Time flies when you’re having fun the old cliché saying goes. For me, five years ago, I was in the trenches for a good week going down a rabbit hole not knowing exactly where I would end up. I’m talking about sound panels – building sound panels that is; and if you’re anything like me, you’ve been in a few studios and loved the look and feel of those expensive looking ones on the walls.
When I moved into our new house, my goal was to create a project studio where I could plain and simply put, have fun. My jobs before Cakewalk at Elektra Records and Capitol Records allotted me enough pressure-cooker studio situations to last a lifetime, so this studio was about doing things I wanted to do, when I wanted to do them, and maybe also making some college money on the side for my boy Mack (now 8). Continue reading “Building Your Own Professional Sound Panels – 5 Years Later”
Every producer and mixer knows the struggle; the infamous car test. You know the drill. You print a near-perfect mix in your home studio and then bounce it with the label, “FINAL MIX_wav” and send it to your phone. You can feel the excitement, energy and anticipation of releasing your masterpiece into the world…and then you step into your car.
The nervous sweat drips down your back and your ears are clogged from hours of non-stop mixing. You press play and immediately regret not going to law school. OK…maybe it’s not that bad but straight from the bat you know your mix isn’t translating well in your car stereo or even the cheap earbuds that came with your phone. You are not alone.
Here at Cakewalk we are fortunate to have an external team of rocket scientists who help test out SONAR beta releases. This team is dedicated, passionate and most of all appreciated by all of us internally here at the Cake shop. Recently I received a general email from one of my esteemed colleagues mentioning that one of our trustworthy beta soldiers was jumping off the beta-battlefield in lieu of another SONAR related activity. Huh? This peaked my curiosity and I felt obliged to dig a bit deeper on the subject. What could “another SONAR related activity” involve? SONAR Olympics? SONAR CPU Racing? SONAR Academy?
Featured Music Placements on Discovery Channel, History Channel, CBS, Bravo Network
Whether you update SONAR every month or not, this month is a great time to hit the C3 button. Besides the new cutting edge LP mastering plug-ins, we have worked hard and closely with our good friends at Overloud to deliver something that can truly change your sound as a SONAR user. TH3 Cakewalk has arrived and will now replace TH2 moving forward, and I had the opportunity to run the beta for the last month building some basic presets for the plug-in. Right out of the gate I found this VST3 to be a nice upgrade from its predecessor TH2.
Now I am absolutely nothing close to a guitar wizard, but I have been hacking around since I picked up the instrument at age 5, so I’ve been around the block with guitar tones touring, producing, engineering, recording, etc. like a lot of folks probably reading this. From a production standpoint, I’ve always loved the convenience of amp simulators, but always hated what would happen to the tone when trying to mix them together with drums that had been recorded with 1073’s, API’s or other heavy duty pres and mics… the tone gets small pretty fast. In my opinion, this is something that Overloud in general has excelled at—DSP and algorithms that truly stay at the front of the mix no matter what the context. TH3 brings this concept to even another level. Here are some of my quick thoughts and findings.
There are a lot of changes with the new TH3 Cakewalk including the new and upgraded User Interface which I will get into, but I bet a lot of folks like me really base their judgments on how things sound. The good news is that once you are up and running with the plug-in you will notice a nice improvement on the sound quality from TH2 Producer/Cakewalk. 5 new amp models with more accurate model reproduction are included in TH3 Cakewalk, and all have improved DSP along with enhanced preamp and power amp stages. To my ear, I notice a more “open and natural” sound in general, but also notice a more responsive relationship between the pick and the strings in terms of “feel”—like when you play a guitar through an amp that just had the tubes replaced. I also notice more presence overall, but the right type of presence without harshness. The low-mids and mids are thick and punchy and I especially love the new Slo88 and Tweed Deluxe amps which have a lot of character. The Bassface is a beast as well; this amp is a secret weapon for many rock producers who use it to double rhythm guitar parts recorded with other amps. Blending these two sources together produces a tone that is about as thick as it gets.
New amps in TH3 Cakewalk:
Bassface 59: Model of a classic american “bass” combo amp, tuned to be great for rhythm and blues playing on guitar once overdriven
“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.
Last summer, Peppina—a young female artist from Finland— plunged herself into the NYC music scene for two months. With the help of renowned NYC entertainment attorney Steven Beer who discovered her, she managed to head back to Finland with a major-label sounding EP. The project was recorded in different ways, in different locations all over the city—and with budgets being slashed, these days it’s pretty much hand-to-hand combat when making a low budget recording where anything goes. But the upshot is yes, you can record a commercial-sounding record on a budget—so here are some of the techniques we employed to accomplish that goal. SONAR Platinum was instrumental in saving time on this EP. Between the Drum Replacer, VocalSync, onboard Melodyne, Speed Comping and general speed enhancements, I got to the finish line a lot faster than previous records. I highly recommend anyone who’s on SONAR XX to take a close look at what the program has brought to the table in the last year.
This all started when Steven Beer called about an artist he’d heard sing at a film festival, and invited me for a meeting at his office. Interestingly, there were two other producer/writers there as well—a bit unorthodox, but pretty much anything goes these days, so nothing really surprises me anymore. We discussed the artist’s interests, influences, and other variables, and then listened to some of my reel as well as music from the other producers. It turned out the lawyer’s master plan was to bring the three of us together to co-write, record, and mix a five-song EP before she went back to Finland in 45 days.
Peppina already had some momentum in Finland from a loop she wrote and uploaded to a site called HITRECORD (owned by actor and director Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Her upload was so popular that Gordon-Levitt flew her to California to perform the piece at the Orpheum in LA during one of the show’s TV episodes. This all sounded good to me, so I signed on to a production team that would share in the production duties and heavy lifting. As to budgets…well, there was enough there for us to take it on as a challenge.
A few years back, we showed you a bit about Parallel Compression in SONAR. Now that we’ve introduced Patch Points in the Jamaica Plain update, you can do these same things with a much more efficient workflow.
Let’s quickly define parallel processing: In parallel processing, a signal is duplicated into two or more signals. Each copy of the signal is processed differently but plays back simultaneously with the original. The copy/copies are then mixed together.
Parallel Compression, aka “New York Compression,” is most commonly used on drums to add body to the drum mix without flattening the snappy transients.
Check out the video below to see just how easy (and great sounding) this technique can be:
DELIVERING MUSIC FOR THE FILM “FOR BLOOD” (COFFEERING ENTERTAINMENT LOS ANGELES, CA)
Sometimes I am fortunate enough to have the time to take on a project outside of Cakewalk, and I love that those projects let me put our current SONAR Platinum “Rolling Update” to the test in the field. Recently, the LA-based production company Coffee Ring Entertainment asked me to write, produce and deliver three tracks for their new movie, For Blood. This article describes highlights of the process involved in writing and producing one of those tracks for a specific scene in the film.
My first question to the director was, “Do you already have placeholder music in the rough cut?” When producers and directors have placeholder music they like already set into the cut, it speeds up and simplifies writing and producing the music. Fortunately the answer was “yes,” so all I needed to do was replicate what they liked about their placeholder tracks using the array of instruments and plug-ins in my home project studio rig.
A primary objective in writing music for film is to forget about yourself and your own emotional agenda. And oddly enough, for me at least, this notion really speeds up the workflow because you are writing/producing for someone else’s purpose other than your own thoughts. Adamantly keeping this in mind throughout the writing/producing process helps to stay focused on what the client wants. For this song, it’s exactly what I had to do because the producers had a Tarantino-ish type track set into the scene, and my innate production style tends to lean more towards big, clean commercial pop rock. Luckily, I could go to YouTube and analyze suitable styles of music but even luckier for me, SONAR’s Addictive Drums and TH2 plug-ins were ideal for dialing in the kind of music that was needed. Continue reading “Anatomy of a SONAR Project: Replacing the Placeholder”
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)
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”