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Are Recording & Mixing Templates A Bad Thing?

If you have been around the engineering and production space for the last decade you’ve probably noticed an uptick in the availability of templates.   Looking at various audio forums and even speaking to engineers about this phenomenon you are bound to find differing opinions on the matter.  

What Are Templates?

In the world of audio engineering, templates are pre-made sessions for a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) that have tracks with plugins already inserted on them.  These plugins oftentimes already have settings made on them.  The tracks are already labeled, organized and, all of the routing is already done.  Basically you open up a template and can immediately get to work either tracking (recording) or mixing.

Who Are They For?

When I began my career as an engineer I was surrounded by “older” guys that had been in the industry all the way back to the days of actually cutting tape (not just learning about it in school like me).  Ask many of these engineers about templates and they will scoff and give you a verbal lashing about how templates are for lazy folks, or how they start everything from scratch and don’t use templates because every song/session is different.

While it is true that (in general) every session is different, it is also true that back in the day there was a practice amongst engineers and assistants working in studios called zeroing out.  What this process entailed was taking the console and every piece of analogue gear back to their default settings (typically 0 on the knobs, faders all the way down, nothing patched, etc).  Unless they were working in their own personal studio, this made leaving a “template” impossible.

“Every song is different”

Fast forward to now where we have the ability to open up a DAW such as Pro Tools or Logic and immediately have tracks laid out with settings for EQ, compression, and effects already dialed in it would stand to reason that logically (no pun intended) a template can help you work faster.  This is the key benefit I believe naysayers are missing.  Truth be told I was one of these people for about a decade!

Okay Del you’ve still not answered the question of who they are for.  

You are right.  Let’s look at the Pros and Cons of templates

Pros Cons
Saves time Allows you to get going and finished quickly
Preset EQ, compression, and effects settings Not every song is the same and preset plugin settings wont always work
Great learning tool for new engineers Some of your peers will label you as lazy 


Wait wait wait! The cons list isn’t bad at all.

Exactly!  Once you get out of your ego (or the ego of an older engineer that started when templates weren’t an option) you realize how


ial templates can be to streamlining your workflow.  So to answer the question plainly, templates are for anyone from beginner to seasoned pro.  How each uses them is what differs.

How To Use Them

For the beginner, templates can provide insights to how others work or how to achieve sounds similar to a particular artist, engineer, or style of music.  Some commercial studios even even tracking templates that most of the engineers, especially new ones, are expected to use. 

For the seasoned pro templates can also provide insights to how others work but one of the secrets of great tracking and mixing engineers that are able to consistently perform at high levels is their own templates.  These personalized templates, typically allow the user to manage sessions of various sizes and to move very quickly.  Some engineers, like Andrew Scheps, have managed to over the years create what they call a master session that includes various assortments of tracks and processing that pretty much gives them options of signal chains they have crafted that “typically” work on X genre(s).  

Do you use templates?  Why or why not?


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