Review: BigTone EDM Expansion Pack for Z3TA+ 2

by Craig Anderton

Sound Designer Nico Herz has done sound design for a variety of companies, of course including Cakewalk. BigTone EDM, for Z3TA+ 2, is (as you can probably guess from the name) designed for EDM. So if you’re into traditional bluegrass, you probably should not continue reading this.

Anyway, the presets are designed for the EDM “sweet spot” of 125bpm. There are 127 presets total, arranged as eight banks: 7 Bass, 19 Keys, 11 Leads, 20 Pads, 11 Sequences, 6 Sound FX, 19 Textures, and 34 Arps. I’m going to assign each bank a letter grade average for two reasons—it might be helpful, and because sounds are so subjective, if you end up disagreeing with me you’ll know not to bother reading any sound reviews I do. Conversely, if you think my evaluations are correct, we can have an ongoing relationship with future sound reviews. (more…)

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Free Impulse Responses For Your Convolution Reverb

by Daniel Gonz
We’d like to release an impulse pack that we created last year in New York City. This free impulse response pack captures the simple ambience of two fantastic live rooms for drums, vocals, and pretty much any acoustic instrument you can imagine. Drop them into your choice of any convolution reverb to add depth to the elements of your mix.

Download the FREE Impulse Response pack here

Free Impulse Responses for Convolution Reverbs

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The Dynamic Gate | A Cleaner Way To Mix Drums

by Daniel Gonz

Gates are wonderful processors that can clean up background noise and bleed in your audio tracks. They’re a bit tricky to understand because the key to successfully using one is often a specific feature that’s hidden or buried in the interface. The feature I’m referring to is called the sidechain. It’s a powerful element of my mixing workflow and I’d like to show you why.

To follow along with this post, you can download the audio examples here.

In its simplest form, a gate allows a signal to pass through it only when its decibel level is above a set threshold. This means the gate is ‘open’. If the signal falls below the threshold then no signal is allowed to pass. This means the gate is ‘closed’. The sidechain becomes an integral part of this entire process because it’s what the gate uses to detect whether or not the signal is above or below the set threshold.

Sonitus Gates On Kick and Snare in SONAR

Top Left to Bottom Right: Kick In Gate, Kick Out Gate, Snare Top Gate, Snare Bottom Gate

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Using Cakewalk Drum Replacer: The “Right” Way and The “Other” Way

The “Right” Way:

There’s more than one way to use Drum Replacer to trigger your drum sounds. Which of these you choose will depend on the material, as well as your preferred outcome and workflow. First, let’s take a look at some of the intended, more traditional uses of Drum Replacer.

A mixed drum track or loop

A fairly standard Drum Replacer use is to augment or altogether change the drum sounds on an already-mixed drum track. The examples below play an unprocessed SONAR drum loop, followed by the same loop reinforced by Drum Replacer.

Filtered Drum ReplacerWith the built-in filter mechanism, it’s easy to isolate each piece of the drum kit and replace it individually. For this particular loop, focusing the filters to 67 Hz for the kick and 673 Hz for the snare ensured replacing the right sound. I wanted to soften this already-punchy loop by replacing the kick and snare sounds with something a little more “airy,” then blending these with the original. I chose the included WholeLotta Kick and WholeLotta Snare samples for their lighter, more pillowy qualities and blended them roughly 70/30 with the original drum track. Combined, they create a pleasantly complex, tight-yet-sustained sound.
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Speed Up Your Workflow With 5 (Rather Hidden) SONAR Features

SONAR has a LOT of features. So many, in fact, that it’s easy for some of them to fly right under the radar. The list below contains five of my favorite SONAR features that can really speed up your workflow!  Download the latest SONAR Free Demo and follow along.

#5 – Clip Coloring

Let’s say you’ve recorded a couple of guitar tracks, and the guitar player changed tone in certain parts of the song. You may want to identify these parts easily during the mixing process. Markers can work, but I typically use those to indicate sections and turning points in the song, and the tone change doesn’t always line up with arrangement changes. Instead, you can change the clip color in these sections to make the parts easier to find.

Here are the clips in their original state:
Clips Before Editing

Make some splits where the pickup change happens:
Clips Have Been Split

Now, select the parts with Shift+Click where the guitarist changes his tone, and using the Foreground selector in the Clip Inspector, color these red:
Clip Coloring GIF

You can now see all the sections where the guitar player used an alternate tone by the red waveform, which can come in very handy while mixing.

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How Vivek Maddala’s work in SONAR caught Mix Magazine’s eye (+ his go-to gear)

Vivek Maddala’s story is one that certainly does not lack one single ounce of excitement. From being a successful [modern-day] composer of music for film and TV, to his recent build out of a new state-of-the-art home studio, Vivek has continued to deliver world-class music on his own terms.  He has always been on the vanguard of hip new projects, but now with the new studio, the sky is the limit for this seasoned – yet still young Los Angeles multi-instrumentalist/producer.

One might ask, “What is it that keeps him so busy writing and producing for such interesting projects?” Well for starters, very few people can pull together the diverse musical elements that seem to come so fluently for Maddala.  On one end of the spectrum he is an extremely proficient musician, and on the other he is an expressive individual who seems to be able to tap into emotional components of film while gracefully tying everything together with unique global soundscapes.  He also seems to land projects right in his wheelhouse; ones that lift the human spirit and elucidate the human condition. His works which have been noted extraordinarily diverse in style, stand out among contemporary compositions for their depth of expression, brilliance of sound, and profoundly humanist nature.  It’s in this pocket where he has found so much success and respect scoring a plethora of [major] independent films.

Building off from his busy schedule — currently scoring a feature film, producing two albums, and soon scoring a TV series — it became clear to Vivek that he needed his own production sanctuary to work at any given moment of need or inspiration.  Now, when figuring out how to build a so-called ”home project studio,” it doesn’t hurt to have attended the Berklee School of Music, and also to have degrees in Electrical Engineering from major universities. That is when one’s “project studio” usually takes a turn for the better. ;)  Combining his skills and background in electro-acoustics, Vivek turned to acoustics consultant Kevin Lee Hughes who had recently worked on design for Capitol Studios in LA.  The result was a stunningly beautiful and intricate professional work-space written about here in this month’s issue of Mix Magazine.

 

We recently got a chance to quickly catch up with Vivek and find out how he’s been using SONAR: (more…)

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SONAR and Rapture Pro at the International Music Summit Ibiza, Spain

One thing is certainly clear.  Ibiza is a very creative island in terms of music. Besides the infamous “foam parties” and club-scene, there are locals here that write, record, promote, produce, live and breathe electronic music on a world-class level. Bringing all these creative people together yearly is a festival known as the International Music Summit, where professionals and music fans converge from all over the world to celebrate and discuss the industry.

This year The International Music Summit is being held at the Hard Rock Hotel in Ibiza, and the Gibson Brands family is here supporting all the great artists. One component to the partnership is the Gibson tour bus which unbelievably came here on a boat and is serving as a meeting spot for many exclusive artists. Parked out in front of the Hard Rock Hotel, the Gibson tour bus has made its appearance in a big way including a SONAR/Tascam / KRK / Surface Pro 3 mobile recording setup inside.

Many of us have been having fun creating some great music here on the bus, but one major highlight today was an appearance by the legendary Arthur Baker who just happened to be sporting his trusty TR-808. Within about 20 minutes, we had a substantial piece of music combining Arthur’s 808 skills, the new Rapture Pro, and some cutting edge loops from Loopmasters. We started with Arthur creating a beat on the 808 at 128bpm and sparingly added in some other loop elements from Loopmasters which created an interesting combination of modern and vintage sounds. After that, we added a lot of color with the large array of sounds from the new Rapture Pro library. Later today we will be adding some vocals to the composition so hopefully we will have something to post by the end of the conference.

On a technical note, I had the good fortune to test out SONAR on the new Surface Pro 3 and what I have to report is good news – the Surface Pro 3 is the real-deal for music creators. The one that was (thankfully) sent to Cakewalk from Intel boasted an Intel Core I7 along with 8 gigs of ram, and this machine flinched at nothing I threw at it. In fact on the contrary, I found it very quick and snappy on every level. I also found the touch responsiveness to be nothing less than spectacular. I highly recommend this machine, but along with that recommendation is the key element of obtaining one with a Core I7. Also be advised that these only have one USB port, so a USB3 powered port expansion is the ticket. Also noteworthy is to make sure your interface is not a power-hog (Class A components usually are). (more…)

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Mixing Vocals: Create Depth with a Digital Reverb

by Dan Gonzalez

Depth is a factor of every mix, just like Height and Width. This is a harder concept to grasp because there really is no “Depth” adjust on a mixer. In this article we’ll talk about how to create depth using the Sonitus Reverb.

Creating Depth using the Sonitus Reverb

Digital reverbs are the proverbial swiss-army-knives of the mixing world. They are programmed in a way that emulates every part of a reverb. This includes the pre-delay, decay time, width, diffusion, early reflections etc. Since these emulate spaces like halls, plates, rooms, and other reverberant places – we can use them to create a room sound around our audio tracks for the purpose of creating depth. That’s a fancy way of saying that we can use reverb for depth. Here’s a vocal track that has no effects on it at all. It’s mixed into this track completely dry.

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Mixing Vocals: Easy Dynamic Vocal FX in SONAR

by Dan Gonzalez

A word on Vocal FX

Mixing vocals is a tricky process since it is the most prominent element in any song. Vocals can be processed a very specific way to achieve an effect of sorts – or they can be processed in subtle ways to fit nicely into an overall mix. Most of the time you’ll be dealing with the latter of the two so it’s important to figure out ways to enhance your vocals without overpowering the other instruments.

Critical attention to detail is what makes any track sound like a polished mix and to achieve this a lot of engineers approach each section, instrument, entrance, exit, etc. dynamically. Obviously one way to do this is by mixing with tons of automation, but there are other ways to setup your mix so that you don’t have to write loads of automation data.

Setting up a dynamic vocal effect

Let’s take a pretty dry vocal track and add a dynamic effect to it. Here’s an example of a verse that we can use.

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Making The New York Impulse Pack for the SONAR “Braintree” Release

by Dan Gonzalez

Impulse responses (IRs) are small bursts of audio data that represent the frequency response of a real life space. By using convolution reverbs we can use them creatively in our productions to increase depth and ambience.

 

The concept

To accurately represent a real life space, you need to excite it with a frequency sweep or a loud sound rich in complex frequencies like a starter pistol or snare drum hit. For my IR samples in the New York Impulse Pack I used a sine sweep. The sine sweep is the easiest way to make sure you get an accurate representation of a space.

Once you capture that space, you must process it with a utility that shortens the
frequency sweep into a state that convolution reverbs can use. Typically this audio data is no more than a split second long.

I used this workflow to produce the Impulse Responses you’ll receive in our content for users that are a part of the Braintree Release for SONAR Platinum and SONAR Professional.

The equipment you’ll need, and what I used

- Speaker, Studio Monitor, or Full Range Flat Response Speaker. I used a Cerwin Vega P1000.

The P1000X is a two-way, bi-amped, full-range bass-reflex speaker. It employs a 10-inch woofer and a high-frequency compression driver, powered by a custom Class-D amplifier. With a power rating of 1000 watts, the P1000X is one of the most powerful PA product in its class. A proprietary hemi-conical horn provides premium sound clarity over an even and wide coverage area. A built-in mixer with convenient I/O connections allows for simple and fast setup, while Enhanced EQ, VEGA BASS boost and High-Pass Filters enable exact tuning and exceptional performance for any application. The P1000X is a versatile product that can be used as a single speaker for small venues, set in pairs or installed with threaded hang points, and combined with the P1800SX Sub for a larger venue needing more coverage and SPL. Its compact size makes it ideal to operate as a floor monitor as well.”

- Pair of microphones, the flatter response the better. I had the benefit of borrowing a pair of Earthworks QTC40s.

- The ability to create a sine sweep. I used this free utility and then bought the license for $40.

- An audio interface to simultaneously play the sine sweep and capture sound of the excited space. My RME UFX worked out wonderfully because it has very clean preamps and multiple inputs and outputs.

- Of course, SONAR Platinum

The Microphones

The Microphones I used are pretty high-end reference microphones that have a frequency range from 20Hz-40kHz. These are great because they represent the sound of the room without any color. Since we’re in the business of capturing the sound of room – they make a perfect companion for this type of project.

Setting up the spaces

I setup the microphones in a few initial spots to get an idea of how the space sounded. On my first try it was clear that the space was going to sound good no matter where I placed the microphones and the source speaker. Both spaces are not highly reverberant, they just have quality sounding early reflections – which makes them great for getting initial sounds of drums and vocals.

The goal was to capture the room in various positions. I setup the microphones in close stereo pairs, distant stereo pairs, and subsequently moved the source speaker around them to bounce the sine sweep off different walls. During the processing stage, I then split these stereo IRs out into mono signals so that users could have a choice between stereo or mono processing. For example, here’s a rough diagram of how I setup the microphones in the center with various speaker locations for one set of IRs.

 

 

 

 

The IRs themselves

To excite the space I created a sine sweep with Voxengo Deconvolver.

BE CAREFUL WHEN PLAYING THESE, THEY ARE LOUD

Once the signal played through the room it sounds like this:

Large Room IR Example

Not very exciting on first listen, but when you process the tracks and apply some instruments you start to understand their sound. Here is a drum passage without the impulse response:

Now, here’s the same drum passage with the ambience of one of the “Big Room” IRs that I captured. You can hear how it doesn’t necessarily add reverb, but more an ambience.

Lastly, here’s just the ambience:

Small Room IR Example

Here’s a synth passage without any IRs applied:

Here’s the same patch with one of the SmallRoom IRs applied:

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