Score! Working with the Score Editor in Pro Tools 8

By far one of Pro Tools 8’s most anticipated new features was the score editor, finally providing users a built-in notation package without having to export MIDI data into Sibelius. The Pro Tools 8 score editor introduces basic notation based editing and printing functionality and is surprisingly easy to use once you get the hang of it. This week at the corner I will walk you through a basic workflow using the score editor to create and a print a score directly inside of Pro Tools.

Setting up: Key Signature

Before using the score editor there are a few session level set-up tasks that you will want to consider, starting with the sessions key signature ruler. To view the key signature ruler choose View > Rulers > Key Signature.

To insert an initial key change for the session (which will become the sessions default key), return the edit cursor to measure 1|1 and click on the small plus sign on the key signature ruler.

If there are any other key changes in the session that I want to account for in the score I will continue to add those changes by clicking again on the plus sign of the key signature ruler.

Setting up: Score Setup

Before opening up the score editor, I will open up the score setup menu to enter title and composer info and set up the spacing/layout preferences for the session. To open score setup choose File > Score Setup.

Opening the Score Editor:

In this simple example I have 3 instrument tracks that I will configure in the score editor. To open the score editor simply choose Windows > Score Editor or use the shortcut Ctrl+Option+= on Mac or Start+Alt+= on PC.

Note: Each track’s name is reflected in the score and any print outs so be sure to name your tracks appropriately.

By default all MIDI and Instrument tracks are displayed in the Score Editor, I can selectively show or hide tracks from the score using the tracks list. Simply click on the small circle icon to the left of the track name to show/hide that track from the score. When printing scores use the show/hide menu to print out individual parts.

Formatting the Score:

The default setting for tracks in the score editor is “Grand Staff,” because showing both bass and treble clefs for each track may be unnecessary, Pro Tools allows you to format each track’s settings individually using the “Notation Display Track Settings” dialog. To access a track’s notation settings simply right click on the track in the score and choose “Notation Display Track Settings.”

Here I can set each track’s display settings as well as configure global display settings for quantization, straighten swing and note overlap. Remember that display quantization settings and “straighten swing” have nothing to do with note quantization or swing in the sequencer, it is purely for cleaning up the score to avoid strange looking rhythms. Each track can have its own display quantization settings or be set to follow the global defaults.

After setting up the correct display settings for the 3 instrument tracks my score looks much cleaner and I am no longer wasting space with the grand staff for each track.

Inserting Chord Changes:

The Score Editor can also display a chord chart as defined by the session’s chord ruler. To show the chord ruler switch back to the edit window and choose View > Rulers > Chord Symbols.

To insert a new chord change simply click on the plus sign on the Chord ruler or Cntrl-Click (Mac) Start-Click (PC) anywhere on the Chord ruler.

After inserting my chord symbols I can switch back to the score. Because the spacing might be a little tight with the new chord symbols, I change the “System Spacing” in the Score Setup window to 11.0 to accommodate the chord symbols.

Editing the Score:

While I personally find it easier to edit notes in the matrix editor or event list, you can edit directly within the score editor using the same tools you are use to in the edit window.

To add notes:

Use the pencil tool to add new notes or modify existing ones. The note value and default velocity is set in the top left hand side of the score editor and follows the grid by default. To delete a note simply Option-Click (Mac) or Alt-Click (PC) on the note.

To move or transpose notes:

Use the grabber tool (or pencil tool) to move/transpose single or groups of notes. When notes are selected they will be shown in blue.

Moving the playback cursor:

The edit insertion is represented by a solid blue line in the score, you can click and drag this to start playback from different points.

Docking the Score Editor:

You can easily “Dock” the score editor to view while editing by using the new Window > Arrange commands like “Tile Horizontally.”

Printing the Score:

To Print the score I first activate the double bar line to cut the score at the end of the last midi region.

To Print the score I simply choose File > Print Score or hit Command+P (Mac) or Control+P (PC) and choose print (assuming my printer is hooked up). At this point I could just as easily create a PDF to email.

In closing:

While the Pro Tools 8 score editor provides basic notation resources, great for lead sheets and simple editing, depending on your needs you may still want to invest in a dedicated score editor like Sibelius. For example, currently the notation display preferences don’t have any provisions for displaying percussion notation, tempo, dynamics or lyrics data, basically you get notes on a staff and that is it.