CakeTV Live Ep 4 – Mixing Drums in SONAR Part 1

by Dan Gonzalez

In this episode, we’re diving into drum mixing, and doing little things at the beginning of the mix that will have a HUGE impact right away.

If you’re interested in more drum production, check out our FREE eBook about editing multitrack drums.

15-Compressor Shootout: Lead Vocals

No question, there are a lot of compressor plugins out there, and they all have their unique layouts, quirks, and sonic qualities. In the video below, we line up 15 different compressors and demonstrate these differences.

Below the video, you’ll also find a helpful updated list of key features, a downloadable chart, and links to learn more about the compressors that do not come standard with SONAR Platinum. If you’re not familiar many compressor plugins, I recommend starting here.

It’s worth noting that this video demonstrates a limited scope of each compressor’s capabilities. Since the compressor is being used to level out a vocal performance, each one has been set up optimally for the application, usually with a low ratio and fairly fast attack and release wherever applicable.

Every possible measure was taken to keep the responses and output levels of each compressor as uniform as possible so that the shootout makes for a consistent apples-to-apples comparison. In the future, keep an eye out for more of these shootouts, as the same tools might have totally different effects on a snare drum, acoustic guitar, electric bass, or saxophone.

Continue reading 15-Compressor Shootout: Lead Vocals

The Evolution of Comping

Compiling or “Comping” takes is relatively new to sound recording. With the increased ability of technology has come the increased desire to comp with excruciating attention to detail, sometimes all the way down to a syllable or note, to create “The Perfect Take.”

The Acoustic and Electrical Eras (1877-1945)EdisonPhonograph

When audio recording was first introduced, it was an entirely mechanical process. Comping did not exist. In fact, neither did mixing as we know it. Everything was recorded in one take, and level adjustments were made by moving musicians closer to or farther from the horn–essentially the microphone of its time.

In the primitive stages of this recording format, it was not uncommon to have copies of the same record that sounded entirely different. This was because if a band wanted to release 1,000 copies of a song, they would have to record it 1,000 different times, each take resulting in its own uniquely-performed copy.
Continue reading The Evolution of Comping

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.

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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. Continue reading 4 Tips for Songwriters Before Entering the Recording Studio

5 Awesome Virtual Instrument Tips in SONAR

With thousands of features, workflows, and settings,  even the most hardcore user can miss out on something awesome buried in SONAR. It happens to the best of us. So we’ve put together 5 quick and easy features that can improve your workflow as well as your creativity with Virtual Instruments and Synths. Check out the video here:

 

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First Time DAW Users: 5 Things You Need To Know

As seen in the December ’13 issue of Regional Musician

Purchasing your first recording program is an exciting new chapter in your musical career. Now you can record your band practices and start making demos of all your songs in the comfort of your home. However, sometimes during the initial setup of your DAW, you will run into a few issues that could potentially be frustrating. Fear not, by following the right steps and optimizing your studio set-up, you will be well on your way to recording your music.

This article is meant to offer guidance on some terms and subjects that could be a bit foggy when starting out. Following these tips will help make your transition to a DAW much better and help you focus on what’s most important – making music.

1. First Things First

a. Terms you should know

Make sure you are using the correct driver mode for your audio interface or sound card. Some of these words may seem foreign to you if you are just starting out, so:

Driver Mode – When referring to digital audio we use the term “driver mode” to talk about a setting within your DAW that allows recording hardware to communicate with your computer. Continue reading First Time DAW Users: 5 Things You Need To Know

Is Your Project Ready For CD Manufacturing? A DIY Album Release Checklist

This post originally appeared on Disc Makers’ blog. Reprinted with permission.

– Before scheduling your album release, plan for the steps that lie between songwriting and disc manufacturing –

Releasing a CD is a big deal for any artist. This is your baby, your calling card, the result of a lot of hard work, and your best chance to earn revenue. You spend a lot of time writing, rehearsing, and recording — and that’s all just leading up to the CD manufacturing process.

Before you gather your materials to submit for CD manufacturing, there’s rehearsing, recording, audio mastering, designing your package — and all these processes can take longer than you might expect. Then there are the numerous music promotion and sales activities, and much of your PR may require your Continue reading Is Your Project Ready For CD Manufacturing? A DIY Album Release Checklist

Singing Tips – Don’t Tax Your Voice Before a Vocal Performance

This post originally appeared on Disc Makers’ blog. Reprinted with permission.

Resting before a vocal performance is key, but environmental things, like being in a place where the decibel level is too high, can adversely affect your capacity to sing.

What makes a great vocal performance? There are many answers to that, and they don’t all require being the most technically gifted singer with a five-octave range. Confidence, charisma, and the right repertoire are among the many subjective elements that go into any great performance – live or when recording vocals in a studio – in addition to having chops as a singer.

“‘Synthesis’ is this fancy word we throw around in our college,” says Daniel Ebbers, Associate Professor of Voice at the Conservatory of Music of the University of the Pacific, “and I do think it’s an important thing. We study all these things individually, but it’s the synthesis, a command of your vocal instrument, a command of the stage, a command of the language and the language you use – all these things synthesized together make a great vocal performance.”

Of course, much of what helps a performer reach the point where all these elements come together is preparation, practice, and experience. A good vocal warm up, and general vocal care, can help ensure peak vocal performance.

Continue reading Singing Tips – Don’t Tax Your Voice Before a Vocal Performance

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.