Whats the best way to physically set up my busses? The actual order of the process

So I am always trying to get my ultimate project template setup but im not quite there yet. So in the meantime I start projects with just a drum folder for my ez drums and then I start adding guitar tracks etc

So lets say I now have a few guitar tracks bass tracks and now I want to start adding all of my folders/busses to start building up the song. Whats the best way to do it? I mean, what order should things be done?

for instance I have my master tracks of course and then here is what i want to have under that:

2 Bus. Then going to the 2 bus I want “instruments” and “total vocals” and of course it breaks down further from there for instance under instruments will be “drums” “guitars” “bass” and of course each of those will break down such as drums will break down into multiple folders “kick bus” 'snare bus" etc etc

you get the idea. So do I start making folders from the top down or from the bottom up? for instance would I make a big overall “2 bus” folder with everything in it and then go into that and start subdividing up into smaller folders…or start with the smallest folders first and work upwards?

I had a nightmare on a recent song with over 85 tracks where I had multiple levels of folders etc and somehow during the mixing I accidentally changed the order of a track or something and it was an absolute nightmare trying to get the folders back in order. Somehow the “total vox” had gotten under the guitar folder and it was hell trying to get everything straight

Thats where the confusion comes in…when one track can be the “last track in a folder” but on like 4 different levels lol. For instance my lead guitar track will be the last track in the “lead guitar” folder, but also in the “total guitar” folder and then also in the “instruments” folder etc

Whats the best method to set this up without a ton of headache??

Thanks, JJ

I can never think of an instance where I needed tonal control over all instrument and all vocals. If you just want to be able to mute and solo them as 2 different groups, I recommend using a group clutch or assigning them to a VCA instead of creating a folder track.

My apologies. I keep forgetting what DAW you’re on. Pro Tools and Nuendo make you declare the label for the bus before you are able to create or route the bus. So it really depends on which DAW you’re using. Logic is totally different. You can just add and move busses around as you go.

With that many tracks, I would recommend getting your global FX busses in place first. This is going to save a lot of headache. I create them in banks of 16 because thats how my console is laid out. Then I start subgrouping from there.

So it totally depends on whats in your project. The only thing I can really say is other than your globals, try and just stick to only what you need.

I’m not sure what you mean by folder tracks. But any time you have the chance to fold ten backup vocals into one stereo pair, do it, then deactivate, then hide your ten mono tracks and shove them out of sight and out of mind.

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Reaper. This is a copy of what I asked in the Reaper forum so its sort of assuming reaper knowledge but should be about the same in most DAWs

in Reaper, “folder” is going to basically be the same as a bus. Any track can be made into a folder. the “trick” to it is that you then have to go to the last track in that folder and click on it to make it the last track in the folder

So on any track you can make the track a folder or it can be the last track in a folder. the ‘catch’ is that sometimes a track may be the last track of several layers of folders at once

for instance lets say I have a guitar bus. Inside that i might have a rhythm bus and a solo bus since they will have totally different tones and processing etc. So the last track in the “solo” bus will also be the last track of the overall “guitar” bus. Reaper shows them indented at different levels. of course in reality that last solo track will also be the last track in the overall “instrument” folder. So its the last track in 3 different levels of folder.

In the project I am working on I had already put in a drum bus and bass bus so in reality I had already started making busses sort of on the “mid” level of the overall architecture. I then went and added further sub busses like “snare bus” and “kick bus” and then added the larger overall stuff like “2 bus” and “total vx” etc without too much issue

so in essence the question was probably unneeded but it still helps me to hear what others say.

i like the extra control, as u say, if nothing more than for muting or checking levels but also for instance maybe I want to mid/side process all of my instruments but not my vocals or do some sort of automation on all instruments but not vocals or who knows what else

pretty sure folders replaced or obsoleted VCAs in reaper

Actually VCAs are a relatively recent addition to Reaper - you can use them along with folders:

Personally, I don’t use either. I also just discovered Reaper has “Sub Projects” - that could come in handy with large sessions.

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I like mayonnaise but hate mustard. To each his own

Not sure if this is a response to me - I gather it is… If it is, it appears you took offence at my reply. Perhaps my brevity of reply is at fault. I apologise if I somehow offended you - that wasn’t my intention. I was brief because I didn’t have much time.

In any case, the reason I mentioned VCAs being able to be used concurrently with Folders was because @Jonathan offered them as a possible solution, and I thought it might be helpful to know they could still be used.

The reason I mentioned that I don’t use either was because, as such I’m not familiar with their usage, and therefore can’t be of anymore help. I don’t “hate” them, and I wish you all the best in your efforts to find a workflow that suits you.

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nah, takes a bit more than that to offend me. Then again i always do find it amusing when someone asks a specific thing and essentially they get told that the question is wrong.

like if someone asks “how do I do such and such in Cubase?” and the answer comes back “dude, omg, why use cubase?? studio one ruleZ$%”

your comment of “personally I dont use either” might be classed in that category. Mustard vs Mayonnaise.

I have heard of VCAs and subprojects and IIRC glanced at them. I would guess that they didnt make perfect sense to me in 30 seconds so I lost interest. reaper seems almost infinitely deep

So far I dont see the need to learn yet 2 more ways to complicate things. I just want to find how to best use folders.

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one thing I want the “instruments” and “vocals” folders for is to throw SPAN and other stuff into for easy analysis of just those section. yeah, im sure 10 people could do the same thing 10 other ways lol

Those are really 2 different tools. I did double check to confirm that the folders in reaper work like the ‘stacks’ in Logic and the ‘folders’ in Cubase. The folders in Ableton aren’t really folders in this sense though their sometimes referred to as folders.

Ok. The folders don’t obsolete the VCA’s. They serve a different purpose. Though they share some of the basic functionality of a VCA, they are more for managing the visual layout of data, something the VCA can’t do. I use folders when I want to visually dispose of subgroups of tracks that I may want to be able to access with a quick button click. Rather than doing something like muting the regions and pushing them to the bottom of the screen, it may be easier to put all your original non-autotuned tracks in what’s called an X folder or a ‘storage’ folder and not have to think about them (out of site out of mind), rather than make them inactive then mute the regions, then hide the region. The problem this solves is that when you have over 100 tracks that have all been processed, but you’re required by the project supervisor to keep the originals data on the tracks, you NEED some way of organizing all that unused audio.

The advantage of the VCA is that you don’t have to keep toggling folders open and closed and the folder lane itself isn’t chewing up space on your DAW screen. Furthermore, you separate the audio lane from the VCA lane. You can’t with a folder. A folder requires the audio lane to be inside the folder. What I means is you can’t do this with a folder:

Example 1:


Guitar 1
Guitar 2
Guitar 3
Guitar 4

Drum VCA
Guitar VCA

Using folders you would have to do it like this

Example 2:

Drums folder

Guitar folder
Guitar 1
Guitar 2
Guitar 3
Guitar 4

Example 1 is by far the more commonly used method. Chris Lord Alge places his VCA’s on the left of his console or to the left of his audio lanes when he’s working in the box. I put my VCA’s dead center on my console, but push my VCA’s all the way to far right on my DAW even past my master fader because I don’t ever want to look at them on the screen. So really its about moving stuff around. I want them in the same place all the time, and the last place I ever want a VCA or folder is cluttering up the lanes in the main arrange window.

I hope that helps a little… No one has to use either. Its not a requirement. The folder tool and the VCA tool are there if you need them, but never in your way if you’re like Andrew and don’t have a use for them.