If you’re like 99.9% of music creators, you develop your pieces of music over time and often with multiple edits iterations of each composition. Unless you use the same computer all the time and always overwrite your previous sessions of each project file, this results in multiple project files for each piece of music.
The problem, however, with overwriting your previous sessions’ project files is that it effectively deletes the development of your composition, where you may sometimes want to go back and review previous versions.
This makes it essential for you to develop a system for managing your files so that you can save each step of your piece’s development and have a sense of order when you’re going in between studios. Here are some tips for doing so:
When you first set up a project or session file in your DAW, it will most likely create a root folder automatically for that file to sit in. This folder will also contain an “Audio” folder within it for your raw recorded audio to be stored in. And it will usually contain a “Bounces” folder for when you bounce your session to an audio file. In the root folder is where your project files sit.
This system of having your audio, bounces and project files all within one folder is really the easiest and best way to keep track of your project. Name that root folder the name of your piece of music. If your DAW doesn’t automatically create a project folder for your when you set up a new session, we recommend you create one yourself and add the “Audio” and “Bounces” subfolders to it manually. You can then set your audio to scratch files in the “Audio” folder. And when you bounce your mix, you can save it to the “Bounces” folder. This system is fairly universal and easy to understand in the event you want to share a project with others.
Once you have your project session folder set up, you will want to save your project file (the file type is specific to your DAW) using a naming system that allows you to easily keep track of your various versions of the project. We recommend a system that both keeps track of the place where the version was made and the numbered sequence of versions. It’s also good to use underscores instead of spaces in naming your pieces, so that you can upload to the Internet without needing to change the name. (The URL of a file on a web-connected server cannot contain spaces.)
For example say you create a song called “Lost In Love” in your home studio, you would name it “LostInLovestudio1.ptx”. If you then went to Steve’s studio to lay down some bass lines you would save your project folder to a portable drive. When you opened the session file you’d want to hit the Save As function and name a new version of the project file as “LostInLove_Steves _2.ptx”. From looking at these files you could easily tell which one is the most recent and where that version was last created. This is helpful for keeping track of your project’s development while still having the option to go back to earlier versions.
It’s important that whenever you put the project folder on your home drive again (with the older version) that you overwrite it with the new folder, so that you’re always working with your most recent content.
Digital recording has made the process of developing a song more organic and mobile than ever. With the right system of digital file management you can record, edit and mix virtually unlimited times and in multiple studios and maintain a working copy of your progress. Keeping your files organized also enables you to collaborate easily with other artists, engineers and mastering studios and make the most of our connected digital age.