Anatomy of a Project: A Nontraditional Approach to a Commercial Recording

By Jimmy Landry

Last summer, Peppina—a young female artist from Finland— plunged herself into the NYC music scene for two months. With the help of renowned NYC entertainment attorney Steven Beer who discovered her, she managed to head back to Finland with a major-label sounding EP. The project was recorded in different ways, in different locations all over the city—and with budgets being slashed, these days it’s pretty much hand-to-hand combat when making a low budget recording where anything goes. But the upshot is yes, you can record a commercial-sounding record on a budget—so here are some of the techniques we employed to accomplish that goal. SONAR Platinum was instrumental in saving time on this EP. Between the Drum Replacer, VocalSync, onboard Melodyne, Speed Comping and general speed enhancements, I got to the finish line a lot faster than previous records. I highly recommend anyone who’s on SONAR XX to take a close look at what the program has brought to the table in the last year.

This all started when Steven Beer called about an artist he’d heard sing at a film festival, and invited me for a meeting at his office. Interestingly, there were two other producer/writers there as well—a bit unorthodox, but pretty much anything goes these days, so nothing really surprises me anymore. We discussed the artist’s interests, influences, and other variables, and then listened to some of my reel as well as music from the other producers. It turned out the lawyer’s master plan was to bring the three of us together to co-write, record, and mix a five-song EP before she went back to Finland in 45 days.

Peppina already had some momentum in Finland from a loop she wrote and uploaded to a site called HITRECORD (owned by actor and director Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Her upload was so popular that Gordon-Levitt flew her to California to perform the piece at the Orpheum in LA during one of the show’s TV episodes. This all sounded good to me, so I signed on to a production team that would share in the production duties and heavy lifting. As to budgets…well, there was enough there for us to take it on as a challenge.

(more…)

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5 New Features That Make SONAR Steam Edition a Great Upgrade

If you’re using Music Creator 6 or 7 on Steam, you already know how easy it is to set up and record with Cakewalk recording software. Now that you’ve gotten some experience, it’s time to take your productions to the next level with SONAR Steam Edition. A more inclusive DAW, SONAR Steam Edition combines the simple, easy-to-use layout of Music Creator with even more powerful tools and features for the ultimate recording and mixing experience.

5: Creativity Without Limits

SONAR Steam Edition follows the same mantra as any SONAR: “Creativity Without Limits.” SONAR will help you take your creations to the next level with unlimited Input/Output, Tracks, and Busses. You’ll also gain the ability to route any track anywhere with Universal Routing Technology, great for recording FX, creating submixes, and tons of other creative uses.

Feature

Music Creator 7

SONAR Steam Edition

Simultaneous I/O

8 x 8

Unlimited

Audio Tracks

32

Unlimited

Instrument Tracks

8

Unlimited

Patch Points & Aux Tracks

N/A

Unlimited

 

4: Audio and MIDI Engine Updates

Thanks to SONAR’s Rolling Updates, we’ve implemented dozens of fixes and enhancements — and that’s just to the Audio and MIDI engines! This means a cleaner, faster, smoother, and more efficient creative experience from start to finish.

SONAR Steam Edition Upgrade SMOOTHER Style Dial

3: More Audio FX

More FX means more creative potential, and when you want even more tools to shape your sound, SONAR has you covered. You’ll receive a whole new suite of VST FX, and a few upgrades on the FX you already have like TH2. And those Style Dials you’ve come to know and love? You get more of those, too.

2: Expanded Clip Libraries and File I/O

SONAR Steam Edition has a little something special that none of the other versions have. We added a whole toolset designed specifically for game developers — but anyone can use them! This means you get a free Sound FX library that can be used for any musical or post-production project. You can export clips directly formatted for RPG Maker. You can even import image files to create your own track icons for a speedier workflow!

1: Great New Instruments

SONAR Steam Edition boasts an incredible upgrade to your synth collection. You get:

  • SONAR Steam Edition Rapture Session Browser

    Session Drummer 3, a more flexible and user-friendly upgrade to SI – Drum Kit.

  • Z3TA+, a world-renowned, legendary synth whose sounds can be heard on electronic productions the world over.

  • Our newest synth addition, Rapture Session, a streamlined synth that plays back all of your programs from Cakewalk Sound Center, plus includes an 11-instrument library of select sounds from our flagship synth, Rapture Pro.

Learn more about SONAR Steam Edition here.

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Melodyne 4 Essential Coming Soon To SONAR Professional & Platinum

Melodyne 4 Essential Coming Soon To SONAR - Click Here to Learn More

Celemony has graciously introduced a brand new Melodyne update to the world, and we’re including it in the SONAR Manchester Update free of charge for all Professional & Platinum customers with an active Rolling Updates Membership. What makes this Melodyne upgrade so great?

Edit Entire Mixes

Melodyne 4 introduces a new Universal algorithm, ideally suited to time-stretch and pitch-shift entire mixes. It also provides a more CPU-friendly way to edit polyphonic material without sacrificing any of the superior quality you expect from Melodyne.

Modern New Interface

Much like SONAR, Melodyne’s new UI has been designed to fit your workflow, adding customizable configurations and better information overviews. It’s also been optimized for compatibility and stability with all the latest 32-bit and 64-bit Operating Systems and DAWs.

Improved Tempo Detection

Melodyne 4’s new tempo algorithms detect tempos, time signatures and changes more accurately than ever before, allowing you to to match the tempo of any audio clip or loop to any other audio clip or loop more precisely.

Multi-Track Viewing (Melodyne Studio only)

SONAR users can enjoy the ability to view the data from multiple audio tracks all in one single Melodyne window, making it much faster and easier to synchronize notes on different tracks. This unprecedented new feature is useable exclusively in the current edition of SONAR.

Like what you’re reading? Upgrade or Renew today or Try SONAR for free!

For more information about Melodyne 4, please visit http://www.celemony.com/en/help/helpcenter

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Coloring Your Sound With Reverb: Part 1 – Convolution Reverb

With so many different reverb options available, it can sometimes be hard to know where to begin. This series will focus on helping you make your reverb decisions more efficiently by identifying the function of every component, one at a time.

Sounds | Controls | Tips & Tricks

The Sounds

ReMatrix Solo is a convolution reverb. In this type of reverb, microphones capture the sound of an environment’s response to a full spectrum of frequencies, known as an Impulse Response (IR). Then, the resulting .wav file is introduced back into a convolution plugin – in this case ReMatrix Solo. The plugin plays the incoming audio, say your drum track, “through” the IR. This type of reverb is great for adding realistic ambience to dry sounding tracks.

Depending on the shape and material of the walls, ceiling, floor, and furniture in the sampled environment, different frequencies may be absorbed or reflected faster or slower than others. This is what gives any reverb its own characteristic sound. For example, a concert hall with hard, dense walls and plastic seats will have a much longer decay in high-frequency content than a living room with relatively soft wooden walls and a cushioned couch.

ReMatrix Solo recognizes 5 different categories of IRs: Hall, Room, Plate, Early, and Special. Let’s take a look at the characteristics of each of these.

Hall

Hall Reverb ExampleThe first thing you’re likely to notice about Hall reverbs is that they’re usually longer than other types–about 2 seconds or more. This is because halls are rather large spaces with lots of room for sound to bounce around. Like great prose or a fine wine, reverb has a beginning, middle, and end. For reverb, we’ll refer to these as “Early Reflections,” “Body,” and “Decay (or Tail).” Common Hall reverb characteristics include an audible array of early reflections (more on this later), a dense, sustained body, and a smooth, often dark decay.

Here are some sonic examples of applications of Hall Reverb:

  • If you listen carefully, you’ll notice the snare’s attack is quite present in the reverb itself.
  • The guitar in this example loses some presence due to the heavy wash of conflicting frequencies.
  • In the vocals, most of the consonants are lost to the diffusion, resulting in a reverb body consisting mostly of vowel sounds.

Room

Room Reverb ExampleRoom reverb times are much shorter than halls, due mostly to their smaller size. These will normally range between about a half-a-second to a few seconds. Rooms are often a bit “darker” sounding than most halls, since the size and materials are prone to more high-frequency absorption. However, any variations in size and material are going to have a large impact on the resulting reverberations, so you can expect much variation from one Room sound to the next. One may have almost no early reflections, a smooth body and quick decay, while another might have a booming attack, and thick body that slowly fades away.

Here are the same tracks as above, but with some Room reverb applied:

  • The snare sound gains a presence boost from the stronger midrange information of this reverb.
  • The guitar fits nicely with this reverb due to the dense and diffuse body.
  • Notice how the vocal reverb now sounds like each word smears together, rather than just the vowel sounds in the hall example.

Plate

Plate Reverb ExampleA plate reverb is a mechanical device that vibrates in response to an audio signal being passed through it. It has transducers that send and receive the signal, and a damping pad to adjust the length of the reverb. These reverbs are often a half-second to a few seconds in length, and have almost no early reflections, but a substantial body and gentle decay. Because of this, it’s not uncommon to see large amounts of predelay added to this reverb type.

Once again, the same tracks as above, but with Plate reverb applied:

  • This reverb is quite bright. The snare gains a lush high end that otherwise is rather lacking
  • You’ll notice that the guitar sounds a bit harsh running through this particular plate sound.
  • The vocals have a bit of an “airy lift” to them, but sibilant sounds (S’s and T’s, for example) might need to be carved out with an EQ to avoid a similar harshness to the guitars.

Early

Early Reflections Reverb ExampleThis one is sort of unique to ReMatrix. Nearly every type of reverb has early reflections, but this particular category isolates them as their own entity. Early reflections, as shown in the diagram below, are the sounds that you hear most immediately after the direct signal, usually within the first 60-80ms. For that reason, they have an almost imperceptible body and decay. Don’t let the short time fool you, though; these reverbs can introduce very unique and desirable sonic characters to any sound.

Reverb Early Reflections

Here are some examples of early reflections applied to our drum, guitar, and vocal tracks:

Short and sweet, Early Reflections are fantastic for bringing a sound to the forefront while still maintaining a sense of depth and “live-ness.”

Special

Special Reverb ExampleThis is where all the outliers are found. These IRs include reverse reverbs, modulated sounds, and more. The modulated sounds are typically .wav files that have been modified in some way with another effect like an automated filter, a delay, some kind of pan effect, or just about anything else. Since there are no real rules to this IR type, there’s not much explaining to do here, so let’s jump right into some examples.

  • The snare, high in transient information, also yields an interesting result with the panning echoes.
  • The busy guitar covers up much of the effect, and you’re just as well reaching for a more suitable reverb program
  • The vocals play quite nicely through it, sounding like a high-feedback slapback delay with some sort of weird FM filtering.
  • This type of reverb may not fit so well in every mix you do, and the effect may not always be apparent, but it can bring a bit of spice to an otherwise dull part.

The Controls

Time

Reverb TimeThis is the length of the reverb. Whenever you see a time control on a reverb, it is measured in RT60, or amount of time it takes for the reverb to be 60dB lower than its original level. Note that when you load a preset or IR in ReMatrix Solo, this setting adjusts to the IR’s original intended RT60 time. Be careful when making adjustments to this as it can sometimes make the reverb sound “chopped” or produce undesired artifacts.Reverb Time RT60

Delay

Reverb Pre-Delay This is the Pre-Delay, or amount of time before the reverb signal is produced. For example, if your song is 120bpm and you want an eighth note’s worth of time between the dry snare hit and the wet reverb signal, you would set this value to 250ms. This is useful for when your original signal starts to sound oversaturated by the reverb. Providing a bit of time between the original signal and the reverb signal gives a sense of distance and depth.

Helpful Hint: 1 ms of pre-delay is equal to about 1 foot of distance from the source. 

Reverb Pre-Delay

Stereo

Reverb Stereo Width ControlThis knob controls the stereo width of the reverb. A value of 0% will be “mostly” mono. A value of 100% provides an extremely wide stereo image, and dipping into negative values results in an extremely collapsed reverb sound. Try a variety of settings–this parameter has an incredible ability to create a very realistic and controlled sense of space for your reverb.

EQ Gain

Reverb EQ Gain ControlThis is, quite simply, the amount of gain applied at the EQ Freq setting. This applies only to the reverb return signal itself, so adding a high shelf to the snare reverb does not add the high shelf to the snare, just the snare’s reverb.

EQ Freq

Reverb EQ Frequency ControlIf you would like to apply a band of EQ to your reverb signal, this is the place to do it. This setting will determine the center frequency of your EQ adjustment. This is useful when you want to modify the coloration of the reverb, or to help it fit more neatly into your mix.

EQ Q

Reverb EQ Q ControlAs with any Q setting, this is the width of the EQ band you’re applying to your EQ signal.
Hi-Shelf affects frequencies at and above the EQ Freq setting
LPF (Low-Pass Filter) cuts all frequencies below the EQ Freq setting
– Numbers indicate a Band Pass filter — your standard bell-curve EQ. A smaller number creates a wider bell curve, and a larger number creates a very narrow curve.

Dry/Wet

Reverb Dry Wet MixerThis is the blend of original, unprocessed signal and “wet,” processed reverb signal. A common workflow would be to create a send on the track to which you wish to apply reverb. Set up the send to go to an aux track, and add the ReMatrix ProChannel module to the Aux Track. Set the Dry/Wet slider to 100% wet. Now, your original track is still totally dry, and the aux track is only the reverb signal. To blend, simply adjust the send level from the original track. More send level = more reverb.


Tips & Tricks:

  • Play around with settings and presets to get the most out of your reverb plugins! The sound examples demonstrated one of many different configurations for each reverb type.
  • Be conservative — too much reverb can leave your mix sounding distant and oversaturated.
  • Be judicious – in most cases, it’s not a good idea to apply reverb to every track.
  • Send, not Insert. 9 times out of 10, you’ll have a better experience with separate source and reverb tracks. See the Dry/Wet section for more info.
  • Use “just enough” reverb: Solo your source and reverb tracks, and bring up the send level until the reverb is audible. Then, bring it back down 1 dB or so and move on.
  • Use your EQ. The built-in EQ on ReMatrix is great for adding color or carving out some space, but don’t be afraid to add another EQ to your reverb track to tailor it further to fit your mix.
  • Play with dynamics. Applying Compression, Gating, and Side-Chaining to reverb tracks can result in some really useful and interesting effects.
  • Pan your return. A guitar panned left with its reverb panned right can increase the apparent space the instrument occupies
  • Not all reverbs will work for your track. It’s well worth the time investment to find the one that best suits your production.
  • Don’t write off the harsher sounds. You may notice some IRs sound “better” than others, but the ones that sound “bad” when soloed tend to stand out better in a dense mix.
  • It doesn’t need to be realistic for it to be pleasant. It’s okay to have your vocals in a hall, your snare in a dark room, your toms running through a plate, and your kazoo in a bright room.
  • Automate the send. Reverb doesn’t have to be on all the time. Automate the send to apply reverb only to certain words, licks, or sections to add motion and excitement to your mix.

You can try REmatrix Solo for yourself in SONAR Professional and SONAR Platinum.

Try SONAR Free

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SONAR Platinum vs. SONAR X3 Producer: Importing Audio

SONAR Platinum vs. SONAR X3 Producer Speed Importing Audio

A few weeks back, we released this video demonstrating the drastic speed improvement when inserting 100 blank audio tracks into the current edition of SONAR.

If you saw that video, you’ll recall that SONAR Platinum, in less than one second, accomplished what SONAR X3 took about 13 seconds to complete — a 2,600% improvement!

As we continue to make improvements to SONAR Platinum (and Artist & Professional as well) through Rolling Updates, we thought it might be fun to race SONAR Platinum against SONAR X3 Producer in their ability to import actual audio files.

The video below, complete with drag race audio, a rock n’ roll soundtrack, and a couple of millisecond-accurate stopwatches, places SONAR Platinum and SONAR X3 Producer side-by-side to see who is the real speed demon.

I’ll spoil it a little and tell you that SONAR Platinum is the winner here, but the illustrated difference in speed may truly shock you!

Note: If you liked the soundtrack, be sure to check out the Rock Guitar Anthems loop pack!

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15-Compressor Shootout: Lead Vocals

No question, there are a lot of compressor plugins out there, and they all have their unique layouts, quirks, and sonic qualities. In the video below, we line up 15 different compressors and demonstrate these differences.

Below the video, you’ll also find a helpful updated list of key features, a downloadable chart, and links to learn more about the compressors that do not come standard with SONAR Platinum. If you’re not familiar many compressor plugins, I recommend starting here.

It’s worth noting that this video demonstrates a limited scope of each compressor’s capabilities. Since the compressor is being used to level out a vocal performance, each one has been set up optimally for the application, usually with a low ratio and fairly fast attack and release wherever applicable.

Every possible measure was taken to keep the responses and output levels of each compressor as uniform as possible so that the shootout makes for a consistent apples-to-apples comparison. In the future, keep an eye out for more of these shootouts, as the same tools might have totally different effects on a snare drum, acoustic guitar, electric bass, or saxophone.

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Month-end artist recap: Nov2015 World tours, Wahlburgers and more

Jorg Kohring

LA-based producer/mixer/musician (and former Lifehouse guitarist) Jorg Kohring was busy in November remixing the single “On Fire” off his last record. The remix/rerelease just hit over 15.000 views on YouTube in a little over two weeks. Jorg told us, “This remix is doing really well, people love the sound and production which is all done in SONAR Platinum.  YouTube began putting some high profile ads in front of the video, so I think we may be seeing a lot more activity with the video as it gets in front of more people.  It was interesting to remix a song in Platinum that was originally produced and mixed in SONAR X3. The new SONAR has really come a long way and it shows in the mix.” ~Jorg Kohring

 

Yogi Lonich

LA producer/musician Yogi Lonich has been quite busy these days inside and outside of SONAR.  He recently performed with Scott Weiland in Las Vegas at the Sayer’s Club, and is also currently rehearsing for international tour dates with Chinese pop star Jason Zhang in 2016. Yogi is the master of diversity with SONAR; he is currently recording his new record Run Through the Desert due out in 2016, while also composing and producing for shows such as Wahlburgers, Freaks and Geeks, Donny Loves Jenny and Long Island Lock Up to name a few. He also just co-wrote and recorded a song completely in SONAR with LA actress/singer/producer Rita Wilson (Sleepless in Seattle, Runaway Bride, My Big Fat Greek Wedding) with no release date announced yet for that track.

“The Drum Replacer in SONAR Platinum is something I am constantly using.” ~Yogi Lonich

Murder FM

Dallas musician/songwriter/producer/mixer and SONAR user Norman Matthew of MURDER FM has been on tour in November co-headlining the REVOLVER Magazine “South for the Win Tour” w Seasons After. The band’s debut (Major Label affiliated) record “Happily Neverafter” came out late summer, and it’s been nonstop ever since for Norman and the group. The record was tracked and created in SONAR Platinum, and then mixed by Beau Hill before being released on Famous Record Global/Sony Red. Besides Beau’s contributions, plenty of firepower went into the release including track-collaborations with Will Hunt of Evanescence and even an official remix of the single by Tommy Lee of Motley Crue.

The band is home for a few weeks now gearing up for yet another west coast/mid-west run with Hed Pe and Alien Ant Farm kicking off in Seattle on December 3, 2015. For more information on the bands whereabouts visit http://www.murderfmmusic.com/.

“Upgrading from X3 to Platinum changed the way I make music. Platinum is like having a creative assistant.” ~Norman Matthew

R1CKONE

Producer/DJ R1CKONE has spent most of his November on tour over in Europe and the U.K. with the reunion of Crazy Town in support of their new record titled Brimstone Sluggers.  R1CKONE who collaborated on the new record operates his [semi-private] SONAR studio in Hollywood for 3013 Music Group and has been busy developing many artists in LA area for a number of years.  In December he will be back working on new tracks for Shifty and Epic,  but for now he is just enjoying Europe’s seasonal offerings.

“I’m constantly creating and constantly seeing folks with other DAWs. There is no way I could do what I do on any other platform other than SONAR.” ~R1CKONE

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Parallel Compression: Now Easier Than Ever

A few years back, we showed you a bit about Parallel Compression in SONAR. Now that we’ve introduced Patch Points in the Jamaica Plain update, you can do these same things with a much more efficient workflow.

Let’s quickly define parallel processing: In parallel processing, a signal is duplicated into two or more signals. Each copy of the signal is processed differently but plays back simultaneously with the original. The copy/copies are then mixed together.

Parallel Compression Diagram_600x222

Parallel Compression, aka “New York Compression,” is most commonly used on drums to add body to the drum mix without flattening the snappy transients.

Check out the video below to see just how easy (and great sounding) this technique can be:

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5 Major Speed Optimizations in Upcoming SONAR Kingston Update

SONAR Logo

As we work to perfect SONAR, we’ve focused not only on useful new features, but also improvements to the core program. This month, we targeted our efforts on streamlining SONAR in major ways that will help hobbyists and power users alike.

For the upcoming SONAR Kingston update, CTO Noel Borthwick ran a few benchmark tests to compare, apples-to-apples, exactly how much better SONAR is performing now versus SONAR X3. In every case, the SONAR Kingston update showed marked improvements over SONAR X3 to perform the most common tasks.

SONAR Kingston Benchmarks

*Tests performed on a Haswell Core i7 5960X with 16 GB RAM running 64-bit Windows 8.1

Want to feel the effects of this progress for yourself? Upgrade or try SONAR free today.

SONAR is officially supported on Windows 7, 8, 8.1, and 10.

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Anatomy of a SONAR Project: Replacing the Placeholder

DELIVERING MUSIC FOR THE FILM “FOR BLOOD” (COFFEERING ENTERTAINMENT LOS ANGELES, CA)

Sometimes I am fortunate enough to have the time to take on a project outside of Cakewalk, and I love that those projects let me put our current SONAR Platinum “Rolling Update” to the test in the field. Recently, the LA-based production company Coffee Ring Entertainment asked me to write, produce and deliver three tracks for their new movie, For Blood. This article describes highlights of the process involved in writing and producing one of those tracks for a specific scene in the film.

My first question to the director was, “Do you already have placeholder music in the rough cut?” When producers and directors have placeholder music they like already set into the cut, it speeds up and simplifies writing and producing the music. Fortunately the answer was “yes,” so all I needed to do was replicate what they liked about their placeholder tracks using the array of instruments and plug-ins in my home project studio rig.

A primary objective in writing music for film is to forget about yourself and your own emotional agenda. And oddly enough, for me at least, this notion really speeds up the workflow because you are writing/producing for someone else’s purpose other than your own thoughts. Adamantly keeping this in mind throughout the writing/producing process helps to stay focused on what the client wants. For this song, it’s exactly what I had to do because the producers had a Tarantino-ish type track set into the scene, and my innate production style tends to lean more towards big, clean commercial pop rock. Luckily, I could go to YouTube and analyze suitable styles of music but even luckier for me, SONAR’s Addictive Drums and TH2 plug-ins were  ideal for dialing in the kind of music that was needed. (more…)

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