I have a question about workflow. I’m recording an album - probably ten songs. We’ll do the drums and bass for all the songs on the first weekend, and overdub the vocals and other instruments the next.
In the past, I have always created a new project for each song, but I’m wondering if there is a better way, as it would require remapping all the inputs (could create a template to reuse) for each song / each project while the musicians are waiting to play their next song.
It seems more efficient somehow to create a single project and record all ten songs into a single project, with all the songs in sequence in the timeline. Then, once all the main parts at least are recorded, create separate projects for mixing.
Just curious how people plan/manage their workflow in situations like this.
I’d put the songs into separate project files, then, when you have all the final mixes, you could import those in sequence for some pre-Mastering. Beyond that you’d be booking a mastering engineer, and, perhaps making use of other software, like Wave Lab, etc.
If the band is more or less the same for all the songs, then create a template and use that for each individual project.
I’d create a Master Folder for the Album and then create each new song in its own sub-Folder under that. That way each song will have its own Audio Directory (Audio Pool) and all the songs for the album will be in that one Master Album Folder.
That’s how I’d do an album project like that. I do one-offs mostly. I’m not saying this is the best way to roll, but long projects can use system resources and get very slow to load, etc.
If the album is recorded in a big session (which leads me to think that the instrumentation is similar in all songs or at least shares the basic backbone aka drums, bass, rythm guitars, main vocals) you should think about mixing it in that one big session as well.
I often do so meanwhile and it can save a ton of work compared to the one song/one folder concept. Yes, it also introduces the need to keep track of a lot of things (i.e. avoiding simple fader moves and write automation instead to not mess up a level in a ‘song to the left’). At the point where things get too complicated or the whole thing eats too much cpu or I’m sure that no more basic changes will be needed I split the project - happy that plenty of work had to be done just once. Routing, grouping, gainstaging, basic sounddesign, fx palette.
Possible alternatives are a) track archives, b) ‘merge project’, c) saving/reloading channels, d) drag’n’drop of events from an unmixed project to an empty version of a mixed project. All those methods work but have their pitfalls and need a certain amount of thoughtfulness:
a) group & fx channels just save together with audio/midi tracks plus events have to be deleted before exporting to not be referenced in the pool of the destination project
b) group/fx channels can’t be imported
c) in case of several channels you have to make sure about the exact same order of source and destination tracks
d) be absolutely sure to set the tempo/tempotrack in the destination project first
Visibility management helps as well. My all-in-one projects easily sum up to 200 - 400 channels plus an array of groups and fx channels. I hide what doesn’t belong to the song I’m working on (i.e. that acoustic guitar or piano part just in song #7) and save a visibility preset (which needs to be updated as soon as I add/copy a track as the new stuff is always included in previous presets). Now here I am with just the channels in question with a single click/without scrolling up/down forever.
To record ten songs into a single project would require a tempo track and tempo changes if you are recording to a click for easier edits and quantizing.
For keeping things organized (project folders with audio files), easier edits and management I would dedicate an afternoon to create a template for your instruments with everything sorted (track names, routing, insert fx, send fx, groups, etc) and use that template to speed the process.
Yes, that is certainly what I would do for mastering.
This was the approach I was considering, and how I usually work. It is a 4-piece band with drums, bass, acoustic guitar and vocal. There will be some added guitar parts, some aux percussion, etc but for the most part, pretty consistent instrumentation.
I was just wondering if that was a way of avoiding the “okay guys, I’m just going to set up a new project and we can start the next song” kind of thing. No mucking with headphone mixes once they’re all set. Just move the cursor forward 30 seconds and start up again, letting all that other stuff getting taken care of after the musicians have gone home.
Yes, I was thinking of that too, to start. Create my FX buses, groups, etc., get some basic sounds dialed in, and then start making new projects for each song from there, allowing me to fine-tune the mixes as the individual songs require.
Yes, exactly what I was thinking!
And this is where I need specific guidance on. They are areas of Cubase I’ve not really played with much. I remember years ago trying something similar using “save as” - new filename - or something and then deleting tracks that weren’t needed… and then finding that they got deleted from the project where they were needed too… ARGH! Haha. I don’t want to mess up like that again.
Oh geez… pretty well all of my songs top out at about 30 tracks or thereabouts. But I can see how that would make one crazy.
Good point! However, I don’t think this group is going to record to a click.
I always do some prep work in advance - whatever I can do. Some stuff has to be done in the moment, though, such as headphone routing, creating headphone mixes, finding out that the drummer wants the hi-hat and the bottom of the snare miked too… those kinds of things. I’m trying to avoid re-creating as much of that between songs as I can. And if I can use that to dial in a rough mix to start with and THEN break the project up… all the better!
I think the template is the key. If you know you’re doing five songs, then create five Projects in separate sub-folders and it won’t take long to close out one project and open another. You can also create new projects from the template on the fly, of course. That may be better for getting project names right.
Also, if you have one big project and that project file goes bad, all the songs are lost. If you have individual project files that won’t happen. Even if one project file becomes corrupted or lost it won’t be the whole album.
Just run the session and the band should be fine waiting two or three minutes. If you have a talk-back that will help. Tell them what’s going on without chattering, or, if they are rehearsing the next part or setting up sounds, everyone will be ready at the same time. You should be ready when they are, but if you need a moment, tell them and then set-up what you need to.
Load the template and start the next track.
Now, you might also want to save the First Track as an improved Template for the next track. Just clean out the actual tracks from the template file, but leave all the routing and FX in place. Save that as a New Improved Template. Then use that for the next project in its own sub-folder.
If they want to keep it rolling from song to song, then you might wind up with more than one song in a project. If they do that, ask them if they want to do another take of the song with a clean start. If not, you’ll find a natural break, or the computer will crash, or whatever. Just keep it going and do what you need to do. Tell them, briefly, and don’t worry if it takes a minute or two, but if you need five or even 10 minutes tell them you need more set-up time and, again, briefly, why. Don’t Panic.
If it were -me-, I would record it all in one ginormous CPR (Cubase Project). Experience has taught me that no matter how well-intentioned one tries to me with Templates, one always ends up changing -something- along the way and the various projects get out of sync with one another.
Once yer recording is done, you can fairly easily cut each song out by using the Backup Project function. And then mix each song from there as freely as ya like…
But this way you at least -know- that all songs are being recorded with the same mics, DIs, etc. on the same tracks, layout.
Maybe yer more disciplined than me. If so, use a Template.
Miking additional instruments would require the same moves in both methods (single project vs separate projects), routing should be very easy if you use control room and have all your inputs and outputs properly assigned and named.
If you prefer the single project method, as it seems to be the case then I would make some preparation work and insert a marker track and probably an arranger track before the recording session (obviously leaving enough space after each song) to make the navigation easier.
Again, I am very picky about organization so I would prefer to have my project folders, audio files, etc very well organized, that is why I would go with each song in a different project, but thankfully cubase will handle both methods in a very elegant way so pick the one that’s right for you, and please tell us how it goes.
If you record 10 songs in one project / cpr Cubase will most likely crash on you.
You will not be able to open the project when it gets too big in size. Cubase will take longer to open the project as it gets bigger. Therefore you risk loosing everything.
This was experience when I tried to do this.
I’ve done recording and editing whole albums in one project. Works well usually. Even mixing all-in-one works though I often split up at a late point in the mix to not overstress the machine as well as the level of nonmusical attention reserved to handle such overwhelming monsterprojects mentally
Absolutely true, of course it takes longer to open very big projects. Especially with plenty of track versions present (I often use them to ‘park’ unbounced edits and the like, that can sum up massively).
If a cpr doesn’t open anymore it’s most likely a RAM issue. One one of my first attempts with the all-in-one approach my project indeed killed Cubase everytime on loading. Watched the task manager and saw that I’m short on memory. Doubled it up, all was well.
axemanchris said his projects will have about 30 tracks, drums/bass/guitar/vox, no VSTis. I’d say that’s an amount of data that shouldn’t bring any decent computer close to a real world limit.
Hi, the key here is organisation, every method will have it’s pros and cons.
In my experience, creating a template from the first recorded song never works well, you always change things as you go and keeping track of what you have changed between songs is a pita (writing notes down, exporting/importing tracks, keeping count of which song/project is up to date and which isn’t…) never works for me.
If your computer can handle it, recording everything in the same project will speed up considerably your reconrding session :
Once the project is loaded (as it gets heavier during the recording process, it will take up to a few minutes, but then you can record anything on any song at any time of the day ! Imagine doing overdubs, additional percussion, acoustic guitars, backing vocals…you can record all parts on all songs with the artists in a row wothout having to say “wait, i have to quit/load the new project, give me 2 minutes” at the end of the week, you save hours !
There are a few things to keep in mind :
you need good preparation :
lots of empty space before AND after every song (you will alway have the artist say at one point or another “we have to double that intro length !” or “let’s add a 32 bar solo in the middle of that 5th song !”
Create a tempo track with all tempo and bar changes at first (once again, lots of empty bars at the intro tempo BEFORE and outro tempo AFTER every song.
Even if the band does not want to record to a click track, caculate the average tempo of each sond (from pre-production ie). It WILL be usefull.
It will be, for example, much easier from there to switch between takes and quickly move audio around and see if you’re gonna be able to copy/paste from one take to another in terms of average tempo/timing.
Or, to make a “live” tempo-grid for editing purposes once the definitive takes/edits are chosen !
another advantage if you always start recordings and punch in’s on a bar or a beat is that you won’t have to worry about sync points all over the place when editing/copying/pasting !
Never use the “SAVE” command, always use “Save new version”. If your project becomes corrupt, you’re dead ! Personally, I have banned “SAVE” from keycommands years ago and it has saved my ass quite some times !
(CTRL-S is assigned to “Save New Version” here) I ALWAYS save my initial projects as xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-00.cpr/npr
Auto-Save is on every 3 to 5 minutes here as well.
For the recording of basic live tracks, all tracks in the same folder with group editing “on” so you can arm/record/delete with one mouse click / key command. All track-version keycommands also (NEW, DUPLICATE, NEXT, PREVIOUS, DELETE)
If you want to be able to rough-mix or even mix while the band is recording, a cool way is to duplicate your entire audio tracks folder, the first one you can name “MONITOR” and set up all cue-sends pre-fader from there, set monitoring on “manual” leave it on and forget about it it (this is just for the band’s monitoring purposes). Route all tracks from that “monitor” folder to one “MONITOR” Group Track so you can hear the whole band at any level at any time woth only one fader.
Another advantage of doing this is that you can tweak any settings just for the performers confort (like boosting +12dB the low shelf for the kick drum for the headphones without having to hear THAT kick sound all week long
You can even automate anything just for the performers (like distorsion/filters/fx on vocals ie).
During recording process, I tend to have auto-fades on with about 5-8ms just to avoid clicks/pops everywhere and never have to worry about fades during recording process
Record audio in the second “RECORD” folder without using monitoring on that one. There you can filter/eq/compress or whatever without the band actually hearing it during tracking. You can always copy/paste settings between the “MONITOR” and “RECORD” channels if you think it will improve the performers experience.
Load and turn on any channel-strip modules, eq bands, inserts you might want to tweak during recording so you dont get audio drop-outs during tracking.
Extensive use of track-Versions - every different take gets it’s own track-version correctly labeled and named so you always know where you are !
If you have to make edits or punches on the fly during the recording process, always duplicate your trackversion first and add “-edit” or “-punch” to it’s original name
Write down precise and clear notes after each take/punch (your feelings, the artists feelings) it will save you hours when comping takes / editing.
use a LOT of group/sub-group tracks (so you can be very independant in the control room when using the listen bus ie.
Create a cycle marker for each song for a lot of reasons but at first to be able to write initial automation points for each song (automation in loop mode, double click cycle marker so locators are set correctly, do your rough volume and pan balances per song)
When all montage/edits done, just copy/paste your 10 final songs on “EDITED” track version so you are ready to mix without having to bother about track versions anymore.
Last time I recorded/edited/mixed a 12 song album for a band, I ended up mixing in that same project and it saved me hours again.
Just be very organised !
Hi Stephen, I’m talking about the preference setting for monitoring, when I don’t duplicate tracks between performer and control room, I just go with “Tapemachine style” preference but in the example I was giving, monitoring needs to be set to “Manual” so that the performers can hear themselves at anytime !
A few years agos, I requested a “per channel type of monitoring setting” that would be so cool for these kind of situations just like you can set auto-crossfades length and curves on a per-channel basis but no one picked it up…it would be awesome in this kind of workflow.
Imagine you set up the “MONITOR” tracks to “Manual monitoring” so that’s on anytime and performers always hear themselves, if you had the option to set the “RECORD” tracks to “Tape-Machine style” you would never have to raise or lower the group fader of the “MONITOR” tracks to hear what you’re actually recording/punching (in the control room you would hear the performers in stop mode and in record mode automatically.
As for the audio pool, I don’t worry much about that, I just regularly (maybe twice a day) empty trash to free up disk space (always double checking that nothing but miss-takes are in there !).
If your tracks are correctly labelled (always put a track number before a name so it’s much simpler when importing/exporting/exchanging between projets/studios) my 2 cents is you don’t have to worry about the pool.