[Due Update] Using a Template for Production (2012)

I’ve created a template in Reaper in order to help my workflow in future tracks. So here’s a brief explanation on what I’ve done, why I’ve done it, and how it’s been designed to aid me in my compositions and song writing. First of all, here’s a screen shot of the arrangement view, and I’ll go through exactly what I have available to me when I first open up Reaper.

The Tracks

Ideas Track – This is simply a Piano running in Kontakt. It means that a soon as I open up my project, I can start playing around with melody/harmony ideas. I can record these and copy them into my other tracks however I want.

Drum Bus – This is an accumulation of Battery 3 and some of my favorite samples. I’m currently trialing using Battery, as mentioned in previous posts, I used to use Ableton, and I had similar samples loaded up in a Drum Rack, but seeing as I’ve not invested in the Komplete 8 package, I thought I’d take advantage of using a more advanced sampler.  Battery is sending out the different samples into a number of busses that I’ll briefly talk about later.

Impacts – Here I have a a few audio tracks where I can simply drop samples of ‘impacts’ or ‘explosive’ types of sounds, to layer up the texture of a track.

Synths – Within this group of tracks, I have a few different basic synth patches that I’ve created as defaults that I can then manipulate and change to suit the track I’m writing. Currently, these are simply different versions of Massive, but I’ll soon change them to different synths depending on what I’m writing and what I need them for.

Vox – I have a simple mic set up in the studio, in case I want to lay down some vocal ideas, so these are simply audio tracks hooked up to my soundcard for those purposes.

Air/Sweeps – These are a few audio tracks for me to drop samples of sweeps/swooshes/wwweeeeeee sounds. However you want to describe them. These are often used for build-ups or texture purposes. ‘Air’ (such as wind, vinyl noise etc) can be used to open up a track, and add that room to breath. I can make a track feel more natural/organic, a technique used by a number of different producers.

Effects – This is a group of general effects most commonly used on my productions, and we’ll look at these in further down.

The Mixer

So here’s the mixer… You may have noticed that I’ve colour coded the different groups. This is simply so that it’s easier for me to see what’s where, so that I can quickly find what I need. This also makes it easier if I’m collaborating with people. They can easily look at each main group (the larger fader) and then look at the individual instruments within that track. Obviously whilst working on a track, and can change labels and make a more relevant or detailed connection between the name and the sound. Currently they’re simply things like ‘Sub’, ‘Bass’, ‘Lead’, etc.

On each track I’ve placed a flat EQ to be edited later. I believe you should never use ‘stock’ EQs. What I mean by that is you shouldn’t presume that even if you’re using the same sound/sample, that the EQ should be the same for every track your working on. Each track will have a different feel/sounds that will interact with each other differently, so they will require different EQs for each song your working on.

You may notice that I have then set up sends on different tracks to their most commonly related effect. In general Reverb will be used on most tracks, Delay, Distortion and a Widener will only be used on particular tracks, dependent on the song itself.

I haven’t placed any compressors on any of the tracks apart from a simple Drum Bus compressor. This is purely for the same reason as the EQs. You will not always need to compress a sound, so what’s the need to having it there until you need it?

Structure

You may have noticed this on the arrangement view. I have used regions and markers to help the structure of my compositions. This is something that I have sometimes struggled with in the past. It’s not that I can’t structure my pieces, but this is a simple way of reminding me about it. I’ve used a standard structure found in a lot of electronic music such as Dub-Step or House music. The markers half-way through each region are simply to remind me about introducing something new, and the are colour coded to remind me about the relations between sections etc.

I believe this template is going to help a great deal in my workflow, and in my creative flow. It will help me to sit down, and start with creating the music first, creating the instruments, and then finally producing. Hopefully I won’t get lost in what I should be doing, and this will help me to keep organized in the future a lot more. Below are a couple of video that helped to make me realize a few of these ideas, with thanks to Vespers and Dodge & Fuski. They can seem cheesy, but they’re completely relevant for people in my position and within the industry…

[Due Update] Preparing to Produce Music (2012)

Yesterday I decided to start improving my workflow. It’s been something I’ve had planned to do for a while. Simple things like cleaning and organizing the studio, creating folders and archives on my computer etc, buying external hard drives that I can store things on and make portable. Basically, everything any studio should do to get ready to create. It feels odd saying all of these, because in my head you should be able to create whenever you want with whatever you want, but to be honest when you have a day job, a house to clean and everything else to do with life it can be hard to simply sit down and start working that creative mind,  so these are simply things that I’ve done to make that process easier.

1. Clean the Studio

It’s something that should be done regularly if you’re anything like me. I have a habit of pulling out mic stands and cables, then just leaving them out set up thinking ‘I’ll use that again soon’, when in fact what really happens is I look through the doorway and go ‘It’s a mess in there, I don’t wanna work in there until it’s clean’. This just sets you back further, and discourages you from actually using the studio. So a rule I’m going to try and keep now is tidy after each session. This means that it’s clean when I next want to use it, and I don’t have to spend two hours cleaning it up again before being creative.

2. Clean the Computer

This might seem random, but it can be a very important part. So often I’ll open up track, and find that files are missing, or I can’t find the track I want to work on, or that preset that I thought I had saved. Also having tonnes of copies of tracks scattered around the hard drive, never knowing which one was the most recent edit. There are a few things that I’ve done to improve this.

1. Create a folder system – This is something that really effects your workflow, it makes it easy to find things and means that sorting out stuff in the future is a lot easier. This actually took me a few days to sort out, as the first thing I did was ARCHIVE. It’s so easy to just accumulate all of your work and leave it where it is. This just takes up HD space, and slows down your computer, you also then end up with shed loads of copies, which becomes even harder to sort out when archiving, and even worse when you’re trying to keep two different computers organized. So, what do these look like? It’s simple.

On my desktop I have these Icons/Folders, and that’s it. I have a copy of my CV (as I’m currently looking for more work) but obviously it’s useful to have this handy when applying for work, or to add to. It also means that I don’t have to go crawling through all my documents to find the most recent copy. The Next folder is simply ‘Finished Projects’. This is what it sounds like. When I’ve finished a track or recording, the project folder and bounce go into this folder, ready to be called up if needed, but more importantly, it’s now out of the way, and I don’t feel like I have to go back and work on it again. It’s FINISHED.

Secondly I have a portable HD. This has a similar file system to what I have on my desktop, but it’s used to switch between computers when I’m wanting to work on different things. For example if I’m working on a mix down, I’ll be using it on my desktop to take advantage of my monitors, so I’ll open up the ‘Work in Progress’ Folder and work out of that. I have a samples folder so that I know where they all are, presets, so that I don’t lose them all the time, Archives for backup and finished work, then some of the others are obvious. It’s always useful to carry around a folder containing backups of Install files also (Setups), in case you ever have a system crash whilst you’re on the road and find yourself having to re-install all of your drivers etc. Yes, you can go and download them all again, but if you have access to them straight away, it makes life a lot easier.

3. Create Templates

Now this is something that I’m actually going to post separately, and look into with a little bit more detail, but I’ll give you a general idea now. Templates can be useful for a number of reasons. Obviously if you’re a DJ using something like Ableton Live, a you can set up a project/template so that you can just drag tracks in, warp them, and have the project ready with your favorite control surface so that you’re ready to mix straight away. Another reason which I have discovered more recently is simply to break the barrier that stops me from being creative, and that’s the ‘New Song’ syndrome. What is this I hear you ask? Well, basically when starting a new track you might start with a synth line, so you open up your software (wait for it to load) then you create a new track (wait for it to load) then you drop a VST onto the track (wait for it to load) then you create your instrument (bass, sub, kick, whatever). Ok, so you’ve done that, now I don’t know about you but I’ll pretty much EQ everything, so you drop an EQ on there, then maybe a compressor, then maybe you set up a send to some reverb, delay, distortion or whatever else the kids are using these days.

Hey look, we’ve made ONE track with a few notes and we’ve had to do all of that? How about the other 20+ we’re about to add to that? You may realize I’m getting frustrated, this is purely down to the fact that I’m annoyed that I never did this years ago.

Below is a screen shot of a template I’ve recently created to cure this itch, and in my next post I’ll be going into more details on what it contains and why I’ve done it, and also I’ll be posting up soon as to why I am now using Cockos Reaper, and not using Ableton or Logic etc.