- Recording and making music on the PC or Mac
by Lance Riley
In a world where consoles are less likely to be seen or even touched by musicians today and a control surface is referred to as a mixer occasionally, I always find myself missing the tactility of working in an analog studio. Don’t get me wrong though, I truly love all the affordances that our modern digital production environments allow for, but yet here I am… I wanted to make the mouse act more like a finger touching controls when working in SONAR, so we started working with that idea and came up with many ways that mouse gestures could be improved upon to do more than currently possible.
Workflow is extremely important to us, and we wanted users to see this as an improvement to their existing workflows without disturbing the way they use the app. We started looking at track state management and how we could make the app feel more responsive. There was already a lot of affordance to controlling groups of tracks through Quick Groups, but some gestures at times seemed like Quick Groups just weren’t quick enough. For example, I work a lot with 2 guitar mics, and sometimes I just want to solo or mute both tracks without using a bus. It seemed very natural to want to click and drag from a control on one track and have it affect the same control on neighboring tracks.
With Smart Swipe, you can:
The Track View & Console View have some similar controls, but also several unique ones. Here are the areas in which you can currently use Smart Swipe.
We are very excited to have added Smart Swipe to SONAR and we hope our users find it useful and meaningful to their workflow. Now that I have been using Smart Swipe for a while I can’t imagine using a DAW that doesn’t have this available. We already have further enhancements planned and are thinking of even more ways that we can continue to improve Smart Swipe and the SONAR workflow.
Here’s another workflow enhancement that becomes downright addictive once you start using it. With Smart Swipe Track Controls, you can quickly enable/disable buttons on multiple tracks by clicking a button in one track, then dragging across adjacent tracks without releasing the mouse button. Smart Swipe is also an extremely effective complement to Quick Grouping.
Smart Swipe works in the Track and Console Views with mouse gestures. The following controls support Smart Swipe:
With the introduction of Lifetime Updates for SONAR Platinum, there have been many theories as to why Cakewalk would take such a bold move. For us it’s simple—it’s better for customers, it’s better for us, and we believe this way of doing business is the future, so we’re embracing it today.
Some history: In the past (pre 2015), we followed a more traditional annual upgrade cycle where we released a single version of SONAR each year. This model was flawed on many levels, both for developers and end users. As developers, we’re under extreme pressure to finish a product by a certain date to meet a revenue goal – often regardless of whether it’s ready or not.
Adding a lot of features to a product in a short cycle can create problems even skilled QA teams and beta testers won’t find. Furthermore, end users have to try and learn a huge amount of information at once—which is much less efficient than learning features at one’s own pace over time.
Rolling Updates: So we did away with annual versions of SONAR and decided to work on one version —continuously. We can make smaller incremental changes at a faster pace without disrupting the end user’s stability and workflow, as well as react more quickly to user requests. No more waiting until the next version to get problems resolved as is the case with many other products. We call this model “Rolling Updates” and as a developer and CTO of Cakewalk, I love it!
Rolling Updates also provides benefits beyond making new features available as soon as they’re ready. If something needs fixing or improving, we can just fix it and ship it without your having to wait a whole year. For example the Mix Recall, Patch Points, and Upsampling features all benefited from this interaction with end users. And doing features incrementally, in shorter time periods, promotes better stability and performance.
Although it’s never easy to do something disruptive in an industry that’s resistant to change (remember the outcry when Netflix decided to focus on streaming instead of DVDs?), the response has been decisive and positive. We didn’t want to end up like the record companies who refused to acknowledge the emergence of MP3s and digital media as a distribution model, and became almost irrelevant in the process.
Doing Rolling Updates for the past year-and-a-half has convinced us this approach is far superior to the huge yearly update—so much so, that for a limited time, we’ve made the bold decision to offer Lifetime Updates for SONAR Platinum, giving you all future SONAR updates for free.
Lifetime Updates shake up the mix even more, and offer a better way of doing business that benefits everyone. One great side effect is you get to help us improve SONAR during this process with your feedback and suggestions, creating a partnership with a common goal: You want to use the finest software in the world, and we want to create it. That’s why we are doubling down by offering the opportunity to join us on this journey.
With SONAR Analytics now at our disposal, and a responsive feedback portal on its way, we’ll be monitoring your comments, feedback, and requests closely so we can respond quickly and ensure that your experience with SONAR is…awesome. At Cakewalk, we believe that there’s no better way to succeed than by having happy customers. It really is that simple.
What’s more, SONAR will soon be available to a brand new audience of music creators with our SONAR OS X Alpha, coming this Fall.
With Windows and Mac split almost evenly among musicians, it made no sense to ignore half the market—or ignore the numerous requests over the years from music creators who’ve wanted to experience SONAR’s superior workflow, audio quality, and tools on the Mac.
For PC users who wonder if we will keep up the same pace of Windows development, the answer is an emphatic “yes”—we will never give up our lineage as a Windows-based DAW.
Since our announcement, I’ve received many e-mail’s from industry peers showing genuine excitement about SONAR on the Mac. In fact, having more people using SONAR will benefit Cakewalk long-term and improve the product as a whole. However we are still in the early stages of the Mac development project, so please be patient
All of this may seem too good to be true, and some people wonder if there’s a catch. But we’ve put a lot of thought into how we can make changes that benefit everyone. Cakewalk has experienced a major rejuvenation, and we want nothing more than to continue what has brought us to this point. We love the new Rolling Updates model, and even many users who resisted the idea at first have become converts after experiencing the many benefits.
Welcome to a better way to produce and experience music software, and thank you for joining us on this journey of innovation and excitement. We couldn’t have gotten to where we are without you.
Thank you for reading.
[Noel Borthwick started at Cakewalk 18 years ago and has actively contributed to SONAR development since its inception. He is also a jazz guitar player and a SONAR user.]
Something inspiring is happening in the Dallas music scene, and Cakewalk is excited to be a part of it with SONAR Platinum. When Norman Matthew gets off the road from touring with his band Murder FM, or finishes up a major video or full length record, it’s not time to chill out. In fact for him, that’s the time when he buckles down and digs into his “little side-thing” which is a major music operation called The Sound Foundation (TSF) in Dallas, TX. Dallas has always been known to be a great music town, but Norman’s TSF has a great angle to its existence that resonates to the very core of his soul. In fact just recently, TSF caught the eye of the Ford Motor Company who took notice of Norman and his operation and were so impressed, they featured the establishment on their “Good Works” series.
If you’re reading this article, I’m sure you are aware that the Major Label system has pretty much all but collapsed. Look anywhere on the internet and you will find all the articles you can handle about how evil all the labels were, how they had this coming to them and how the lavish lifestyles of the greedy executives fostered this meltdown. But what you may not know is that “back in the day,” a good piece of that excess cash folks paid down on an $18 CD that cost $1.76 to make went right back into a pool of starving artists (not directly of course). It was called “Artist Development” and it helped pay and pave the way for many iconic artists who started out with the ole “Label Demo Deal.”
Here at Cakewalk we are fortunate to have an external team of rocket scientists who help test out SONAR beta releases. This team is dedicated, passionate and most of all appreciated by all of us internally here at the Cake shop. Recently I received a general email from one of my esteemed colleagues mentioning that one of our trustworthy beta soldiers was jumping off the beta-battlefield in lieu of another SONAR related activity. Huh? This peaked my curiosity and I felt obliged to dig a bit deeper on the subject. What could “another SONAR related activity” involve? SONAR Olympics? SONAR CPU Racing? SONAR Academy?
Featured Music Placements on Discovery Channel, History Channel, CBS, Bravo Network
Whether you update SONAR every month or not, this month is a great time to hit the C3 button. Besides the new cutting edge LP mastering plug-ins, we have worked hard and closely with our good friends at Overloud to deliver something that can truly change your sound as a SONAR user. TH3 Cakewalk has arrived and will now replace TH2 moving forward, and I had the opportunity to run the beta for the last month building some basic presets for the plug-in. Right out of the gate I found this VST3 to be a nice upgrade from its predecessor TH2.
Now I am absolutely nothing close to a guitar wizard, but I have been hacking around since I picked up the instrument at age 5, so I’ve been around the block with guitar tones touring, producing, engineering, recording, etc. like a lot of folks probably reading this. From a production standpoint, I’ve always loved the convenience of amp simulators, but always hated what would happen to the tone when trying to mix them together with drums that had been recorded with 1073’s, API’s or other heavy duty pres and mics… the tone gets small pretty fast. In my opinion, this is something that Overloud in general has excelled at—DSP and algorithms that truly stay at the front of the mix no matter what the context. TH3 brings this concept to even another level. Here are some of my quick thoughts and findings.
There are a lot of changes with the new TH3 Cakewalk including the new and upgraded User Interface which I will get into, but I bet a lot of folks like me really base their judgments on how things sound. The good news is that once you are up and running with the plug-in you will notice a nice improvement on the sound quality from TH2 Producer/Cakewalk. 5 new amp models with more accurate model reproduction are included in TH3 Cakewalk, and all have improved DSP along with enhanced preamp and power amp stages. To my ear, I notice a more “open and natural” sound in general, but also notice a more responsive relationship between the pick and the strings in terms of “feel”—like when you play a guitar through an amp that just had the tubes replaced. I also notice more presence overall, but the right type of presence without harshness. The low-mids and mids are thick and punchy and I especially love the new Slo88 and Tweed Deluxe amps which have a lot of character. The Bassface is a beast as well; this amp is a secret weapon for many rock producers who use it to double rhythm guitar parts recorded with other amps. Blending these two sources together produces a tone that is about as thick as it gets.
New amps in TH3 Cakewalk:
Bassface 59: Model of a classic american “bass” combo amp, tuned to be great for rhythm and blues playing on guitar once overdriven
Just a few short years ago, we learned of a new up-and-coming artist who was using SONAR. After introducing ourselves and learning more, the one thing that kept resonating were the infectious melodies and counterparts embedded into his tracks. We were delighted to witness him working in SONAR, but at the same time very intrigued that he was using SONAR 8.5.
Soon after being in touch with iLan, we were able to catch up with him face to face in his studio just north of London for a night where we introduced SONAR X3 to him. It was a fun night and very interesting to watch a pro’s reactions going from 8.5 to X3 considering that undoubtedly the platforms are truly different. There were some moments of, “Whooaaah… that will save me a ton of time,” and there were moments of, “Ummm…that will take a while to get used to.” Leaving iLan to his own devices we were really unsure where he would take it.
Toggling back and forth from 8.5 to X3 for a while, iLan finally found his stride with SONAR Platinum. He told us, “After working on both 8.5 and X3, once I was on Platinum there was no going back. The basic features alone like the smart tool and Mix Recall not only save me a lot of time, but allow me to create things I could not create in 8.5. With the amount of tracks I create and pace of my workflow, the fact that Platinum is rock solid and really fast means everything to me. 8.5 always allowed me to ‘not’ sound like everyone else in my genre, and Platinum just continues that path for me.” iLan’s first full production in SONAR Platinum titled “Bigger Than Love,” a collaboration with singer/songwriter/artist Giuseppe de Luca was recently released on Anjunabeats and quickly found its way up the charts to the #1 spot on Beatport.
Check out the latest episode of Cakewalk Talk, where Dan Gonzalez interviews audio engineer Daniel Rowland (Adrian Belew, StudioBelew, Accept) about LANDR and his role at the company.
We’ve posted a shorter cut below as well.