How Eliud “Liu” Ortiz used SONAR X3 for his recent Jennifer Hudson mix (RCA Records)

These days, some professional mixing and recording engineers are doing work for major labels completely missed the analogue age. Others are still mixing on consoles.  We have come to a point where there really is no “right” or “wrong” in terms of mixing.  Some tracks are mixed so perfectly that they are not signed off on by the label because they are lacking something “distinct” or “of a raw nature.”  Other times, indie songs are mixed by a band itself and find their way to the top, where at that point the label just has someone remix the single for mainstream radio. (For example compare the normal and radio mixes of Gotye “Somebody That I Used to Know.)

NYC based mixing and recording engineer Liu Ortiz has seen it from all sides of the music and business spectrum.  Starting out at such a young age of 16 as an engineer, his career has placed him with a perfect balance (at still a young age) with a ton of knowledge in both the digital and analogue worlds.  He has worked on tracks with and for artists such as Mary J. Blige, Pink, Luther Vandross, Christina Aguilera, and even RZA to name a few, and was quite a successful engineer at the Hit Factory in New York City.

Coming from the world of Cubase and Pro Tools, and after hearing all the buzz about the full feature-set of SONAR X3, Liu decided to give SONAR X3 a whirl on a new track by Jennifer Hudson feat. R Kelley for RCA Records.  After mixing the track, he found himself gravitating towards the workflow so he continued the journey onto another project called The Summer Set; a very well established band from Scottsdale Arizona who are quickly making waves internationally.  I recently got a chance to visit with Liu at the new Cakewalk Room which is ironically enough in the old Hit Factory where he often worked.  Liu showed me some of his new mixes, showed me where his picture and plaques were on the wall, and even gave me a few interesting stories about some of the “good ole days” featuring Missy Elliot, Queen Latifah and Sean Puffy Combs [don’t worry Liu – I’ll never tell ;-)

Cakewalk Artist Relations:           Since you grew up on analogue consoles, what are there big sonic differences you hear now that you mix “in the box”?

 Liu Ortiz:           Well in the beginning way back when DAWs first started, I noticed that no matter what I did as I progressed with more plugins and inserts of each channel, the mix coming out the box would progressively get thinner; especially with vocals. I couldn’t really do much to fix that problem until not too long ago where technology has progressed with DAWs and computers in general.  Now, I can pretty much faithfully emulate hardware with EQ’s and compressors of pretty much all the consoles I have worked on in the past.

Neve and SSL’s had such distinctive qualities about them similar in comparison to that of Strats and Les Pauls. Since I worked on both extensively, I remember all the little nuances that each series had. So when I am mixing I just try my best to EQ with those particular traits in mind since they were my personal favorites. Pretty much all DAWs now are inherently very neutral, so I can dial in whatever tone I want and don’t have to worry about the vocals or guitars becoming shrill. I really appreciate technology now and just concentrate on crafting the best mix possible.  I must add that it is pretty amazing to me that SONAR X3 has a Console Emulator built into every bus and every track – this blew me away (more…)

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6 Mindblowing reasons to get SONAR X3 Producer

1. SONAR has redefined mixing in the box.

The ProChannel redefines the way you work with the Console View. Each audio track, instrument track, and bus comes with a complete modular strip of analog effects. Even the inspector allows the users to preview a selected track’s ProChannel strip right from the Track View. With the click of a button users can expand this analog mixing console and fully customize it by dragging around the modules, or loading up a ProChannel presets. Load up the Compressors, Tube Saturation, Reverb, Console Emulators, Tap Emulators, and the new QuadCurve EQ Zoom with Analyzer by simply right-clicking. SONAR’s ProChannel lends itself to an immensely visual experienceand to enhance this feature a step further Cakewalk introduced the fly-out panel for the Quad Curve EQ (SONAR X3 Producer Exclusive). Adding this allows users to see and modify their audio signals in real-time across a spectrum analyzer.

2. The best pitch correction software that exists is fully integrated.

ARA technology is Celemony’s way of allowing DAW’s to host the functions of any audio edit capable plugin. ARA Integration means that Melodyne can now run as a fully integrated feature within SONAR X3. Yes, you read that correctly, SONAR X3 can now run the world’s best pitch correction as a native component and SONAR X3 Studio & Producer now include Melodyne Essential.

Melodyne interacts with the new Region FX clips in SONAR – allowing users to highlight any mono audio clip and apply Melodyne pitch correction. ARA’s high quality time stretching replaces the older time stretching capabilities run by AudioSnap and SONAR X3 has the ability to convert Audio to MIDI by simply dragging and dropping audio to a MIDI track. This deeply integrated technology makes SONAR perfect solution for complex pitch correction!

3. Floating windows get in the way, so SONAR solved that problem.

If you’re looking to purge your workflow of a cryptic DAW with an unsettling interface that is not conducive to a creative environment then you should really check out what SONAR’s been doing since the X-series overhaul. We’ve pretty much ended the floating window interface to bring users a more efficient musical experience. Our Smart Tools HUD can be accessed anywhere in the interface. Our main track view houses several different workflows that are a single click or shortcut away. Screen-sets lets you save window configurations and swap between them using your numerical keys. The list goes on and on and we’re continuing to make it better with more intuitive features.

4. It takes minutes to create something awesome.

There are programs that exist only to record and edit, and then there is SONAR – which is the major contender for the entire creative experience. Every part of SONAR’s MIDI and virtual instrument implementation allows users drag in, route, and start composing within seconds.

You can save your favorite instrument and track routing as track templates and load them into other projects without any hesitation. Complex routing tasks like a multi-track setup for Addictive Drums requires no thinking – just doing. Our synth rack stays separate from the Track View and Console view so that your processing plugins stay separate from your synthesis plugins. Organization, clarity, and not a second wasted, that’s why SONAR stays on top.

5. We don’t bundle useless plugins with SONAR.

In fact, we bundle some of the best software in the industry with SONAR. We’ve already covered the fact that Melodyne Essential comes with the product – but that doesn’t even scratch the surface. 

The Nomad Factory Blue Tubes bundle ships with SONAR X3 and contains as many dynamic, time-based, and eq-based plugins that you could ever need. We have astounding instruments from AAS: Strum Acoustic SONAR, and Lounge Lizard SONAR. Lastly, Addictive Drums – which will make you want to fire your drummer and spark your MIDI programming addiction. It doesn’t stop there, check out the full list of effects and get yourself on board with the future of the DAWs.

6. You’re not limited to a Track Count or Plugin Count.

There’s always that moment when you realize that your DAW has hit a brick wall with the amount of plugins or tracks that it can handle at once. SONAR doesn’t have that problem, in fact it goes above and beyond to give you the best 64-bit architecture, unlimited tracks, buses, and effects that money can buy. We even have surround sound support! No need to constantly submix your tracks or work in parts because you don’t have thousands of dollars to drop on a “pro-system”. Even at our $99 value we’ve taken out track and effects limitations and still retain flagship features like ARA and VST3.

Upgrade to SONAR X3 Producer today!

Still not convinced? Check out SONAR free for 30-days.

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SONAR Tips: How to Easily Sync Your DAW to Audio

Introduction

Have you ever recorded a song that isn’t set to any type of tempo? Or maybe you have just have to make a click track for your songs? Well SONAR can certainly help that in that department. One of the great things about SONAR is it’s flexibility across different types of workflows. In this particular situation there is a nifty tool hidden in one of the menus that helps get your tempos mapped out in your DAW. Think of it like syncing your DAW and your audio files.

Out of time? Put it in time.

Let’s a take a perfectly good song like the following sound example:

This is a great song, but it was tracked to an independent (more…)

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DAW Best Practices: How to use metering in SONAR

[Originally posted as a daily tip on the SONAR forums and reposted for viewers here on the blog.]

The Overachieving Meters

by Craig Anderton

To change resolution for any audio meter, in any view, right-click on it and choose a range of 12, 24, 42, 60, 78, or 90 dB. Each meter can have its own range. With the Console view, I set the output bus meters to 12 dB to help gauge the approximate amount of loudness maximization that may be required. For example, if the meters make it to 0 but otherwise spend very little time in those upper 12 dB, then the track will probably need to be made “hotter” when mastering. For the Track View track meters, choosing the maximum resolution (90 dB) helps reveal if there’s noise at the lower range of an incoming signal.

Vertical or Horizontal Metering

In Track View, the meters can be vertical or horizontal. Choose Options > Meter Options and select the desired option. When vertical, the meters behave more like activity/clipping indicators, because when you collapse the track to a short height, you basically see only activity and clipping. If you use the Console for mixing, this is a good choice because you can see more track parameters in the Tracks Pane, as the vertical meters don’t take up space along the bottom.

If you generally mix using the Track View rather than the Console, then you can extend the width of the Track Pane, enable horizontal metering, set them to a fairly wide playback range, and enjoy high-resolution metering. Also under Options > Meter Options, you can specify the Record, Playback, and Bus meter characteristics. Choose from Peak, RMS, or Peak+RMS (my favorite choice) response, whether playback meters are pre- or post-fader, and whether bus meters are pre-fader, post-fader, or pre-fader and post-FX.


These settings are independent from equivalent meter settings for the Console view. You can also choose whether peaks are held or locked (I recommend checking both), as well as show Peak Markers. These indicate the highest point in the track and can be extremely useful when mastering.

This kind of flexibility allows the Track and Console views to be far more than just two ways to view the same type of material. For example, the Console meters are probably better set to post-fader, so you can see at a glance which tracks are contributing the most amount of level. But in Track view, a pre-fader setting lets you monitor track activity so you can check whether a Track has signal, regardless of the fader position. The metering options are just one more reason why I tend to mix in Console view, but track and edit in Track View.

Want to check our SONAR? Try our 30-day free trial.

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Studio Makeover Month: The Controller Freak Setup

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 Gear

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) (more…)

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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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Studio Makeover Month: The Ghostwriter Studio 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 Gear:

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 (more…)

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Studio Makeover Month: The Axeman Studio Setup

 

“The Axeman” is a guitar driven musician that has an appreciation for the heavier side of the music spectrum. He has a solo project they’ve been working on for years and years – slowly perfecting tone, demos, and musical compositions. He is always up for doing freelance work- so it’s important that he has a vast selection of gear and instruments to keep his clients coming back for more.

 

The gear:

The Axeman has a surprisingly mobile setup for the home studio. He lives a nomadic recording lifestyle because a lot of production these days involves traveling to various musician’s homes to work on preproduction and other intricacies of the record process. His expenses have gone into purchasing a Fractal Audio Axe-Fx Mark II to keep from carting around various (more…)

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How Adventure Club is using SONAR X3 to stay on the EDM charts and ahead of the pack

There is an interesting movement happening in the music industry.  We have all seen it, and most are very opinionated about it…  The EDM Revolution.  Love it, like it, hate it – regardless, it’s here and thriving.  I recently had the good fortune to spend a few very interesting days with SONAR X3 users Adventure Club; one in LA, and one in NYC, and I can honestly say that I think these guys have figured out [some sort of] a new model of the “music industry.”

Truthfully speaking, I really was unsure about what our interaction would be.  I understand the EDM scene from afar and surely respect it, but I wasn’t sure what actually goes into the work behind the scenes of an EDM artist.  SONAR is used by Composers, Songwriters, and Producers of all genres, but when Cakewalk found out that Adventure Club, a heavyweight EDM act was using SONAR 8.5, we were pretty intrigued.  I had heard of the duo strictly from their online presence and charting activity, but I had never focused in on any of their productions.  Their popularity alone on social media told me there was something different and unique about this artist, and my assumptions were correct.

If you are not familiar with Adventure Club [“AC”] they are a Canadian Elecronic Dance Music duo, composed of Christian Srigley and Leighton James, and based out of Montreal, Quebec.  The duo formed while attending high school in Montreal as a hardcore pop-punk band, but later decided to move onto the more electronic sound of Electronic Dance Music (EDM) after simply getting bored with the pop-punk sound.  The first song to put the duo on the map was their remix of the song “Daisy” by the American alternative-rock band Brand New, which was put on The Hype Machine, an MP3 blog aggregator website.  After this track resonated deeply with EDM fans around the world, the duo was off to a solid start with a solid online fan base and foundation.  What separates this group from other EDM acts is that they both are accomplished musicians with a great knack for music production in general.  This translates into very solid tracks which they produce on their own in SONAR X3 (more…)

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Craig’s Five Fave Studio Hardware Accessories

By Craig Anderton

Granted, it was hard to narrow it down to five. But these goodies have stood out over the past year as being essentials for my own studio, and they can contribute much to any studio makeover.

Uninterruptible Power Supply

 

I first became aware of the power of the UPS with ADATs. My ADATs used to do weird things, but stopped doing weird things after I bought a UPS. My friends with ADATs who didn’t have a UPS experienced weird things. Anecdotal evidence? Sure. But the first time a UPS keeps your project alive when some idiot drunk driver slams into a power pole and you lose your electricity, or you live where lightning is a frequent visitor, you’ll be glad you paid attention to this article and got a UPS. Just make sure you find one with sufficient power for your super-duper multi-core wonder box (and your monitor)—a lot of UPS devices in office supply stores are for little old ladies who use Pentium 4 computers only on Sundays to cruise the internet for recipes.

Pauly Superscreen Pop Filter

(Photo courtesy Las Vegas Pro Audio)

Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, it’s worth it. I do a lot of narration and close-mic my vocals (more…)

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