HOW UPGRADING TO SONAR X3 GAVE THESE PRO ARTISTS AN EDGE

Luigie Gonzalez
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Grammy nominated Producer, Songwriter, Mixer, Multi-Instrumentalist

“When I walk into sessions with my SONAR machine, I hear ‘what is THAT’ a lot from other producers and artists.  And then like clockwork, I hear a lot of ‘whoah’ and ‘wow’ when they see what I can do beyond their limitations.  I’ll never forget Jimmy Jam being blown away once in a studio when I started getting my sounds going in SONAR – that was a pretty cool feeling because he could see and hear what made my **** sound different from other producers on the scene at that time.”  

Since upgrading to SONAR X3, my favorite new feature is the Nomad plugin suite.

The Nomad Bundle that comes with X3  has been a go-to for me when boosting mid and high frequencies.   The mids are awesome and super-musical!  I also usually use them for HiHats to boost 8KHz – 16KHz without sounding to square-digital or harsh.   It just has a nice sizzling tone that sounds so different than any other plugin in my arsenal of VSTs.  When I mix I am very observant of the “stereo image,” and Nomad’s “Imager” is the trick to help make room for things.  Also, I use the Tempo Delay often because of its warmth and versatility.   I also, love the Tempo Delay’s parameter controllers – having 3 independent delay configurations is great to achieve the perfect delay tone in my mixes.  I can really get unique sounds with the delays and shape them to my heart’s content.

On the other hand, I cannot live without the Console Emulator (I believe this was new to X2 but it just never gets old)…  It just opens my mixes in such organic ways that have I become addicted to it!  I use the trident (A-type) mode for kicks, bass and everything with low end character because it adds great sub harmonics.  The SSL (S-Type) I use for snares, kicks and everything in between to achieve that pocket /punchy sound which warms up the top end frequencies without dulling the sound.  The Neve (A-Type) for Vocals, synths, guitars and everything that needs to sound frontal or cut through mix.  It helps my “center” in the mixes along with some nice mid-frequency response.

I always add a bit of drive (Console Emulator) to my buses to emulate the console circuitry saturation because it works without distorting anything too much – just enough to add more random harmonics and make the whole mix sound even more organic and full.  I think the Console Emulator is one of the best features to SONAR in a long time, and I’m very happy Cakewalk implemented it as part of the ProChannel.

Track coloring is also something I was waiting for some time.   It helps me keep organized especially when mixing 100 plus tracks sessions which is usually the case for me.  It’s so smart that the track colors respond to the bus colors, this way I stay even more organized by visually understanding my large mixes.

I really dig the QuadCurve ProChannel EQ as well.   It’s super-transparent and colorless on certain modes which plays an important part when carving very precise frequencies.   It’s kind of like the FabFilter but the fact that it’s part of the ProChannel makes it easier and faster to use.  It’s also dead-precise while still sounding amazingly clean!

~Luigie Gonzalez

DJ Spooky
Location: New York City and The Poles
Producer, Music/Song/Sound Creator, Author, Visionary

When you are as diverse of an artist as DJ Spooky you need some serious music-creation tools.  Take Of Water and Ice for example.  This album is the result of DJ Spooky’s art residency at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. Of Water and Ice is a composition for string quartet and video that evolved out of his large-scale multimedia work Sinfonia Antarctica: an exploration of the composition of ice and water, and our relationship to the vanishing environment of the arctic poles. DJ Spooky created The Book of Ice based on his travels to the poles. All of the electronic sounds are generated by interpretations of either algorithms that mirror the geometry in ice crystals or the math of climate change data.

“The biggest asset to me upgrading to SONAR X3 was the speed (more…)

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Beatboxing – Watch What Happens to the Frequency Analyzer in SONAR X3

Within the Vocal world  there are all different styles of singing and beatboxing is one of the more complex and percussive styles that the human voice can produce. Typically there is a single frequency range that vocalists stay within but beatboxers span the entire frequency range to achieve the sounds that come from their mouth. Check out this video with a local Boston street performer as he shows us how it’s done:

Wanna try the QuadCurve EQ? Check out SONAR X3 30 Day Trial

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How to use a vocal-double to enhance lead vocals

One of the toughest things about working with a lead vocal track is getting it to pop out, while allowing it to still sit in the track nicely in context with its surroundings [other tracks].  Every mixing engineer has her/his bag of tricks, but here are a few ideas to utilize a “vocal-double” which may help support and embellish the lead vocal track.  For this demonstration I am using the lead vocal track of NBC’s The Voice Season 1 winner Javier Colon.  Note that you can click on images to get a bigger perspective.

(more…)

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Mixing Tips: Know Your Signal Flow in SONAR

Signal Flow is an important concept to understand, and it may be easier to think about when presented with a diagram of how audio is passes through SONAR.

Inputs and Outputs – Easier than you think!

The first concept to understand is the relationship between Inputs and Outputs. There isn’t anything complex about the subject unless you over-think it.  It is the underlying theme to just about anything within your Digital Audio Workstation. Always remember the following:

  • Outputs: Always feed Inputs
  • Inputs: Always fed by Outputs

Sometimes Outputs can be named “Outs or Sends” and sometimes Inputs are labelled “Ins or Returns.” If you’re a guitar player then you can associate this concept with the FX Loop that exists on the back of your amp. You use this to Send audio to your effects pedals and then back to your Amp’s Return.

First, let’s start where audio starts. Typically it begins with an instrument or audio file:

Upon opening SONAR many users will head straight to their Media Browser and (more…)

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Subtractive EQ Part 5: When Should I Boost EQ?

Missed Part 1? Read it here.

When should I boost?
Some of you may read this and field this very question.  Boosting is something that you can do any time you want with any given instrument.  Obviously it is your own choice in the matter but if you find yourself constantly pulling your faders up and down because your master level is clipping then you may want to apply these EQ techniques to your workflow. In my world it is always a matter of reducing first and then boosting later.

Conclusion
Mixing is as much of an art as it is understanding the logical ways that instruments interact with one another. (more…)

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Subtractive EQ Part 4: Bass

Miss part 1? Read Subtractive EQ – Snare Drum.

Bass
The bass in this track caters to fans of the early Metallica era.  Bassist Cliff Burton popularized this distorted sound on such tracks as (Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth.  It’s important to blend this type of bass tone into the bottom of the guitars.  In this mix the guitars and the bass become a single unit ebbing and flowing with one another at certain points through the song.

Understandably one can assume that there was much processing done to this track before it’s transfer into SONAR.  It’s important to capture the sound before you start mixing so that your mixing process is not a patch-job.

This tone is aggressive and piercing to the ear.  A significant way to know that this instrument needs attention is by the aural fatigue that you may experience while soloing this track and listening to it rather loudly for more than 10 seconds.  I aimed to adjust the bass track to fit like a glove under the mix by applying a HPF at 78Hz with a steep bandwidth setting.  The amount of bass here needs control. Using a compressor to control the sound would be redundant because of how much overdrive was applied to this track.  The overdrive has ultimately eliminated any trace of strong transients.

Lastly, there is another dip in the EQ around 2.2kHz.  This adjustment reduces some of the aforementioned piercing sound. Any harsh tones in this register will be too overbearing in the mix.

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Subtractive EQ Part 3: Kick Drum

Miss part 1? Read Subtractive EQ – Snare Drum.

The Kick Drum
If the snare was the primary listening point for Rock music then the kick drum is the second most important. By working in the guitars in over the snare I was then met with the challenge of working in a solid kick drum sound. This kick drum was tracked using two different kick drum microphones, one deeper into the drum than the other. For reference, the first kick signal is called the “Kick-In” microphone and the second is the “Kick-Out” signal. (This is one example of the nomenclature used by many engineers to differentiate between the different microphones placed on a drum set)

Kick In

I started by blending the two signals (more…)

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Subtractive EQ Part 2: Heavy Rhythm and Lead Guitars

Did you miss Part 1? Read Subtractive EQ for Snare Drum.

Guitars
Your guitar tone can change significantly by carving out the correct frequencies and reducing those that introduce unwanted noise. Distorted electric guitars tend to occupy most of the mid-range based on their nature of their sound. This mix was tricky because the band is instrumental and their music relies heavily on the layering of multiple guitar tones.

Rhythm Guitar 1

Here I have chosen to attenuate the unwanted rumbling of the of the low end of the rhythm guitars using the supplied HPF. The bass guitar is rather guitar-like in this song therefore it is important to make room for that. The HPF for Guitar 1 was applied at 50Hz and similarly to Guitar 2 at 47Hz. Why not the exact same frequency you ask? Having the slightest (more…)

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Subtractive EQ Part 1: Snare Drum

Introduction
Equalization is one of the most powerful tools that an audio engineer can get their hands on. Live engineers, post-production engineers, and recording engineers all have their specific uses for it. It’s so powerful that some beginner engineers habitually reach for it without understanding what it can ultimately do to a mix.

Overview
Let’s resonate on the concept of volume momentarily. It is in our human nature to enjoy music at high volume levels. Concerts are a great examples of this. Outdoor festivals and the like tend to blast our eardrums with massive amounts of volume that we cannot experience in any other format. To most, increasing volume directly correlates to better sound. In a mix setting, dramatically boosting various frequencies can be a crutch for inexperienced mix engineers. By increasing the gain of a specified frequency band on an EQ one can subsequently add unwanted gain to the overall mix. Typically the problem that follows is a battle to keep your master fader from clipping and you all of sudden feel stuck in a gain-staging paradox. This can happen to best of us.

In Use
Apply subtractive EQ techniques to your instruments. Instead of boosting your favourite signals try limiting yourself to cutting. We can call this concept “carving”. Let’s take a look at a musical example. This series of articles will demonstrate some key elements of a typical Rock Mix.

Snare
Generally the snare is the focal point of a typical rock oriented mix. I’ve started with all my faders down and raised the snare to a suitable level: 0dBu. This recording was tracked with two snare microphones. The bottom snare microphone captured the sizzle of the snare and the top microphone captured much of the attack.

Snare Bottom EQ

The first drawbacks I noticed when isolating the snare recordings (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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