It’s been almost 20 years since digital recording has been a part of the mainstream. Back in the day, tracking sheets and mix notes were a part of everyday recording sessions, and we weren’t using words like file management and session templates. I fondly remember my first Pro Tools rig: a beige G3 with an Audiomedia 3 card, running Pro Tools 4.x. If I remember correctly, I was limited to 8 tracks of audio, but boy was it cool to have 8 tracks! At the time, I was extremely ignorant to the importance of workflow, and I just plodded along, with sessions taking as long as they took. That was back in the mid to late 1990’s, and now that I’ve been working in the business as a full-time producer, engineer, remixer and songwriter for over 10 years, I am constantly looking for ways to streamline my workflow.
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It’s easy to take the concept of customizing a session template for granted, especially when most of today’s DAW’s come with a few to get your started. Several years ago, I learned how valuable session templates were, when I was working on multiple albums for different artists at the same time. When you are faced with tracking 10-12 songs over a weekend, you will lose hours of crucial studio time if you don’t create a session template that you can use for each track. Since I began my recording career on mixing consoles, I gravitate towards setting up my templates somewhat like a hardware mixer. As you can see from screenshot #1, I have created Busses for each instrument group to the left of the Master Fader, and all of my Effect Returns are to the right of it. Every time I begin a new project, I use the ‘Import Session Data’ from the ‘File’ menu, and import these tracks. Depending on what the project requirements are, I may add plug-ins to the busses to save even more time. Another way, and probably the most efficient way to do this, is to just save the session as a template, and then select it from the list of session templates that appear in the startup dialog window when you open up a new session. My way of setting up session templates stems from using the older versions of Pro Tools, which did not allow users to create session templates.
For those of you who might not be sure how to fine tune, or even begin to conceptualize setting up your own, custom session templates, take notice of the commonalities between your sessions. In other words, if you setup your recording chain the same way from song to song, in terms of plug-ins, and effect sends, that’s a good place to start. And, you can create different templates for different parts of the recording process. Setup one for tracking and one for mixing. Think about how your brain works within your DAW, and take the time to customize your templates to work in conjunction with your brain, saving time and keeping your mind fresh. As producers and engineers, we should always look for ways to maximize our time and energy in the studio and on our mobile rigs, and using session templates is paramount in reaching that goal.