Track Layers for Automation

Use P5 track layers as an easy method of manipulating and separating your automation curves for an audio track.

Insert an Audio Track in P5, and create three additional Track Layers in its right-click menu. Add whatever FX that you'd like to the Track's Device Chain, and bring up the Property Page for each effect. Then, either engage the Input Monitoring (to hear the effects) and Arm it to record, or drag in a pre-made audio file from the Browser. 'Groove-Clip' the file, if necessary, and it'll settle into the Editor sliced. When you're ready to record automation, select No Input from the main Track's right-click menu, and this will prevent any additional audio from coming through. Go to any one of the Track Layers, and click one of the Show/Hide Automation toggles to reveal the expanded tracks.

Now you've got a template set up for drawing in and editing your automation curves across 3 or 4 displays. You can always add more as the need arises. Select an Effect parameter from the dropdown, and draw in a curve into that Layer's automation lane in the Arrange Pane. Repeat this for the other 2 Layers (or even in the main track, but that'll be a composite of all Layers), and each parameter curve can be simultaneously displayed in its own Layer. By MIDI Remote Controlling your Effect parameter in the Track Inspector, you'll be able to draw the curves from your hardware controller device.

Cut/Copy/Paste/Delete the curves by lassoing an area to be selected. The Pasted curve will be placed where you right-click to drop, not where the current Now Time is set. That's great for repeating shapes. Of course, you can edit the curve shapes with the drawing tool, or drag the curves to another Layer by clicking on that Layer in the Track Pane and dragging up or down. Note that the numbered track lane [1.x] remains in place; only the actual layer [x] moves.

Adding additional curves in each Layer 'underneath' the other curves is possible, but you'll lose the advantage of easy tracking and real-time display that one curve per-layer provides. But here's a unique trick: create another empty audio track, select your Audio clip in the Arrange Pane, and drag it to the second newly-created track. You may have to nudge the clip past the Track 1 Layers boundary with a Down Arrow key. The automation curves remain behind in the now-empty first main track! Those effects reside in the actual track; not in the audio file.

You can use this fact in a few ways: First of all, this is an easy way to A/B your audio clip with effects, and without. The second Track will playback the clip without the automation curves, although the Editor still 'thinks' that the curves are in there. Double-click on the clip to remind it that the curves are now Unassigned. If you really want to get crazy with this, create a new pattern in the Editor, select the same parameter as your Layer contains and place it in that Layer. You now have two sets of automation curves vying for the attention of the same parameter. Before you dismiss this as impractical, think what you can do by 'imprinting' a repeating pattern curve over a longer automation curve in the Arrange Pane.

Another way to use this is to realize that you can swap in another audio clip to replace the one that's vacated Track 1. You've created a preview platform that allows you to audition any number of audio clips using the same effects and automation curves. To take this one step further, two identical tracks with 3 Layers each can be alternately used to audition completely different sets of curves and effects, and freely changed to any audio clip in your HD.

So there's the advantages of separating your automation from the audio, but what happens when you've tweaked everything to perfection, and want to finalize the results? Simply delete the additional layers, and all of the curves will be mixed down together in the original track. The process is reversible, as adding Layers can reconstruct the preview template, but the Layer numbers will increment to new numbers (to facilitate a later Undo edit).

Use the Track Layer advantage every time that you want to isolate one Track feature from another (within limits), including automation curves, recording, MIDI FX, and transposing applications. It's touted as a visual aid, but sometimes thinking outside the box reveals some hidden but useful techniques.

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