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 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) Continue reading “Studio Makeover Month: The Controller Freak Setup”
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!
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.
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 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 Continue reading “Studio Makeover Month: The Ghostwriter 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 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 Continue reading “Studio Makeover Month: The Axeman Studio Setup”
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 Continue reading “How Adventure Club is using SONAR X3 to stay on the EDM charts and ahead of the pack”
It’s your one day off, you sit down to make some music, and boom, your computer crashes. Then you start to think; how long have I had this thing? When you get that feeling, it’s time to look at a new music computer. We’re going to outline the top five reasons you should consider a new Windows computer for your music studio.
1. You’re still running Windows XP
Windows XP was a great operating system, really, it was! But, Microsoft recently ended support for the well-known OS, and that means no more updates. This also means your computer could be at risk to crash at any moment. Additionally, many new Digital Audio Workstations, such as SONAR X3, don’t run on Windows XP. It’s ok, it’s time to let go. Windows 7 or Windows 8 offers a slew of new features that will make your music making experience easier.
2. You’re not able to get work done as fast
It stands to reason that if you have a computer that is over five years old and wasn’t built by a music computer manufacturer, it’s probably going to run a little slower than you’d like. Are your tracks taking longer to bounce down? Can’t run as many plugins as you used to? There’s only so much power you’re going to get out of an older computer that wasn’t built for audio, and that’s when it’s time to look at a new rig.
3. Your workflow is suffering
When you spend more time troubleshooting than you do making music, that’s a bad thing. We all know that time is limited, especially for being creative, and you have to make the most of your time. When you have to spend your time making your computer do what you want, instead of making music, your frustration goes up, and your creativity goes down.
4. You’ve outgrown your machine
Let’s face it, it happens. You get a computer, you put it to good use, but with time and growth, your needs outweigh what your computer is capable of. Maybe you need to be able to record more tracks at once, or maybe you simply can’t do what you need with your current hardware. It’s ok, that just means you’re growing as a creative, and it’s time to look for a new computer.
5. Your current machine is loud, filled with bloatware, and doesn’t fit your studio.
Most off the shelf computers – meaning those from big box stores and websites – might seem like great deals on paper, but when you get them home, you find that your computer’s hard drive is filled with bloatware (did you really want all those demo antivirus applications? Yeah, we didn’t think so). That is why your computer was cheap – lots of companies rented out space on your hard drive, and your Windows installation image isn’t really a true Windows image, which means you can’t even re-install Windows cleanly. Additionally, your computer is a lot slower due to all that bloatware, which means you won’t get anything done.
Off the shelf computers aren’t made with silence in mind, nor with the needs of a creative in mind. They use sub-par components that mean your computer will be loud – which is hard when you need to record that perfect vocal cut. You can’t replace many of those components, because they’re proprietary, which means you can’t purchase replacement parts.
What about Support? If you have an issue with your music software, you can’t call a big box computer manufacturer and ask them for help – they simply won’t help you. That can be pretty frustrating when you need answers.
Finally, off the shelf computers rarely fit the needs of the creative – literally. They’re not rackmountable, they don’t have the motherboard slots you need (like legacy PCI slots, for instance), and their case sizes can be limiting at the very least. All of this leads to a less-than-stellar experience with a computer you paid good money for, expecting it to be great for audio production.
These are just a few reasons you should look at obtaining a new computer which has been certified for music production. If you answered yes to even one of these points, you might want to consider getting a new music computer so you can truly get back to being creative with your computer.
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.
Interested in Surround Sound Mixing? Well both SONAR Studio and Producer both have the ability to route to many different speakers using our Surround Bus and Surround Panner. Check out this short 3 minute video that shows you how easy it is to get this going in your studio.
ACT (Active Controller Technology; in SONAR) is a powerful protocol, and its complexity can be sufficiently daunting that some people never take advantage of it. However, one of the rarely-considered advantages of a powerful protocol is that it’s often powerful enough to be used in a more basic way. So if you’ve wanted to take advantage of ACT without having to reach for the aspirin, you’re in the right place.
The conventional approach to ACT is using templates that let you apply hands-on control to various instruments and effects. This usually implies having a dedicated controller, spending some time setting up assignments and creating templates, and so on. However, you can also treat ACT more like a “controller scratch pad” that’s easy, efficient, and works with just about any MIDI controller. It’s the ideal solution for when you simply want some hands-on control without having to venture very far into left-brain territory.
Step 1: Choose Your Controller
One of my favorite ACT controllers is Native Instruments’ discontinued Kore 2 controller. The industrial design is first-class, it’s built solidly, and there’s enough functionality for what we need. Another advantage is that when NI stopped supporting Kore, the eBay prices took a major tumble. Although the examples in this article are based on Kore, please note that the same principles apply to virtually any MIDI controller.
Step 2: Grab Your Software
Many controllers have dedicated drivers, so if needed, make sure you have the latest. NI still offers the 32/64-bit Kore 2 Controller Driver 3.0.0 and the latest NI Controller Editor, which you can download for free from their site. Follow the instructions when installing, or you’ll wonder why the controller doesn’t work.
(Note: With the Kore 2 controller, you may first be greeted with an unusable bright red display. No worries: Hit Kore 2’s F2 button, navigate to Set, hit Enter, and use the navigation buttons and data wheel to control the Contrast and Backlight parameter values.)
The Controller Editor for NI’s Kore lets you specify various characteristics of the Kore 2 controller. In this picture, a button is being assigned to output a trigger when pushed down.
Various controllers may have options—such as assigning buttons to a latch, toggle, or trigger mode. Many of them have editors; Kore 2’s is somewhat more sophisticated than many others, but again, the principles are the same. In the case of Kore you open the Editor, select Kore Controller 2 from the drop-down menu, and use the Edit button in the Templates tab to choose New. This creates a general purpose MIDI control template. (While you’re at it, I recommend assigning the eight main buttons associated with the pots to Trigger, and action on Down. For a shift button, assign the monitor [speaker icon] button to Gate, again with action on down. Go to the file menu, and save the configuration as “Sonar ACT.ncc.”)
Tips to help you build your dream studio all through August
Your studio is where the magic happens! If your music is important to you, then so is your gear, your space, and of course your software. We are focusing this month on tips to help you build the perfect setup to capture the moment when inspiration strikes.
Video Part 1: How to set-up an Audio Interface for recording
Setting up a new audio interface can be tricky so we’ve put together a solid 3 part video series that shows you all the ins and outs of the process. We’ve used the brand new TASCAM UH-7000 with SONAR X3 Producer to show you the basic workflow for getting you ready to record. This knowledge can be applied to any interface when working with SONAR.