This is one of those things that I’ve never done very well, but I think I’m shooting myself in the foot.

What am I talking about? Plug-in presets.

Now, if you’re starting out with recording, and you’ve never really messed around with an EQ or a compressor or a reverb, plug-in presets are your best friend.

Any plug-in that you get (any plug-in worth anything at least) will come with a fair  number of presets that you can use. This is wonderful because you may not know which frequency bands to be boosting or cutting or how long your reverb tail should be, and using plug-in presets allows you to pull up an entire setting without you having to know necessarily how each little knob in that plug-in works.

It’s a really helpful thing.

However, once you’re used to using plug-ins, it becomes tempting to do everything yourself, to start from scratch with every track and every plug-in. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, and I’ll admit that’s normally how I do things, but I’m starting to play around with using presets and saving them to help make my workflow a little bit better.

Time-saver

The first thing that saving will do for you is save you time.

Think about it. If you’re doing a mix of a 14-song album and every song has 13 drum tracks, once you mix the first song, and you get those drum tracks sounding pretty close to how you want them to sound, it makes a lot of sense to go ahead and save all of those presets, or all of those plug-in settings, and then load those into the remaining 13 songs. Then you can start with the drum sound that you’ve already gotten in the first song without having to build it from scratch every time.

This is also helpful because it keeps your mixes sounding consistent from one to the other.

How do we do that? Well, you can save individual plug-in presets within the plug-in, which is certainly doable, or you could save an entire template of your session, and then import the audio files into that template for each new song.

Your Arsenal

Another reason to save plug-in presets is it builds up your arsenal.

In other words, it allows you to over time acquire a massive collection of presets that you can use on future sessions.

Let’s say you find a great preset that works wonderfully for a MusicMan Sterling base. Well, that’s great. Next time you have that bass in your studio, if you saved that plug-in preset, you can go pull that back up and get a similar sound. You’re starting from a great sounding preset that was custom made for that particular instrument.

You can imagine that over the course of a couple of years, you could develop some really valuable plug-in presets that’ll save you a lot of time and help your mixes start sounding better and better as you continue to improve the sound of those presets.

Channel Strips

Finally, there are plug-in presets, and then there are channel strips. Certain DAWs, like Presonus Studio One, allow you to save entire channel strips in your session. That means if you have five plug-ins on a track, you can save all of those plug-ins and their settings to a single channel strip.

Unfortunately, Pro Tools doesn’t do this, but if you have a DAW that allows you to save full channel strips,use that function. It will definitely help you in the long-run.

So, that’s the question for you…do you save plug-in presets?

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  • Sethmetal6

    I always use presets and custom fader mapping. Sometimes the way the plug-in parameters are laid out on an interface don’t make a lot of sense. Not having to look at knobs or faders trying to figure out which one your’e controlling is great!

  • klekabou

    saving your own presets and even channelstrips ( i’m using logic ) is great.
    It’s very comfortable to have a startingpoint.

  • Usually you’re saving your presets WITHIN the plugin itself. It
    shouldn’t have anything to do with Mac or PC.

  • Mark

    I’ve been saving pre-sets from plug ins for a while now and it is really useful.  I’ve also started using templates in the DAW that I use (Reaper).  It is a huge savings of time.  I can just set up a template of what I usually use and I’m rolling!

  • Rockludret

    Ableton is very powerful in this way if you use the native devices, because you can save any combination of effects as a preset with effect racks. I’ve started using this, and as you can assign some knobs from the effects to master knobs on the effect rack you can spend a lot of time tweaking around with nuances of a preset.

  • one thing i LOVE about Logic is that I can use the browser window to import setups form other projects. I can also choose to  import: “plugins” “sends” “audio” and a bunch of other stuff. I love it cause I dont have to do anyhting. If the project file i still there, so is my set up!

  • Man channel strip presets in pro tools would rock.

    • I started on Pro Tools (7.4 I think?)  but switched to Logic after too long, and I didn’t know that it didn’t have that feature until I read this post.  I’m really surprised it hasn’t been added, especially since I’ve heard such great things about PT9.

  • I use Logic Pro.  I don’t do much saving of individual presets but I use the ‘Save Channel Strip Setting’ a ton.  It would be fun to set up a stopwatch on my next project and mix it from scratch and mix it with the Channel Strip saving to see just how much time I save.  And as Joe stated, sure there are usually things to change each time you use the setting but it gets it relatively close and saves me the time/hassle.

  • Otto de Lima

    never do, but I see your point Joe. I don’t think I’ll be doing this so soon… In each mix I become better, and the experimenting makes me better at it, so I don’t the mix to sound like the previous. Understand the deal? hehe

  • Aussiebail

     You can do this with Cubase, as mentioned below templates are also very helpful!

  • When I’m mixing a session I get a rough mix together of one song, getting things pretty close to how I think they’ll end up.  I save this song then I delete all of the audio from each track.  I then  import the audio from the next song and save the session under a new name.  This gets my next song up and running much quicker, since all my buses, plugins, and levels are all matched to the first song.  I don’t need to spend time throwing plugins on tracks and setting up all my audio buses.  I’ve found that if I use a template in ProTools there are still many things that I either need to add or don’t need at all, templates are only effective if you record things the same every time.  I don’t.  Obviously there is still mixing to be done on the new song, and if there are parts in the new song that didn’t exist on the previous song I’ll have to set those up separately.  This saves me so much time, and there is little work to be done once you import the tracks.  This has helped me to spend all my time mixing great music, and little time doing the tedious stuff.

  • If you wanna some channel strip you can try the Waves ones. There’re many analog clones that work very well (API-SSL) and work in all DAWs. Obviously, you can save the preset!
    My 2 cents.

  • i haven’t done plugin presets yet, but in Reaper you *can* save track templates, which i do. sounds like the channel strip thing.