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.
As a fan of our bakers and all the great features coming out of the Rolling Updates, I absolutely love exploring all the new things SONAR brings every month. As a big fan of Lounge Lizard, I was really excited to learn that we would be incorporating the Ultra Analog Session 2 (UAS2) instrument into SONAR this month. So at this year’s Namm convention I made a point of meeting up with my buddy Marc over at Applied Acoustic Systems to learn more about the synth before trying it out.
“A fun synth to play around with,” Marc explained. And once I got my hands on it I understood what he was talking about. Being a bit underwater with time these days, I decided to put an hour (or so) cap on diving into the synth and writing a short piece of “whatever” inspired me while first hearing and manipulating the sounds; and making use of the features. I challenged myself a bit by using ONLY instances of this synth combined with stock SONAR Producer ProChannel modules so I could get a good feel for its capabilities. I also thought it would be a fun test since there are no stock drum or percussion patches in the synth. Here is what I found:
Useful: In my book, you can never have enough options when it comes to sounds. I have synths where I only LOVE a few patches but you know what? – Those patches are worth every penny having the synth in my arsenal. I found the UAS2 to have some really great sounding vintage patches. With 7 banks of sounds there are a lot of tones that would come in handy and will work well in certain styles of music. I found combining these sounds with ProChannel shaping to be a great combination for creating some unique sounds.
Diverse: I like the fact that for a synth with a small footprint, it crosses a through a wide array of tones. The 5 main tonal character traits are Arpeggio, Bass, Lead, Pad, Polysynth, along with a bonus of two banks from Richard and Sean Devine that come in handy for more options. I like the fact that there’s not a ton of overwhelming stuff here—and what’s in the box is all great and diverse for different applications.
Cool features: I personally love using arpeggiation effects. Admittedly, I love them because I am a horrible keyboard player and they make me sound like I know what I am doing… kind of;) I sometimes use arpeggiation in a way that might be different than some users—I follow no rules of arpeggiation (is that even a word?)—I throw on tons of effects… I let my ears rule both my hands and find notes and things that just sound good to me. I often use this effect on choruses while knocking out all low end to give a song an inconspicuous lift. The “Arpeggio” on this keyboard is cool. It’s simple and straight forward and allows the user to combine a bit of old-school arpeggio tactics along with many syncing options.
A Strong Simple Synth Engine: For someone like me who is not a synth expert, this instrument is great. The 3 sound generators (VCO, Filter and Amp) are simple enough to navigate for those who do not fully understand the complexities of creating synth patches. In my opinion, 10 minutes of turning knobs with this instrument is enough time for anyone to come up with some great sounds. For example, after putting a limiter on my master bus I noticed one of my staccato parts was cutting through in a way that sounded too intense compared to the kick. Very easily was I able to identify the “Amp Attack” as the culprit, and by simply dialing that knob back a bit the sound became what it needed to be.
Onboard FX: Similar to Z3TA+, this synth carries its own FX processing right inside the synth. Although multiple FX are not possible in one patch, the good news is that AAS didn’t skimp on the quality of the engine. I tested all FX (Chorus, Delay, Distortion, EQ, Flanger, Phaser, Reverb) with different patches and found the available parameters to be intuitive while rendering high-quality sounds.
Thanks to Melodyne’s advanced tempo detection and SONAR’s powerful ARA drag-and-drop integration, your projects can now follow a live recording’s tempo. Simply drag a standard audio clip (or Melodyne region effect) to SONAR’s timeline, and SONAR creates a tempo map that follows the clip tempo. Watch the new video for more information.
Introducing the new video series from Cakewalk, where you’ll find feature reviews, artist interviews, audio lessons, and lots and lots of musical “nerding out.” The first episode is available on YouTube now.
You could call Javier Colon timeless. After winning the inaugural season of NBC’s The Voice, he has battled even harder than he did during the show’s “Battle Round.” Last year his perseverance and life-long dedication to creating music on his own terms brought him to yet another chapter in his career with a new recording contract with Concord Music Group. Concord Music Group is home to many enduring artists such as Ray Charles, James Taylor and The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band to name a few, but it’s also one of the most respected and ageless labels of our time.
When the ink was dry, Javier who is a longtime SONAR user dug deeper than he ever had before, and started writing songs for the new record. “A lot of the songs on this new record started right in my home studio on SONAR Platinum,” Javier recently told us in conversation. “The thing I like about SONAR for writing is that it’s really quick for getting ideas down. It’s like a creative partner. Of course it’s great for mixing and creating masters too, but for me since I was fortunate enough on this record to be working with top-notch mixing engineers, the single most important thing was getting the songs right. The features in Platinum are great for songwriting. Even just the loops in Addictive Drums 2 are a great starting place to generate ideas—there’s just no shortage of inspiration in the program.”
Javier’s new record titled “Gravity” comes out April 15, and he recently shot a new video in LA (also including scenes from Europe) directed by Gregory Poppen. The record itself is actually 15 songs, a bit of a different approach from pop music’s recent pattern of releasing fewer tracks per album. On this record Javier really wanted to get more music out there for his fans who have stayed with him all this time throughout every phase of his career.
“Is it World Music?” “Is it Spanish Music?” “Is this Jazz?” “Is this in the Acoustic Genre?” Fortunately for guitar virtuoso and now-Pro D.I.Y’er Eric Hansen, the simple answer to these questions he faces regularly about his music is, “YES.” Eric is another longtime SONAR user who depends on SONAR daily for his livelihood. He is based out of Southern Florida which might just be where his Spanish and Latin influences come from, where at a young age he had a unique fondness for Flamenco infused Pop music.
Eric began studying the guitar at age 14 and was performing professionally with local rock groups by the age 16. He then attended Florida Atlantic University where he studied Classical and Jazz guitar and was the first actual guitarist to complete the Honors Performance Program at F.A.U. He went on to graduate with academic honors while simultaneously studying Flamenco and Latin American music with musicians from Spain and Peru.
In his professional career, Eric is no stranger to the Billboard Charts with 6 records under his belt all crafted in different versions of SONAR spanning over 15 years. Eric is in the final stages of another record, but this one is being tracked, mixed and recorded all in SONAR Platinum. After Eric getting Cakewalk an exclusive preview to 3 of the new songs on the record, we were interested in finding out more about how all these great tracks are coming together in Platinum [DEMO PREVIEW]:
SONAR and other DAWs are used heavily to produce high-quality recordings, while other people use SONAR as part of a compositional process. I find that most of my SONAR usage is a little different, processing live recordings tracked in a concert or club setting. This usage presents various problems that aren’t as apparent in a controlled studio setting. This blog will present a workflow and various SONAR features I have found valuable when processing live recordings.
In most cases, my primary objective is to produce a recording that the musicians can study in order to improve their performance.
In some cases, the performance and production quality will be high enough to serve as demo material to promote the group.
I try to deliver a mixed and mastered copy to the musicians within 48 hours, while the event is still fresh in mind, so speed and efficiency are very important.
Often a musician will ask for a further edit on one of the songs, for example, to include in their personal résumé. Flexibility and ability to recall settings are important.
Years ago, I did such projects using Audacity, which seemed adequate at the time. However, expectations have changed radically.
Today many musicians have a low-cost stereo field recorder such as the TASCAM DR-40.These recorders are the equivalent of point-and-shoot cameras. For around $100, they can produce remarkably good quality under ideal circumstances.
This has become the baseline against which many musicians judge other live recordings. Even though I want to produce quick results, if I can’t do substantially better than a TASCAM DR-40, for example, then I am wasting my time (I should note I love those small field recorders and often use them too, but that is not the subject of this blog).
Fortunately, with SONAR I have found a work flow and a set of “go-to” features that allow me to do much better than a stereo field recorder almost every time, using only the microphones that are already placed for the live PA system.
Alex ja Armottomat (Alex) visited my recording studio in February. We had five days total to do a fully mastered CD, make promo photos of the band, and record live video footage in the studio for later editing. I’ll describe here how one of the six songs was recorded and mixed.
Drums, bass and the electric guitar were recorded live with one to three takes. Acoustic guitar and demo vocals were recorded, too, but they were re-recorded later over the backing tracks. The drummer was the only one to hear the metronome (standard SONAR audio metronome, time signature set to 1/4); the others had eye contact with the drummer. Although the guitar amp was in another room (the bass was recorded direct), there was no spill other than a faint demo vocal in the drum room mics.
Time is always an enemy when you have to record many songs in a limited amount of time. I decided to make decisions before pressing the R (record) button rather than leaving everything to the mixing phase. I applied EQ to kick drum, drum room and the acoustic guitar before A/D conversion. One of the phrases I hate is: “This sounds like crap now but it hasn’t been mixed yet.” Some people really think that everything can be fixed in the mix! (Although to be fair you often can, because in SONAR we have VocalSync, built-in Melodyne, built-in drum trigger, and AudioSnap).
And although it sounds incredible, now it’s even possible to upload songs from SONAR to the LANDR online mastering service and instantly hear a preview of how the song would sound as mastered. Hearing the demo master may help you to improve the project’s mix. Continue reading panup: Studio Session & LANDR Test