How To Create Easy Tempo Maps in SONAR with Melodyne 4

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.

Artist Spotlight: Eric Hansen—How He Gets Big Pro Soundinig Results at Home

“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]:

Continue reading Artist Spotlight: Eric Hansen—How He Gets Big Pro Soundinig Results at Home

Anatomy of a Project: A Nontraditional Approach to a Commercial Recording

By Jimmy Landry

Last summer, Peppina—a young female artist from Finland— plunged herself into the NYC music scene for two months. With the help of renowned NYC entertainment attorney Steven Beer who discovered her, she managed to head back to Finland with a major-label sounding EP. The project was recorded in different ways, in different locations all over the city—and with budgets being slashed, these days it’s pretty much hand-to-hand combat when making a low budget recording where anything goes. But the upshot is yes, you can record a commercial-sounding record on a budget—so here are some of the techniques we employed to accomplish that goal. SONAR Platinum was instrumental in saving time on this EP. Between the Drum Replacer, VocalSync, onboard Melodyne, Speed Comping and general speed enhancements, I got to the finish line a lot faster than previous records. I highly recommend anyone who’s on SONAR XX to take a close look at what the program has brought to the table in the last year.

This all started when Steven Beer called about an artist he’d heard sing at a film festival, and invited me for a meeting at his office. Interestingly, there were two other producer/writers there as well—a bit unorthodox, but pretty much anything goes these days, so nothing really surprises me anymore. We discussed the artist’s interests, influences, and other variables, and then listened to some of my reel as well as music from the other producers. It turned out the lawyer’s master plan was to bring the three of us together to co-write, record, and mix a five-song EP before she went back to Finland in 45 days.

Peppina already had some momentum in Finland from a loop she wrote and uploaded to a site called HITRECORD (owned by actor and director Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Her upload was so popular that Gordon-Levitt flew her to California to perform the piece at the Orpheum in LA during one of the show’s TV episodes. This all sounded good to me, so I signed on to a production team that would share in the production duties and heavy lifting. As to budgets…well, there was enough there for us to take it on as a challenge.

Continue reading Anatomy of a Project: A Nontraditional Approach to a Commercial Recording

Coloring Your Sound With Reverb: Part 1 – Convolution Reverb

Coloring Your Sound With Reverb

With so many different reverb options available, it can sometimes be hard to know where to begin. This series will focus on helping you make your reverb decisions more efficiently by identifying the function of every component, one at a time.

Sounds | Controls | Tips & Tricks

The Sounds

In convolution reverb, microphones capture the sound of an environment’s response to a full spectrum of frequencies, known as an Impulse Response (IR). Then, the resulting .wav file is introduced back into a convolution plugin – in this case ReMatrix Solo. The plugin plays the incoming audio, say your drum track, “through” the IR. This type of reverb is great for adding realistic ambience to dry sounding tracks.

Depending on the shape and material of the walls, ceiling, floor, and furniture in the sampled environment, different frequencies may be absorbed or reflected faster or slower than others. This is what gives any reverb its own characteristic sound. For example, a concert hall with hard, dense walls and plastic seats will have a much longer decay in high-frequency content than a living room with relatively soft wooden walls and a cushioned couch.

ReMatrix Solo recognizes 5 different categories of IRs: Hall, Room, Plate, Early, and Special. Let’s take a look at the characteristics of each of these.

Hall

Hall Reverb ExampleThe first thing you’re likely to notice about Hall reverbs is that they’re usually longer than other types–about 2 seconds or more. This is because halls are rather large spaces with lots of room for sound to bounce around. Like great prose or a fine wine, reverb has a beginning, middle, and end. For reverb, we’ll refer to these as “Early Reflections,” “Body,” and “Decay (or Tail).” Common Hall reverb characteristics include an audible array of early reflections (more on this later), a dense, sustained body, and a smooth, often dark decay.

Here are some sonic examples of applications of Hall Reverb:

  • If you listen carefully, you’ll notice the snare’s attack is quite present in the reverb itself.
  • The guitar in this example loses some presence due to the heavy wash of conflicting frequencies.
  • In the vocals, most of the consonants are lost to the diffusion, resulting in a reverb body consisting mostly of vowel sounds.

Room

Room Reverb ExampleRoom reverb times are much shorter than halls, due mostly to their smaller size. These will normally range between about a half-a-second to a few seconds. Rooms are often a bit “darker” sounding than most halls, since the size and materials are prone to more high-frequency absorption. However, any variations in size and material are going to have a large impact on the resulting reverberations, so you can expect much variation from one Room sound to the next. One may have almost no early reflections, a smooth body and quick decay, while another might have a booming attack, and thick body that slowly fades away.

Here are the same tracks as above, but with some Room reverb applied:

  • The snare sound gains a presence boost from the stronger midrange information of this reverb.
  • The guitar fits nicely with this reverb due to the dense and diffuse body.
  • Notice how the vocal reverb now sounds like each word smears together, rather than just the vowel sounds in the hall example.

Plate

Plate Reverb ExampleA plate reverb is a mechanical device that vibrates in response to an audio signal being passed through it. It has transducers that send and receive the signal, and a damping pad to adjust the length of the reverb. These reverbs are often a half-second to a few seconds in length, and have almost no early reflections, but a substantial body and gentle decay. Because of this, it’s not uncommon to see large amounts of predelay added to this reverb type.

Once again, the same tracks as above, but with Plate reverb applied:

  • This reverb is quite bright. The snare gains a lush high end that otherwise is rather lacking
  • You’ll notice that the guitar sounds a bit harsh running through this particular plate sound.
  • The vocals have a bit of an “airy lift” to them, but sibilant sounds (S’s and T’s, for example) might need to be carved out with an EQ to avoid a similar harshness to the guitars.

Early

Early Reflections Reverb ExampleThis one is sort of unique to ReMatrix. Nearly every type of reverb has early reflections, but this particular category isolates them as their own entity. Early reflections, as shown in the diagram below, are the sounds that you hear most immediately after the direct signal, usually within the first 60-80ms. For that reason, they have an almost imperceptible body and decay. Don’t let the short time fool you, though; these reverbs can introduce very unique and desirable sonic characters to any sound.

Reverb Early Reflections

Here are some examples of early reflections applied to our drum, guitar, and vocal tracks:

Short and sweet, Early Reflections are fantastic for bringing a sound to the forefront while still maintaining a sense of depth and “live-ness.”

Special

Special Reverb ExampleThis is where all the outliers are found. These IRs include reverse reverbs, modulated sounds, and more. The modulated sounds are typically .wav files that have been modified in some way with another effect like an automated filter, a delay, some kind of pan effect, or just about anything else. Since there are no real rules to this IR type, there’s not much explaining to do here, so let’s jump right into some examples.

  • The snare, high in transient information, also yields an interesting result with the panning echoes.
  • The busy guitar covers up much of the effect, and you’re just as well reaching for a more suitable reverb program
  • The vocals play quite nicely through it, sounding like a high-feedback slapback delay with some sort of weird FM filtering.
  • This type of reverb may not fit so well in every mix you do, and the effect may not always be apparent, but it can bring a bit of spice to an otherwise dull part.

The Controls

Time

Reverb TimeThis is the length of the reverb. Whenever you see a time control on a reverb, it is measured in RT60, or amount of time it takes for the reverb to be 60dB lower than its original level. Note that when you load a preset or IR in ReMatrix Solo, this setting adjusts to the IR’s original intended RT60 time. Be careful when making adjustments to this as it can sometimes make the reverb sound “chopped” or produce undesired artifacts.Reverb Time RT60

Delay

Reverb Pre-Delay This is the Pre-Delay, or amount of time before the reverb signal is produced. For example, if your song is 120bpm and you want an eighth note’s worth of time between the dry snare hit and the wet reverb signal, you would set this value to 250ms. This is useful for when your original signal starts to sound oversaturated by the reverb. Providing a bit of time between the original signal and the reverb signal gives a sense of distance and depth.

Helpful Hint: 1 ms of pre-delay is equal to about 1 foot of distance from the source. 

Reverb Pre-Delay

Stereo

Reverb Stereo Width ControlThis knob controls the stereo width of the reverb. A value of 0% will be “mostly” mono. A value of 100% provides an extremely wide stereo image, and dipping into negative values results in an extremely collapsed reverb sound. Try a variety of settings–this parameter has an incredible ability to create a very realistic and controlled sense of space for your reverb.

EQ Gain

Reverb EQ Gain ControlThis is, quite simply, the amount of gain applied at the EQ Freq setting. This applies only to the reverb return signal itself, so adding a high shelf to the snare reverb does not add the high shelf to the snare, just the snare’s reverb.

EQ Freq

Reverb EQ Frequency ControlIf you would like to apply a band of EQ to your reverb signal, this is the place to do it. This setting will determine the center frequency of your EQ adjustment. This is useful when you want to modify the coloration of the reverb, or to help it fit more neatly into your mix.

EQ Q

Reverb EQ Q ControlAs with any Q setting, this is the width of the EQ band you’re applying to your EQ signal.
Hi-Shelf affects frequencies at and above the EQ Freq setting
LPF (Low-Pass Filter) cuts all frequencies below the EQ Freq setting
— Numbers indicate a Band Pass filter — your standard bell-curve EQ. A smaller number creates a wider bell curve, and a larger number creates a very narrow curve.

Dry/Wet

Reverb Dry Wet MixerThis is the blend of original, unprocessed signal and “wet,” processed reverb signal. A common workflow would be to create a send on the track to which you wish to apply reverb. Set up the send to go to an aux track, and add the ReMatrix ProChannel module to the Aux Track. Set the Dry/Wet slider to 100% wet. Now, your original track is still totally dry, and the aux track is only the reverb signal. To blend, simply adjust the send level from the original track. More send level = more reverb.


Tips & Tricks:

  • Play around with settings and presets to get the most out of your reverb plugins! The sound examples demonstrated one of many different configurations for each reverb type.
  • Be conservative — too much reverb can leave your mix sounding distant and oversaturated.
  • Be judicious — in most cases, it’s not a good idea to apply reverb to every track.
  • Send, not Insert. 9 times out of 10, you’ll have a better experience with separate source and reverb tracks. See the Dry/Wet section for more info.
  • Use “just enough” reverb: Solo your source and reverb tracks, and bring up the send level until the reverb is audible. Then, bring it back down 1 dB or so and move on.
  • Use your EQ. The built-in EQ on ReMatrix is great for adding color or carving out some space, but don’t be afraid to add another EQ to your reverb track to tailor it further to fit your mix.
  • Play with dynamics. Applying Compression, Gating, and Side-Chaining to reverb tracks can result in some really useful and interesting effects.
  • Pan your return. A guitar panned left with its reverb panned right can increase the apparent space the instrument occupies
  • Not all reverbs will work for your track. It’s well worth the time investment to find the one that best suits your production.
  • Don’t write off the harsher sounds. You may notice some IRs sound “better” than others, but the ones that sound “bad” when soloed tend to stand out better in a dense mix.
  • It doesn’t need to be realistic for it to be pleasant. It’s okay to have your vocals in a hall, your snare in a dark room, your toms running through a plate, and your kazoo in a bright room.
  • Automate the send. Reverb doesn’t have to be on all the time. Automate the send to apply reverb only to certain words, licks, or sections to add motion and excitement to your mix.

You can try REmatrix Solo for yourself in SONAR Professional and SONAR Platinum.

Try SONAR Free

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15-Compressor Shootout: Lead Vocals

No question, there are a lot of compressor plugins out there, and they all have their unique layouts, quirks, and sonic qualities. In the video below, we line up 15 different compressors and demonstrate these differences.

Below the video, you’ll also find a helpful updated list of key features, a downloadable chart, and links to learn more about the compressors that do not come standard with SONAR Platinum. If you’re not familiar many compressor plugins, I recommend starting here.

It’s worth noting that this video demonstrates a limited scope of each compressor’s capabilities. Since the compressor is being used to level out a vocal performance, each one has been set up optimally for the application, usually with a low ratio and fairly fast attack and release wherever applicable.

Every possible measure was taken to keep the responses and output levels of each compressor as uniform as possible so that the shootout makes for a consistent apples-to-apples comparison. In the future, keep an eye out for more of these shootouts, as the same tools might have totally different effects on a snare drum, acoustic guitar, electric bass, or saxophone.

Continue reading 15-Compressor Shootout: Lead Vocals

Parallel Compression: Now Easier Than Ever

A few years back, we showed you a bit about Parallel Compression in SONAR. Now that we’ve introduced Patch Points in the Jamaica Plain update, you can do these same things with a much more efficient workflow.

Let’s quickly define parallel processing: In parallel processing, a signal is duplicated into two or more signals. Each copy of the signal is processed differently but plays back simultaneously with the original. The copy/copies are then mixed together.

Parallel Compression Diagram_600x222

Parallel Compression, aka “New York Compression,” is most commonly used on drums to add body to the drum mix without flattening the snappy transients.

Check out the video below to see just how easy (and great sounding) this technique can be:

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Anatomy of a SONAR Project: Replacing the Placeholder

DELIVERING MUSIC FOR THE FILM “FOR BLOOD” (COFFEERING ENTERTAINMENT LOS ANGELES, CA)

Sometimes I am fortunate enough to have the time to take on a project outside of Cakewalk, and I love that those projects let me put our current SONAR Platinum “Rolling Update” to the test in the field. Recently, the LA-based production company Coffee Ring Entertainment asked me to write, produce and deliver three tracks for their new movie, For Blood. This article describes highlights of the process involved in writing and producing one of those tracks for a specific scene in the film.

My first question to the director was, “Do you already have placeholder music in the rough cut?” When producers and directors have placeholder music they like already set into the cut, it speeds up and simplifies writing and producing the music. Fortunately the answer was “yes,” so all I needed to do was replicate what they liked about their placeholder tracks using the array of instruments and plug-ins in my home project studio rig.

A primary objective in writing music for film is to forget about yourself and your own emotional agenda. And oddly enough, for me at least, this notion really speeds up the workflow because you are writing/producing for someone else’s purpose other than your own thoughts. Adamantly keeping this in mind throughout the writing/producing process helps to stay focused on what the client wants. For this song, it’s exactly what I had to do because the producers had a Tarantino-ish type track set into the scene, and my innate production style tends to lean more towards big, clean commercial pop rock. Luckily, I could go to YouTube and analyze suitable styles of music but even luckier for me, SONAR’s Addictive Drums and TH2 plug-ins were  ideal for dialing in the kind of music that was needed. Continue reading Anatomy of a SONAR Project: Replacing the Placeholder

Improving Your Synth Sounds With Real-Time Upsampling

By Craig Anderton

Some plug-ins and virtual instruments sound better when recording at sample rates higher than 44.1/48 kHz because high audio frequencies can interfere with lower clock frequencies, which causes foldover distortion. This adds a “wooliness” at lower frequencies, and can also compromise high-frequency response. Plug-ins that include internal oversampling do not have this problem, but not all plug-ins—particularly older ones—use oversampling.

The Foxboro update introduced Upsample on Render, which provides the benefits of using higher sample rate processing even in 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz projects by internally 2X up-sampling plug-ins of your choice, rendering them as audio, then down-sampling the rendered audio back down to the original sample rate. While it may seem counter-intuitive that the audio quality from rendering at 96 kHz is preserved at lower sample rates, the lower sample rates have no problem reproducing signals in the audio range, and by rendering at 96 kHz, the problematic frequencies no longer exist.

The Jamaica Plain update now offers Upsample on Playback, so you can preview and compare the difference in real time. To enable either Upsampling on Render or Upsampling on Playback on a per-plug-in basis, click the FX button to the left of the instrument name in the virtual instrument interface.

SONAR Upsample On Playback Option

To turn Upsampling on or off globally for plug-ins that have Upsampling enabled, use the 2X button in the Control Bar’s Mix module.

SONAR Plug-in Upsampling

Universal Routing Technology 202: Unlocking the Creative Potential of the Aux Track

By Craig Anderton

Here are some representative applications for using Patch Points and Aux Tracks. There are often several ways to accomplish the same functionality, so use whichever is most comfortable. For example, if you already have existing tracks that you want to connect to Patch Points, it’s probably easier to assign their inputs to Patch Points than create new Aux Tracks. However, if you’re setting up a new recording scenario, it will probably be easiest to create an Aux Track as that will create both a track and a Patch Point assignment.

Application #1: Recording the Metronome to a Track

Note: If your project already contains a Metronome bus, skip to step 7.
  1. Choose Insert > Stereo Bus to create a new bus for the audio metronome.
  2. Rename the new bus to Metronome.
  3. Choose Edit > Preferences > Project – Metronome.
  4. Select the Recording check box and clear the Playback check box (you will hear the recorded metronome instead during playback).
  5. Select “Use Audio Metronome.”
  6. Click the Output drop-down menu and select the bus named Metronome, then click OK to close the Preferences dialog box.
  7. Click the Metronome bus’s Output control and select New Aux Track on the pop-up menu.
  8. Arm the Aux Track for recording.
  9. Begin recording.

Continue reading Universal Routing Technology 202: Unlocking the Creative Potential of the Aux Track

Universal Routing Technology 101: Improving Your Workflow With Patch Points

By Craig Anderton

Cakewalk has been quietly developing a Universal Routing Technology that gives tremendous flexibility when routing signals within SONAR. One of the first examples was the FX Chain, which provided a “container” for routing effect inputs and outputs together, and had the intelligence to disconnect controls if the effects being controlled were removed. The ProChannel and FX Racks are a basic example of taking the “insert jacks” on mixers to a more flexible level by providing two ways of inserting effects, where one block could be pre or post compared to the other.

Synth recording took the concept another step further by allowing real-time recording of synth outputs, but now Patch Points and Aux Tracks introduce a mind-boggling level of flexibility: you can feed tracks (audio or instrument) into tracks, buses into tracks, sends into tracks, or even (get ready!) tracks, sends, and buses into the same track—and much more. It’s even possible to do something like feed track outputs and bus outputs into an Aux Track, when can then feed with other Aux Tracks and a Send into a different track. This may sound complicated enough to make your head explode, but it’s all implemented in a smart, intuitive way that not only adds no clutter to the Track or Console view, but even cleans up unused patch points if the routing changes.

Please note: Projects that contain Patch Points and Aux Tracks cannot be opened in SONAR versions prior to SONAR Jamaica Plain (Update 9). If you need to open a project in an earlier version, first back up the project, unassign any patch points, then re-save the project.

For detailed Patch Points information, see the New Features section in SONAR’s online Help.

Creating, Choosing and Assigning Patch Points

When you open a track input or output picker, or a send or bus output picker, you’ll see the option “New Patch Point.” Select this to create a Patch Point. This is also how you pick an existing Patch Point. Continue reading Universal Routing Technology 101: Improving Your Workflow With Patch Points