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Using DAW Templates To Improve Your Workflow

Using DAW Templates

Tips to make your workflow increase your productivity.

Before the digital era, session preparation could be a headache: zeroing the console, patch every outboard processor you were going to use, setting up the tape machine, having an assistant take notes of every setting, etc, could take some valuable studio time.

But nowadays, in the era of DAWs, there are no excuses to save time, and templates, are a must, so, I’m gonna give you some tips for setting up templates that really work for me and saves me lots of precious time.

Set up various templates for different type of projects.

So, first things first: every type of project, should have a template. This means that, for example, you should have one template for recording sessions and a different template for mixing.

To this day, I have four different templates up and ready to use in different situations:

  • TV/Radio Commercial Template
  • Scoring Template
  • Recording Session Template
  • Mixing Template

Let’s talk about how my templates are setup so you can think ideas for your own templates:

TV/Radio Commercial Template

Radio Commercial Template

My most simple template is the one I have for TV/Radio commercials. It only has five audio tracks, a buss aux, a master fader track, and an aux track:

The first track is Music, I have this set to -15dBfs, which seems to be a good starting point, and it outputs to my main output, and also, to a headphone mix via pre-fader aux send, so the talent can have a different mix when recording a voice-over. The next track is VO, obviously for voice-over recordings, again, this goes straight to my main output and to a headphone bus via pre-fader aux send.

Below that, I have a VO edit track, so, once the talent has finished recording, I can make my edits, and have them on this track, while keeping everything the artist recorded in the previous track. This track also has a plugin chain inserted: De-esser > Compressor > EQ > Maximizer (just in case). My plugins already have some starting point preset loaded to save some time.

Next, I have 2 SFX tracks, just in case I need them. Nothing too special, they go straight into an SFX Buss.

My master fader track already has inserted iZotope Ozone 7 with an EQ, Multiband Dynamics, Exciter, and Maximizer, ready to be tweaked and iZotope Insight, just to know my levels, dynamic range, LUFS, etc.

Finally, I got a Reverb aux track, just in case. One really important thing is to have everything color-coded so you will never get lost!

One really important thing is to have everything color-coded so you will never get lost!

As I track through a Universal Audio Apollo, using UAD plugins to track, I also have inserted the Console Recall in the master fader track, just in case I need to re-record something on another day.

Scoring Template

Scoring Template

My scoring template is quite simple. I have a big Kontakt session with all the instruments I mostly use, MIDI tracks for every Kontakt instrument, five MIDI tracks for my hardware synths, some synths from the Arturia V Collection with their MIDI tracks, four audio tracks for recording some live instruments, Aux tracks with the returns of every Kontakt and external hardware audio, Buses for each family of instruments, two reverbs and one delay, plus a stereo track named PRINT.

So, every MIDI track is color-coded and grouped into folders, so, from the top I’ve got all my woodwind MIDI tracks into one folder, then all brass MIDI tracks into another, strings, percussion, ethnic/world, synths (both VST and hardware), pianos/keys, vocals/choirs.

Next, I’ve got the audio returns for every woodwind, which in turn outputs to a woodwind Buss channel, and the same is true for every other category, next, my four audio tracks, my master fader which has iZotope Ozone 7 and iZotope Insight inserted; a small room reverb aux track, a hall reverb aux track and a delay aux track and finally a Print track for mixdown.

Recording Template

Recording Template

My recording template is a little bit more complex because I use three different mixes:

KICK – outputs to an ALL DRUMS buss track and to two different phones mixes. (via pre-fader aux send)

KICK SUB – again, outputs to ALL DRUMS buss, but not to phones, also the fader is set at -6dBfs

SNR T – outputs to ALL DRUMS and phones mixes.

SNR D – just outputs to ALL DRUMS

RACK TOM – panned a little bit to the left and outputs to ALL DRUMS and to phones mixes.

FLOOR TOM – is panned 50% right and again, outputs to ALL DRUMS and to phones mixes.

OH L and OH R – panned hard left and hard right outputs to ALL DRUMS and to phones mixes

PERC L and PERC R – Panned left and right outputs to PERCUSSION buss and phones mixes

BASS – outputs to a buss named “ALL MUSIC” and to phones mixes.

GTR 1 and GTR 2 – hard left and hard right panned outputs to ALL MUSIC and to both headphone mixes.

KEYS 1 and  KEYS 2 – panned left and right (about 50%) outputs to ALL MUSIC and headphones.

VOX – Outputs to ALL VOCAL buss and headphones.

CHOIR 1 and 2 – Outputs to ALL VOCAL and headphones.

MASTER – just has a limiter inserted

ALL DRUMS, PERCUSSIONS, ALL MUSIC and ALL VOCAL busses just output to my main outputs.

CLICK – I’ve got a buss just for the metronome which outputs just to headphones mixes.

Mixing Template

Mixing Template

My mixing template looks a lot like the recording template, but I have some plugins already inserted, plus three reverb and one delay aux tracks. Of course, I don’t have any headphone cue mixes and no click buss.

I have compressors inserted on KICK, SNR T, OH L, and OH R, BASS, GTR 1 and GTR 2, VOX and CHOIR 1 and 2, plus EQs on every track. Also have Buss compressors on ALL DRUMS, ALL PERCUSSION, and master. My reverbs are a small Room, a medium Room, and a Plate, and my delay is a tape echo.

This template, also have markers: I’ve got 8 bars of INTRO, 8 bars of VERSE1, 8 bars of PRE-CHORUS1, 8 bars of CHORUS1, VERSE2, PRE-CHORUS2, CHORUS2, SOLO, BRIDGE, CHORUS3, CODA

All of these really save me lots of hours a month and for sure a couple of days a year!

Hope these examples will serve you as a starting point to create your own templates. If you have any questions, just shoot them in the comments below!

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