Keeping Tracks Sorted???

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« on: October 07, 2017, 10:28:02 PM »
How do you keep track of where you are when working with multiple tracks in your DAW? I keep getting lost. Is it just practice, practice, practice?? I usually just do a guitar track and a vocal track. And possibly up to three harmony tracks. So seldom do I try to manage more than 2 to 5 tracks. Seldom more than 3, really.

For the "Dark" challenge, though, I'm trying something new. But at the rate I'm going, it won't be done until Halloween 2018. If then. I have tracks of sound effects, instruments, and voices. I combined some tracks that were similar (I didn't need two, for instance, for different whispered bits, because they don't occur at the same time), but I still have 14 tracks and I'm constantly getting lost. I spend most of my time figuring out where what is.

This is what I've done so far: combined some tracks, as mentioned. Color coded tracks, so sound effects are one color, vocal tracks another, instruments a third. Except drums, which are by themselves on one track. So far. Also, everything of one color is grouped in the same area, so they're next to each other. And I've given each track a descriptive name or title, so I know what's on it. I'm using Reaper.

Any helpful suggestions? Or should I just expect the process to be grueling and time consuming? :P



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« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2017, 09:02:02 AM »
Here are my main strategies:

The first thing that helps is to develop a consistent "top down" ordering strategy

I tend to go from top to bottom in the following order:

Audio Drums (loops, percussion etc.)
Rhythm Guitars
Acoustic Guitars
Lead Guitars
Lead Vocals
Backing Vocals
Melody Keys (e.g. Piano or keyboard parts)
Synths (mainly pads - I would probably put a lead synth in its own group)
Strings (if used)
Hornz (if used)

I have "Track Folders" for each of these sections, which in turn feed their own busses so they are grouped together on one fader

I also use colour coding:

Bass - Brown
Drums - Yellow
Audio Drums (loops, percussion etc.) - a lighter yellow
Rhythm Guitars - Green
Acoustic Guitars - light green
Lead Guitars - dark green
Lead Vocals - purple
Backing Vocals - light purple
Melody Keys (e.g. Piano or keyboard parts) - dark blue
Synths (mainly pads - I would probably put a lead synth in its own group) - light blue
Strings (if used) - light blue
Hornz (if used) - orange

This not only separates the groups but I also know that the darker the colour the more "important" it is likely to be as it is more of a lead instrument

Some DAWs allow you to insert a graphic or track icon on the track - so I literally have little pictures of guitars on the guitar tracks, drums on the drum track etc. I use a mic image for the vocals unless I am out to impress- in which case I can use an actual photo of the vocalist on their track

It is all a bit of a faff to to set up but once you find a system that works you can develop a "template" as a starting point for  all future projects so it is a good investment in time IMHO

I will often deviate from this scheme but it is a great starting point for me
To check out my music please visit:


Twitter: https://twitter.com/BoydieMusic


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« Reply #2 on: October 08, 2017, 09:21:16 AM »
In addition to boydies tips, I often use 'Group tracks'. I think most DAW's support this (Or just use multiple stereo buses).

Group your tracks, e.g. bass, drums & rhythm guitar, or all backing vocals and by routing them to dedicated group tracks/buses before the final stereo master. You can then (almost), mix each group individually, then mix all the groups together.
In order to create a consistent mix there is a certain amount of switching between individual groups and the whole mix required, but it is an incredibly helpful technique for really dense mixes (Especially orchestral!)


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« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2017, 12:09:04 PM »
Great tips above Vicki. I think the main things as already advised are to group together and developed a "system" In Reaper you can easily do this by sending similar tracks (eg bv's or guitars) to a separate "bus" track. Then on your final mix you only have to mix the "bus" tracks together. It does take a bit of messing about with to start I agree but once you've got a system it's a lot easier


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« Reply #4 on: October 08, 2017, 02:57:10 PM »
Okay, it sounds like the key is to develop a consistent process. And to have a template. I have a foggy awareness that there is such a thing as a template but I haven't looked into it yet.

So I'll start by trying all the suggestions that I understand. All that stuff about "sending", "synth pads", "busses", and some of the other words and phrases sounds pretty mysterious to me. I wish I could take a class and learn the process one step at a time. In an orderly fashion.

I did have the tracks in folders, but I think I did it wrong, because I couldn't adjust something on one track without it happening to all the tracks in the folder. Or maybe that's the idea? But sometimes I need to adjust the volume on one track and not the others. So I tried to separate them, but I couldn't figure out how to "unfolder" them. I think I accomplished it eventually, though. At least they look like they're not in folders anymore.

Anyway, you've given me some steps here I can understand and figure out. And the rest...well, I figure...baby steps.

Thanks for the tips. I'm going to print all this out and put it by my recording computer as a reference.

Thanks again!


The S

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« Reply #5 on: October 11, 2017, 02:50:21 PM »
Yeah what the others have said.

After doing this for so many years, and constantly working on multiple projects at the same time, I can only say to you Vicki, it won't be a problem keeping tracks sorted once you've done it over and over again. You'll get into some sort of habitual strategy regarding your workflow and after that you need just to evaluate the efficiency of that said workflow from time to time and you'll be on the right path.

The danger lies in getting stuck in the workflow on stuff and parts that aren't necessarily important then and there. What I mean is, here's an example, don't solo the vocals early on and try to make 'em sound perfect when nothing else is done and you don't have a clue on how the song even sounds when all instruments + vocals are up and running.

Before I even start working on any track, I go for balance. I set faders (volume) on all tracks so I get an idea as to where I am and where I wanna go.

Then I implicate about the same top-to-bottom strategy but with a slightly different approach as to what I'm focusing on and in what order.

Since I dabble mostly in folk style music; I, at least for starters, use the top to bottom strategy but my primarily focus goes as follows:

1 - Vocals
2 - Acoustic guitars
3 - Electric guitars
4 - Bass
5 - Drums
6 - Fillers (Guitars, Harmonica or other instruments)

Like Boydie, I deviate from this more often than not, but that's where I try to start every project I'm working on.

There's so much more to say but it's at least something for now.  :D

In the end, if it sounds good no one cares about how you got there. It's so easy getting caught up in how it's supposed to be done, but it is more important...to get it done. One way or the other! Don't forget that!

Hope that helps!


« Last Edit: October 11, 2017, 04:03:46 PM by The S »


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« Reply #6 on: October 11, 2017, 05:03:46 PM »
Thanks for the input, Peter. I've collected all the comments on this thread and printed them out today for reference when I'm working on recording. Or whatever you call it when adding sound files from somewhere else. And adding in midi elements.

I'm not really expecting to end up with nicely produced pieces like others on the forum can do. I'm just hoping to be able to organize multiple tracks so I can find the bits I'm looking for when I'm editing pieces, copying and pasting here and there, or trying to figure out what's making that funny noise. Stuff like that. I think my computer screen is way too small. I can only see a little at a time.

Anyway, thanks again to everyone for the help. It has already made a difference. :)



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« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2017, 05:14:36 PM »
Just a small add,

I think most DAWs have track versions of some kind, So you can try out different ideas with same effects etc. I use Cubase and logic, they both have them.

But as above, organisation in group folders/tracks and good colour coding helps on larger projects.

Oh BACKUP..BACKUP..cant say this enough.......Not nice when the whole thing crashes and weeks/ months and years of work down the pan potentially.



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« Reply #8 on: October 19, 2017, 11:25:12 PM »
Thanks, Andy!

I agree about the backing up! I did an album in a studio a few years ago and I recently went to get my stems. They were all gone. He lost everything in a hard drive failure. How I wish I would have gotten them right away!

When I'm recording, I periodically save a new version so I have the piece in varying stages of doneness, but I am NOT good about backing up, in spite of my first paragraph. I do it, but not frequently. I am very overdue right now.