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Using Studio One and Instrument Presets for Orchestral Projects

When composing to picture, I’ll usually reach for Logic Pro or Cubase. However, for projects that don’t require advanced tempo and video features – such as hybrid trailer music and production music – I’ll often choose Studio One.

Studio One’s unique workflow makes extensive use of a ‘drag-and-drop’ approach, which I find a very intuitive way to get creative juices flowing quickly and conducive to building a track as I go, rather than starting from a pre-built template.

However, for those who often deal with large orchestral projects and the complexity they entail, templates can be a huge timesaver and workflow booster.

So is it possible, or sensible, to build large orchestral templates in Studio One?

Recent updates to Studio One have introduced welcome features such as the ability to disable/enable tracks to save RAM and CPU, basic key-switching implementation, and track search and visibility options.

After much experimentation, I’ve settled on using Instrument Presets. They’re a standard feature in most DAWs, but Studio One’s straightforward approach, which, when combined with the drag-and-drop workflow and Bus Folders (I’ll explain more about those later), is quite a revelation.

How to save an Instrument Preset in Studio One

Open up any active virtual instrument in Studio One, and you’ll see what looks like a small document icon at the top left of the window.

Click on the icon, and the first two options in the drop-down list are:

  • Store Preset – this will save the instrument preset.
  • Store Instrument & FX Preset – this will save the instrument preset, plus inserts and key-switch maps that are assigned to the track.

Select your preferred format, then fill in the preset name. You can also add a description and create or choose a folder to save the preset in.

Store Preset

The different preset types can be identified by their icon. Regular presets are represented by a dark grey circle, Instrument & FX presets by a white link symbol.

Preset Types

How to load an Instrument Preset in Studio One

To load a preset, open up the instruments tab in the browser and locate the appropriate virtual instrument. Virtual instruments with presets will have a small disclosure triangle to the left of their icon.

Click on the triangle to view all available presets, then simply drag your preferred preset into the song window.

Alternatively, use the ‘Search’ key command, or click on the magnifying icon at the browser’s top right to search for a preset by name.

Preset List

The beauty of instrument presets in Studio One compared to other DAWs is that you can drag and drop multiple presets – even from different virtual instruments – into your project simultaneously.

Studio One Preset Multi Selection

This means that as long as you keep your presets well organised (some tips to follow), you can quickly add individual orchestral instruments, entire sections, or even a complete ‘template’ all in one quick drag-and-drop gesture.

Templates, Preset Organisation and Workflow

There are a few things I’d recommend you do to make the most of the Instrument Preset system.

Create a Routing Template with Bus Folders

Build a basic template with all of your routing, such as bus folders, sends, etc., set up and ready to go. 

To create a Bus Folder:

  • Create a folder track, Track > Add Folder Track, or by using your key command.
  • In the track inspector, select the drop-down list next to Channel and choose an existing bus or Add Bus Channel.
  • In Preferences > Advanced > Editing, make sure Apply folder track color to content is checked.
Bus Folders

When you drag a preset into a folder, it will automatically be routed to the appropriate bus and coloured—a huge time saver.

Use the ‘Track Names to Channels’ Command

Set up a key command, or create a button in the macro toolbar to trigger the ‘Apply Track Names to Channels’ command. This will rename the fader channels in the Mixconsole to the preset name.

Organise your Virtual Instruments into Folders

I prefer to place my VI’s into folders defined by category. To create custom folders, make sure the Instruments tab is set to sort by Folder. Right-click inside the Instruments tab and select New Folder, then give it a name. 

I numerically prefix my folders to keep them in order of my choosing; otherwise, they are automatically sorted by name.

Studio One Instruments Tab

Manually Organise your Presets into Folders

When you save a preset, there is a text field in the pop-up dialogue to create a folder for it to reside in. I find this approach very clunky as if you want to add a new preset to an existing folder. You have to remember the exact name and type the name manually – as there is no option to choose a folder you created previously.

To overcome this, I simply save every preset to the top level of the default preset folder, found in your Studio One directory Studio One/Presets/Instrument Vendor/Instrument Name.

I open the folder on my computer and organise my presets manually. Any new folders I create will automatically show up in Studio One when I refresh the view or restart the application.

You can organise your folders how you wish. Again I’ve used a prefix numbering system to keep my various libraries in an order I find easy to navigate.

Preset Folders

Set up A ‘Quick Access’ Preset Folder

When I start a new project, I often use several ‘broad stroke’ ensemble instruments to get ideas down quickly.

I’ve put these in a ‘Quick Access’ folder at the top of my preset list, which means I can select them all and drag them into my project simultaneously to get started quickly, without needing to search for each one individually.

You can save multiple copies of the same preset in different folders if you wish. However, presets have to exist in the parent virtual instrument folder. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to create a folder that stores all of your presets from different VI’s.

Save your Instrument Presets 10 times faster

I recommend a handy little app called Keyboard Maestro on the Mac to automate the process of creating presets.

It takes a little setting up but means I can open up Kontakt, navigate to a library’s instrument directory, and ask Keyboard Maestro to select, save all of the instruments as Studio One presets automatically. I’m sure there must be a similar app for Windows. If anyone has a suggestion, let me know, and I’ll include it here.

Syncing Instrument Presets between Computers

If you use Studio One on more than one computer, it can help have your presets available on whichever device you’re using.

Here is how I have approached it using Dropbox on a Mac using symlinks.

  • Move your preset folder to your desired location Dropbox.
  • Create a symlink of the folder, then move that symlink to the original location in the Studio One directory.
  • Make sure it’s named ‘Presets’ or Studio One won’t recognise it.
  • On subsequent computers repeat step 2.

All of your installs of Studio One will now see the same set of presets. There are some obvious caveats.

  • You won’t see presets if a particular VI isn’t installed on your computer.
  • Some presets may ask you to locate samples. If the preset was created on another computer with a different path. This won’t occur with Kontakt Libraries or Play.

4 thoughts on “Using Studio One and Instrument Presets for Orchestral Projects”

    • Personally, I haven’t run into any CPU issues using the preset method shown here. In day to day usage, I find Studio One’s performance sits somewhere in between Logic and Cubase.

      • Wondering how to interpret the CPU performance answer.
        Is Logic the most efficient? Followed by S1 and Cubase?
        Or the opposite direction?


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