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Quickstart Guide

This Quickstart guide gets you going on some of the main tasks you can perform.

For more detailed information about specific parts of Tracktion, the integrated popup help is a good place to look for answers. (If this is turned off, you can turn it back on by clicking the 'help' button at the bottom-left). For more help about 'how to do things', have a look at the on-line manual.

Opening a Project

Projects screen When Tracktion starts up it takes you to the Projects page - shown here. This shows all the currently available Projects, Edits and audio/midi clips.

In the top left-hand panel is the 'Projects list': it shows all the currently open Projects - there are four in the example opposite. Clicking on one of these will select it, and show a list of all its audio clips and edits in the main window.

Whenever you select an item in the current Project, its details are shown in the information window at the bottom of the screen. In the example here, the selected item is an audio clip, so the information window shows its waveform - the clip can be previewed by clicking the play button at the right of the waveform (or using the spacebar) or by double-clicking it in the list.


Folders

A PROJECT is a collection of clips and edits, like a 'folder' in Windows. However, unlike Windows, the elements in a Tracktion PROJECT do not have to all be in the same source directory, but can be located in various directories, or even on different drives.

Audio clip MIDI clip

A CLIP is a single piece of audio - a WAVE file, an AIFF file, or a midi sequence.

Edit

An EDIT is a collection of audio clips, midi sequences, VST plug-ins and mix parameters spread across various tracks, which make up a complete multitrack masterpiece.

To open up a particular edit, just double-click it; to create a new empty edit, select the project you want it to belong to, and click the green 'create new edit' button at the bottom of the screen. This will take you into the wonderful world of...

 

The Edit Page

This is where most of the action happens.

The centre section of the page shows the tracks - in this example, there are eight - which contain the audio/midi clips. Tracktion doesn't limit the number of tracks you can have in an edit - you can add more at any time by clicking the 'tracks' button at the bottom-left of the screen.

The green, pointy boxes to the right of each track are the plug-in filters - by default each track has a level/pan control, a level meter and a mute/solo filter - but you can add more filters to a track's output by clicking-holding-and-dragging the 'new filter...' control at the top right-hand corner of the screen, and dropping it where you want the new filter to appear. This will pop up a tree view to let you choose which filter to use.

Filter

A PLUG-IN FILTER is a process that is added to a piece of audio, such as reverb, EQ or pitch-shift. They are called 'plug-ins' since you can buy additional filters from third-party manufacturers, and pop them into Tracktion's 'plugins' directory to add that filter to your armoury of effects. Tracktion adheres to the Cubase-VST standard for plug-ins and comes with a ready-made selection of useful filters, including EQ, compression, chorus, phaser, delay, pitch-shifter and reverb.

Volume/pan control

The VOLUME/PAN CONTROL is a combined plug-in that allows both the volume of that particular track, and its pan position in the stereo field to be adjusted. By clicking-and-holding on the dark green part of the filter, underneath the black line, an image of a fader appears, which can then be moved up and down by dragging the mouse. Similarly, by clicking on the black line itself, and dragging sideways with the mouse, the track's pan position can be adjusted, from left, to centre, to right.

Level meter

The LEVEL METER plug-in shows the level of audio being played back from that track. Overloads in the output are displayed in red, in which case the level/pan plug-in (above) should be used to bring that track's level down. Note that there is also a MASTER FADER control in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, where the overall mix level is set. Remember that if there are other plug-in filters between the level/pan plug-in and the level meter plug-in, then these filters may have their own level controls, which should be reduced as well.

Mute/solo buttons

The MUTE/SOLO buttons mimic those used on conventional mixing desks. Clicking on the red 'M' will temporarily silence any output from that track (a red 'X' appears over the plug-in to show that its output is muted). By clicking on the green 'S' underneath, that track is 'soloed' - that is, all the other track outputs are automatically muted so you can hear just that track. Multiple tracks can be mute/soloed at once to enable you to hear all the elements of a mix individually, whilst playing back.

The latest generation of plug-ins can also take the form not just of sound-processors, but of sound-GENERATORS. You can now buy 'virtual' synthesisers and drum-machines, that come complete with 3D graphical user-interfaces that allow you to twiddle knobs and push sliders, and hear the results in real-time!

Clip filter Handy Hint:
These plug-in filters can also be applied to each individual clip, rather than a whole track, by simply dragging the green 'new filter...' control onto a clip instead of a track output. This way, the plug-in effect will apply to only that clip, and its parameters can be selected by clicking on the small filter inside the clip (shown right).

 

Navigating the Edit Page

Virtually all movement around the edit page can be achieved using just the mouse - ideally one with a mouse-wheel, which is handy for zooming and scrolling.

Somewhere in the middle of the screen, there is thin, vertical purple line, running through all the visible tracks: this is your cursor, the Tracktion equivalent of a tape-recorder's 'play head'. This cursor is your 'current position' and indicates the position at which Tracktion is currently playing, or where it will start playing.

To scroll around your edit, simply left-click and drag left or right with your mouse. When the cursor hits the edge of the track area, you will see the tracks scroll left or right.

To zoom in or out of the tracks, use the mouse-wheel. The zoom axis is centred around the mouse position, so by cunning use of click-and-drag and wheeliness, it is possible to scroll and zoom at the same time! Practice this a little, as you'll be doing this a lot!

If you don't have a mouse wheel, you can also use the right mouse button to zoom in or out. First, place the cursor where you want the 'centre of zoom' point to be. Then, click-and-drag somewhere else (not too near the cursor) with the right mouse button to zoom.

Tracktion also has several useful keyboard shortcuts for navigating the edit - a full list can be seen (and modified) by clicking on the yellow 'keys...' button at the bottom left-hand corner of the screen, but here are the main navigation keys:

Home key

The Home key jumps to the beginning of any currently-selected clip, and a second press jumps to the beginning of the edit

End key

The End key jumps to the end of any currently-selected clip, and a second press jumps to the end of the edit

Page Up

The Page Up key moves between edit points in an edit, stopping at the start and end of every clip, moving earlier with each keypress

Page Down

The Page Dn key moves between edit points in an edit, stopping at the start and end of every clip, moving later with each keypress

Left Right

The Left & Right arrow keys move the NowLine left or right, in the style of fast-forward or rewind

Left Shift Right

The Shifted Left & Right arrow keys move the edit left or right, in the style of fast-forward or rewind, but keeping the NowLine position the same

Up Down

The Up & Down arrow keys zoom in or out around the current NowLine position (but don't let that stop you buying a wheelie-mouse...)

 

Playback

Transport controls Now you can happily move around your edit, zooming in and out and scrolling around, and we can now look at the transport controls, and play back some audio.

The transport controls (shown right) consist of the standard tape-style controls (in green), with a position counter (in white) and BPM/tempo information next to it. As with most things in Tracktion, these controls have shortcuts - their functions, and keyboard shortcuts, are listed below:

Stop

STOP - can also use the space bar to stop playback

Play

PLAY - can also use the space bar to start playback

Record

RECORD - can also use the [R] shortcut key to begin recording

Start

REWIND TO START- can also use the [Home] shortcut key to jump to the beginning of the edit

Rewind

REWIND - can also use the [Left Arrow] shortcut key to rewind through the edit

Fast forward

FAST FORWARD - can also use the [Right Arrow] shortcut key to fast-forward through the edit

The white position counter panel, just above the transport controls, shows where the cursor is currently located in the track. By default, the position is shown as 'Bars & Beats' - in the example above, the current position is shown as 8 Bars, 2 Beats and 106 100ths of a Beat from zero.

To change this setting to show minutes and seconds, use the yellow 'Timecode' button in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen to change the timebase. Options include 'Hours / Minutes / Milliseconds' and 'Hours / Minutes / Frames' for film/TV use, with a number of framerate options.

Also on the Timecode button is the Tempo option, which will allow you to speed things up, slow them down, or change the time signature of the edit.

To play back your edit, simply locate to the start - either using the mouse, the green 'Rewind to start' transport control, typing 'zero' into the position counter, or using the [Home] key - and press play (either the transport control, or simply hit the spacebar). The edit should start scrolling, and you should hear audio and midi clips as they pass the cursor. The level meters on each track - the green plug-in next to 'Mute/Solo' - should illuminate, as should the master level meters in the bottom right-hand corner. Possibly you had the volume turned up too high and have blasted out your windows, in which case you want to read the next section whilst brushing off the broken glass...

 

Level Controls

Master faders The overall level of the mixed audio coming out of Tracktion is set in a number of places. Assuming your overall Windows Volume Level is set to something sensible (if not, then everything you've ever played will be coming out too loud or too quiet) the best way to adjust the level of things being played back is via the Master Faders at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen.

As can be seen from the picture on the right, the Master Faders panel consists of two master outputs (labelled 'a', 'b' and 'c' in the image) and a small pair of PPM-style level meters. Clicking on the level meters will turn the Master Faders panel red - as shown here - and a larger pair of horizontal PPMs will be displayed across the bottom of the information panel in the centre of the screen.

To adjust the overall level of the mix, click on the master faders to display the large slider, and change the level using that. To adjust just the left-hand side of the stereo pair, click-and-drag where the letter 'a' is displayed on the image above, to adjust the right-hand side, click-and-drag where 'c' is displayed and click and drag in the centre - 'b' - to adjust both channels simultaneously. If the two channels get 'out of sync' level-wise, you can match them back up by using the green 'Reset Level to 0db' button on the information window (just above the large PPM meters) and then adjust both faders to the desired level by click-and-dragging in the middle.

 

Editing Clips

By now, you are able to load up an edit from the Projects page, navigate around it and play it back. This section deals with Tracktion's most powerful features - editing clips.

Clip detail

Now don't be scared... it's not as bad as it looks... The diagram above shows a mono audio clip in detail. To view a clip in an edit in detail, simply click on it - it will gain a red bar across the top, and several icons (as shown above) for editing. The waveform of the audio can be turned on or off by clicking on the yellow 'options' button in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen as selecting 'show/hide waveforms'. By using the editing icons on the red bar, the start and ends of the clip can be moved or trimmed, or the two square icons in the centre of the bar allow the entire clip to be adjusted. Rather than explain in detail the difference between these operations, it really is much quicker to just try it and see what each icon does!

Note: Tracktion has 'Undo' capability: you can undo/redo any editing changes by clicking on the blue 'Undo/Redo' buttons (or using the standard [Ctrl-Z] / [Ctrl-Y] Windows keyboard shortcuts)

In normal use, the most common operation will be slipping a clip - that is, moving the clip earlier or later in the track. There are several ways to achieve this - the easiest being 'picking it up' (by click-and-holding on its red bar when you see the Hand cursor) and dragging it to its new location. Alternatively, you can 'nudge' a clip forwards and backwards by holding down the CTRL key and nudging using the left and right arrow keys.

To move a clip to another track you can either click-and-drag it (holding down [Shift] whilst doing this constrains it to its start time, so it doesn't move out of sync).

Fade box Each audio clip has a fade-in and a fade-out control - these are the small white boxes with diagonal lines through them located at the start and end of each clip. There are two methods for adding a fade to a clip. The first is to type the fade duration in on the fade box (shown right), which is located in the clip information window at the bottom of the screen.

The second, somewhat easier, method is to simply click-and-drag the small Fade symbol icon at the beginning or end of the selected clip to 'draw out' a fade. The clip example above shows a fade-out, represented by a long diagonal line towards the right-hand side of the clip. The fade shape can be altered by clicking on one of the eight fade-shape buttons (shown on the fade box, above).

Cross-fading between two adjacent clips is also outstandingly easy... To crossfade between two clips, first overlap them (on the same track) by the desired amount, and press the green 'auto-crossfade' button (as shown on the panel above). This will apply a simultaneous fade-out to the first clip, and a similar-length fade-in on the second, creating a perfect crossfade in one, easy mouseclick. Once again, the blue fade-shape buttons (above) can be used to change the shape of this auto-crossfade, and if the clips are slipped or separated, they simply retain their individual fades.

To time-stretch a clip rather than trimming its in and out-positions, hold down the ALT key when dragging the triangles that trim the start or end of the clip. This will stretch the clip to fit the position you move to - either by slowing down or speeding up the clip, or by time-stretching if you've pressed the 'keep original pitch' button (in the clip's properties panel).

Marking Regions

Some edit operations apply not to individual clips, but to a region of the edit. A region can be set by pressing the 'i' key on the keyboard (to set the region's in-point), then moving the cursor and pressing the 'o' key (to set the region's out-point). Two vertical red lines will be displayed across the edit, similar to the purple cursor line, but red. The region is defined as the area between these lines, and these in- and out-points can be adjusted by either dragging the red lines, or by moving the cursor to a new position and re-pressing 'i' or 'o'.

Cutting, Pasting & Copying Clips

Clips can be cut, copied, pasted and deleted using either the dedicated blue 'edit' button on the screen, by using the standard Windows keyboard shortcuts ( [Ctrl-X], [Ctrl-C], [Ctrl-V] etc.) or by using the pop-up menu of edit commands which appears when you right mouse-click on a selected clip.

The Cut and Copy commands are fairly self-explanatory, but here are some examples using Paste:

Copy a clip after itself on the same track:

  1. Select the source clip
  2. Copy it (using the right mouse-button menu, or [Ctrl-C])
  3. Paste it (using the right mouse-button menu, or [Ctrl-V])

Copy a clip to another position on another track:

  1. Select the source clip
  2. Copy it (using the right mouse-button menu, or [Ctrl-C])
  3. Position the cursor to the destination position
  4. Select the destination track (by clicking on the track name)
  5. Paste it (using the right mouse-button menu, or [Ctrl-V]). (NB - If no track is selected at this point, the clip will be pasted into the last track that was clicked on when positioning the cursor).

Clips can be split in two simply by positioning the cursor at the point where the clip is to be cut, selecting the clip and using the green 'split clips' button on the properties panel. If a region has been defined (as explained above) then many of these cut, copy, paste operations can be made to act on anything in the region, rather than on selected clips.

Making an audio recording

Settings screen It is now time to make your first recording into a Tracktion edit...

First - a quick word about Devices. On Tracktion's settings screen, there's a section for 'audio devices' where all of the computer's available input and output devices can be enabled/disabled and their properties adjusted. For a fuller explanation of this, see the detailed help pages, but you should see a list of inputs and outputs for both audio and midi, with each device being either enabled or disabled.

Exactly which devices appear on this page depend on the exact configuration of your soundcard, drivers and various other system-specific parameters, but you should have at least one audio input and one audio output marked as active for a recording to take place.

Returning to the main edit page, you should have at least one audio record input device (similar to the one below) on the left-hand side of the screen, over the vertical word 'TRACKTION'. By clicking-and-dragging this record icon over to a track, it should sprout a red arrow, which 'sticks' to the left-hand edges of the tracks as you drag the icon up and down. Go on, drag it up and down - it's fun...

Record device By 'connecting' this record input to a track, you are ready to make a recording. You should be able to hear your input, and see it on the large horizontal PPM meters at the bottom of the screen (if you can't hear the input signal, try pressing the yellow 'enable end-to-end' button on its properties panel).

To begin recording, simply move the cursor to where you want to start, and press the record transport button [Record] or press [ r ] on the keyboard. Tracktion will play back all other tracks at the same time (which you can always turn off using the Mute/Solo buttons) and generate a new, pink audio clip labeled 'recording...'.

When you have finished recording, press the spacebar or the 'stop' transport control [Stop]. After a second, this new recording should appear as a normal audio clip, complete with waveform.

Midi recording ...and recording a MIDI rather than audio clip is done in exactly the same way - except that you use a MIDI input device instead of an audio one.


Making a Midi Recording

Making a MIDI recording is done in the same way as for audio, but using a MIDI input device.

The only other consideration is to do with how you intend to replay this midi information: there are two ways of playing midi in Tracktion - using the midi synthesiser facility built-into most PC soundcards, or by using a VST plug-in 'soft-synth'.

  • Built-in midi synthesisers

    This is sometimes referred to as 'General Midi', or GM for short. Most modern soundcards have some form of wavetable synthesiser built in, and many are excellent quality sounds. However, there is no guarantee that what sounds good on your PC will still sound as good when your edit is exported/archived to someone else's system, where there might not even be a soundcard that can play it back... Also, since the audio from these GM synthesisers goes straight to the soundcard outputs, there is no way you can apply any VST plug-in effects to a GM midi clip.

  • VST Plug-in 'soft-synths'

    This is a 'virtual' synthesiser modelled and packaged in the form of a VST plug-in. Unlike a GM soundcard synth, that uses hardware to create its sounds, a 'soft-synth' is realised entirely in software. There are some truly excellent recreations of instruments now available as plug-in 'virtual instruments', such as Hammond organs, Mellotrons, vintage analogue synthesisers (as shown below) and even sampled grand pianos. These plug-in instruments form the same part of the audio chain as conventional hard-disk-based audio recordings, and therefore can have additional plug-in effects applied to them in Tracktion. Also, by supplying a (licensed) copy of the plug-in whenever you export your edit to another Tracktion user, you can guarantee that the sound will be recreated perfectly on another system, regardless of soundcard hardware.

Midi outputs If you are using the GM midi facilities of your soundcard to record and playback, you need to ensure that the track is set to be a 'midi track'. The individual track destinations can be seen by clicking on the track names (to select the track) and a list of destination outputs appears in the properties panel. To select the midi output for your recording/playback, click a midi device in the list (as shown, right).

If you attempt to add VST plug-ins to this track, or place audio clips or recordings on it, a warning symbol (Warning) will be displayed next to the track name, warning that these elements will not be heard, since the destination for that track is the midi output of the soundcard, rather than the audio output.

 

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