8 Steps for Comping The Perfect Vocal Take

Comping is a term used for editing multiple instances of the same performance together into one flawless track. Cakewalk has adapted this functionality in order to bring this kind of workflow right to the fingertips of every SONAR X3 user. Within this article I am going to show you my own workflow for comping together a vocal track.

1. Create Markers for the different sections of your song. This should have been done during the actual recording. As I’ve stated in other posts, it’s really important to label your sections so that you can move from one place to another without a second thought. Fast paced environments are not very forgiving when the engineer loses their spot. It creates distractions and impedes the artist’s or group’s concentration.

2. Identify the individual sections of the song with split points so that you can understand where each section edit starts and ends. This works in tandem with Markers to help isolate the larger sections of the song. Simply expose your take lanes by using the short-cut Shift+T, expand the track height of the takes, and then click and swipe on the lower half of your audio regions to make split points.

Clicking and swiping can be viewed here Continue reading 8 Steps for Comping The Perfect Vocal Take

DAW Best Practices: 11 Easy Tips For Project Organization

1. Categorize your tracks by Color

Categorizing your tracks by color can be one of the biggest advantages to keeping a solid workflow when recording or mixing. If your DAW has the ability to do this then figure it out, it should be fairly obvious where these options are located. Try dedicating color schemes to instruments, types of tracks, and the buses associated with your tracks. This makes the overall environment easier to work with, especially if you are handing your work off to another engineer or the artist themselves.

2. Dedicate a Bus to each one of your tracks or groups of tracks

Making final adjustments to your tracks will become easier and more organized once you take advantage of the bus section within your DAW. Setting your tracks to their own dedicated buses reduces them to a single track so that you can adjust an entire section of instruments with one fader, compressor, EQ, or any other plugin you feel is needed. If you are in the final stages of mixing with an artist at your side, I’ve found that typical comments can consist of “The drums could be louder.” or “Can the vocals come up a bit?” These kinds of adjustments could be difficult if you have tons of automation already laid down on your individual tracks. Sending your tracks to a bus will allow you to adjust overall levels easier and more efficiently.

SONAR X3 allows you to organize your tracks by color or choose to follow bus colors based on routing. Read more about Color Customization in SONAR X3.

3. Name your tracks in a way that makes sense

Audio files will take the names associated with the tracks they were recorded on. If your tracks are set to “Audio Track 1-16” then your audio files will be recorded as “Audio Track 1-16”. Make sure to name your tracks in a way that someone could understand them in a passing glance. My naming convention consists of the instrument type, number, amp name (if applicable) and microphone or DI box used. Here are some useful ways to name your tracks.

  • Guitar 1 Egnator 57
  • Guitar 1 5150 421
  • Bass 1 DI
  • Bass 1 Ampeg
  • Vocal 1 U47
  • Kick IN 52
  • Snare Bottom 414

Here are some examples of inefficient ways to name your tracks:

  • Mic 1 John
  • Drum 1 AWESOME
  • Guitar Right 1
  • Bass HEAVY tone 3
  • Kevin
  • Audio Track 27

Notice the difference? Figure out a system that works for you and stick with it.

4. Group tracks that have variations of mic placements

When recording or editing multi-mic’d instruments its useful to group your tracks in a way where all the tracks can be edited at once. At one point in your career you will record an amp that could have 5 microphones on it or a drum set that consists of 20 microphones. Setting up this type of group will allow you make alterations to these tracks without too much headache.

SONAR X3‘s “Region Groups” feature makes it easy to group and edit multiple audio regions at once.

5. Version your projects manually

Manually versioning your projects should be second nature regardless of whether or not your DAW contains an automatic save feature. Every 5 minutes go to Save As and label your project as “Project Name” followed by a number. This keeps your projects organized in a way that allows you to recall your work at a moments notice without relying on some sort of invisible background process. It’s important to have a system in place for saving your projects. It will save you in some of the worst case scenarios.

6. Make a dedicated “Bounce” or “Stems” folder

Some DAWs perform this function by default, but you don’t have to change your platform to take advantage of this easy tip. When processing your mixes or rendering stems always make sure to save this audio data to a dedicated folder separate from your audio files folder. This will save you the headache of scrolling through your audio files folder looking for your latest mix or batch of stems.

Just about every DAW has an “Export Audio” window. Change the filepath for this to your project folder and make a new folder called “Bounces” or “Stems”.

  • PC shortcut is CTRL+SHIFT+N for a new folder

  • Mac short is Cmd+Shift+N for a new folder

Once you make the new folder, make another new folder within your Bounce or Stems folder with the current date. Save your audio accordingly.

Now as you send mixes out for review you, will know what mixes were sent and when they were sent. Obviously you can use email for this information, but why not have this data available right in your project folder?

7. Save your plugin presets

This might come as an obvious detail to some, but to others it doesn’t sound so obvious. Saving your plugin presets is definitely worth your time and effort. Everyone eventually switches to another computer or needs to rebuild a project. Having a folder with your presets saved as separate files can be useful in the event your presets do not load or load incorrectly. Never assume that your presets will stay intact, especially with projects that are a few years old.

Learn how to set up your Addictive Drums in SONAR X3.

8. Always render your instrument tracks

Make a decision and stick with it. Once you find a sound you like, render it, or mix it down so that idea is encapsulated in an audio file. Loading large sample libraries or syncing external sound generators slows down your session flow. It’s hard to hit the creative ground running when your computer and DAW are constantly keeping you waiting and waiting for unneeded reasons. Do not be afraid to make a decision about a sound. It boils down to knowing your tools and how they work. If you achieved a specific sound once, then you can definitely do it again and better than before.

Rendering your instrument tracks has other benefits too. You don’t need to worry about the MIDI sequencing misaligning with your project tempos, or other computers not having the same plugins you’ve purchased. Saving your data as workable stems or mixes will keep your ideas flowing without any technical speedbumps in the way.

SONAR X3 has been using Fast Bounce capabilities for over 10 years. Choose to bounce your tracks in place, bounce your tracks with buses, bounce tracks to a new track, bounce through your mixbus, or just simply freeze your audio in place.

9. Create templates

Templates will save you time and keep your session organized. Working on full length records can be tedious depending on the style of recording that needs to be done. Some albums start with the drums, move to the guitars, and then vocals, etc. Other albums can be made one song at a time regardless of instrumentation. In the end it’s the engineer’s job to make sure that transitioning from project to project is an easy task with quick setup. Making templates with plugins, routing, and naming conventions already inputted will allow you to move faster than you would think.

The same kind of logic can be applied to the mixing world. Make a template of your typical 2Mix bus, audio buses, and favorite processing plugins so that you can just drop in audio files and begin working. Time saving is important, but being organized is what makes or breaks your session flow.

SONAR X3‘s powerful track and project templates allow users to fully customize a project for any environment.

10. Master your keyboard shortcuts

Everyone should have a set of their favorite keyboard shortcuts within their DAW. Know them and master them so that your workflow does not suffer from mis-clicking or awkwardly sensitive mouse scrolling configurations. Some DAWs allow for customizable keyboard shortcuts and the ability to import and export shortcut libraries. Get to know these types of features because speed and efficiency is what will save you time in the studio and allow you to focus on the music. Create shortcuts for recording, mixing, composing, or even audio editing so that you can fly between different workflows without fumbling around in menus and with mouse clicks.

SONAR X3 comes with keyboard shortcuts from other DAWs and allows it’s users to make their own and save them externally.

11. Use Markers and name them accordingly

Markers can be overlooked by aspiring engineers and producers, so make sure to understand how to generate them and modify their names. Mark the verse, chorus, lead section, bridge, intro, outro, and possible punch points so that you know exactly where to go when the artist or producer needs to jump to different sections. You are never going to know exactly where every small important detail of the track starts or even its timestamp unless you are very close to the music. Markers are there to be used, so use them!

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SONAR X3 was used in these pictures, click here to find out more.

Setting Up Gobbler in SONAR X3

Setting up in Gobbler in SONAR X3, SONAR X3 Studio, and SONAR X3 Producer is easy. Here is a quick step by step on how to do it.

  • Go to Gobbler’s website and make an account.

https://www.gobbler.com/

  • Make sure to use the code that was given to you when you purchased SONAR X3. This will give you 20GB of additional free storage on their servers.
  • Download the Gobbler app from here:

https://www.gobbler.com/download

  • Once downloaded, install Gobbler.
  • Open up the Gobbler app and sign into your account that you created.

Once this is done simply open up SONAR X3, SONAR X3 Studio, or SONAR X3 Producer and click on the “G” on the Gobbler module in the control bar to turn on Gobbler.

 

If you do not see the Gobbler module then you may have to rearrange your Control Bar.

You can do this by right-clicking on the it and unticking some modules that you don’t use.

Gobbler will probably say (Offscreen).

Why is Gobbler awesome? Check this out this article to find out.

Find out more about Gobbler and SONAR X3 here.

Feature Spotlight: XLN Audio Addictive Drums in SONAR X3 Producer

Addictive Drums

SONAR X3 Producer now includes XLN Audio’s critically-acclaimed Addictive Drums. Some customers have have asked whether this is a cut down version of Addictive Drums and are shocked to hear that this is in fact the full version (retail price $149). We often hear from customers that one of the most difficult aspects of recording is getting great drums sounds. These problems are now a thing of the past thanks to Addictive Drums – now included in the SONAR X3 Producer upgrade.

Addictive Drums is one of the most powerful and popular drum programs in the world and can be heard on countless hit songs and albums. The unique architecture, fast loading times and flexibility makes it the first choice for many musicians and music producers. Three pristine drum kits, 100+ producer presets and thousands of MIDI rhythms are included. Load a complete drum kit with mixer settings and insert effects – with one click!

Learn more about Addictive Drums in SONAR X3 Producer

Tip: Setting up your Addictive Drums
Addictive Drums is the brand new drum synth available in SONAR X3 Producer. The sounds, fast load times, internal mixing, and abundant groove clips makes this possibly the only drum synth you’ll need to use from now on. There are a couple ways to insert this new synth into SONAR X3 Producer. The first way is to insert Addictive Drums as a simple instrument track.

Learn how to setup Addictive Drums

Tip: Drum replacement with ARA and Addictive Drums
Within SONAR X3 converting Audio to MIDI has never been easier thanks to our deep ARA integration. This opens up many doorways for users to convert their mono audio tracks to MIDI. One great use case for this is replacing drums or adding samples to your drum tracks to enhance their sound.

Learn how to replace drums with ARA integration and Addictive Drums

XLN Audio

Now available on the Cakewalk Store, choose from nine unique Addictive Drums ADpaks from XLN Audio starting at $49. Each ADpak includes a variety of real kit pieces meticulously recorded from real drum sets with iconic sound. Plus dozens of mix ready Producer presets and MIDI patterns to add to Addictive Drums (included with SONAR X3 Producer).

Shop now

SONAR X3 Quicktip: Drum Replacement with ARA Integration and Addictive Drums (Producer)

Within SONAR X3 converting Audio to MIDI has never been easier thanks to our deep ARA integration. This opens up many doorways for users to convert their mono audio tracks to MIDI. One great use case for this is replacing drums or adding samples to your drum tracks to enhance their sound.

Within SONAR open up your Kick and Snare tracks.

Add a MIDI track below each audio track that you wish to replace.

Add our new Logical Gate/Expander to both the Kick and Snare and adjust the effect so that instruments are heavily gated and sound like the following:

After this, Freeze both tracks.  This is going to render the Kick and Snare tracks with the gates embedded in the audio tracks.

Next, latency.  Let’s drop the latency to the lowest settings. Go to Edit > Preferences > Driver Settings and set your latency low. This will help with timing.

  • If you are using MME (32bit) set your latency closer to [Safe].
  • If you are using ASIO then select [ASIO Panel] and set your buffer size very low.

Drag and drop your kick and snare tracks to their associated MIDI track. Conversion will occur.

Next up, open the PRV and move your MIDI Clips to the drum you wish to use. You can highlight the entire row of MIDI clips by selecting their associated piano key and transpose them easily by going to Process > Transpose.

Once this is done insert Addictive Drums. Make sure to have the following ticked after selecting Insert > Soft Synth > Addictive Drums:

  • First Synth Audio Output
  • Synth Property Page
  • Recall Assignable Controls
  • Ask This Everytime

Mute the Room and OH microphones within Addictive Drums.  This reduces any additional ambiance.

Workflow Tip: It’s good practice to do this type of replacement section by section at first so that you can get an idea of how it works.

Mix these drums in behind your current mix.

Learn more about ARA Integration, Addictive Drums, and SONAR X3 Producer here.

SONAR X3 Quicktip: Make Your Voice Thicker (Studio & Producer)

Vocal production can lead to many different types of processing. Sometimes subtle enhancements to your vocals can make all the difference in the final mix.

SONAR X3 Studio and Producer introduces Melodyne Essential as a fully integrated and pitch correction editor.  This easy to use software allows users to access their Melodyne right from the Multi-Dock without needing to perform any special tricks within the software.

One great way to process vocals is to add low end to them without using EQ. Thickening up a vocal can be a tricky task but now with the use of Melodyne you can take advantage of it’s pitch correction abilities.

With the deep integration of ARA technology simply do the following to edit pitch:

  • Insert a vocal track that needs some help in the lower register.

  • Highlight the desired audio region

  • Go to Region FX and highlight Melodyne

  • Melodyne will appear in the Multi-Dock

Minimize the Melodyne Editor for now and do the following in the Track View

  • Highlight your audio track and right-click on the Track Pane

  • Select [Clone] and make sure to enter 2 in the selection for “repetitions”

This will load two tracks with the same Melodyne region enabled.

  • Open up the first region within Melodyne

  • Go to Edit > Select All or simply hit CTRL+A

  • Within Melodyne use the magnifying glass tool to zoom in on one specific blob

  • Within Melodyne go to Edit > Pitch Grid and select No Snap

  • Using the “Main Tool” click and drag the entire selected track down every so slightly

  • Do the same with the second cloned track but in the opposite direction

  • Now pan both tracks somewhat out in width and mix them underneath your main vocal track

  • Apply a Low Pass Filter to both and any other processing you want to experiment with, here I added some saturation to both tracks

The goal here is to create a parallel thickness underneath your track so that your vocal becomes more present in the lower and punchier frequencies.

Try it out, and experiment with more parallel DSP effects and you’ll start down a route of unlimited effects.

Learn more about SONAR X3 here.

SONAR X3 Quicktip: Slam Your Tracks with the Tape Emulation Module [Producer]

The audio industry has made strides in the past 25 years. In the 90’s we had mostly analog studios with analog gear and digital audio was just making an appearance. By the turn of the century we had plugin developers making all kinds of digital effects unimaginable through circuit design. Those digital plugins were met with some backlash from people who were really attached to their analog sound. Digital was flexible, sounded clear and pristine, but “too perfect” for analog purists.

But plugin design has come a long way. We now have digital effects that are emulated, modeled, or inspired by real analog gear.

In SONAR X3 Producer, the Tape Emulator ProChannel Module is a great new addition to the analog family.  This emulates the sound of a vintage tape machine and allows you to saturate your tracks and even push them until they start to compress just like a real tape machine. If you really want to get that analog feel in your music then the Tape Emulator is your best bet.

THE PARAMETERS

Noise

This adjusts the loudness of the noise-floor and tape hiss for both tape speed settings.

Rec Level

Adjusts how much of the audio signal passes through the processing of the Tape Emulation. An increase in the Rec Level will increase the saturation and compression that the Tape Emulator produces.

PB Level

Adjusts the overall output gain of the Tape Emulator

Link [Lock Button]

Locks both the Rec Level and the PB Level so no additional gain is added to your passing audio signal, only the processing of the Tape Machine.

IPS

IPS, short for “inches per second”, is the speed of the tape machine reels.  Within SONAR X3 Producer’s Tape Emulator ProChannel Module we have modelled the characteristics of 7.5 and 15 IPS speeds.

15 IPS in comparison to 7.5 is much more welcoming to the high end and tends to roll off the low end quite a bit when pinned to it’s highest setting.  This setting will bring a bit more clarity to your instruments that live in the high mid range and overall high end. In this example specifically, the High Hats on the drum set took to this setting well.

7.5 IPS is a much darker and fatter sound than 15 IPS. This setting will roll off the high end of a signal and product a more focused sound.

BIAS

Bias adjusts the harmonic distortion that the Tape Emulation produces on the passing signal.

Normal keeps the distortion at the normal operating level for the effect.

Over attenuates harmonic distortion in the low and mid range of each signal, especially in the sibilant frequencies.

Applied to Addictive Drums

Here we have some drums that were sequenced using Addictive Drums.  The Drums are mixed down in SONAR using a multi-track setup so that I could mix each individual drum.  This kind of setup is outlined in this blog post. I mixed the drums for a Rock track and applied the Tape Emulator on every track.

Each drum takes to the Tape Emulator a bit differently so it’s important to listen intently on the sound that you are getting when applying this effect.

First I added this to the Kick Drum and then locked the Record Head and the Playback head so that no additional gain is added.

The Tape Emulator started to taper off the low-end meat of this drum as I increased it’s processing. Taking it to an extreme caused the drum to sound tiny and frail so I decided to stay frugal with it’s use here. Using the lower IPS setting and gently applying the Tape Emulation made the Kick Drum sit right where it needed to.

The Snare Drum took well to the Tape Emulation sound and gave it a nice focus in the lower mid-range. I flipped the IPS to 7.5 to give the Snare a darker and fatter tone and was more generous with the amount of processing that I used on it in comparison to the Kick.  Applying the 15 IPS setting and too much REC Level caused the Snare to thin out and was not very useful. For Rock purposes we want something that is aggressive so sticking to the 7.5 IPS was needed.

Moving to the Hat – This couldn’t get enough of Tape Sound. I cranked this up and flipped the IPS to 15 and the Hat cut well through the drum mix.

The OH and Rooms mostly focused around the sound of the kit as a whole as well as capturing the clarity of the Cymbals so keeping the IPS at 15 was necessary to roll off some of the low end of this signal. On the Rooms microphones I displaced the BIAS setting on one side to increase the stereo effect.

Here is the entire drum set without the Tape Emulation and just some basic mixing:

 

Here is the same passage with Tape applied to all drums:

I then took both passages, imported both files back into SONAR, and flipped them out of phase. This results in hearing just the processed Tape Emulation while all other frequencies and sounds are cancelled.

Learn about SONAR X3 and the new Tape Emulator

Did You Know SONAR X3 Comes with a Dual Phaser and Chorus?

SONAR X3 Studio and Producer have included the mind-bending Dual Analog Phaser and Dual Analog Chorus units from Nomad Factory.  As you might know both units are time based effects and are variations of delay units. Both types of effects split the signal into two parts and then combine them again after the signal passes through the unit.

 

  • Phaser – When the audio passes through the unit the signal is flipped out of phase and then a LFO-controlled notch filter sweeps through this signal’s frequency spectrum.

  • Chorus – One part of the signal is unaffected and the other is delayed anywhere from 20ms-50ms and then it’s pitch is modulated by a Low Frequency Oscillator

 

The included LFO on both units has Square, Sine, Triangle, and Sawtooth options for even more sound design options. Within the Chorus users have the ability to control each side of the stereo audio signal independently as well as change the different LFO rates.

Check out the destruction done to a simple jazz drum loop. There really are not limits to the sounds that these plugins can produce.

Learn more about these plugins and SONAR X3.

SONAR X3 Quicktip: Focus the Low end of your Kick and Snare with a Program EQ

Program Equalizers have been around since the 1950’s and in SONAR X3 Studio and Producer users will receive two of these incredibly emulated modules.

Let’s take a look at what the new Program Equalizer EQP-2B can do for our kick drum. You’ll notice that we have the ability to both boost and cut the same frequencies on this EQ. Choose a low frequency from the variable adjustment and then begin increasing the Boost parameter.  Increase it all the way and your kick drum signal will become quite overpowering. Adjust the Attenuate knob and the signal will begin to smooth out and focus your signal a bit better.

For this country kick drum I picked 80Hz for the low end and boosted the signal to it’s ceiling.  Next, I adjusted the Attenuate knob to it’s lowest setting. This effectively sharpens out the boosted signals and gives the signal a unique focus in the lower spectrum. After that, I adjusted for clarity and the end result is very useable.

Moving to the snare, user’s can get the same effect using the PEQ5B.  This has some of the same algorithms as the EQP-2B but with an added EQ section in the bottom of the plugin. At first listen the Snare sounds a bit boxy and grainy in the low and mid-range.

I applied a sharp reduction around 50HZ with the Low Shelving EQ and then another sharp cut around 800Hz.  This seemed to make all the difference. Afterwards, I moved to the upper half of this EQ and applied the same thinking that I did to the Kick but instead I focused the EQ to around 122HZ.  This will allow the snare to get out of the way of the Kick.  Next, boosting and then attenuating the signal seemed to focus the shape of the Snare right where I needed it.

Learn more about these plugins and SONAR X3 here.

Hidden Gem: The Blue Tubes Stereo Imager [SONAR X3 Studio & Producer]

Now in SONAR X3 Studio and Producer we’ve included a wonderful hidden gem.  The Blue Tube Stereo Imager is a spatial plugin that allows you to widen and narrow out your mixes with a simple slide from left or right.

This type of effect can be useful in situations where you need to A-B mixes quickly in mono.  Some one would say “I can just use the pan pots or stereo interleaved switch” but the beauty of this plugin is that you could use this plugin in both a musical and technical fashion. Continue reading Hidden Gem: The Blue Tubes Stereo Imager [SONAR X3 Studio & Producer]