Mining Gold from PA Recordings with SONAR

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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.


  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

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