When you start and have to learn many things about a new DAW, let’s say in this case Pro Tools, don’t make templates. When you’re getting good, know Pro Tools much better, then start to make templates to make your life easier and your work faster.
First it may seem a good idea to start out with templates. It’s faster, the chance of error is less, you’ve got ready to go things at your hands in the first minute. And that’s a good thing. Well, in my opinion, it may not. If you just start out, it’s better to learn the hard way, to always start from scratch so you really understand the structures, methods and workflows. If you try to skip the hard part, you’ll regret later. Nothing is more dangerous than a building with flimsy foundation. I know it’s tempting, but if you’re really serious about learning Pro Tools or any other DAW, don’t choose the easiest way. You really need to fail multiple times so that the process will be your second nature while you’ll succeed.
When and why?
When you’re getting good, knowing the basics, know some shortcuts and you hardly need to stop when you’re building a bigger session from scratch, then it’s time to delve into and make some templates. Templates makes your progress happen faster as almost everything can be set up when you want to start to edit or mix. If you build a really good mix template, then you only need to import the incoming audio into your session created from your template and start working immediately without the need to set up additional things. This is a huge timesaver.
How to start with it?
I recommend to grab a clean sheet of paper and plan your session template before the first mouse click. It may sound ridiculous, but believe me first you must know what your needs are, and only after this come the real building part. If you start before this learning process then you’ll have a half-baked session template with things that constantly need some tweak here or there. Even if you precisely know what you want, you may encounter a few errors in your own template which need some minor tweak, but after some short test period, you’ll have a very precise, dependable starting point.
Don’t underestimate! The worst thing you can do is to build a small template which always need some addition to it in order to really serve you. This is why I seriously recommend the planning on paper method. Ponder about how many effects you need, buses, VCAs, stereo and mono channels, etc. When you’re sure that you didn’t left anything out, wait a bit and start to investigate the almost perfect plan for possible errors and things you might left out by accident. Remember, it is always better to have few very good templates than to have so many you lose control over it and neither one is perfect for the given job.
So, the workflow may look like this:
- brainstorm (piece of paper, write down everything you might need)
- write or draw a kind of flowchart so you can see what is there and why
- pondering on what could possibly be missing
- add, subtract, revise after careful consideration
- pause for a minute to really think it over
- now you can start Pro Tools and start building your session template
- test your template for every possible things (routing, effects, stems, layout, etc.)
- modify if necessary
- test it again until it’s really ready to serve you
Next, we’ll take a look at the real-world method of how to build a template.