Daily Dispatch

Organising Your Plugin & Sample Library for the Creative Flow States

I have already made a video on how I organise and structure my sample library; however, that was back in June 2017, over six months ago – a lot has changed since then.

For starters, 80% of the time I don’t have a particular instrument, sound, or even complete idea in my head when going into creating a track. Because of this, clicking through folder after folder of meticulously named instruments and sounds just doesn’t help my creativity, if anything this slows me down.

Don’t get me wrong either; sometimes you know exactly the instrument you’re looking for when working on a track. I’m speaking from personal experience when starting a new project, not during the process of creating one.

I’ve found a few tools, systems and ideas to help me with this process.

The first is a Mac sample library application named ‘Samplism’ (not affiliated). You can download and use the app for free; however, the full version costs £50/$50 through the Mac app store. Like many producers, I have quite an extensive collection of samples, and I just don’t like the idea of having to sort through and tag each audio file. This is where I found Samplism to be invaluable. Initially, I dropped only a few sample packs into the program to see what happened, to my surprise it sorted each sample by its file name (I’m presuming) into the given categories. But it also gave me further sorting options and allowed me to browse my collection by:

  • Genere
  • Country
  • Instruments
  • Effects
  • Voicing
  • Song Structure
  • Year
  • Character (my favourite)
  • Playing Techniques

I’m quite happy to admit that I’m not entirely sure how it does this as, these categories don’t appear in the audio files name or tags (a few do, but not all). I would guess that there must be a few mistakes within this system, but from having been using this software for a few months now, I haven’t noticed any yet.

I don’t intend for this to come off as a review of Samplism, but there are a couple more features I like. The first is being able to create folders, for example, you could have a folder full of your favourite drum hits, music loops, vocal chops, or whatever else you please. The second is the ability to drag a sample straight into your D.A.W. (Ableton in my case); however, this is a feature of the full version. Still, £50/$50 for hours saved and a potentially higher creative output is a small fee to pay.

As of yesterday (January 11th, 2018) all Ableton Live 9 Suite owners have access to the Ableton 10 beta. One of the main features a lot of users have been excited about is ‘Collections’, the ability to tag or colour code your samples. As I already had the above system in place on Samplism, as well as only being able to create seven different coloured tags in Ableton, the feature went unused for me. That changed today. I decided to use it to organise my plugin library.

I have been trying my best to minimise the number of plugins I own but hey, who am I kidding, I want them all. One issue I had was the structure of the Waves bundle as well as the Universal Audio collection. The problem with both of these is that it takes quite some time to find the desired plugin as both options are just a gigantic list inside of Ableton. For those unfamiliar with UA plugins, you download their whole plugin bundle with the ability to demo the ones that you don’t own licenses too. Because of this, in your D.A.W. even if you only hold one license you see all of their plugins. There is an option to hide them in the software, but it doesn’t seem to work for me. Regardless, sorting through plugins is slow and inefficient if you’re lazy like me and don’t like typing them into a search option.

I’ve found the favourites collection to be much like Samplism, invaluable. The folder is where I keep all of my most used plugins, my favourites.

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