After last week’s slightly more abstract Assignment, this week it’s time to look at something that’ll directly help your workflow for every project you start!
Create a DAW Template
The key to making an effective template for your DAW is to think about the things you do time and time again and save them into a blank canvas so they’re there waiting for you every time you need them. It doesn’t need to be an exact setting, just anything that saves you a little time and energy! Here are some ideas:
This one slips past a lot of people. It might just be the case that 120BPM is exactly the kind of tempo you like to write at (increasingly that’s becoming the case, I guess, as the sound du jour is heading back to these more moderate dance speeds), but if you make hip hop between 80 and 95BPM 90% of the time then it’s worth setting your default tempo to something that’ll at least be around what the new melody in your head is for maximum efficiency of getting that initial creative burst down.
Transport and Loop settings
So you have an idea, you’ve even loaded up an instrument and are noodling away at a tempo that suits you, but what about when it comes to recording? Is your metronome the right level? Do you have a record count in? What about loop length – do you like to build upon a loop to start with? It’s these kinds of things we often do and redo time and time again without even giving a second thought to the fact we’re wasting precious time – time that gives our idea a chance to slip away.
Sure, every track we make is different to an extent, but they all share certain attributes. How many send effects do you usually have by the end of a project? Would it hurt to just route up some send channels to cut down on the amount of work you have to do later? What about group buses – do your projects usually end up with sub mixes for different groups of sounds? Add those in too. Certainly set up your default audio and MIDI inputs and outputs to the sources and destinations you use most often.
Generally speaking empty tracks and routing don’t add much to your project’s resource requirements, but if you do notice things creeping up on that CPU meter disabling/bypassing things that you’re not using should get it back down, and it’s a lot quicker to enable something than it is to insert and route it.
Think about it. When’s the last time you made a track that didn’t have any percussion in it? If you had a hardware studio you wouldn’t put your sampler in its box and into a cupboard after every session, so why not assume you’ll need to use a drum kit and place one in your default template so that it loads every time? You could even go further and add your ‘default palette’ of drums so that you can just dive right in.
Similarly, do you find yourself loading up exactly the same synth in almost all of your projects? Or perhaps figure out melodies on some kind of keyboard that a rhodes or grand piano that’s just ‘there’ would help with? As a basic rule of thumb, anything that you will delete less often than you would have had to insert is a good candidate for a template – but don’t forget that bypass switch to make sure you can make things as smooth as possible for as long as possible.
Having some standard effects like reverb and delay ready and waiting as effects sends can be not just a timesaver but also a big eye opener. If you find yourself looking through lists of effects and concocting weird and wonderful insert chains for sounds that ‘don’t quite fit yet’ then having some ‘on call’ effects that you can just dial in to try out can not only put you on the right track but make you realise how much time you spend overcomplicating things.
Another great contender for your template is a master effects chain. A good compressor, EQ, and maybe a couple of secret ingredients that give you your own individual sound over your master output will save you time and make your tracks coherent – but for these it really is important to have them bypassed until you’re ready to use them.
If your DAW keeps its MIDI mapping on a per project basis, you’re probably ready to tear your hair out after the 50th time this week you’ve had to map your record button. Think about all the things you use all the time; play, record, loop, playhead seek, channel faders, pan, maybe even record arm, patch switch, and more. Depending on what software you use you’ll have different levels of depth for your default MIDI mappings; Logic users get a good break because MIDI assignments are learned on a per plugin basis and kept separate from projects, and Reaper users are in for a treat with the extensive amount of scripting possible, Ableton Live and Reason users will be able to assign MIDI controls to transport and mixer functions, as well as any default instruments and effects set up – it’ll all save you time!
If you guys have any more tips for a default template then let us know in the comments below!