Mixing Music For Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

Falk Au Yeong has been making waves in the Video Game industry with many of his recent projects. One of the most notable includes the new Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. We were able arrange an in depth interview about him, his work, and his favourite DAW – SONAR X3 Producer.

When did you first get into SONAR, and what version are you currently using?

I’ve been a Cakewalk user all the way since Cakewalk Pro Audio and Home Studio, mostly working with MIDI. The first version of SONAR I jumped into was SONAR 3 Producer, and I’m currently using X3 thanks to the extremely reasonably upgrade paths and goodies that come with each update. For example, I’m really digging integrated Melodyne right now and I’m not ashamed to say it!

What is the Video Game Orchestra? How did you become associated with them?

The Video Game Orchestra is a group that plays arrangements of Video Game Music, created by Shota Nakama in 2008. They’ve grown from humble beginnings to playing shows in all kinds of formats each year, from rock band, to acoustic, to full-blown “Rockestral” performances which consist of rock band, orchestra and choir. Recently VGO has also started to get involved in recording gigs and self-produced albums under Shota’s curation.

I got involved earlier this year when Shota e-mailed me asking if I’d be up to do a series of small gigs for ‘a very important client’. Little did I know that I’d be working with one of the biggest independent game music production companies in Japan in real-time, via Skype and various audio streaming solutions. But that’s how we started! Crazy post-midnight sessions recording all manner of instruments, from drums to accordion to alto trombone to string quartet.  (more…)

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A Holiday Miracle: 24 Hours To Write, Record, Produce, Mix A Commercial Track in SONAR X3

“Audio Production Jobs” come in all shapes and sizes these days;-)  Yes, the music industry in general has shrunken to an all-time low in terms of major label budget projects, but the flip side is that there are many nooks and crannies out there to stay creative while making money.  I think the key these days is getting into as many industry circles as possible, and then over-delivering.  If you’re handed a job for writing, mixing, producing or even recording, and you knock it out of the park the first time with low-no hassles to the client, you will certainly come to mind on the next round.  I would also be willing to bet that your name will be referred to other folks outside of that job’s “circle.”  You just never know to where things are going to lead.

Stemming from this theory, I have been fortunate enough to work on some pretty diverse projects ranging from title tracks for Pokémon DVD’s to Major Label artists and just about everything in between in one form or another.  For the work I do now, the one thing that gives me an edge using SONAR X3 Producer over other DAWs is the quickness of the workflow; which contributes to music creation diversity.  Sounds deep right? …well it kind of is.  Here’s a real-world example with italicized words in red representing why SONAR X3 features are crucial to me when facing tough audio jobs.

Just a few weeks ago I was contacted by NYC singer-songwriter Jodi Good’s music attorney Steven Beer on a Friday night to discuss an opportunity for a “Holiday Song” to be placed with a major publication [for Monday].  Now usually, “Holiday Songs” are recorded around August or September and we were already at the end of November, so I knew this was going to be a tough one to accomplish especially since the song had to be written, recorded and mixed fast.  The other strike against me was that this one was a bit out of my rock, and pop-rock comfort zones, but I knew the challenge would be a good experience on many different levels, so I decided to fire up the eggnog and go for it.  Plus I had the comfort of knowing that Jodi is a great songwriter especially in the lyric department, so it was “weekend on.”

Literally that night Jodi was sending me vocal-only words and melodies as text messages on my Samsung S4.  She doesn’t play an instrument and we didn’t have the benefit of time, so we had to start writing via virtual and digital means.  I instantly forwarded them via email to my HP Z400 main rig where I drag-and-dropped them into a session for reference where they automatically created audio tracks.  The next move was simply pulling them down to a midi track where Melodyne’s ARA technology kicked in instantly giving me the notes in Midi.  This helped me to figure out the best chord structures for the verses and pre-chorus and also allowed me to see where I could go writing the chorus melody.  After about a half hour on my trusty acoustic, I had the bones to send back to Jodi via text.

[I'm going out on a limb here for your laughing pleasure ;) Here's the actual writing file on my phone which is what I texted back to Jodi when we were writing the melody - so you can hear how the song started, and where it ended.] (more…)

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Is Your Project Ready For CD Manufacturing? A DIY Album Release Checklist

This post originally appeared on Disc Makers’ blog. Reprinted with permission.

- Before scheduling your album release, plan for the steps that lie between songwriting and disc manufacturing –

Releasing a CD is a big deal for any artist. This is your baby, your calling card, the result of a lot of hard work, and your best chance to earn revenue. You spend a lot of time writing, rehearsing, and recording — and that’s all just leading up to the CD manufacturing process.

Before you gather your materials to submit for CD manufacturing, there’s rehearsing, recording, audio mastering, designing your package — and all these processes can take longer than you might expect. Then there are the numerous music promotion and sales activities, and much of your PR may require your (more…)

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Singing Tips – Don’t Tax Your Voice Before a Vocal Performance

This post originally appeared on Disc Makers’ blog. Reprinted with permission.

Resting before a vocal performance is key, but environmental things, like being in a place where the decibel level is too high, can adversely affect your capacity to sing.

What makes a great vocal performance? There are many answers to that, and they don’t all require being the most technically gifted singer with a five-octave range. Confidence, charisma, and the right repertoire are among the many subjective elements that go into any great performance – live or when recording vocals in a studio – in addition to having chops as a singer.

“‘Synthesis’ is this fancy word we throw around in our college,” says Daniel Ebbers, Associate Professor of Voice at the Conservatory of Music of the University of the Pacific, “and I do think it’s an important thing. We study all these things individually, but it’s the synthesis, a command of your vocal instrument, a command of the stage, a command of the language and the language you use – all these things synthesized together make a great vocal performance.”

Of course, much of what helps a performer reach the point where all these elements come together is preparation, practice, and experience. A good vocal warm up, and general vocal care, can help ensure peak vocal performance.

(more…)

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Professional SONAR users weigh in on SONAR X3 – Stability, Performance, & Workflow

X3 is being hailed as the most rock solid edition since SONAR’S inception.  Beyond the new tools and features, a lot of work was put into the core functionality of the program to make sure that even top-notch music-making professionals would find performance improvements.  From the Skylight User Interface enhancements, to audio engine improvements – and everything in between, professional users who depend on SONAR day-in and day-out for their livelihood are weighing in:

 

Timothy Wynn (Sonic Fuel Studios / SonicFuel.net) – Los Angeles, CA

Congratulations to SONAR X3 user Timothy Wynn on winning Best Score at the CineRockom Film Festival for “The Liberator” this year.  With several globally successful franchises already to his credit ranging from blockbuster video games such as Command & Conquer, Dungeon Siege, GUN, The Punisher, Red Faction, 2K’s The Darkness II, The Simpsons and Warhawk to music in the hit television series Supernatural, Tim Wynn has gained international recognition as a leader in a new generation of highly talented and versatile composers.

Most recently, Timothy used SONAR to work on the feature films “The Starving Games” and “MK Reloaded (2014),” while also scoring EA Sports Madden 25 with Chris Lennertz.

“Cakewalk software has always been great for me in general, but this round of SONAR has really been stepped up.  SONAR X3 is the most stable DAW I have ever used.   I’m running huge projects (more…)

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SONAR Quick Tip: Changing The Default Preset For A Plug-in – by Scott R. Garrigus

After adding effects to a folder (in the Cakewalk Plug-in Manager), you can also specify default presets for each effect. Right-click an effect in the folder and choose Properties.

In the Item Properties dialog box, choose a preset from the Default Preset menu.

Click OK. Now when you insert the effect into a project, it will automatically default to the preset you selected. See pages 12 to 15 in SONAR X2 Power! for more information about customizing plug-in menus. 

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SONAR Quick Tip: Use the Marker List to set Now Time – by Scott R. Garrigus

Another quick way to jump to a specific marker is to press G to access the Go dialog box.

SONAR Go Dialog

Then press F5 to bring up a list of all the markers in the current project.

SONAR Markers Dialog

Select a marker from the list and click OK twice. The Now time will be set to the time corresponding to that marker. See pages 50 to 53 in SONAR X2 Power! for more information about Markers. 

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RECREATING PORTAL 2′S “WANT YOU GONE” WITH MUSIC CREATOR 6 TOUCH [PART 2: VOCAL TIPS]

Recently, Cakewalk worked with the great folks over at Valve to make our Music Creator 6 Touch software available to their community, and the onslaught of new “music creators” has been nothing short of amazing and inspiring.  To kick off our promotion, we thought it would be a fun experience to recreate Jonathan Coulton’s cult classic “Want You Gone” from Portal 2 all in Music Creator 6 Touch (MC6t) – but the kicker is that we had 24 hours to do it in order to make the deadline for launch.  In this case, not only was collaboration creatively beneficial, but it was also essential.

Getting the bed-tracks together was the first step, and you can read our previous blog here on how this all came together.  Cakewalk’s Bill Jackson and Seth Kellogg spent time programming some great drum tracks, keyboards and guitars, and then I was able to easily embellish and add to the programming with loops, sounds and mixing.  After the drums, bass, keys and guitars were in a good spot, it was time to figure out how we were going to capture the focal point of the song: THE VOCALS.

I had just finished a record with a great singer by the name of Jodi Good so she was my first logical phone call.   As timing and luck would have it, she had just finished her video shoot for her first single (Definitely Different) in NYC and she had a 2 hour window to help pitch in.  There were two hurdles: 1.) she could not make it out to my studio, and 2.) I had to get clearance for name, likeness and sound from her and her legal team for usage – not a problem ;)

(more…)

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SONAR X2 makes the grade at USC Thornton School of Music

Professor Chris Sampson, founding director of the Popular Music program at the USC Thornton School of Music, recently wrote an article for the Roland Music Education blog explaining why he prefers to teach with SONAR X2.

“As a professor of songwriting, I teach in both a classroom setting and privately, and a little over a year ago, I incorporated SONAR X2 into my instruction with great results.”

This is a screenshot from an actual private lesson

Professor Sampson cites SONAR X2′s Skylight User Interface, Smart Tool, ProChannel, included virtual instruments, overall workflow, and the sound quality of SONAR’s 64-bit audio engine as powerful enhancements to his teaching process.

“With these assignments, it is very important to me that the tracks sound great and authentic to the style I’m presenting, because the students’ enthusiasm can be seriously eroded if the track does not sound good. This is where the sound quality of SONAR X2’s 64-bit audio engine really shines.”

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The professor also gave us ‘extra credit’ for our own commitment to teaching aspiring musicians.

“In addition to the educational benefits of SONAR itself, there’s an abundance of training resources available at SONAR University. The videos there make it easy to understand the concepts behind every phase of the recording process, and the various tips I’ve picked up from The Cakewalk Blog have been invaluable as well. Both are great resources for students to build their own skills independently.”

Read the full article on the Roland Music Education blog.

Or download the SONAR X2 Producer Free Trial and see why SONAR X2 is getting high marks in the classroom and the studio.

 

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Approaching the Remix With Cakewalk Synths – Norman Matthew [MURDER FM]

PUTTING MY FACE ON YOUR NAME:

Remixing is one of my favorite things to do in the studio for many reasons. For one thing the song has been written, so the pressure of writing a masterpiece is off my shoulders. I’m also able to listen to a song from beginning to end; a completed thought, if you will. I get creatively juiced immediately if I connect to it. That’s where the magical third thing kicks in – I get to put my musical stamp on another artist and pay tribute to their work by recreating their art through my eyes. It’s an opportunity to let the world crawl inside my head (scary as that may be) and hear it the way I do. (more…)

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