A template for success
DAW templates are among the most effective ways to organise your musical workflow. So much time can be lost browsing and waiting for a plugin to be instantiated, and sometimes you can even feel the excitement at a good musical idea fizzling out as you browse for a sound. The issue for those who work with electronic music tools is that not only do we have to think about ‘the notes’, we also have to think about the sounds those notes will play, which means we’re constantly toggling between being musicians/ composers and then programmers/ engineers, looking for the right sounds to do our ideas justice.
Most musicians are prepared to compromise on the finer details of sounds until the songwriting/ composing stage of their work is complete, so long as the sounds in front of them are inspiring enough to allow a good idea to be explored. Enter the template. This is a working environment for your DAW which can be tailored to your specific musical needs. If you’re a songwriter who likes to work chords out on the piano before recording guitar through a microphone, then entering a basic idea for a bassline via a favourite plugin and finally adding basic drum grooves via a specific library, why would you open a blank document in your DAW each time if, almost always, you reach for these same instruments and audio tracks? Wouldn’t it be better and more timesaving to have a track saved with your specific preferences and instrument choices, so that you can have all of those sounds ready and waiting in front of you? Yes, it would. Perhaps a better example would be a template for those composing music for picture. Junkie XL (aka Tom Holkenborg) has switched his career from producing stadium-filling dance music to that of a film composer (his scores include Mad Max: Fury Road and Deadpool) and his Studio Time With Junkie XL series on YouTube is well worth a watch. His composing template extends to over 1,000 tracks so every time he sits down to work, every orchestral section, with every possible articulation, in every different size of orchestral group from solo to massed orchestral players is available. Alongside these, he has a huge array of drum libraries (third-party ones, as well as those he’s made himself), access to a phenomenal collection of hardware synths and vast swathes of instrument plugins too. Add to this, effects solutions aplenty, so when he finds a sound he likes, he’s ready to place it in one or more ‘spaces’.
Now, you might be thinking, isn’t that overkill? Even the fastest computers in the world would take several minutes to load up that level of track count, so what do you do if inspiration strikes and you don’t want to drum your fingers on the table, restlessly awaiting your computer to complete the loading process just for you to have access to a single piano plugin? The solution is to make several templates to cover your assorted needs. At the very beginning of the writing process, perhaps limiting yourself to a piano, some ensemble strings (rather than dedicated instruments for every string section) and a couple of percussive instruments to provide momentum might be enough to allow you to get up and running quickly. This will be particularly effective if the instruments and effects settings within this smaller template are a pared-down version of the larger one, as translating these scratch ideas into more sophisticated ones will be more straightforward. Templates aren’t the only way to streamline your creative process but they’re among the most worthwhile.
The solution is to make several templates to cover your assorted needs