Saturday, May 14, 2016

How to use the arranger track and the scratch pad in our DAW (a guide for dummies)

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are going to talk about an interesting tool that will help us when writing or arranging a song, present in many of the most famous DAW in the market: the Arranger Track.

The arranger track is a sometimes overlooked instrument which can actually make us save a lot of time when writing a song, or when preparing different versions of the same song (for example an extended version, a radio edit, a 30 seconds commercial soundtrack version etc) without having to create a new project for each one.

Usually the arranger track works like this, for every Daw: you create it, then with the pencil tool you draw the parts (for example you can draw a part long as all the song's intro, and call it "intro", another one long all the verse and call it "verse", then one for the chorus and so on...), and then you can "move" those arranger track segments (e.g. "the verse") from one point of the song to another, and it will move all the single track parts below it.
This is particularly useful when writing a song, right after we have laid down all the single parts: we can move verses, choruses etc from one part of the song to another, multiply them etc with great ease, until we find the "perfect sequence" that will represent the final structure of our song.

This method described so far can be considered the "linear" structuring method, but in some Daw (like the latest versions of Cubase) we can also playback our songs in a sequential way: from the arranger menu, we can create a sequence and decide how many times to repeat a certain part, so that our project gets played as a sequencer (for example we can set: 1 x Intro part, 2 x Verse Riff, 2 x Chorus part.... and so on), and save multiple "chains" for the different arrangements we need, always using the same recorded parts.

One last thing, that is instead a prerogative of the latest versions of Presonus Studio One, is the Scratch pad.
The Scratch pad is a sort of "sandbox", a separate part of our project in which we can copy our project or our arrangement, and start modifying it without risking to ruin our main project (this is particularly useful in huge, multi song projects with a lot of tracks): we can copy there the parts we need, modify them, and if we like what we created, we can paste it back in the "official" project, otherwise we can get rid of it without risking to damage anything important.

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