Cakewalk Talk Episode 1: SONAR X3 vs SONAR Platinum – Adding Tracks

Introducing the new video series from Cakewalk, where you’ll find feature reviews, artist interviews, audio lessons, and lots and lots of musical “nerding out.” The first episode is available on YouTube now.

 

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NBC “The Voice” Winner Javier Colon: HOW SONAR PLAYED A ROLE IN HIS NEW RECORD ON CONCORD MUSIC GROUP

You could call Javier Colon timeless.  After winning the inaugural season of NBC’s The Voice, he has battled even harder than he did during the show’s “Battle Round.” Last year his perseverance and life-long dedication to creating music on his own terms brought him to yet another chapter in his career with a new recording contract with Concord Music Group.  Concord Music Group is home to many enduring artists such as Ray Charles, James Taylor and The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band to name a few, but it’s also one of the most respected and ageless labels of our time.

When the ink was dry, Javier who is a longtime SONAR user dug deeper than he ever had before, and started writing songs for the new record.  “A lot of the songs on this new record started right in my home studio on SONAR Platinum,” Javier recently told us in conversation.  “The thing I like about SONAR for writing is that it’s really quick for getting ideas down.  It’s like a creative partner.  Of course it’s great for mixing and creating masters too, but for me since I was fortunate enough on this record to be working with top-notch mixing engineers, the single most important thing was getting the songs right.  The features in Platinum are great for songwriting.  Even just the loops in Addictive Drums 2 are a great starting place to generate ideas—there’s just no shortage of inspiration in the program.”

Javier’s new record titled “Gravity” comes out April 15, and he recently shot a new video in LA (also including scenes from Europe) directed by Gregory Poppen.  The record itself is actually 15 songs, a bit of a different approach from pop music’s recent pattern of releasing fewer tracks per album.  On this record Javier really wanted to get more music out there for his fans who have stayed with him all this time throughout every phase of his career.

Continue reading NBC “The Voice” Winner Javier Colon: HOW SONAR PLAYED A ROLE IN HIS NEW RECORD ON CONCORD MUSIC GROUP

SONAR X-Series users will love these 55 improvements in the new SONAR

SONAR X-Series users will love these 55 improvements in the new SONAR

While there have been hundreds of fixes and enhancements added to SONAR since X3, we’ve compiled this list of the ones we think X-Series users will be particularly fond of.

Recording

  • Fixed clip & metronome placement during loop record
  • Fixed complex looping scenarios
  • Fixed MIDI issues during audio loop recording
  • Mute Previous Takes no longer interferes with Comping mode

Editing

  • Improved transient detection
  • Speed improvements when editing MIDI in PRV
  • Improved drag selection
  • Improved editing with the Smart Tool
  • Improved Lasso for audio transients at all zoom levels
  • Edit > Select > From/Thru no longer clears selections
  • Fixed Delete Hole issue when selecting empty measure in Track View
  • Fixed issues with Shift+Click on audio clips
  • Improved clip behaviors when using auto crossfade
  • Improved clip dragging graphics and offset handling
  • Improved note selection in PRV
  • Improved Melodyne behavior after setting region

Mixing

  • Sends now feed side-chain on project open
  • Fixed jumps when rewriting automation
  • Fixed VST3 behaviors in Clip FX bins
  • Improved console view EQ display
  • Fixed Dim Solo issue when using instrument tracks
  • Fixed plug-in output errors
  • Fixed plug-in removal issue on Simple Instrument Tracks

Chris Broderick SONAR Platinum ImprovementsChris Broderick has been focusing on his band Act of Defiance and their new record on Metal Blade Records. “We recorded all vocals, cello, lead, rhythm, classical and acoustic guitars at Ill-Fated Studio’s in Los Angeles, CA on SONAR Platinum. The features we gained upgrading from X3 to Platinum really helped us capture this new record.”


Audio / MIDI Engine

  • Fixed intermittent crash when switching driver modes
  • Fixes to Bounce to Clips for MIDI
  • Fixes to the Arpeggiator Preset workflow
  • Improved MIDI input port detection

UI

  • Fixed layout issues when removing icon from header
  • Fixed muted waveform drawing
  • Fixed waveform draw with tempo changes
  • Improved waveform draw on Groove Clips
  • Fixed waveform redraw on cropped clips when dragging
  • Improved clip fade waveform
  • Improved scroll in Console View
  • Improved Timecode unification in all views
  • Improved Track Folder grouping
  • Improved workflow when changing a Screenset

Murder FM SONAR Platinum X3 improvementsNorman Matthew of the band Murder FM not only used Platinum on his recent record produced by Beau Hill, but his band is also using it live on tour. “Platinum is ridiculously stable. Our show has developed into something more dynamic–and we like triggering some sounds that we used on the record on tour. SONAR Platinum works so well for us on stage as well as in the studio.”


PRV

  • Controller pane no longer resets size when switching tracks
  • Drum Pane now persists when re-opening PRV
  • Fixed PRV piano keyboard collapse when PRV maximized
  • Fixed right-click snap in PRV
  • Fixed Show/Hide state in PRV Track Pane

Other Views – LCV / Lyric / Marker / Meter etc.

  • Fixed orphan window in projects opened from Playlist
  • Fixed Screenset recalls
  • Fixed Take Lane rearrange on undo
  • Fixed vertical zoom behaviors when hiding tracks
  • Improved double-click behaviors on MIDI clips in Track View/PRV
  • Improved Step Sequencer behavior when using a clip assigned to a drum map

Misc.

  • Fixed bounced clip time base reset problem
  • Fixed Now Time marker movement when pressing Pause
  • Fixed silent drum map note issues after tempo changes
  • Fixed a crash when trying to open a moved project from recent file list
  • Fixes to BitBridge which could cause a project to hang on closing
  • Improved recall of Remote Control for synths

Javier Colon Platinum better than SONAR X3Javier Colon, winner of NBC’s The Voice continues his lifelong musical journey with a new record deal and album coming out on Concord Music Group this spring. “I’ve been using SONAR for a long time, but going from X3 to Platinum was the best upgrade I’ve had. Platinum was like a writing partner for me with this new record.”


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LANDR Blind Taste-Test

UPDATE: Results are in! Here’s the answer key:

It was a very tight race, but the clear winner was Track 3 (so there is definitely still plenty of room in this world for professional mastering houses).

In 2nd place was Track 5, which was followed extremely narrowly by the LANDR masters, where Track 4 beat Track 2 by almost nothing. Track 6 was next, and Track 1 was last.

Note: These masters were intentionally not level-matched, as we believe that for a song of this style, the resultant level was part of the criteria for the quality of the masters. We will be doing another one of these tests in the future, wherein the levels will all be matched.

What do you think? Do these results surprise you? 


We thought it would be fun to have a blind mastering taste-test and include LANDR. Below is a track from a project I Co-wrote/recorded/produced/mixed compliments of a great artist from Finland by the name of Peppina.

Track 1 is the actual pre-master, and then the following tracks are masters rendered by different means.

One of these tracks (the one that is actually on the record) is mastered by a prominent mastering house/engineer in NYC.

A few also may be rendered with different LANDR settings 😉

One is also mastered using all in-house Cakewalk plug-ins…

Below these tracks you will find a survey, please vote for your favorite “master” and leave any general comments.

Results will be posted in 2 weeks.

Create your own user feedback survey

 

 

 

 

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

Mining Gold from PA Recordings with SONAR

SONAR Hero Image

by Craig Parmerlee – SONAR user since SONAR 7

SONAR and other DAWs are used heavily to produce high-quality recordings, while other people use SONAR as part of a compositional process.  I find that most of my SONAR usage is a little different, processing live recordings tracked in a concert or club setting.  This usage presents various problems that aren’t as apparent in a controlled studio setting.  This blog will present a workflow and various SONAR features I have found valuable when processing live recordings.

Objectives

  1. In most cases, my primary objective is to produce a recording that the musicians can study in order to improve their performance.
  2. In some cases, the performance and production quality will be high enough to serve as demo material to promote the group.
  3. I try to deliver a mixed and mastered copy to the musicians within 48 hours, while the event is still fresh in mind, so speed and efficiency are very important.
  4. Often a musician will ask for a further edit on one of the songs, for example, to include in their personal résumé.  Flexibility and ability to recall settings are important.

Changing Expectations

Tascam DR-40 Field Recorder

Years ago, I did such projects using Audacity, which seemed adequate at the time.  However, expectations have changed radically.

Today many musicians have a low-cost stereo field recorder such as the TASCAM DR-40.These recorders are the equivalent of point-and-shoot cameras.  For around $100, they can produce remarkably good quality under ideal circumstances.

This has become the baseline against which many musicians judge other live recordings.  Even though I want to produce quick results, if I can’t do substantially better than a TASCAM DR-40, for example, then I am wasting my time (I should note I love those small field recorders and often use them too, but that is not the subject of this blog).

Fortunately, with SONAR I have found a work flow and a set of “go-to” features that allow me to do much better than a stereo field recorder almost every time, using only the microphones that are already placed for the live PA system.

A Word About My Background

Continue reading Mining Gold from PA Recordings with SONAR

panup: Studio Session & LANDR Test

by Panu Pentikäinen (panup at Cakewalk forums)

Alex PortraitAlex ja Armottomat (Alex) visited my recording studio in February. We had five days total to do a fully mastered CD, make promo photos of the band, and record live video footage in the studio for later editing. I’ll describe here how one of the six songs was recorded and mixed.

Drums, bass and the electric guitar were recorded live with one to three takes. Acoustic guitar and demo vocals were recorded, too, but they were re-recorded later over the backing tracks. The drummer was the only one to hear the metronome (standard SONAR audio metronome, time signature set to 1/4); the others had eye contact with the drummer. Although the guitar amp was in another room (the bass was recorded direct), there was no spill other than a faint demo vocal in the drum room mics.

Time is always an enemy when you have to record many songs in a limited amount of time. I decided to make decisions before pressing the R (record) button rather than leaving everything to the mixing phase. I applied EQ to kick drum, drum room and the acoustic guitar before A/D conversion. One of the phrases I hate is: “This sounds like crap now but it hasn’t been mixed yet.” Some people really think that everything can be fixed in the mix! (Although to be fair you often can, because in SONAR we have VocalSync, built-in Melodyne, built-in drum trigger, and AudioSnap).

And although it sounds incredible, now it’s even possible to upload songs from SONAR to the LANDR online mastering service and instantly hear a preview of how the song would sound as mastered. Hearing the demo master may help you to improve the project’s mix. Continue reading panup: Studio Session & LANDR Test

How SONAR user Bentley Ousley Executes a Crazy Idea

I love it when something comes across my desk that MAKES me want to dig deeper—find out more.  Recently I have been spending more time reading our Cakewalk forum and I am amazed at how passionate and talented our user base is.  I find myself going through posts, clicking links, poking around and being genuinely entertained and inspired.  One recent post really got my attention and after inquiring directly to the user, I found myself turning into a CSI investigator (Cakewalk-SONAR Investigator) looking for clues to make some sense out of what I had just stumbled upon…

Opening the case:

Cakewalk User: bentleyousley – [My Inside Voice]: “…sounds a little suspicious to me—sounds like a Rock Star I should know.”

Case: Once and Future Cities: A Fractal Journey – [My Inside Voice]: “…I think I remember the word ‘fractal’ from some distant math class or something.”

Location: Kansas City – [My Inside Voice]: “best BBQ I’ve ever had in that city, but a SONAR user in Kansas City with a studio that looks like a rocket fuselage? Okaaaayyy???…”

Evidence: PBS, Kansas City Star, Kansas City Planetarium – [My Inside Voice]: “…PBS? A Planetarium? A home-brew large format projector and software? Fractal equations translated into visuals? A brilliant film all edited and scored meticulously in SONAR Platinum by one person made for planetariums?  I’m IN…” Continue reading How SONAR user Bentley Ousley Executes a Crazy Idea

How Jerry Gerber Creates Incredible Compositions Without Ever Using the PRV

The art of “making music” in this digital age… When you really think about it, how incredible is it that as music-creators we can take something from our minds, and sculpt it into something tangible?  No matter how novice or professional you are, no matter what others think or say about the music YOU create, there’s no denying that we are living in an incredible time of opportunity for crafting music.

A while back I was introduced to a gentleman and composer working in SONAR out of Northern California by the name of Jerry Gerber.  I knew he was a great composer from his accomplished list of credentials, but what I wasn’t prepared for was being absolutely fascinated by the sonic depth of “his sound,” the detail and integrity of his tracks, and moreover—how he accomplishes all of the above mentioned.  When you listen to his work, and then hear his theoretic viewpoint of how to correctly compose and produce music, you quickly realize that this guy has tapped into something a bit deeper than most musicians.

What really made an impression on me was that without ever using the Piano Roll View (PRV), Jerry Gerber has composed and produced for some very highly-profiled films, television shows, computer games, concerts, dance and interactive media, and also back in the day wrote all of the original music for the remake of the popular children’s television show, The Adventures of Gumby.  His approach to all this is through an expert level of “MIDI Sequencing” which he explains in the newest edition of the SONAR Newburyport eZine.

I was intrigued and beyond impressed by his words in the eZine, so I decided to [self-indulgently] dig a bit deeper by reaching out to Jerry to get some insight on his methods of madness with his new record.  His words of musical wisdom make a lot of sense for anyone creating music in any genre, and I highly recommend the read; and then applying what you learn by analyzing and enjoying his new full-length composition.

[Cakewalk]:       You talked a lot about the “programming” aspect of the new record, but what was the “writing” process like for you? Continue reading How Jerry Gerber Creates Incredible Compositions Without Ever Using the PRV

5 Ways to Widen Your Mix

5 Ways to Widen Your Mix

At some point, nearly every mixer has experienced this:

“My mix sounds great, but this mix by (Bob Clearmountain, George Massenburg, Joe Barresi, etc.) sounds so much wider… How do they do that?”

Aside from the highly classified mixer voodoo magic that they still swear isn’t real, there are a number of techniques you can employ to get a little more width out of your mix.

PANNING

I already know what you’re about to say: “But I pan my parts hard left and right, and it still doesn’t sound wide enough.” I struggled with this for a long time myself, but trust me, panning is listed first because it’s the first step toward a wide mix.

If you’ve got things hard-panned, you’re already halfway there. One trick to making this work is contrast; if everything is hard-panned, there’s no point of reference for what is narrow or wide.

EXAMPLE: In a rock or metal mix, it’s fairly common to find extremely wide guitars. What many folks don’t notice is that the drums are not always quite as wide.

A pretty standard template for me is: guitars panned hard, drum overheads panned at about 50%, and if applicable, the drum room track at about 60-75%. This makes for a full stereo field and helps isolate the parts, creating a very wide image of the guitars while still having good stereo separation for the drums. It also helps prevent distorted electric guitars from eating up all that gorgeous drum ambiance you worked so hard to track perfectly.

Widen Your Mix With Contrast Panning
“Contrast” Panning

Contrary to the above, I’ve heard a lot of folks swear by what’s known as “LCR Mixing,” or Left-Center-Right mixing, where – you guessed it – everything is either panned, hard left, center, or hard right.

I personally am not a major advocate of LCR Mixing, but I highly encourage everyone to try it out. It might work for one song or one style, but not another. If nothing else, it’s an excellent starting point in helping you quickly decide the rough stereo placement of each mix element .

Wider Mixes with LCR Panning
“LCR” Panning

And of course, never forget about automation–the most important part of any mix, in my opinion. Try panning a stereo track to about 80% width, and then at an appropriate point in the song, bump it up to 100%. I guarantee this will add apparent width to your mix.

Utilizing Pan Automation to Widen Your Mix
Utilizing Pan Automation

This goes back to contrast — you’re listening to the song and at its widest point, it’s at 80% width. Your ears believe that everything is as wide as it can be. Suddenly, everything gets wider and the apparent stereo width seems enormous! I’m not saying go crazy and use this trick all the time, but try it out and hear the effect for yourself.

EQ

Counter-Balanced EQ can add Stereo Width

Sometimes EQ can help you make your mix sound wider. And you’re probably thinking, “how is adjusting frequency content going to expand stereo width?” Well, technically it’s not…

It’s a psychoacoustical phenomenon that causes a bit of separation of the parts, making their perceived width much greater. That’s right, it’s not real. But we can fool our ears into thinking we’re actually adding width.

Here’s what to do: take a look at your left guitar track and find a place in the midrange where you might like to boost. Let’s say just for example’s sake, that we’ll add 2dB at 600Hz. Now we’re going to find another frequency and cut it: -2dB at 2.8kHz (again, just for example).

Now, go to your right guitar track and do the opposite: -2dB at 600Hz; +2dB at 2.8kHz.

Be careful — I wouldn’t add or subtract any more than about 2 or 3 dB here lest altering or totally destroying the tone (trust me, the guitar player will hear it and reveal his or her darker side very quickly). Make an adjustment that’s just enough and you’ll trick the listener into hearing an expanded stereo width.

Delay

This is how you get a mix to sound like it’s actually wider than the speakers themselves. It became ubiquitous in the 80s, but much like gated reverb, it’s used more tastefully in modern mixes.

First, a word of warning: this can completely dismantle the mono compatibility of your mix — proceed with caution!

The technique is quite simple, and is another one of those psychoacoustical tricks (come on, you didn’t think you could actually get your mix to be wider than the speakers themselves… did you?).

Insert a stereo delay plugin on your stereo track or bus (IMPORTANT: make sure the delay plugin has independent controls for the left and right sides) and set the mix to 100%. You could also use the Channel Tools plugin, which has this sort of functionality built in. Just add a few milliseconds of delay to one side of your stereo track or bus, and you’ll hear quite a difference right away.

Delay Can Make Your Mix Wider
Delay on One Side

Of course, there’s always the question of how much is enough. Here are some tips:

  • Does it sound like one side is playing before the other? Too much. You’ll definitely want it below 20-25ms, or it’ll start actually sounding like, well, a delay.

  • More delay time will not always make it wider. The effect is caused by the phase relationship between the two sides, so you may find a sweet spot with hardly any delay at all.

  • Collapse the track/bus to mono. Does it sound terrible? Try making it a little narrower.

  • Does the tone change too much? Move the delay time up or down a little bit and see if that helps.

  • Remember, phase can truly make or break your mix, so again, tread cautiously when applying this effect.

Reverb

There are a few different ways reverb can help increase the apparent stereo width of your mix.

The first way is quite simple: Applying reverb to an already-wide signal can make it sound even wider. This has to do with those phase relationships we were just talking about.

Wider Mix with Opposite Pan on Sends

To take things a step further, try panning your reverb sends to the opposite side (Hard Left Audio w/ Hard Right Send; Hard Right Audio w/ Hard Left Send) to see if it makes any difference. If nothing else, it makes for a pretty cool creative effect.

The second way is also quite simple. What is reverb but a few thousand delay signals right after one another? What we’ll do is apply reverb to only one side of the stereo track or bus.

What this is doing, in addition to the delay trick mentioned above, is making one side sound slightly more distant. It’s ultimately creating a distinction between the left and right side (again, in your mind) that creates the illusion of greater width.

Mid/Side Processing

This is a bit of an advanced technique. There are plug-ins out there that will do all the thinking for you (The Hoser XT, for example) by allowing you the option to make separate adjustments for the individual “mid” and “sides” channels.

Mid/Side EQ Can Make Your Mix Sound Wider

However, there are a few ways to make this work, even without a “smart” plug-in… I’ll keep this as simple as possible.

The best way to set yourself up for Mid/Side processing is to use the Mid/Side microphone configuration when recording. This is what I consider a true Mid/Side configuration, and I feel it balances better, has better mono compatibility, and is more “true to the source” when it’s being modified than its “fabricated Mid/Side configuration” counterpart.

If you don’t know how to do Mid/Side recording, I’ve provided you some resources here, here, and here.

Now, as for converting a standard stereo track or bus to Mid/Side tracks, you’ll have to do a bit of extra work…

  1. Clone your stereo track or bus.

  2. Collapse the original to mono with the interleave button. It should look like this: [mono interleave button]. This is now your “Mid” track.

  3. Insert a plugin like Channel Tools, or any comparable plugin, on the cloned track.

  4. Flip the phase on the left side (or the right side; one may sound better than the other). This is now your “Sides” track.

What we can do from here is process these tracks individually. A good starting point would be to apply some fast compression to only the “Sides” track, somewhat eliminating the dynamic peaks and valleys and making the sides seem louder, thereby increasing the apparent stereo width.

Similarly, you can add some upper-midrange frequencies to the “Sides” track, increasing their presence, and/or reduce the same frequency range in the “Mid” track.

 

Try all these techniques and take note of the qualities that each impart. Remember, the more techniques you have in your arsenal, and the more practice and experience you have with each of them, the quicker you’ll be able to make creative production decisions.