001 – workflow

Where to begin. I will aim to have a new one of these up every week from now on. I can keep my head in the game and hopefully teach a few of you some new tricks. One topic per post, keeping it nice and simple.

I will start with workflow, particularly when it comes to DAW use. I use Ableton Live, however many of these ideas translate well to other software.

It’s really important, for me, that I have everything ready for me when I start. I go through different phases of how I like to write, so near the start of each phase I will set up my Ableton default Live Set and default Audio and MIDI Tracks to suit the particular style. It’s unbelievably more efficient when you already have initialised an EQ, Compressor, and whatever else you find yourself using time after time. This way you can more easily keep your head on the creative aspect, instead of messing about so much with the processing tools you need to put onto each track. This same idea applies to the overall default Live Set. Currently, I only use audio tracks, so I have those all ready to go. My master channel is also setup with the tools I use on there, including a gentle Glue Compressor, a Spectrum Analyser, and a gain-staged Limiter for mix reference.

On the topic of processing tools, Ableton also allows one to set default configurations for each device. If you find yourself always high-passing, set that as a default so it is all ready to go on your tracks. I often set these up with the effect unit off, or on 0% wet, so the parameters are close to where I usually have them, but it’s simpler for me to dial it in for the specific sound and use.

Sample organization is also a huge key for me here. Many sample packs already come well organized, so sometimes this is very simple to do. I also split mine by style or genre. While I generally write in the mid-120bpm range, I find myself using samples from entirely different genres. In order to know where I am in my sample library, I have these split up so I can find exactly what I want in the moment.

All of this comes down to personal comfort, of course, so it’s important to experiment and decide how you like to work personally. As always, backups are hugely important. Not just for your Live Set files, but your samples and presets as well. If the worst happens and you need a new production machine, it will save you immeasurable time and stress by having everything backed up so you can start from where you left off.

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