Joker Tone Course - DAW Presets and Templates

DAW Presets and Templates (Part 6)

In this sixth and final part of the DAW project organization series, we take a look at preset possibilities. Different DAWs offer different possibilities for DAW presets and templates, but they all have something in common. They are designed to save you time so that you have more time for the creative parts!

DAW Presets and Templates: The difference

I believe that you know already what a preset and a template are. We all use this all the time in different contexts or in our daily work with different programs or apps.

But if you have to explain some differences, it won’t be that easy. I googled for the best explanation and while I found many, here is one that I liked the most, that fits also the way I see it and might be used inside a DAW:

Preset settings are generally less flexible since they are designed to provide optimal results without further adjustments. Templates, in contrast, are meant to be customized; they provide a basic structure that requires additional input to become complete and functional.“

Additionally, I would say that a Template is your STARTING POINT, while with a preset, you look for a nearly PERFECTLY FIT for the usage.

Both templates and presets are tools that support us in our creative work when writing, recording, or mixing. However, they have different purposes:

  1. Templates:
  • In a DAW, templates are essentially starting points for new projects. They are predefined arrangements of tracks, instruments, effects, and settings that you usually use when you start a new project.
  • These templates can include things like track layouts (e.g., drums, bass, guitar, vocals, etc.), routing configurations, default plugins, mixer settings, and much more.
  • The whole point of templates is to save time by providing a pre-configured setup tailored to your typical workflow or the requirements of a specific project type (e.g., hip-hop, rock, film score).
  • You can create custom templates based on your preferences, workflow, or the requirements of different project types.
  1. Presets:
  • Presets in a DAW are pre-configured settings for individual instruments, effects, or plug-in parameters within a project.
  • They allow you to save certain configurations or sounds that you have created or customized for later use.
  • A preset can be, for example, a specific guitar tone, a vocal reverb setting, a synth patch, or a drum sound.
  • Presets can be saved and recalled within the same project or even across projects, ensuring a consistent sound and speeding up the workflow.
  • Many plugins and virtual instruments come with various presets designed by the manufacturer, and users can also create and save their presets.

To summarize the difference between DAW Presets and Templates: templates are used to set up the structure and configuration of a new project. In contrast, presets are used to save and recall specific settings or sounds within a project. Both are valuable tools for improving the efficiency and consistency of music production workflows within a DAW.

Session Template

In the most common DAWs, when you start the app, you can choose whether you want to start from a template or with a new empty session. Meanwhile, you get so many templates from the DAW manufacturers that it’s getting confusing.

To be honest, I’ve never used a template that came with the DAW. On the one hand, they were often overloaded with possibilities, logically, the manufacturer wants to present what is possible with his DAW. On the other hand, they rarely matched my ideas or workflow.

So if you need a quick start for yourself, you should create your templates.

Option 1: Songwriting Template

A songwriting template is an excellent way to quickly record a new song idea and create the basis for the first demo. Virtual instruments can already be set up, such as drums, a keyboard, and virtual guitar amps.

The whole process then has a plug-and-play feel, as you don’t have to think about it for long and can start recording straight away. You can also customize these trays to a desired genre.

I have created two different songwriting templates that I can start with straight away, depending on the genre of the song. I also have a template for recording podcasts.

Option 2: Template Session for Imports

An alternative to the various saved templates is to create a template session. All different types of tracks are listed in this session and can be imported into the active session as required. These can be complete instrument groups or complex effect groups with the corresponding routing.

One advantage of this template session is that you only have one template that you may have to manage in the future. The disadvantage arises when you want to make complex changes.

For a mixing session, I still like to use the import of templates from a template mixing session that I have created explicitly for mixing. Especially when I receive an order from clients to mix their songs, these templates are very helpful for me and save a lot of time when setting up a new session. As I am often completely unfamiliar with the client’s songs, I like to start with an empty session, create a rough mix, and import the necessary tracks from the template session at the end of the preparation.

I/O Settings (Routing Presets)

Routing is a central topic in an organized session, and I have already looked at this point in the fourth part of this series: DAW Session Routing (Part 4)

The I/O setting is the routing center for linking the inputs and outputs of the DAW, your interface, and the routing of the buses within your session.

If you have a “big” system with numerous inputs and outputs on your interface, you probably won’t need to change these settings very frequently. But if you only have a few inputs and outputs and need to be variable for certain recording and mixing setups, routing presets can immediately create the desired and appropriate state of your system.

I currently work with a Universal Audio Apollo system that offers me all inputs and outputs without having to make any major adjustments to my I/O settings. Once created and saved, it is safely stored and is called up again directly as “last used” with every new session.

This way, I can be sure that all routing settings are the same for all sessions. Of course, I have to be careful when making changes if I call up much older sessions that may have been created with an older interface setup. But even in this situation, there are only a few adjustments after the current I/O preset has been recalled and activated.

Track / Channel Presets

With a track preset, you can quickly create complete tracks with the corresponding plugins and routing settings you want. For example, if you have saved different guitar sounds or settings for the bass, you can call them up again immediately in other tracks.

In Pro Tools, you can quickly restore complex settings with just a few clicks. To keep track of all the presets, they can be stored in folders and labeled with keywords.

Before this option was available in Pro Tools, I always took the detour via my existing preset session and imported the desired tracks and their settings into the current session. That was easy, and I still use it sporadically, but saving updated settings is of course not as convenient as accessing the preset’s folder directly.

Plugin Presets

Plug-in presets can be saved in different ways. On the one hand, you have the option of saving the plugin preset directly in your DAW. The other option would be to save the plugin settings directly in the respective plugin, provided the plugin manufacturer allows this. You should also pay attention to the exact labeling because the more presets you save, the more confusing it can become.

Do you work with several programs, or are you planning to test a new DAW in the future? Then I can recommend saving the plug-in presets in the respective plug-in and not using the function of your DAW. This way, you can ensure that you can recall your settings at any time. Unfortunately, not all DAWs use a standardized plugin format.

Pro Tools, for example, uses the AAX format, while Luna from Universal Audio and Logic Pro from Apple use the AU format. When the settings are saved in the respective plug-in, they are stored in a folder that can be accessed by all formats. However, if your settings are saved in your DAW, you will not be able to access this data from another DAW. So if you are keen to work with your settings across systems, save your presets directly in the plugin and the corresponding folder.

Don’t get confused with the templates & presets

I often include a year number with template naming. These rarely change and remain the same for some time. So I can see exactly which was the last preset. Significantly older templates that were also assigned to an interface that no longer exists are then also deleted promptly.

Presets, on the other hand, can change occasionally or just get various variations. A structure should therefore be well-thought-out. Sorting the presets into specific folders, such as Recording or Mixing presets, has worked well for me. You should also pay attention to naming the presets appropriately. A nice option in Pro Tools is the additional tagging, which I should use more intensively myself.

Window Presets & Configuration (Pro Tools)

In Pro Tools, you can have presets for the windows you would like to see or recall with just a click or a shortcut. The window configuration refers to the arrangement and layout of various windows within the software interface. Pro Tools offers a highly customizable workspace, allowing you to arrange windows according to your preferences and workflow.

For Example:

  • Edit Window: This is where you do most of your audio editing, including arranging, cutting, and mixing audio tracks.
  • Mix Window: This window provides a comprehensive view of your session’s mixer, allowing you to adjust levels, add effects, and control various parameters for each track.
  • Transport Window: This window contains controls for playback, recording, and navigating through your session.
  • MIDI Editor: If you’re working with MIDI tracks, this window allows you to edit MIDI notes, velocities, and other parameters.
  • Score Editor: Pro Tools also offers a Score Editor window for working with musical notation.
  • Video Window: If you’re working with video, this window allows you to view and edit video content synced with your audio.

There are very deep customize options based on your workflow to resize, rearrange, and dock windows according to their preferences. Pro Tools also provides presets for different workflow scenarios, allowing you to quickly switch between different window layouts depending on the current task.

Link Tip: A nice short explanation from the blog of ProToolsTraining

What about other DAWs?

Most DAWs offer some form of window configuration or workspace customization. Here are some examples:

  • Cubase: Cubase offers customizable workspaces where you can arrange windows like the Project Window, Mixer, and various editors. According to your needs, you can save and recall different workspace configurations. (Link: Show off Video from Steinberg on YouTube)
  • Logic Pro: Logic Pro has customizable window layouts with you can arrange various windows like the Main Window (Arrangement, Mixer, Editor), Piano Roll Editor, Score Editor, and various other utility windows. All of course with the save and recall function. (Link: Show off Video from MusicTechHelpGuy on YouTube)

Conclusion of Preset

When you know what you need to work on fast, and where you want to start with your specific tasks like writing or mixing, all the templates and presets are a big factor in time-saving.

I hope that this little series within all the parts is helpful to you!

If you missed one part of the DAW project organization series, here is the full list

Part 1 – Preparing Tracking session

Part 2 – Track naming scheme

Part 3 – Track color scheme

Part 4 – Session Routing

Part 5 – Session Track order

Part 6 – Presets and Templates (this one)

If you like that kind of series, please let me know which topic would be interesting to you, and I can create a similar kind of series of blog entries.

If you have further questions or want to get in contact, please consider using the contact form

Niels from Joker Tone Course

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