July 2011

The Importance of Setting Up Templates Within Your DAW

Parts 1 & 2 of a 3 part article courtesy of Loopmasters Blog.

Hey Producers,

This week we are going to look at the importance of setting up templates within your chosen DAW and how this will save you valuable time on your individual projects.

It will help to get your creative juices flowing much quicker by having all the tools you need ready at hand.

What is a DAW Template?

So what is a DAW  Template? Put simply most DAW’s will allow you to save a default project that contains your presets and chosen settings as a “template file”.  When you start a new project you can simply select a session that has been previously set up in your DAW and saved as your default autoload (or “template”) and it will load up everything according to your preferences. Many DAW’s such as Logic do come with different project templates, but I feel these probably won’t be very useful for your tailored needs.

Why Do We Need Templates?

I think the reason we should all use templates is quite simple really.  Think of it this way -  if we were all still purely in the analogue world would we want to have to set up the studio from scratch every time we wanted to start a new project?  What would be the point of that?

Most of us make music in the digital would now using a DAW to record, produce or both. So taking a bit of time to set up your DAW to suit your needs is a time-saver and allows you to get into making music more quickly.  Use this to your advantage!

Even if you still use all out board gear but record using a DAW, you should still set up a template so that your mixing desk correlates to the correct channels of your sound card inputs  – which in turn correlates with the correct input channels of your DAW. This example is a very simple template.  Why would you want the chore of setting this up every time?

In part 2 of this series, we will look at an example of a typical template I would use to create a electronic composition in Logic Pro 9.  Bear in mind that all of this tutorial will translate into other DAW’s and also any style of music you are composing or recording.

My personal typical template will include the following

• 10 midi channels with EQ and commonly used instruments
• 5 audio channels with EQ
• 8 buss channels with EQ with various effects
• Side-chain trigger set up -  either 1 audio channel or one midi channel with a kick drum that is set to pre-fader and sent to a buss channel with the output  turned off so it’s ready to trigger the side-chain of a compressor.
• Low Pass, High Pass filter, EQ and Limiter on the master channel.

Part 2.

Creating A Template From Scratch – MIDI / Audio Set Up

The first thing to do is open up a new project and start with a blank canvas.

As a starting block it is useful to start by creating  at least 5 audio tracks, 10  or so MIDI tracks and around 6 – 8 bus channels.

Once these are loaded into the project, the first thing to think about is what you you will generally always use in your productions.

One thing is for sure -  you will want to be able to EQ every channel. You can do this by inserting an EQ on all the channels, but many people prefer to set up busses for various frequency ranges and send channels to these busses.

How you choose to do this will depend on your prefrence, but also on your processing power – sending multiple tracks out to a few busses with various EQ settings on them means you won’t have to use as many instances of your EQs and will save on processing power. This also helps in giving your tracks some coherence as multiple tracks are set up with very similar EQ settings.

For beginners or those not as experienced with EQ this is probably easier to manage than having a separate EQ for each channel – and it can also be easier to find problem areas if  you are only having to tweak 4 or 5 EQs on busses to find the issue. However, this is a matter of preference – the main point is to ensure that whatever way you choose to go you spend a bit of time setting up default settings for you EQs – such as rolling of below 50Hz for example, to save time in future projects.

Audio Channels

As previously mentioned, your template should include a nice selection of audio channels, set up to work with your soundcard’s input and outputs.  I generally only use audio channels for effect sweeps and occasionally loops, so a few audio channels suits my needs. However, if you typically use use more audio than MIDI you will want to add more to your template to suit your general needs.

MIDI Channels

When setting up MIDI channels, a good next step is to think about is which instruments you generally use for your key elements -  beats and bass.

For example I generally always use Logic’s EXS sampler instrument for all my beats and percussion. So, I would load 8 out of the 10  or so MIDI  channels I create with EXS instruments and name them as follows.

  • Kick
  • Snare / Clap
  • Closed Hats
  • Open Hats
  • Perc 1
  • Perc 2
  • Perc 3
  • Side-chain trigger (kick from EXS instrument)

I would then also load up my “go-to”  Bass instrument that I generally use (in my case Arturia’s Minimoog).

Side-chain Set up

Now that you have your beats and bass channels set up, it’s useful to set up a side chain trigger.

To set up a side-chain trigger to create the ducking effect on chosen compressors, I use an EXS instrument that is loaded with a kick, draw in a 4/4 beat and loop this throughout the whole project. I then change the channel output from post-fader to pre-fader, send the signal to Bus1 and turn the gain on the EXS24 instrument all the way down.

I always use bus 1 for my sidechain trigger, so I name that bus channel “Side-chain”.  Once you’ve created your side-chain bus, change the output of the “Side-chain” bus to no output (so it is not audible.)

Now, if you want to side-chain any instrument to your beat, just add a compressor with side-chain capabilities to that instrument and and select bus 1 (now named “Side-chain”) for the side-chain trigger. You can change the compressor settings like attack, releases and ratio to suit your taste.

After you’ve done all this, you should have a few MIDI channels that are blank, allowing you to add whatever instruments you want to them during your session, as you see fit.

The Importance of Setting up Templates Within Your DAW.
The Importance of Setting up Templates Within Your DAW.

Master Channel Set Up

I add EQ to the master channel plus 2 different filters (1 low pass and one high pass).  I have the filters turned off, so I  can turn either of the filters on if I want to filter my track for extra effect -  such as the end of the break. It is also a good idea to add a limiter on the master and set this to output 0db (or just below) just so no clipping occurs in the process of making a track.  This can be taken off when you come to mix down stage, bringing your levels down ready for mastering.

Working Backwards

Working backwards is also a great way of setting up a template.

If you have already done a track with most of the previous examples already set up, such as sampler instruments, audio channels and buss’s then save that project as a different name such as “template” and delete all the parts that are not needed for your standard template. This can sometimes be quicker that having to start from scratch.

In part 3 we are going to look at the other buss channels and how to set these up for common tasks. More to follow.

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Review: Novation Itch DJ Controller And Serato Itch

Article courtesy of Chris Cartledge &  DJ Tech Tools


For too long, the DJ industry has been going round in circles – literally. Novation’s latest offering to the DJ world eschews the entire ‘wheels of steel’ principle and tries to show us another way. We took a look to see whether or not it’s the right way to turn.


Product: Novation Twitch

Price: £399/$499

Connection: USB

Ships with: Serato Itch

I/O: ¼” master, RCA booth, and headphone (3.5mm and ¼”) out, RCA and ¼” mic in.

Available: End of July


  • Slicer mode is superb
  • Eminently portable
  • Professionally printed Traktor mapping overlay
  • Touch strip is a clever way to save space and facilitate easy adjustment of many parameters


  • Slightly loose channel faders
  • Lights are a bit dim in bright conditions


In daring to think outside the box, Novation have really come up trumps with Twitch. It looks good, feels sturdy, and the Slicer mode in Itch is a lot of fun.

Twitch is small and light enough to sling into a bag with a distinct lack of fuss. Construction wise it’s actually quite similar to the NI Kontrol X1 and Maschine, with lightweight plastic body, a brushed metal fascia, and rubber buttons. Totally bus powered and with the audio interface onboard, portability is a high scoring area for Twitch.

Inputs and outputs are ¼” TRS for master, RCA for booth, headphones with both size connectors on board and a discreet input that will accept RCA input round the back and ¼” mic on the front. Booth output can be switched between master and cue operation, and all in all the audio quality from the 24/48 audio interface is both loud and clear.

It’s no mean feat to power a unit with as many flashing lights as Twitch, whose dashboard is somewhere between space shuttle and KITT (90s babies may, regretfully, miss out on this reference). The relatively small amount of juice that the unit can draw through USB means the lighting lacks a certain radiance in direct light, although it’s still clear.

The size of the unit really feels just right. Because the touch strip, faders and pads are all within easy reach of each other experimenting with tricks and effects feels natural. If I had one qualm it’d be that the main effects are in the corner away from the action, but even mulling that over made me consider that as a cue for the audience to really connect with you as a performer, a little movement around the interface is a good thing.


Twitch’s USP is the fact that rather than emulating the turntable based DJing paradigm, it focuses on buttons and touch strips to control the action. This might seem a small point to some, especially those that have never focused their attention on turntables or platters, but in operation it turns the Twitch experience into something that feels fresh and, dare I say it, pioneering. Invariably when confronted with a new controller, I go through the motions of exploring its strengths and weaknesses when it comes to scratching emulation and transferring the tried and tested DJing paradigm to its controls, and it usually feels like the manufacturer has had a very similar process during design. Twitch is completely different, and because there’s very little common ground between it and what we already know, I found myself immediately trying new things and exploring new ideas rather than rehashing (and often compromising) skills I learned on vinyl.

Of course I did try to see how the touch strip performed for scratching and manipulation, unsurprisingly the scratching sounds aren’t really worth playing with, as the small touch strip doesn’t give the accuracy required for anything approaching a party ready sound effect. That said the spinbacks sound great – we heard from Serato that despite the linear nature of transport in Twitch the deck is still modeled on a rotary platter, so flinging the playhead back and forth sounds pretty authentic.

What the touch strip really shines for is fine pitch adjustments and seeking, and in a stroke of genius parameter adjustment of the pads using swipes and gestures; because the touch strip is in easy reach of the pads it allows for some complicated fills and transitions to come to life.


Slicer mode works by creating a section on the track and splitting that section into eight evenly spaced cue points, which are triggered by the pads. There are two modes: one press of Slicer mode makes the section shift forward continuously, letting the track play as normal, and two presses actually loops the section. Section length can be adjusted with a pinch gesture, so if set to one bar you get to play with and rearrange 8th notes of the track, if set to two bars each pad lands on a beat, and so on. As the sequence plays, triggering a pad will rearrange the playing audio but the track will always resume where it would have been; it’s akin to loop roll. The timing of the triggering can be adjusted with a single finger swipe of the touch strip too, from extremely quick stutter effects when the pad is held down to the length of the slices or longer, which has the effect of quantising the button presses. There’s one more aspect of Slicer mode, and that’s that if you’re in the middle of a slice juggling pattern when the track would normally move on, it remains locked. Put all this together and you get a function that you can get really creative with, from things as simple as an advanced loop roll all the way to live remixing.


Fader effects are another great addition to the unit. With the tap of a button the faders change from track volume to effect parameters, and the ergonomic advantages to having effects right in the centre of the action are huge. It really does highlight the limitations of Itch though, if you’re used to complicated fader effects arrays like those facilitated by Traktor in the Midi Fighter Pro mappings, and I’m looking forward to the forthcoming Itch 2 release which should hopefully improve the effects support of the software line.

As a way round the long annoying ‘pitch fader conundrum’, Novation have plumped for a rotary encoder for Twitch’s decks, and it’s implemented fantastically. Single clicks of rotation will adjust the pitch by 0.01%, but acceleration compensation kicks in for fast turns and a quick half twist will shift the pitch 3% or so. Of course, manual pitch adjustment is becoming less and less important, but it’s still handy to have, and combined with the touch slider’s pitch bending capabilities it gives you, arguably, even more control than a CDJ when it comes to riding tracks with tempo drifts (on that note, here’s hoping the Itch 2 update allows for more advanced beat gridding).

The only build quality issue I have with Twitch is the faders, as the channel faders are perhaps a little bit waggly (that’s the technical term). The crossfader has about the same cut lag as a Pioneer DJM-800, so whilst it’s not perfect it does work for some cutting when using Twitch as an internal mixer for a Traktor Scratch setup, and something that I just started to really get to grips with before the review. At the moment I’m trying to squeeze a moment of genius out of my noggin that’ll allow me to hack together a Slicer mode for Traktor, but I have a nasty feeling it’s not possible right now. If and when it is, though, Twitch could really be amazing as a Traktor Scratch mixer (required purchase of a NI audio interface notwithstanding).


Twitch is primarily an Itch controller, and the Slicer mode is a genuinely innovative feature that’s not on any other DJ software out of the box. That said, Twitch works very well with Traktor and Ableton Live (the touchstrip definitely feels best in Itch, though), and indeed there’s a pre-printed overlay for the included Traktor mapping in the box. The bottom line is that Twitch is still definitely a DJ controller, not a generic MIDI controller with DJ capability shoehorned onto its buttons, but it takes things in an interesting new direction. It’s a slice of forward thinking (geddit?) that’ll hopefully persuade other manufacturers to be braver with their designs.

Are you excited about Twitch’s approach? A short video demonstrating our favourite bits of Twitch is on the way, but in the meantime let us know your thoughts and ideas for using Twitch creatively!

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Audio: Inland Knights Mix

inland knights

House music all night long! Inland Knights serve up some textured house beats. A nice little set to start off the weekend!

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Video: Traktor 2 Tips And Techniques

dj Endo, dubspot instructor, dj mothership set up

DMC World Champion DJ Shiftee and Native Instruments Product Specialist DJ Endo serve  up a sneak peak of what you can learn from their new  Digital DJing with Traktor 2 tutorial course, which is hosted at Dubspot.

The boys with 22 years of DJing experience behind them have created a no holds barred course that will take you from the basics of using Traktor 2 through to pro DJ techniques.

To find out more details on the course visit the Dubspot website.

Check out the video below for some handy tips on how to use Traktor 2. Endo and Shiftee explain and demonstrate how to set accurate beat grid markers and cue points on a track. Phrase Mixing -  how to blend two songs and create seamless mixes. Advanced effects in Traktor Pro 2, using the ‘Delay’ effect for brilliant results.

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Free Loops And Samples For DJs & Producers

Sounds to sample logo

Sounds/To/Sample the definitive download resource for music makers have come up trumps again. This week they are giving members the chance to download some top loops and samples from their back catalogue.

The sample packs that are up for grabs cover Electro, Techno, Crunk and drum patterns:

Generation Electro 2
A whopping 24MB sequel to the chart-storming Generation Electro, featuring speaker-freakin’ beats, floor-stomping bass, sleaze-injected synth leads, tops, vox, and FX.

Kings Of The South
Hard-hitting, speaker-splitting, crunk-flavoured construction kit loaded with bangin’ beats, red-hot synths and cone-melting basslines.

Underground Techno 2
30MB of deep, dark and organic-tinged loops: pumping drum workouts, analogue basslines, vintage stab leads, ambience and FX.

Drum Rolls and Fills
15 punchy and processed drum rolls and fills designed for energetic transitions and build-up beats for electro, house, breaks and beyond.

To download the sample packs simply sign up for free membership on the Sounds/To/Sample website and download from this link



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Traktor 2.0.3 Update now Available

Those lovely people at Native Instruments have just released a free update for Traktor 2, which addresses issues with the Kontrol X1 and other MIDI controllers and includes few performance/workflow enhancements.

If you’re using Traktor, then you need to be updating your version now, which you can do by clicking here.


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