How Cakewalk Pros use SONAR X3 for Songwriting

Songwriting is such an intricate art-form. Some approach it seriously, while others find their best work casually writing with others in a lighter atmosphere. There are a lot of moving parts, and in my opinion a lot of magic and unexplainable voodoo that go into a song that simply resonates with the general public for unexplainable reasons. Do you think Afroman thought his song “Because I Got High” would have over 45 million views on YouTube when he wrote it? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WeYsTmIzjkw

There are so many different and interesting ways to write songs, and SONAR is a DAW that literally becomes your writing partner. From inspiring drum grooves with Addictive Drums, to the ease of workflow with loops, to quickly shaping sounds to inspire a more creative path, SONAR is way more than your industry-standard “recording” software. It’s a place you go to when you want to creatively craft a masterpiece. We thought it would be interesting to hear from some day-in-day-out professionals who depend on SONAR for their livelihood.

Javier Colon
Singer-songwriter
Major Label Recording Artist
International Touring Artist
Winner of Season 1 “NBC’s The Voice”

Cakewalk Artist Relations:     What is your main approach to songwriting?

I’m usually an acoustic guitar guy when it comes to songwriting but sometimes I’ll sit at the piano and get inspired and start writing. I’ve worked with a lot of producers and songwriters that build a track and then write to it – we’ve come up some great songs that way too.

Cakewalk Artist Relations:     How does SONAR help with the songwriting process?

Javier:     SONAR helps me tremendously when writing because it’s so flexible; you can change things in a session as quickly as you can change your mind – this really helps the songwriting process. When I write a song there is a constant process of elimination. I’ll think of a line, and I might like it for a minute, and then toss it out. There are also ideas that I absolutely know will make it into the song. I constantly record as I go so I don’t forget ideas that I really love – SONAR’s arranging workflow really keeps this process creative and easy for me in terms of songwriting.

Also, X3’s looping and comping functions really help with songwriting.  I record chord progression loops so I can come up with melody ideas in real time. Then I’ll go back and audition all the ideas easily to get a good idea of what melodies are better than others.  SONAR X3 has really been a great tool for songwriting for me.

Cakewalk Artist Relations:     What is one of the recent songwriting successes or projects you have had or really enjoyed? What was the workflow or songwriting process like for that?

Javier:     I recently wrote with a good friend of mine, Josh Kelley (more…)

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SONAR for Songwriters – By Craig Anderton

by Craig Anderton

Ask songwriters about writing on a computer, and many of them will tell you it’s a creativity killer—as they reach for an acoustic guitar or piano to get their ideas down. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Although DAWs are thought of traditionally as being all about recording, editing, and mixing, for reasons we’ll cover here I’d rather boot up Sonar for songwriting as well.

Approaches to songwriting vary considerably, from those who strum some chords on a guitar for ideas, to those who start with beats, to those who seem to draw inspiration out of nowhere, and want to record what they hear quickly—before the inspiration fades. As a result, this article isn’t about what you should do to write songs, but rather, describes some particular Sonar tools in depth—some (or all) of which might be very helpful if you’re into songwriting.

Although songwriting styles are very personal, I think we can nonetheless agree on a few general points: While songwriting, you want your tools to stay out of the way and be transparent. You want a smooth-flowing, efficient, simple process; songwriting isn’t about endlessly tweaking a synth bass patch, but about coming up with a great bass part—thanks to the fluid nature of digital recording, just about anything can be replaced or refined at a later date. You want an environment that can simplify turning your abstract ideas into something tangible, while losing as little as possible in the translation. So, let’s look at some Sonar techniques that can help you accomplish that goal.

THE MIDI QUICK START

Normally you need to arm a MIDI track before you can record on it, but it’s possible to defeat this so that recording starts on any selected MIDI track as soon as you click on the transport’s Record button. I realize the default setting is there to prevent accidental overwriting of MIDI tracks, but personally, I find not having to arm a track liberating—it saves time and makes the recording process flow faster. To do this:

  1. Go Edit > Preferences > MIDI > Playback and Recording.
  2. Check the box for “Allow MIDI Recording without an Armed Track” (the 1st box under Record).
  3. Click Apply then OK to close preferences.

It’s possible to record MIDI tracks without having to arm them first, which can be a real time-saver over the course of a song.

 

TEMPLATE FILES (more…)

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4 Tips for Songwriters Before Entering the Recording Studio

1. Eliminate uncertainties with a pre-production demo.

If there is a single doubt in your mind about a song on your record then it’s time to sit down and work out those uncertainties before you get into the studio. Idolizing a recording studio as a creative space is only productive when you’ve booked studio time for being creative. Get that demo sounding as close to the final product as possible so that every part and idea is thought out.

SONAR X3 is ideal for experimenting with those finishing touches. For example, TH2 is a great way to easily grab an amp tone for your bass or guitar. The advanced sound behind Overloud’s flagship product allows you to change amps, input your own impulse responses, and get as close to your final product as you can. The best part about it is that it’s a virtual amp, so you don’t have to commit to your final guitar sound until you’re in your mixing stage.

 

2. Learn the songs cold.

Studio preparation should involve regular and productive practice schedules. Try to learn the songs so that you can play them all the way through without stopping. Playing full takes will get you the best possible performances of your song and allow you to think more about the other players rather than yourself. (more…)

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Songwriting: 5 Ways to Break Musician’s Writer’s Block

Introduction

Composing has an arch nemesis, and that evil is known as writer’s block. It’s a challenge to get through especially if you’re just starting to write your own music. Here are some steps you can take when you feel that you have hit a creative roadblock in your workflow.

1. Break down big tasks into smaller ones.

If something seems like a large undertaking then try to sit down and break it up into smaller parts. This type of workflow can offer you insight on time management. You’ll start to get a  better idea of the different tasks you’re good at and maybe some others that you’re not very good at. Let’s say that you’re really great at writing a catchy choruses, but you always get hung (more…)

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How To Create Melodies From Audio Loops with SONAR X3 & Melodyne Editor

by Dan Gonzalez 

 

Introduction

In modern EDM music you’ll see the use of audio loops everywhere. These could be created by a third party or by the person writing the music. It doesn’t matter, but what does matter is the music you create with those loops and how you construct them in a way that brands your own sound.

Do yourself a favor and check out Melodyne Editor. You can analyze and edit polyphonic data easily – and with SONAR X3 you can use this data to enhance and inspire the creation of new and innovative melodies for your music. (more…)

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6 Tips for Songwriters in SONAR

by Dan Gonzalez

SONAR helps songwriters improve their creativity and workflow by offering tons of features that are engineered specifically for them. In this video we’ve outlined some of our favorite tools to that save you time while you’re developing your next musical idea.

 
Try SONAR X3 free for 30 Days.

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Do you have too many song ideas? The Matrix View can help.

by Dan Gonzalez

Do you suffer from having too many musical ideas than you know what to do with? The Matrix View is great way to throw all of your riffs, licks, and leads into one place to mess around with song arrangements and structures.

How does it work?

The Matrix View operates under SONAR’s second audio engine. It’s the same audio engine that allows you to preview and play loops from the Media Browser. This non-linear playback engine is what is utilized during your performances in the Matrix View. All you really have to do to get started is drag audio from SONAR into the Matrix. It will populate a cell and then automatically route to the audio tracks you have set in the Track View. Click on the cell and then you can jump around the interface triggering different musical ideas. When you have multiple cells in one column you can trigger an entire column as well.

Try out the Martix View for free – Download the SONAR X3 Producer Free Trial

Where do I begin?

Grab some of your ideas – if they are loops then you have even more flexibility when changing tempos. If you want some great loops to work with then be sure to pick up these free loops that Craig Anderton supplied for us during Guitar Month. (more…)

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AD2: Pitch Envelopes and much more than just drum samples

by Dan Gonzalez

Yes, that’s right. You may think that Addictive Drums is just a simple sample player but it’s actually an impressive tool for sound design. XLN Audio has the program set so that you can only use the sounds they publish. BUT, the engine that processes these sounds is so powerful that you can virtually get any sound you could ever need from the drums they supply.

Next time you are in Addictive Drums check out the Edit section within this program and brace yourself. There are tons (more…)

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How A Small Studio in Wales is Making Big Waves Internationally Using the ProChannel and Console Emulation

Since the release of SONAR X3, there have been more and more commercially viable SONAR studios popping up around the world.  One of the more interesting ones that we have found recently is nestled in a land known more for its castles and Celtic folklore rather than commercial music.  But nevertheless, there’s a little-engine-who-could called Shabbey Road Studios who are finding great success from London to New York City through their network of talented clients and talented staff.  Operated by producers-mixers-musicians-songwriters Al Steele, and Nigel Hart, Shabbey Road Studios is a full service studio just outside of Cardiff Wales.  Al, a native Australian, has been a multi-instrumentalist since the age of 8.  A natural career progression in the music industry brought him around the world at a young age with some very significant names such as the Billboard chart-ers Johnny and the Hurricanes, and Del Shannon who had the #1 Billboard hit song “Runaway” in 1961.  He has also appeared as a featured guitarist on many music placements in the Film and TV world which has added much credibility to his current role at Shabbey Road.  Al’s studio partner Nigel Hart is a Musical Director, Film and TV Composer, Songwriter and Arranger. He plays keyboards and sings, but also has a large back catalogue of instrumental compositions and songs.  Recently, Al and Shabbey Road Studio’ staff have been recording Dan and Laura Curtis who are best known for their album “Love on 42nd Street,” which was released in aid of the BBC Children in Need appeal.   Al was assisted throughout this project by Rob Sherwood, another multi-instrumentalist/engineer and X3 enthusiast.  Daniel and Laura Curtis are considered as one of the foremost ambassadors for the preservation of the music of the Great American Songbook in the United Kingdom.  The Great American Songbook offers a dazzling parade of American popular songs as seen and heard in some of the most beloved films and musicals ever made.

“Whether a project is large or small, our emphasis is always on melody and the big arrangements and massive mixes which are all there to support the song and vocalist.  Because of this we spend a long time on recording and then editing the ‘perfect’ vocal take.

The new Comping feature in Sonar X3 is simply amazing.  The ability to quickly audition and select your preferred take without having to painstakingly move to a master track is a massive time saver.  To just be able to slip the edit point back and forth cuts our editing time by about half! (more…)

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SONAR X3 Producer: Can You Ever Have Enough Virtual Instruments?

If you love virtual instruments then you’ll be happy with your upgrade to SONAR X3 Producer. We’ve got instruments for every use case, skill level, and genre of music. Who needs a band when you’ve got SONAR X3′s array of instruments at your disposal.

1. Addictive Drums

Hailing from the beautiful city of Stockholm – XLN Audio brings Cakewalk users a bountiful set of sounds inside of their flagship program Addictive Drums. The program consists of some of the best drum samples that you could possibly get that are completely optimized for both hardcore and first time users.

2. Dimension

A classic in the Cakewalk world. Dimension is a powerhouse sample based virtual instrument that can play extensive libraries consisting of drums, guitars, strings, etc. (more…)

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