How to Set Up a MIDI Track in Pro Tools
By Scott Shpak
Updated September 22, 2017
Items you will need
MIDI controller interface
Virtual instrument software compatible with Pro Tools
Musical Instrument and Digital Interface protocol puts a wealth of instrument sounds at your fingertips. Where once you would need to purchase individual keyboards and sound module hardware to access sound, virtual instruments now exist in software and can be played through a single MIDI controller keyboard and recorded within your digital audio workstation software. Avid's Pro Tools incorporates MIDI recording and editing and supports compatible virtual instruments. Preparing a MIDI track for recording requires a one-time setup of your MIDI controllers, as well as track-specific procedures each time you need a MIDI track.
Configure the MIDI Controller
Select "Setup" from the Pro Tools menu bar at the top of the screen and click "Peripherals" from the drop-down menu. Click the "MIDI Controllers" tab and click "Type." Most MIDI controllers use the HUI option, so select HUI unless you know another option works for your MIDI controller device.
Choose your MIDI controller from the list below "Receive From" as well as "Send To" and click "OK" to save the configuration. Repeat these steps if you have additional MIDI controllers connected to your Pro Tools computer.
Exit Pro Tools and restart to incorporate the MIDI controller changes. If you use Pro Tools in a Windows environment, run Pro Tools as an administrator by right-clicking the Pro Tools icon and selecting "Run as administrator" to enable MIDI recording.
Create a MIDI Instrument Track
Select "Track" from the Pro Tools menu bar at the top of the screen and "New" from the drop-down menu. Click "Stereo" on the drop-down menu and click "Instrument Track" from the next drop-down window.
Move to the mix window and click the first insert selector at the top of the instrument track. Select the virtual instrument plug-in that you want to use to monitor while recording. Its control window will open.
Configure your virtual device to select an instrument voice. This can be reassigned later in the project to select any instrument voice under MIDI control. From the "Options" menu at the top of the screen, make sure that "MIDI Thru" is checked.
Click the record enable button on the instrument track. This is the red button with the white dot above the track meter. You are now ready to record a MIDI performance by clicking "Play" or pressing the spacebar.
MIDI data is recorded as a set of instructions telling a virtual instrument or MIDI-enabled hardware device what to play, when and with what voice. After the performance is recorded, all other MIDI parameters may be changed without altering the performance. You could change the instrument track from a piano to a harpsichord, for example, without affecting the way the performer played.
Use Pro Tools to correct mistakes or change arrangements in your MIDI performance. Copy an instrument track before editing it to protect your work. Pro Tools allows you to undo edits, but the undo is sequential, so you would lose all subsequent work when moving back to where a bad edit was made. These instructions cover Pro Tools 11. Other versions of Pro Tools have similar procedures, though menu selections may vary.
A full-time content creation freelancer for over 12 years, Scott Shpak is a writer, photographer and musician, with a past career in business with Kodak.