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.”
Highlights from Winter NAMM 2015 NAMM was our first opportunity to show off the new SONAR line to the public, and the reception was nothing short of spectacular. To handle the crowds, products were demoed at three locations—the Gibson, TASCAM, and Hal Leonard booths. We met artists, press, and of course many, many customers—and we were equally happy to thrill long-time Cakewalk supporters as well as bring new users into the fold.
We wish everyone could experience the excitement of NAMM, but to give you a taste just click the links below to see demos and interviews from the show floor. And—there’s also a sneak peek of the new David Bendeth Signature Series Compressor.
Plug-in signal processors are a great feature of computer-based recording programs like SONAR, but you may have some favorite stompboxes with no plug-in equivalents—like that cool fuzz pedal you love, or the ancient analog delay you scored on eBay. Fortunately, with just a little bit of effort you can make SONAR think external hardware effects are actually plug-ins.
1. What do I need to interface stompboxes with SONAR? You’ll need a low-latency audio interface with an unusd analog output and unused analog input (or two of each for stereo effects), and cords to patch these audio interface connections to the stompbox. We’ll use the TASCAM US-4×4 interface because it has extra I/O and low latency, but the same principles apply to other audio interfaces.
2. How do I hook up the effect and the interface? SONAR’s External Insert plug-in inserts in an FX bin, and diverts the signal to the assigned audio interface output. You patch the audio interface output to a hardware effect’s input, then patch the hardware effect’s output to the assigned audio interface input. This input returns to the External Effect plug-in, and continues on its way through the mixer. For this example, we’ll assume a stompbox with a mono input and stereo output.
3. What are correct settings for the External Insert plug-in parameters? When you insert the External Insert into the FX bin, a window appears that provides all the controls needed to set up the external hardware.
Send. This section’s drop-down menu assigns the send output to the audio interface. In this example, the send feeds the US-4×4’s output 3. Patch this audio interface output to your effect’s input. (Note that if an output is already assigned, it won’t appear in the drop-down menu.)
Output level control. The level coming out of the computer will be much higher than what most stompboxes want, so in this example the output level control is cutting the signal down by about -12 dB to avoid overloading the effect.
Return. Assign this section’s drop-down menu to the audio interface input through which the stompbox signal returns (in this example, the US-4×4’s stereo inputs 3 and 4). Patch the hardware effect output(s) to this input or inputs.
Return level control. Because the stompbox will usually have a low-level output, this slider brings the gain back up for compatibility with the rest of the system. In this example, the slider shows about +10 dB of gain. (Note: You can invert the signal phase in the Return section if needed.)
Specifications don’t have to be the domain of geeks—they’re not that hard to understand, and can guide you when choosing audio gear. Let’s look at five important specs, and provide a real-world context by referencing them to TASCAM’s new US-2×2 and US-4×4 audio interfaces.
First, we need to understand the decibel (dB). This is a unit of measurement for audio levels (like an inch or meter is a unit of measurement for length). A 1 dB change is approximately the smallest audio level difference a human can hear. A dB spec can also have a – or + sign. For example, a signal with a level of -20 dB sounds softer than one with a level of -10 dB, but both are softer than one with a level of +2 dB.
1. What’s frequency response? Ideally, audio gear designed for maximum accuracy should reproduce all audible frequencies equally—bass shouldn’t be louder than treble, or vice-versa. A frequency response graph measures what happens if you feed test frequencies with the same level into a device’s input, then measure the output to see if there are any variations. You want a response that’s flat (even) from 20 Hz to 20 kHz, because that’s the audible range for humans with good hearing. Here’s the frequency response graph for TASCAM’s US-2×2 interface (in all examples, the US-4×4 has the same specs).
This shows the response is essentially “flat” from 50 Hz to 20 kHz, and down 1 dB at 20 Hz. Response typically goes down even further below 20 Hz; this is deliberate, because there’s no need to reproduce signals we can’t really hear. The bottom line is this graph shows that the interface reproduces everything from the lowest note on a bass guitar to a cymbal’s high frequencies equally well.
Get the lowdown on low latency, and what it means to you
By Craig Anderton
Recording with computers has brought incredible power to musicians at amazing prices. However, there are some compromises—such as latency. Let’s find out what causes it, how it affects you, and how to minimize it.
1. What is latency? When recording, a computer is often busy doing other tasks and may ignore the incoming audio for short amounts of time. This can result in audio dropouts, clicks, excessive distortion, and sometimes program crashes. To compensate, recording software like SONAR dedicates some memory (called a sample buffer) to store incoming audio temporarily—sort of like an “audio savings account.” If needed, your recording program can make a “withdrawal” from the buffer to keep the audio stream flowing.
Latency is “geek speak” for the delay that occurs between when you play or sing a note, and what you hear when you monitor your playing through your computer’s output. Latency has three main causes:
The sample buffer. For example, storing 5 milliseconds (abbreviated ms, which equals 1/1000th of a second) of audio adds 5 ms of latency (Fig. 1). Most buffers sizes are specified in samples, although some specify this in ms.
Fig. 1: The control panel for TASCAM’s US-2×2 and US-4×4 audio interfaces is showing that the sample buffer is set to 64 samples.
Other hardware. Converting analog signals into digital and back again takes some time. Also, the USB port that connects to your interface has additional buffers. These involve the audio interface that connects to your computer and converts audio signals into digital signals your computer can understand (and vice-versa—it also converts computer data back into audio).
Delays within the recording software itself. A full explanation would require another article, but in short, this usually involves inserting certain types of processors within your recording software.
The Controller Freak is an on-the-road/off-the-road producer, sound designer, and analog enthusiast. His hands-on approach to digital music requires quite a few tactile surfaces for immediate and innovative musical ideas. He limits himself to this world because he finds that infinite possibilities can sometimes hinder his creative process. Keeping a solid sextet of different synthesizers spreads his ideas around equally. Moving, standing, sitting, and walking to different synthesizers is a part of the entire feel of his studio and how he stays in touch with his inner muse.
The Controller Freak creates with a DAW and hardware that needs to be bridged by a dependable system. These days his work is mostly his own productions. To keep things mobile he opted to lay down some money on an HP Z-book 17” laptop. This high performance laptop can support multiple display formats (even Thunderbolt) Continue reading Studio Makeover Month: The Controller Freak Setup
Meet the Ghostwriter – a professional songwriting machine working under contract to create music for mainstream acts and artists. He lives to create music in a simple and inspiring environment without any hiccups or interruptions. He needs a mobile setup that comes with him to collaborate with Artists, but powerful enough to craft song ideas into finished demos on tight deadlines. This Ghostwriter has to be able to do it all, and he gets results with SONAR X3 Producer.
The Ghostwriter has delicately carved out his set-up according to his Songwriting process. Everyone’s process is different but over the years he’s learned that songwriting is a skill that needs to be worked over and over again in different ways. He’s picked a powerful Dell M6800 Precision workstation as his main workhorse computer because of the expansive hard drive space, optical drive, large visual workspace, 8GB of memory, and long battery life. With 4 USB 3.0 ports, transferring and backing up his music takes a fraction of the time it does on his MacBook.
Songwriting can sometimes start with an idea that hits faster than he can reach for a recorder. Instead he flips on his Gibson inspiration cable, and works the idea out while his computer is booting up. This clever cable catches the direct signal of his guitar’s pickup and transfers it to an SD card. After that, he just pops out the card and copies it to his SONAR X3 Producer Continue reading Studio Makeover Month: The Ghostwriter Studio Setup
Tips to help you build your dream studio all through August
Your studio is where the magic happens! If your music is important to you, then so is your gear, your space, and of course your software. We are focusing this month on tips to help you build the perfect setup to capture the moment when inspiration strikes.
Video Part 1: How to set-up an Audio Interface for recording
Setting up a new audio interface can be tricky so we’ve put together a solid 3 part video series that shows you all the ins and outs of the process. We’ve used the brand new TASCAM UH-7000 with SONAR X3 Producer to show you the basic workflow for getting you ready to record. This knowledge can be applied to any interface when working with SONAR.
Recently I was asked to create a song for a new short film that will be making the rounds on this year’s film festival circuit. I got the creative brief [I had to write for a specific subject in the film] and got to work writing and recording everything myself in SONAR X3. Thankfully, SONAR X3 has pretty much everything you need to make a radio-ready track in the box; even if you are a #hack-of-all-trades like me. 😉 It was requested that this song have some grit to it, as well as some acoustic-oriented authenticity, so I grabbed my 5-Year Old’s harp out of his toy chest, my acoustic guitar, and got to work. The only outboard gear used on this track were a Tascam UH-7000, an AT4033a mic, my Les Paul DC and Carlos Robelli bass. I also played Dimension Pro organ through a controller.
THERE ARE NO MIXING RULES (KIND OF)
After writing the song on an acoustic and then tracking everything, it was time to mix. I love mixing in the digital world because there really are no rules in terms of creativity. Once you understand the basics of frequencies and how to put tracks together properly, you can really get creative with the Continue reading When To Break The “Rules” Of Digital Mixing
Musikmesse 2014 brought a lot of things together for Cakewalk in the grander picture under the Gibson Brands family. For the first time, Gibson Pro Audio brought together its family of TASCAM, KRK, Stanton, Onkyo, Cerwin-Vega and Cakewalk at a major trade show – and it was pretty fantastic to say the least. All brands were representing their latest and greatest products to an international group of industry professionals, music creators, musicians and producers from all over the world. Besides the Pro Audio space which covered close to 6,000 square feet, Gibson also had its instrument space on the lower level which sprawled across an even greater area; so there was no shortage of Gibson at Musikmesse this year.
If two spectacular booths are not enough, why not throw in an eye catching/death defying stunt show outside in front of the all the halls? Introducing: The Gibson Motodrome: a 16 meter diameter pitted-cylinder-wall where vintage motorcycles and a speed-racer circa 1928 whizzed around avoiding what would seem to be an inevitable crash. The only logical thing to do after getting this contraption going onsite was to have a visit from Rudolf Schenker who is the guitar player for Germany’s own The Scorpions. Continue reading Cakewalk Integrates with Gibson Brands at Musikmesse Frankfurt 2014