Every February, a group of folks who can be described as ambitious, crazy, or some combination of the two undertake a challenge that few of us have ever considered. The challenge itself, at least in description, is simple. In twenty-eight days, or twenty-nine in this case, an album must be written and recorded in its entirety. Pre-existing material is not considered eligible, nor are covers. Yet despite this seemingly insurmountable workload, this challenge grows in participation by the year.
The challenge in question is known as the RPM Challenge. Created by the New Hampshire alternative newspaper The Wire in 2006, the RPM Challenge has proven year after year to be an irresistible hurdle for an ever-growing number of songwriters. After giving them some time to rest, we spoke with some SONAR users who participated in the 2016 edition of the challenge to get their take on the experience.
Matt O’Grady participated with his project, The Wasted Miracles. Citing an immense amount of support from the RPM community via their forums and blogs, Matt has actually participated in multiple RPM Challenges. He finds the process to be exhausting (fair enough) but also incredibly rewarding. “Even the years in which I haven’t completed the challenge, I’ve walked away with one or two more songs than I normally would have,” he added.
Gary Fox also took part, and as someone who thrives under pressure he particularly enjoyed the tail end of the process. “I enjoy the marathon recording sessions of the very end. This tends be when the random moments of inspiration happen, where an idea for a part of song just kind of occurs that make the entire song,” he said, adding that after conferring with fellow RPM participants that this is a common experience. Continue reading “Completing the RPM Challenge with SONAR”
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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 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
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
Norman 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.”
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
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, 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.”
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.
“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]:
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.
In most cases, my primary objective is to produce a recording that the musicians can study in order to improve their performance.
In some cases, the performance and production quality will be high enough to serve as demo material to promote the group.
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.
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.
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.
Alex 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”
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”