Workflow for songwriting - starting new project without creating a new folder every time

I often start Cubase with some idea in my head that I want to get down quickly. At this point I usually have no idea about title or sometimes not even genre. I just want to try something out. So, I have a template set up for this with a basic piano, Battery and a vocal channel set up so I can quickly get my ideas down. It works pretty well. There is just one problem.

I have to create a new folder every time or a new folder is automatically created in my Cubase folder. So, my Cubase folder is full of folders named “untitled-xx”. Many times these folders are empty, as the idea didn’t really lead to anything, so I just closed the session without actually saving anything. Sometimes I’ve saved an idea and it is then sitting in a folder called “untitled-37” or something like that, making it hard to find next time.

I came from another DAW a couple of years ago, where I had a default folder for projects and audio, etc, and only when I asked the DAW to actually save the project I had to decide what to call it and where to save it, in a new folder or not. This made it much easier to separate the hundreds of quick grooves and melody lines you create and those that actaually becomes an idea that I will continue to build on. And I didn’t have a Cubase full of folders called “untitled-xx”.

Now, I guess I can start with an “empty project” but that requires to load that piano, Battery and set up a vocal channel. Sure, much of it can be done with track templates, bar send FX that I have to create manually (why Cubase can’t save the whole chain is a mystery to me), but it is still a lot of work to just try out some ideas.

Is there something really fundamental I’m missing in Cubase’ workflow or am I the only one with this type of workflow. Surely that can’t be the case?

Sorry if this has been discussed previously, but I couldn’t find any threads like this, googeling and searching the forum.

Would be great to hear how you solve this.

This is exactly how I work and many others i’m sure.

I have a template and a new song folder. Once the idea has started to be something more than a doodle I use Cubase’s backup function to move all the relevant audio files and the song file to a new loctation with the new name of the newly created song. Works a treat.

Exactly, you can set the default folder so it doesn’t even ask you for a location when you load your new song (template). Then back up to whatever for you like if you want to keep.

Yes this is the best method.

I originally lost a whole bunch of audio files because I would rename the project plus I’d rename the folder from untitled to my new song name. Cubase got confused the next time I’d open the project and put any new audio files into a separate newly created untitled folder. So I learned the hard way.

I prefer Logic’s file managment system better but what can you do.

Templates are good for preparing a variety of different creative situations. Just remember that if you import an audio file from another folder or a memory stick be sure to Archive. This will actually move the file into the project folder otherwise it will leave the file where it is and when you remove the memory stick you will get the missing Files window when you next open the project.

I used to create sketches in a common folder (creatively named “Unnamed Sketches”) and then like planarchist suggests used Cubase’s backup to move it if it became something. But eventually that ‘evolved’ into clutter and confusion. Now I do create a new folder for each new sketch - actually a sub-folder of “Unnamed Sketches” and I name each sketch’s folder (and Project) after the date, e.g. 1-13-19. Luckily I’m incapable of having 2 different ideas on the same day. :confused:

While this does kinda introduce an extra step, it also creates enough organization to keep things under control.

Tip: if you have Cubase setup to prompt for a folder when creating the Project and you never save the Project (even when Cubase asks before closing it) then that whole folder structure will be deleted when the unsaved Project closes.

This is how my workflow is too (except I do not save to a sub folder).

For me, when I do finally decide a project is keep worthy and I decide on what I think the final song title will be, I save the project with the new name then close it. Then I rename the project folder (using the windows file explorer) to the same as project song title. I then delete the original date named project listing from the Cubase recent list and open the project using the newly named .cpr from the Cubase>File menu. At some point after I have enough newly named auto .bak files I will delete the old dated named .cpr and .bak files from the properly named project folder

Definitely extra steps but, for me, this keeps stuff really nice and tidy. I really only use the Cubase Backup function during my template creating process.

Regards. :sunglasses:

If a dated sketch does become something real I still keep it around, but I try to remember to save the sketch one last time with the Notepad open reading something like, “This became blah, blah, blah”

A couple of months ago I spent the better part of 2 days searching for a sketch. Took a long time to find in large part because I thought it was from 3-5 years ago when it was really more like 9 years. But still the effort involved opening and listening to lots of old cpr files. This got really old quickly (especially if I had to fitz with some older projects to just hear them). So now I think I’ll be adding an extra step to any sketch that gets kept - exporting audio so I can quickly hear what’s in the sketch.

Thanks for the tip, but that doesn’t seems to be working as designed, in that case. I have +50 folders with no .cpr-files, just audio and image folders.

Thanks for all the replies. Much appreciated. It confirms that I haven’t really missed much functionality or workflow, but just that Cubase and I aren’t compatible in this respect :wink: I do use the backup functionality to try to keep things clean and make sure nothing is being left behind. It is an extra step though and still leaves the drive cluttered with mostly empty folders that you have to remember to clean manually. And then I’m never really sure what folders may or may not include audio files that are related to some project.

The “Prepare Archive” is new to me though. Does that mean essentially the same thing as the backup-function, but without having to move the project to a new folder? If that is the case, is it then safe to rename the “untitled-xx” folder? All references will be intact and all audio takes will still be there, not just the currently used takes?
Odd name of that function though and it isn’t even in the same menu as the save and backup functions (File). Archive suggest something that you will file away and forget about. Something that is completed. That sounds more like a backup to me. Not something that you want to consolidate to be able to work with it more efficiently.
Also the help-page ( is confusing:

After Completing This Task: You must copy audio files that reside within the project folder to the Audio folder or save them separately. You must also move your video clips manually, as videos are only referenced and not saved in the project folder.

Isn’t that what the function actually does, moves all audio files to the audio sub-folder in the project folder? If not, what is the point if it only moves audio files outside of the project folder to the correct location?

In the other DAW, I just launched it, tried out some ideas for a while and then either saved or just closed the DAW without saving. If I saved it, it copied all corresponding files to the new folder (if I saved into a new folder) or I could just save the sketch in the single default folder (which obviously became very messy), with all audio files in the sub-folder for audio. Alternatively, I just closed the DAW and it would just keep an “auto-save” (every few minutes or changes to the project) of the project and any related audio-files in the default sub-folder. This way, it was very quick to just start a template and sketch out an idea. If I wanted to save it, I would do that and then decide on a name. Every now and then I did save it quickly in the default folder, came back to it a few days later and developed it into something keep-worthy and then saved the whole project to a new location, using a similar feature to the backup-function in Cubase, which was just a simple tick-box in the save dialogue to also move all audio files.

With this solution I had one default folder with really just garbage ideas and random audio clips. And I knew that I could clean that folder whenever I wanted, without losing anything. With the Cubase workflow I’m never really sure, as it can leave audio files scattered around the drive, unless I always use the backup function.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a solution that is a bit cleaner and fool proof than having to remember what you have backed up and not? I want to create music, not manage files :slight_smile:
Wouldn’t it at least make sense to at least consolidate the backup, prepare archive (with another name) and the save/save as… functions into the same dialogue? It is essentially the same function. I guess I should add that to the suggestion box :wink:

I don’t think you’re doing it exactly as I am as I don’t have loads of folders lying around…just the one that I always start in (that you refer to above as where you can put random clips and garbage ideas) and then the Song folders that I Backup to.

“Backup”, “Prepare archive” and “Save as” aren’t the same thing and wouldn’t be used by everyone for even similar purposes…I agree they could maybe be better named but I have found the current system pretty foolproof.

That’s odd as when I start Cubase 10 Pro and create a project it asks for a “default location” and then under that a project folder. If I leave the latter blank it automatically creates a folder called “untitled” and the next time I start a new project and leave the project folder as “untitled” it adds “-01” to the folder name, and so on. If I type in a project folder name say called “electro” and play around with some ideas there. The next time I open Cubase and just hit create new project and expect it to be placed in “electro” it’ll create a new folder “electro-01” and use that as the project folder. Hence, I am ending up with loads of folders that are more or less empty. It’s not very tidy at all.

So, I’m not sure how you only have one project folder. That seems impossible to me. Please explain.

Sure, I can take the time to clean this using “prepare archive” and “backup project” functionality, but it is the fundamental workflow that is flawed imho. Cubase is essentially assuming that you already have a finished idea that you just want to record and for that, this workflow of creating a project folder before you even record the first event makes sense, but for songwriting and idea generation it is rather cumbersome. Actually, I can’t think of any of the other DAWs that I have used that use a similar workflow. I just like to start Cubase and in 5 seconds be able to start creating and if nothing comes out of it not having to deal with a lot of admin of cleaning up folders, etc. It takes me away from making music and makes me a computer admin :wink:

You can do it, by just clicking “create empty” but that just creates an empty project with no VSTs, vocal chains, aux, etc. So then I have to spend time on that every time. If I could just edit the default project that opens when I click on “create empty” that could possibly solve the issue. I haven’t found a way to do that. Can we edit the default project template?

Are you by chance on a Mac? (hint, this is why we encourage config info in signatures :wink: )

I did verify this yesterday before posting; just to confirm I wasn’t imagining it.

When using “Prompt for Project Location” and Cubase prompts you for a new folder name you can create a new one or just navigate to an existing folder and use that for multiple Projects.

Don’t use the default location route!

This is how I do it:

  1. File/New Project, select your desired Template.
  2. Select “Prompt for project location”. Click on “Create”
  3. Navigate to your “New Songs” folder ( the first time you’ll have to create this but in my case it always goes to this folder by default now it’s there).
  4. Click “OK”
  5. Now start to work your magic. All Audio files will be saved into the Audio folder of the “New Songs” folder. Give the creation a name if you want to save the work. If you don’t give it a name then you’ll lose everything including recorded audio files when you close.
  6. If you decide this is something worth keeping use the File Backup Project option which will create a new folder (with the name of the song I’d suggest). This new named folder has all your audio files and a copy of the project file.

The “New Songs” folder still has the audio files and the version of the Project folder so this does maybe have to be tidied up occasionally. I suppose this might be an issue if you have an awful lot of small idea files that you don’t ever save to their own folders but it’s not an issue I’ve run into. My new songs folder currently has 23 project files in it and the Audio folder just under 100 snippets of Audio. If I wanted to tidy it up I’d probably do it by date.

Hope this makes sense.

Not even sure what the default template is but you can save as many of your own templates as you want, I have various with all my groups and routings already in place…saves loads of time and with everything always laid out the same time makes it all second nature.

No, PC (Cubase 10 | Windows 10 Pro 64-bit | Dell Precision 7520 (i7-7820HQ 2.90GHz, 32GB DDR4, 2TB M.2 PCIe/NVMe) | RME Babyface / Apogee One)

Great, I’ll give that a try together with planarchist’s instructions, just after yours. Seems like there is an essential workflow that I have missed after all.
Thank you!

Thank you for these detailed instructions. I’ll give that a go and hopefully that will keep things a bit cleaner. It sounds promising and obviously a part of the workflow that I had missed. So, thanks for explaining that.

In another DAW I’ve used, there was a default template that you could edit, so every time you started the DAW it would start with your own default settings, tracks, sub-groups, channels, etc. Very handy, but if the above works as I anticipate, this is better as I’m not locked into a specific template.

Thank you!

That is basically what you can do in Cubase except instead of 1 default template you can have as many or few as you like. Each can be designed/optimized for different purposes and be as empty or chock-full-of-stuff as fits your needs.

Yes, I have tried this today and it seems to work well, so far. Thanks for sharing this workflow with me. That’ll make things a lot tidier from now on. I can just wipe the scratch-pad folder from time to time and move ideas that I want to take forward with the “backup project” feature. I still need to understand the “media/prepare archive” use case, but this solves my issues for now. One thing though, it seems there needs to be 1 project file in the scratch-pad folder, or Cubase will delete the folder, even if it was created outside of Cubase.
Thank you!