Creating a Custom DAW Template – Maximize Your Workflow

By | March 25, 2015

Creating a custom DAW template is a wise move to make in order to create an efficient workflow for yourself. Repetition is great, but after you’ve reached a point, it’s only smart to create a set of tools that exist in a blank project and are ready to go. Read on about creating a DAW template for yourself and customizing it to fit your needs.

A DAW Template?

Basically, a template is a pre-configured project file that includes instruments, effects and other customization. These templates are made to quickly jump on the creative-wagon and start making music. Templates greatly reduce the stress and energy-usage of the mind, because a majority of the technical “nonsense” can be skipped.

In the simplest form, a DAW template could include a few instruments, such as a sampled piano and a synthesizer, a delay and reverb and a couple of drum hits, such as a kick drum and snare.

Of course, making a fully customized template for yourself is probably going to be more advanced than that, but that’s the point. When you have carefully constructed a custom template, it’s always there and you can use it to start every new project.

Whether it's a new production or a mix project, there's a template for it - easily loaded when creating a new session.

Whether it’s a new production or a mix project, there’s a template for it – easily loaded when creating a new session.

The Advantages

Speed, efficiency and workflow are the keywords for custom templates. The time you will spend on creating the same old plug-in and instrument chains will be massively reduced, and you’ll have more time producing music.

You will save hours and hours of precious time monthly. If you are anything like me, then you understand that there is a point in making templates. I tend to load the same instruments and plug-ins all the time into my projects – which is why I decided to create a template only for myself to use, and so can you.

Where to Start?

First, you’ll want to create a brand new, empty project. Then you need to think about what kind of instruments you tend to use in your productions.

Myself, I always have an instance of Native Instruments Kontakt dedicated to drums only, and another instance for melodic instruments. These are pre-loaded in my template with a few of my favorite patches in them, such as a Rhodes and a piano, ready to play and record.

Favorite effects and plug-ins are pre-loaded into a template and ready for usage.

Favorite effects and plug-ins are pre-loaded into a template and ready for usage.

The drum channels in Kontakt are always left blank, because I always load fresh drum samples into them. But that’s my workflow. You could have some hi-hats, kicks and claps already loaded into your template. The point is, have some sampler channels ready for some drum action.

After the basics are set, you could add a few effects buses to route instruments into. I always have a stereo delay set up so I can route pianos, pads and other melodic instruments into it.

Even with a simple template like this, you’ll have an easier time diving into the music mode, which can sometimes be hard if there’s only a blank slate available, bringing you back to the technical set-up barrier.

Advanced Routings

When you have configured your basic template, you could create some buses for all instrument groups. This workflow is incredibly efficient and logical in the long run.

You could create a bus for all drums, all music, all sound effects, all basses and so on. Then you will have to route the outputs of each specific instrument to their rightful buses.

The advantage of grouping instruments like this is, you can use the powerful mute-button to silence certain groups of instruments. Muting is an important mixing and arrangement tool, because it will bring ideas that wouldn’t surface otherwise and pinpoint problematic frequency areas.

After the busses are set, you could dedicate certain plug-ins for the buses if needed. A tape machine for all the drums, for example, or automated filters to bring some modulation to the table.

The master bus cannot be forgotten either. It’s of course smart to leave the master free of plug-ins if uncertain of what they do to the whole mix, but if you know how to use them and think that certain plug-ins contribute to your sound, then go ahead and place them there.

For my master bus duties, it’s always the SSL-style master bus compressor, 99% of the time. It’s always sitting on the master in my template, and when it’s time to switch it on, it’s only a click away, since my favorite settings for the compressor are already configured!

Master fader, instrument groups and 8 stereo tracks of drums are ready for some production action.

Master fader, instrument groups and 8 stereo tracks of drums are ready for some production action.

It’s Your Template

Remember, you are doing the template for yourself. You don’t need to listen to what I am using in my templates, because you are not me, and vice versa!

Along the years of music production, I have discovered certain plug-ins and instruments as well as workflows that are right for me, and I have included these in my templates.

You need to think and plan a little. Think about what you use in a repetitive manner in your music, and include those things in your templates. Because ultimately, it’s your sound. Your sound, which should be unique to stand out from the crowd in the first place.

So when creating your own custom DAW templates, think about that.


Is the concept of templates new to you? Have you thought about creating them but thought it’s too much of a hassle? Have you downloaded third-party templates to use in your own music? What are your thoughts on custom templates? Leave all comments below and I’ll get back to you.

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