While having a template has a positive impact on your workflow, when the template reaches a certain size, it has some disadvantages as well.

There are different approaches when building a template… and, since setting it up takes a good deal of time, you better decide upfront which one is the most appropriate for you.

In this post, I'll explain to you why I went from a three computers system with around 2.000 tracks, to using a smaller 400 tracks templates and one computer... and how that change alone has skyrocketed my composing workflow.


A good organization can be effective in helping with the creative process. Since the beginning of the digital revolution in music production, composers have sought to streamline their workflows in order to maximize the effectiveness of output - especially when working to a strict deadline!

Every composer has their own system but there’s one tool that most of them share.

So what is that “magical” tool that everyone uses? Simple: templates.

BUT this post is NOT about “what is a template and what it can do for you”. You most likely know about this already!

What I want you to understand by the end of this post is that there are different approaches when building a template… and, since it takes a good deal of time setting up a template, you better decide upfront which one is the most appropriate for you.

A template is an important tool that will help the composer keep things organized. There are all sorts of templates, ranging from small projects (with a few tracks and buses to massive sessions with thousands of tracks. Several computers will usually be required in order to run those bigger templates.

To give you an example of a mid-size template, this is John Powell’s Logic template.

john powell - template

Posted on John Powell’s Facebook page, in February 2016

My honest opinion:

  1. I am not a fan of massive templates with complex setups, and I do not use more than one computer.

I found I’m more efficient when I’m working on a modular template. We’ll talk about this approach at the end of this post.

Don’t get me wrong, I did have a weakness for big templates and several computers, using Visual Ensemble Pro (VEPro), etc. In fact, the video that opened my YouTube channel with more than 60k visits 7 years ago was about presenting my template and explaining its creation.

Some people would say that I was the “SMPTV class computer geek of my year”. Thanks to that “geekiness”, I actually landed my first job as assistant to a composer in Pasadena!

A template is a good tool, but we have to be aware that there are different approaches when building a template, and each has its pros and cons.

My personal opinion on templates is that while they help by keeping many tools ready for you to start composing, they may also negatively affect your creativity levels due to their default nature. Your creativity may be constricted through working with the same tracks and the same articulations, always organized in the same way.

Although it is true that templates constantly evolve, you will have a large percentage of the same tools loaded all the time -- the same sounds, the same plugins, and the same reverb. 

Yes, a standardized large-template setup may help to create your signature sound.

However, it can consequently lead to your work consistently sounding the same, or at least quite similar.

That was one of the reasons (there are more) why I stopped using a massive template and I changed my approach to using a modular template.

Why did I stop using a massive template?

At one point, when I was using big orchestral templates for composing (around 1.000 tracks), I stopped and thought for a moment about those days when I knew nothing about templates… Those days when I used to start a new composition with an empty, blank project, every time….

Every time I’d need a new sound, I would load one VSL track with one instance of Logic’s EXS24 per track. That’s it. Dead simple.

Remember those days? Two steps and one new instrument loaded. Yes, I know it has been almost 10 years since then, and things have changed a lot. But is it for the better? In my opinion, yes in most of the cases, but it depends on how you use the new tools we have available.

Now, this is going to get a bit technical. If you’re not interested in how a multi-computer system is setup, you can scroll down to the “What is the most efficient template” section. If you are interested, keep reading.

In a modern setup with Vienna Ensemble Pro, you can load a new patch in three steps. However, that will only be possible IF...
  • the Vienna Ensemble Pro Server is running and loaded,
  • all the VEPro instances in the host computer are connected to those on the VEPro Server,
  • you have template instances of VE Pro with one Plug-in Channel loaded in your main computer, with the routed MIDI tracks,
  • and at least 16 Bus Channels in your main computer (aux audio returns) pre-routed, ready to receive the audio back from your sampler loaded in VE Pro in your slave computer.
Don’t worry if these steps sound a bit overwhelming… We will revisit all these concepts again. But look how complex it’s getting. 

*TOP TIP:* The more complex you go (with your system, composing workflow, etc.) the more issues tend to appear while you’re composing.
Back to the matter at hand.

If you need to load one more instance of VEPro, it would be a matter having a saved pre-routed instance, so you can load it and you are ready to go. You should also have to set up 16 midi and aux tracks in your sequencer to send the midi to VEPro and receive the audio from VEPro. Finally, you would have to set up the 16 audio returns.

If you have that setup configured and automated (it is easy to automate) you can load one patch in three steps… 

1. Get to the server computer where you have got everything loaded. You can either use screen sharing (Remote Desktop) - which does not work 100% of the times...

or use a dedicated monitor for each of your VEPro computers, which also implies a dedicated mouse and keyboard - tends to be more solid.

2. Load the new patch in the already loaded Plug-in Channel. If most of the libraries that you use run in Kontakt, you can have it already loaded in VEPro. 

3. Route that new patch and set up the right midi and audio channels. 

So, with a proper set-up, it should be “relatively quick” to load new patches.

Still, can you see how this is becoming more complex? Loading a new patch will always take longer in a multi-computer system than a one-computer system.


...even though templates are intended to simplify your workflow…

“I want a template so I can sit down, all the sounds are loaded, and I can start composing” or
“I want to focus on composing” or
“I don’t want to think about the technical part when I’m composing”

...they require more thinking and more steps, actions to make sure they properly serve their purpose.

Therefore, while such setups can be created and their issues mitigated, in general, the bigger the template is, the slower your system will get and the more maintenance it will need.

Ok, so what is the most efficient template?

Generally, there are many advantages in using a template. Firstly, with a template you have a series of tracks loaded and you just sit down, put your hands on the keyboard and start composing. 

Secondly, all those tracks (provided it is a good setup template) will already be configured - meaning they will have specific panning, an EQ plug-in loaded, a reverb applied or a send to a reverb bus already set, an output routed to a specific bus, etc.: very convenient and time-saving. 

While having a template is usually seen as positively impacting your workflow, when the template reaches a certain size, it has some disadvantages as well.

It is hard to manage a big template. You will need keyboard shortcuts to get to the track (or group of tracks) that you want. Otherwise, you will need to do a lot of scrolling! Especially with thousands of tracks!

Also, a session with a big template will take longer to save. Every time you press ctrl+S because it has more settings than necessary to save (plugins settings, track configurations), even if you haven’t written a note yet, it may take a few seconds to save.

Having a large template with all patches loaded takes CPU processing, even if you are not playing anything back!

*TOP TIP*: Templates are great if they take less than 30% of your computer power. Do not build a 700-track template if that leaves you with little or no space to load more tracks later on.

Another problem is when you have samples loaded in another computer or computers and you open an old session -- say a track you composed 6 months ago -- you will have to make sure that the samples loaded are the same as the ones you loaded 6 months ago. Of course, this can be solved by saving a version of the loaded samples for every project or track you work on, or a similar approach, but then you will find yourself doing a lot of loading for opening a big template, for a track that just uses 20% of it…

What is my approach?

I prefer loading just the specific tracks that I use most of the times.

In other words, instead of having a 2000-track template that you will never use 100%, my template has around 400-600 tracks, but they are VERY useful tracks that make me compose very efficiently. 

I can load those tracks in a one-computer system and I still have plenty of space to load more tracks when needed for a specific project.

Keep this in mind: every project will need a specific sound and that will require you to load or record new tracks, no matter how big your template is. 

I prefer having just one computer for composing and working with a modular template. I will expand on this concept later, but read this carefully: 

  • Modular templates
  • Customized pre-orchestrated patches

Understand these two concepts and put them together and you’ll see skyrocket your composing performance.

In fact, the first part of our Symphonic Virtual Orchestration course is all about that.

What type of computer do you need to load a modular template?

You don’t have to spend more than $2K in a computer to be able to run a modular template. In fact, you can start with a computer that’s cheaper than that. Read this article if you want to know how to choose the perfect composing computer.

In my case, I am pushing the boundaries of the Modular Template approach and I’ve got a very powerful computer. It’s an i9-7980XE, with 128GB RAM, 16TB SSD and 4TB of M.2 drives. Do you think you will need more than this to run a decent modular template in a one-computer system? I seriously doubt it!

If you keep your system organized and optimize your resources, a one-computer system should be more than enough for 99% of your productions.

Coming up...

We’ll see how to stay organized and optimize your resources in the next post, so stay tuned!

My take on templates

I like templates and I understand their advantages. I go with a hybrid approach, using a relatively small 400-600 tracks template and then loading groups of pre-configured tracks as I need them, depending on the musical style. I call this Modular Template.

This additive approach allows for more flexibility while providing the basic structure that will get you composing quickly.

I used Sonar in the past. Sonar let you save groups of tracks. This feature was called Track Template. It’s an awesome feature.

I switched to Cubase in 2016.

With the Track Template feature in Sonar, you could load those tracks, and

  • it would load all the tracks you had in the Folder Track Template and the loaded patch or patches in each track.
  • It would also preserve every track and patch routing,
  • as well as would create the buses each track was routed to, and the plug-ins inserted in those.
  • It would also load the plug-ins in every track and will keep their configuration.

And all that happened in a few seconds. Pretty cool, huh?

Check it out in the gif below. It is 0.9 MB gif, it should load within a few seconds. 

Gibson discontinued Cakewalk Sonar development in 2017. You can watch a video of how to achieve the same with Cubase or Logic here. 

Want to learn more about templates? We have a short course: “Build Your Own Template in One Day”. Check it out if you’re interested.

Alright! That’s all for today. In the next post, we will be discussing Grouping and Buses, Organization and Efficiency. You’ll learn how the pros organize their system using groups and busses to speed up their workflow.

Last but not least

I would love to know your opinion about the post:  are you a film or video games composer? any recent scoring project? what did you learn during the process? what made you succeed in that project? how do you balance composing and networking to find new projects?

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