How to create and control a master fader track in Pro Tools

Whenever you create a Pro Tools session, you’ll need to start adding different types of tracks that allow you to record and playback audio, MIDI instruments, and other samples. You’ll also need some tracks that will allow you to control and manipulate individual tracks or all tracks at once. 

Thankfully, Pro Tools makes creating a wide variety of control track types as easy as creating a new recording track. In this guide, we’ll focus on how you can create, configure, and control a master fader track in Pro Tools. A master fader track is a control track that should be included in virtually every Pro Tools session. 

What is a master fader track?

A “master” track is a track that controls all other tracks in a session. A fader track is a track that controls the signal output of any track.

Put in simple terms; a master fader track is a track that allows you to control the overall signal level that is being output by Pro Tool to your speaker system or other outputs. 

You can use a master fader track to create automated fade-ins and fade-outs in a session or manually control the overall signal strength. This is a key tool for any audio mixer as it not only allows you to create fade effects but it also allows you to manually control the signal output to prevent clipping and other audio distortions. 

How to create a master fader track in Pro Tools

Creating a master fader track in Pro Tools is easy. Follow these steps to add a master fader control to any Pro Tools session. 

Step 1: Create a new Pro Tools session (or open an existing one).

Step 2: In the menu bar, go to “Track,” then select “New…” from the drop-down menu.

Step 3: Configure your new master fader track in the “New Tracks” window.

The “New Tracks” pop-up window should now be visible. This window allows you to create several different kinds of new tracks. To create a new master fader track, input these settings:

  • In the “Create” box, enter 1
  • Under “Channels,” select “Stereo”
  • Under “Type,” select “Master Fader”
  • Under “Samples/Ticks,” select “Samples”
  • In the “Name” box, enter “Master”

Step 4: Hit “Create” to create your new track.

You will now see your master fader track displayed in your track list as “Master 1” (assuming you have no other master tracks created).

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How to configure and control a master fader track in Pro Tools

Ok, now that we have our track set up, it’s time to configure it and control it. Here’s how:

Step 1: Go to the Menu bar and select “Window,” then click “Mix” in the drop-down menu.

The mixing window will now appear, and you’ll see all your track controls displayed. These should look like the fader controls on a traditional mixing board, listed from left to right in the order the tracks were created. 

Step 2: Locate your Master Fader controls.

To find your master fader track, locate the controls with the same name as the track you just created (in our example case, it would be Master 1).

Step 3: Configure and control your track.

Once you’ve located your track mixing controls, now you can start to configure and control your track settings. 

Now, the first thing we need to ensure is set correctly is our Input/Output. Since this is a fader control, there should be no input menu (since nothing is being fed into this track). For the output, by default, this should be Output 1-2. If it’s already set to this, leave it be. 

Now your master fader is properly configured, and you can start using it to control your audio tracks. 

Tips for controlling your master fader track

Nearly every session should have a master fader track. But how should you use it in your sessions? Here are some key things to keep in mind:

  • One of the critical functions of a master fader track is to control the “headroom” in your audio mix. Headroom refers to how much signal space your overall audio track has before it “clips” or maxes out the signal. Monitor your signal strength meter on the master fader controls. If the meter goes into the red for any amount of time, lower the fader to keep the signal from clipping. 
  • Don’t confuse “signal strength” with “volume.” The master fader controls the overall signal coming out of your project, but you can still manipulate the volume through your speaker system or other controls. Instead of using the master fader to control the volume of the project, use it to protect the integrity of your sound by preventing signal clipping. 
  • On the note of volume, if you’re having difficulty hearing your audio, always adjust your audio outputs before you touch your fader. The master fader should only be used for fade-ins/fade-outs and to control signal clipping, not to boost overall volume of the media. 

Final thoughts

Learning how to add master tracks and other control tracks is critical for anyone looking to create complex mixes in Pro Tools, whether you’re a musician yourself, a producer, or a little bit of both. You can control these tracks using your keyboard, mouse, or external mixing boards. 

The key to a great mix is always experimentation. The more you play around with these tracks, add new shortcuts, and try new things, the better your mixes will become. 

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