Blank Slate vs Heavily Templated Projects

Hey folks, I’m interested to hear how everybody is thinking about how much “default configuration” you’re choosing to leave in your DAW, vs starting with a completely blank project every time.

My current project is pretty heavily templated and I vacillate between loving and hating that. On the one hand it boxes me in to patterns and prevents work that wasn’t really “hard” to do, but on the other hand it can help speed up sketching ideas. How are other people thinking about this?

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i feel like an idiot because i made a new basic template last september which i delete every time i open ableton to start work

it’s becoming a reflex so i either need to admit i don’t need this one and scrap it or make one which fits how i plan to produce going forward

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Good question. I switched to Bitwig about a month ago. Though I pretty quickly learned how to have fun with it- I havent yet learned how to finish a track that sounds good. I was thinking of making a template forcing me to start with a simple muti-track recorder audio workflow and then I would only add in modulation and loops that were needed. Starting with too much of this stuff, and getting lost, hasnt really helped me be productive.

Though part of me just thinks I need to rediscover some discipline.

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i do not use templates. :expressionless: i was forced to use them while producing advertising at Pandora for 2 years :expressionless: it turned me into the ghastly site you see before you today :expressionless: the commercialism of capitalism will destroy us all :expressionless: don’t give in to the template: they are trying to quantize our lives. everyone must fit the grid :expressionless: the grid is all-knowing, all-powerful, everyone has their square :expressionless: know your square :expressionless: stick to your square :expressionless: you are not a round peg :expressionless: you are just a square :expressionless: that’s all you’ll ever be :expressionless: the template is king. the template is your friend :expressionless: your elder brother :expressionless: your lover :expressionless: your children. “little boxes, on the hillside… and they all look just the same”…

</smacks himself in the face> i’m sorry, what were we talking about? oh right, templates, y’know i tried em out at a job(:joy_cat:) and although i don’t like em much for my own creativity, i actually see them as being quite powerful: at the very least, i keep saving presets of the channel-strips… instead of using templates(the presets often get recombined and become more like a meta-template that evolves over time).

:smiley_cat: (:expressionless:)

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ok this is extremely relatable

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That was an amazingly high fidelity transcription of the internal dialog that follows most of my spoken words these days.

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Every time I set up my daw (live) with a default template I end up pretty instantly being annoyed with whatever I did, live with it for a few months, and inevitably go back to a clean slate. Similarly, every time I’ve tried to do some default patch cables I don’t unplug on the modular for a specific patch, it just makes me not want to create.

In contrast, I do like having everything on the patch bay, though the normaling I don’t do a very good job of (the next time I rewire I might try again).

I am interested in figuring out some sort of “templating” that works for me without the mental overhead it seems to cause me that doesn’t.

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I use a very basic template in Ableton which has all of my CV Tools settings saved for use with an ES-3 and a bunch of audio tracks routed to the inputs of my audio interface, which is in turn rooted to a patch bay. Basically it allows me to turn on the computer and sync my clock module (PNW) to it pretty much instantly along with giving me one CV-Tools “voice” coming out of the ES-3 if I choose to use it. It also routes my most-used pieces of equipment to individual tracks in Ableton, which I can quickly re-route via the patch bay.

It probably saves me 5 minutes but it is an incredibly important 5 minutes for me. If I’ve found something I’m excited about and want to record, I want to be able to get it down as quickly as possible otherwise I’ll lose the thread. Somehow the physicality of re-routing via the patch bay lets me still feel connected to what I’m working on, while re-routing with a mouse puts up some kind of block - a kind of haze of boredom/tedium - that I then have to work to get out of. It has really helped me record more material - whether that’s a good or bad thing might be up for debate though :wink:

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It’s funny you mention this - I actually love CV tools and use them a lot, but I can’t include them in my default setup because doing so crashes Ableton on launch 100% of the time! :frowning:

Something to think about as an a possible alternative in Live is just saving Channel Templates. You can do this by creating a folder in User Library called Templates, and then configuring your channel the way you want it, and click and dragging that channel into your Templates folder. I have one of these for every hardware instrument I work with.

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Wow - I definitely don’t have those issues. What OS are you using? Nice tip with the Channel Templates idea. I might give that a try for some templates for processing drums.

lolllll


i think the more “static” your studio is, the more essential templates are. at the “templates are absolutely vital” end of the spectrum consider recording live drums with dozen mics. at the other end of the spectrum is lone op-1.

for a while a cassette deck was a vital part of my process so i had a live template that had channels setup for all the i/o to bounce and record in and out from the deck.

nowadays i’m in a “defaults are beautiful” season so i’m not using any sort of template.

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much of post production work is templated… and i absolutely despise working this way. nothing like having to fire up a 250 track protools session to mix VO and music. 99% of the time i start clean slate… and use templates only if i’m picking up something another engineer has done. personally, there is something that clicks in my mind when i create the tracks needed, and place them accordingly… also, i’m a firm believer in simple is efficient. if you have 16 SFX tracks, a buss, a VCA and print track for sfx… you’re working around all that at every move… for every element. if i open a template session, it’s always “wtf is this!??” one i made from scratch, is always “ahhh i remember this…”
probably just me though.
post is a different beast from music.
i used to have a vienna setup for scoring, (at work) which was audio and midi going back and forth over 2 machines.
that required a large template too and once it was setup, only got used like twice.
so much overkill.
making beats, i’ll typically make something that sounds good to me, save it as a template… then work from that to keep the mix and sound consistent between songs.
this way i get the same drum bus and master mix etc on each track.
kind of a template.
audio is so strange, as every element is so unique…
just makes sense to me that it’s not worth predicting most of the time!
haha

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I have templates for different tasks which primarily focus on I/O and routing and have a couple of the plugins/meters/utilities that I know I use on essentially everything.

I update and tweak them as my processes or hardware change. I keep a notebook for mixing/recording notes and when I think of something I want to improve about the template based on actually using the template I add it to a checklist. Sometime when I’m feeling like doing computer muckery/not feeling creative but want to work/in a tool-sharpening mood I sit down and improve the template based on that checklist. It’s often very subtle adjustments or the result of a change in my creative practice or hardware.

I have different templates for:

  • recording instruments
  • mid/side recording
  • beat-centric music making (which not my personal default so I have this one as an alt to my usual practice).
  • mobile/on location recording
  • mastering

These aren’t super dialed or packed with stuff. Really mostly about routing and configuring based on hardware—I do a bunch of in/out the box stuff so having that plumbing set up and consistent helps me work faster. Or configured for mobile recording which is an RME babyface+Cranborne ADAT instead instead of my Merging Hapi and so different channel counts etc. Every template has a “laptop only” channel to bypass the studio hardware outs—if I’m working away from my studio and don’t have all the hardware i/o I can still use the project and edit takes etc in an airport or hotel room or whatever and then easily flip it back to the hardware when I’m at my studio again.

When I’m just sitting down and not sure what I’m doing/exploring/improvising/etc I tend to use the Recording template unless I’m messing with beats in which case I use the beat making template (has some sampler plugs etc configured).

If I didn’t have these templates it would probably take 20mins or more of just assigning channels and sends and aux etc every time I want to make music.

The recording/creating templates get used all the way through to printing a stereo mix. That stereo mix gets imported to the mastering template for mastering.

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Now that Live 11 has a Templates folder in the Browser, my default template is a single MIDI track and otherwise empty. Then I have a couple of other templates for various routings that are a bit time consuming to set up, which I use some of the time.

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I’m on Windows 10, Live 10. My suspicion is that M4L takes time to initialize in the background and either a race condition or a timeout happen and crash the DAW. I cannot use M4L devices in templates or presets anywhere because of this, it’s always been this way, just assumed it was normal!

I use templates but never save any. What I mean by that is that I waste time setting up similar essentials, from memory and habit, every time I begin (or work my way through) a new session, channel, etc, all because (paradoxically) I’m just too lazy or distracted to save a useful template.

I installed Live 11 only today and haven’t time to try it, but it sounds from this thread that templates are easier than ever to get set up and load. I like the sound of it!

In modular I nearly always unpatch everything at the end of a session. Often I just can’t get my head around whatever I was up to last time, or no longer have need of it. But it’s a good ritual too, cabling up from nowt.

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I tried to work with templates. In the box and out of the box in the studio.
In the studio i mean with everything patched up into a template into the computer.
Every Time i’ve set up things like this I want to work in a different way again. So now I mostly work with no template.
Empty desk and clean session.

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I guess I should preface this by saying I work in Logic, so it’s always going to be a little different between DAWs…

I’m a big fan of templates, channel strip settings, and presets on plugins. It works for me because often, I’m trying to work fast and get an idea out that I can tinker with later. I’ve spent a lot of time doing the routing for my template, but that’s because I just know certain things about how I want to mix my work at this point. None of these parts of my template are ‘permanent’, but being able to plug in a guitar, or a mic, or turn on a synth, and immediately have a familiar and workable base is a huge help.

The other thing is, at least for me, if something isn’t connected and ready to go, I’m far less likely to utilize it in a project.

So, neither totally blank, nor totally rigid. Somewhere in-between where I’ll be comfortable with my tools but not forcing the same ideas out of them.

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Same here – I use Logic’s “Channel Strip Settings” as starting places for each new track I add depending on the instrument and the vibe, and then I have a mastering channel strip setting (but for that one everything’s zeroed and I’m dialing it in based on what the track needs)

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