Luckily, it’s not necessary to do all these organization chores every time you make a song. You can make a template where most of this is already pre-set, and you can start working from there. Here is how you make a template.
- Figure out which types of sounds you use often. On average, how many percussion sounds do you use, and how many melodic sounds? You can take a broad estimation and base your template on this.
- Placeholders. If you know broadly how many instances of each sound you use, add placeholders for those in an empty project. Open a new project, and add empty placeholders (for example empty samplers in FL Studio, or empty MIDI channels in Ableton and Logic) for the sounds you use on average.
- Give the empty placeholders a color and a name that corresponds to the group. For example, all the melodic sounds red, and naming them Sound 1, Sound 2, Sound 3, Perc 1, Perc 2, etc.
- Link the empty placeholders to the mixer (this differs across DAWS), so the mixer has the same colors (if possible), and the same groups.
- Link the empty placeholders to the playlists (in DAWS like Ableton and Logic you already add the sounds in the playlist, so it’s already linked) with the same colors and names.
- Add plugins that you use most often in your songs. For example, you probably use EQs in every project. You can add an EQ to most of the sounds in the mixer, so you don’t have to load it up every time. If you use something on the master channel every time, you can also add that.
- Save the project as Template, and save it again as Template Backup (important, as explained below).
Now, you have a template with colors, groups, and plugins. This will probably have taken about an hour or two to make, but imagine how long it would have taken if you would have to do this every time in every project. Now that you have an empty template, here is how you use it.
- Open the template, and save it as a new name (e.g. Song 1). This makes sure that it saves the file as a new project, and doesn’t overwrite the template. This is also why you have a backup. It will probably happen that you accidentally overwrite your template. If you do, open your empty Template Backup file and save it as Template, so you have an empty Template file again.
- When you want to add a sound, add it in the placeholder channel you made for it. In some DAWS, you can drag a sound or sample in there, in other DAWS, you can replace the placeholder sound with the sound you need. The color, name, and mixer routing will then remain the same.
- Make your song as you normally would.
- When you add more sounds than empty placeholders, make sure to add the right color and name to those, for consistency. If you notice that you have more sounds than placeholders very often, adjust your template to have more empty placeholders.
This method will save you an enormous amount of time, and I really encourage you to do it. Also, a template is not set in stone. You may find that your workflow changes over time. If you feel like your template is holding you back in that workflow, take some time to change the template. The template is meant to take some work out of your hands. If you notice that it actually is more work to change things every time, it’s better to change your template.
Lastly, you can also make different templates for different occasions. Maybe you make different genres, and have different workflows for that. You can make separate templates for these. Whatever works for you.
Here are some tutorials on how to make templates in other DAWS:
I considered giving you my template as free download, but I think it can actually be counterproductive. The right template for you depends a lot on your production style. What type of genre do you produce? How much sounds do you use on average? How much control do you want? Those are things that you have to answer for yourself when making your template. Otherwise, if you use someone my template, the choices I made in my template may be in the way of making your own choices in your template. So before you continue to the next lesson, have a go at making your own template. Good luck!