The official website showcasing the music of Yellowgold, produced by Jason Howell.

Creating a template for future projects

Do you have a template? If you don't, I'm going to share some things that I've done that REALLY help keep you on track with all of your projects.

Templates are important for a couple of reasons:

1. They allow you to save time getting into your new project when it really counts. Often the very start of my new track is when I'm most driven to start something new AND often that is also when the idea for something is freshest in my mind. A template allows me to get right to the production part without any hassle along the way.

2. When set up to my taste, a template allows me to define a standard approach to my song production. This saves me in the long run cause, for example, my guitar tracks are always color coded the way I expect. Or, as another example, I always have 4 vocal tracks dialed in since I almost always have two doubles for each vocal harmony. Those are just a few examples.

Creating a template might take some extra time in the beginning, but sometimes it's good to open up a few of your older projects and take a good look at how you structured them in the end. Is there a reverb that you always use in an auxiliary bus? Is there a master bus compression that is always there in every track? (You might keep it bypassed or deactivated in the template so it isn't ON by default but that still saves you time of looking for it later. It's already there.) Do you route similar instruments to a comp track for easy mixing later?

And as you use the template for projects after the fact, refine them. Sometimes I'll use a template a few times and realize I have this new thing that I do with new tracks. So the next time I load up the template to use it for a new song, I'll take the two minutes to add to it (or subtract from it) and re-save as the template file (or a brand new one if I have multiple approaches for different style tracks.)

So how do I set up my template file? I work in Pro Tools, so all of this happens there. Here are some of the main tweaks I've set up:

My template project

  • 1 Click track (bypassed)
  • 1 Aux bus for ALL all (basically, an aux stage before the master output)
  • 1 Aux bus for ALL vocals
  • 1 Aux bus for ALL drums/percussion
  • 1 Aux bus for ALL music (not already covered by previous aux busses)
  • 1 Aux bus for ALL effects busses
  • 1 Aux bus for ALL guitars (then routed into the ALL music bus)
  • 1 instrument track with Battery loaded up, favorite drum preset loaded (routed into ALL drums)
  • 1 Bass track (routed into ALL music bus)
  • 1 Piano track (MiniGrand, deactivated, routed into ALL music)
  • 1 Guitar track (mono, routed into ALL guitars)
  • 1 Guitar track (stereo, routed into ALL guitars)
  • 6 vocal tracks (for harmonies and layering, routed into ALL vocals)
  • 2 Aux busses for reverbs (routed into ALL effects bus)
  • 2 Aux busses for delays (routed into ALL effects bus)
  • 1 Aux bus for mic input
  • All Vocal tracks (not including aux bus) assigned to Vocals group
  • All Guitar tracks (not including aux bus) assigned to Guitars group

I've also color coded each type of instrument track, so I can easily tell at a glance what each track is.

The reason for all of the "ALL" aux busses is simply that I have finally stages at which I can mix the major components of my track easily. EVERYTHING is routed to one of those. Need more vocals across the board? Easy to do with the All Vocals bus. Interested in seeing what the project sounds dry without effects? Mute the ALL FX bus.

The ALL All bus is a last stage before hitting the master output. If I've messed up along the line and mixed everything a bit too hot, I can turn it down here before hitting the master output where I might have some bus compression staged. Ultimately, though, if I'm in the red at this point, I usually end up re-mixing the entire project before its competed anyways. But its nice to have this easy control while I'm CREATING music.

Over time, by using this template repeatedly, I spend less time worrying about setting things up, or understanding what I'm looking at, and more time actually creating. Important when you simply want to get that idea out as efficiently as possible.

Next, I'll discuss how I get started with a track using my template file.