only asking for that and not a royalty. Paul, George, and Ringo had no objection to my request but John was suspicious and could not understand why I was not asking for a royalty. I explained that I felt, because of their stature, the sales of the album would not be affected by my involvement one way or another, so a credit would be a fair settlement for what I had done, as by association it could only be positive for my career in the future. I never got an answer from John.

As it turned out, none of this mattered, as in the end, after the group broke up, John gave the tapes to Phil Spector, who puked all over them, turning the album into the most syrupy load of bullshit I have ever heard. My master tape, perhaps quite rightly, ended up on a shelf in the tape store at EMI. At least my version of the single of “Get Back”/“Don’t Let Me Down” had been released in April 1969.

Johns’ stories about The Beatles are some of my favorite parts of the book. There are many more fascinating stories as well; some involve The Who, The Clash, The Rolling Stones and many others. I don’t want to give anymore of these tales away. I recommend that you buy the book and read it.

If you’re a producer or aspire to be one, this is required reading.

For Session Drummers, the Future is Online

Online Session DrummerThe Online Session Drummer

COVID, when viewed historically in relation to the music business, will turn out to have been just a blip on the growth of recorded music and the music business in general.

Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean to be glib and I’m not making light of the pandemic and its impact. The previous paragraph is just taking a very long view.

Clearly, this virus has shaken the world and has been (and continues to be as of this writing) devastating in many ways, none less important than the massive loss of lives it caused.

The music business has been greatly disturbed and interrupted. Tour after tour cancelled, Broadway theaters shut down, and countless music venues shutting down temporarily or permanently going out of business. Musicians have had to get a variety of other types of jobs to survive.

But the music business will eventually recover.

How Covid Fundamentally Changed Businesses

In the world of business, the pandemic is an event that caused many to pivot their business endeavors. The economic and business impact has been profound.

It’s already been shown that the pandemic has essentially sped up the direction that any business was moving towards–whether good or bad.  That’s my belief: if you have (or had) a business that was not positioned well for the future, Covid probably destroyed that business. If, on the other hand, your growth potential and business model was solid, you may have seen significant growth during the pandemic.

Some examples. A few that were well positioned, like Amazon, Zoom, and Netflix, were boosted by Covid to even more rapid growth and profits. But for the many businesses that relied on in-person activities for success, just the opposite has been true. Those poorly positioned got crushed. Some examples of businesses filing for bankruptcy during the pandemic: Brooks Brothers, Chuck E Cheese, GNC, Guitar Center, JC Penny, Lord and Taylor, Neiman Marcus, Pier 1, Men’s Warehouse, Dean & DeLuca, Lucky Brands, Gold’s Gym, Modell’s, and the list goes on.  There have been many casualties.

And I was no exception. My in-person drum teaching business was pretty much destroyed. That business was easily covering all its overhead and paying all my bills when the pandemic hit. It had been cranking along, growing slightly each year for many years. Then, almost overnight, my teaching business imploded. So, what did I do?

Two things. First, I sped up the process I had already begun of becoming a remotely operating studio musician; more specifically–an online session drummer. Secondly, I dug into the creation of an idea I’ve had for a while for a video course that will soon replace the in-person teaching business.

Interestingly, I always believed that my teaching business was limited by the fact that I needed a well equipped physical space to teach from. The overhead was significant and the day-to-day management (I had five teachers working for me) was also of consequence. Being reliant on real estate owned by someone else is a weakness that has plagued many businesses during Covid.

Having realized this, I thought that online video lessons would be the answer to scaling. Yes, the space is particularly crowded, but I have an idea that no one has yet tried and I believe that will make it a success.

But the planning for that business is significant and in the meantime, I worked on my remote online session drummer studio. After all, I was already a session drummer. It just happened that when the pandemic began, going to a studio to work inside was a scary proposition.

The Future of Session Drumming Will Be Online While the Music Business Will Rebound

When I say that the future of session drumming is online, I’m just pointing out the direction we’re headed. It’s no secret that many of the world’s top drummers have had their own tracking studios long before Covid ever hit.

Here are a few who come to mind: Kenny Aronoff, Ash Soan, Shawn Pelton, Simon Phillips, Aaron Sterling, and Dave Weckl. These guys have all been recording remotely for quite some time now–way before Covid. And certainly there are many more well-known drummers with remote capability.

The Traditional Recording Studio Will Remain

Don’t misunderstand; I’m not saying that the traditional recording studio is dead or dying. In fact that is not the case at all. Check out this article from ProSound about how USA Today incorrectly claimed that the recording studio business was dying: “USA Today is Wrong: Recording Studios Are Not Dying”

The only problem with the ProSound article is that it was written in 2018–pre-pandemic. Hasn’t Covid caused some problems here? I haven’t been able to find solid statistics on this, but yes, I’ve read about some studio closings. However, I do believe that the studio business will remain solid overall, especially over time. Covid will turn out to be just a blip that disrupted the business of music for a while. Studios will close, but new ones will open.

But, if studios aren’t going away, why is remote session work the future?

Good question. There are two answers. The first is that the recorded music business is actually quite healthy.

The Music Business is Growing Significantly

And the bottom line is that as of this writing, things are looking up. Report Linker sites some research on the global growth of the music market. See the article here: “Recording Market Impact and Recovery”

Here’s a short quote from the source of the report, The Business Research Company:

The global music recording market is expected to grow from $54.22 billion in 2020 to $57.05 billion in 2021 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.2%. The growth is mainly due to the companies rearranging their operations and recovering from the COVID-19 impact, which had earlier led to restrictive containment measures involving social distancing, remote working, and the closure of commercial activities that resulted in operational challenges. The market is expected to reach $74.11 billion in 2025 at a CAGR of 7%.

Pretty significant, right?

And the second reason that online session drummers and other studio musicians can be optimistic is the following.

The Amount of Music Being Created and Released is EXPLODING

Arguably the most significant factor of all is the rise of technology.

The technology has crushed the barriers to entry into the music market. And that means that the floodgates have been smashed open.

How so?

First consider streaming. In April of 2019 it was announced that almost 40,000 tracks were being uploaded to Spotify every single day. That is an astounding number. Here’s the article: “40,000 Tracks Added to Spotify Daily”

But wait! If you think that number is impressive, get this! Even more recently, in February of 2021, an updated number was announced. The new number is 60,000 tracks per day. “60,000 Tracks Uploaded to Spotify Daily”

Remember that before streaming or downloading was possible, and before CD Baby, BandCamp and other indie friendly outlets existed, the barrier to entry was massive. You could not get your music out to the world unless you had a record deal with a significant record label. You just couldn’t do it. But now….ANYONE can release music and make it available to the world instantly.

The result is that a massive amount of music is getting released to the public; more than ever before in history. For session musicians, this spells opportunity. Not all of those making this music are going to feel comfortable or have the funds to rent out “real” recording studios. Many of these people are doing things on their own. Perhaps in a basement or bedroom.

And therein lies the other technological development of major significance for session players.

Anyone Can Make Pro Level Recordings At Home Now

No one has to go to a recording studio to make their music at a professional level anymore. Technology has made it possible for any of us to make great sounding music from within our apartment or house. The technology is astounding! I’m NOT bad mouthing the traditional studio. Far from it. I love recording in big recording studios. Having great gear, a great engineer, and a great sounding room obviously can make a big difference in the quality of the music produced.

But that being said, you don’t HAVE to do it that way anymore. It used to be that the only way to make your music was to go rent a studio. There were a limited number of places that owned the equipment necessary to record quality music product. With all the DAWs, audio interfaces and plugins that exist now, you can make incredible sounding music at your home studio. And people are doing that.


Online session work certainly looks like a growth industry to me. And the future is bright in this way for any musician–not just drummers–who want to get a slice of this ever-growing pie.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments or via email.

Switch Your Pro Tools Mix to Mono by Twisting Just One Dial

How to Program Drums with Pro Tools

Introduction: Why Would an Online Session Drummer Want to Mix in Mono Anyway?

Why should you care about this little shortcut I’m offering you? Why would you even want to quickly change everything to mono? That’s a good question. As I’ve been learning how to program drums, especially mixing, one interesting concept I stumbled upon is that of mixing in mono. You can find a lot of information online about the theory behind this, but here is a short explanation of why you might consider it.

How to Program Drums with Pro Tools & Switch to Mono

When everything is in mono, every layer of sound and every instrument is occupying the same audio space simultaneously. When you pan things in stereo, you create more space by literally putting instruments in separate physical aural spaces. It’s easier to make your mix sound good when you’re in stereo. Why? Simply because there is more space.

But by forcing yourself to make a mono mix, you have to use EQ and all of the other tools at your disposal to make the mix clearer. Of course you’ll begin by getting your static levels right, but there will definitely be more to it than that. You just don’t have the extra space in your mix that stereo panning naturally gives you. But consider the notion that if you can easily hear every instrument and voice on the track while in mono, your mix should be even more clear and spacious once you return to panning in stereo.

But here’s the kicker and it’s something that is often overlooked. Your listener won’t always hear the stereo elements properly anyway. How frequently are people using headphones or sitting exactly in the center of two balanced speakers? The exact numbers are not known, but you can be certain that a big chunk of listening does not occur in a way that allows the stereo image to be heard properly. Think about it: if you’re sitting in your car, you’re definitely on one side or the other–you’re never in the stereo sweet spot. And listening to the crappy phone speaker definitely doesn’t give you anything but mono. It just makes sense that a lot of listening happens in ways that don’t allow for a real stereo experience.

See the point? While you are learning how to program drums and create a finished drum track, you really HAVE to make your mix sound good in mono anyway. Lots of people are simply going to hear the music in mono. You ignore this at your own risk.

If you are interested in learning more about this, just Google “mixing in mono” and I promise you’ll find plenty to get you up to speed.

This Tutorial Video Will Show You The Stereo to Mono Trick for Mixing

And now; the video. Just watch and you’ll see a great way to easily switch your mix from stereo to mono without unpanning everything and then re-doing it. Check it out:

But for those of you who hate watching videos, I’ll spell out the details below. The reason that I wanted a way of quickly making everything mono was that I’d started mixing and done a bunch of panning already. Then, having already done all that work, I realized that I really should work in mono to make my mix better.

I got frustrated thinking that I was going to have to un-pan everything and then keep track of every panning setting I made and THEN redo all the panning after all of that. That definitely sounded like too much work to me.

So, instead, I did a little research and discovered that there is a free plugin in Pro Tools called “Stereo Width.” It’s made by AIR. If you simply put this plugin on your master mix bus and set the width dial to ZERO, your mix becomes mono instantly. That’s it. Just one little dial and you’re in mono. When you want to go back to your stereo mix you can remove the plugin or just set that same width button back to 100%.

Pretty easy right? I thought so too. You’re welcome!! 😉

Post Script: Why Pro Tools Tips for Beginners?

I want to explain why I even began this little series on Pro Tools. There are plenty of Pro Tools tutorials out there both in blog posts and videos. But what I’ve noticed, just like in a lot of the arts, many of the pros just don’t want to write about or create beginners content. My theory is that it’s too boring for them. Most great guitarists or drummers or audio engineers want to make content about the cool advanced stuff they know. And I think I understand why–it’s more fun for them to make that content. Perhaps there is a bit of ego involved. But the truth is that beginners need love too. Everyone was once a beginner and beginners need help. Thankfully, I’m not bored by it at all. In fact, at my blog about drumming, I’ve made a lot of content for beginners on that topic. You can check out some of that content here: The Drumming Blog

My point is that I’ve scanned the web and noticed that in “Pro Tools land,” there is also a shortage of content for beginners and those that need to learn how to program drums. I’d like to help remedy that, and thus, the “Pro Tools Tips for Beginners” series was born.

By the way, the first entry in my Pro Tools Tips for Beginners series can be found at this link: Beginners Pro Tools Tips 1: Why Does the Cursor Keep Jumping Back to the Beginning?

Thanks for reading!

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

Skip the frustrations of using Drum Tracks Online

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 frustrations of using Pro Tools (and drum tracks online) 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.

Drum Tracks Online
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.
online drum tracks
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 about drum tracks online or Pro Tools specifically.

31 Pro Tools Shortcuts for Mac: a Cheat Sheet on PDF

As competent as I’d become at using Pro Tools, there was a point about a year ago when I realized I was working much too slowly. I could certainly get the job done, but I was sure I could speed up my workflow. And after all, going faster would effectively mean that my hourly rate would go up, so I decided to look into speeding things up.

The most obvious way to do this was to learn some keyboard shortcuts. So, I studied, read, watched videos, and asked my producer and engineer friends. And I learned a bunch of them. But I had some trouble remembering them.

So, I created this little cheat sheet and I taped it on my wall right above my audio workspace. And now, I can’t live without this page. At some point I’ll have it memorized, but until then, on the wall it stays, because it’s a time-saver.

I also realized that this was the PDF that I really could have used when I first wanted to learn this stuff. Getting my hands on a “cheat-sheet” like this would have saved me some real time in the learning process. Instead, I had to spend a lot of time watching videos and reading articles. But the truth is that all I really needed was this one page.

You won’t have that problem. Here’s my cheat sheet with “31 Pro Tools Shortcuts for Mac.” I hope it makes your audio engineering life easier and faster.

Download the PDF: 31 pro tools shortcuts for mac

By the way, as I’ve learned more and more about Pro Tools, I began to compile some tips based on things that confused me when I started. The first of these can be found here: Beginners Pro Tools Tips #1