Shown above: Sonar features, clockwise from upper left: Mix Recall menu, vocals before and after alignment with VocalSync, Console Emulator being used to fatten bass, Melodyne in Percussive mode transposing polyphonic chords.
You've figured out the basics, but here are eight ways to take Cakewalk Sonar Platinum (reviewed June ’15) to the next level.
Process with the Console Emulator. Sonar’s three console emulator options don’t just emulate analog non-linearities of classic consoles, but also the input transformers. Crank the Trim and Drive controls for fat, low-end saturation that does wonders for bass parts and kick drums.
Cool Melodyne tricks. Melodyne Essential does much more than correct pitch. Percussive mode can transpose polyphonic material—individual sections, or even entire mixes. For an automatic double-tracking vocal effect, copy the vocal track and add partial (not full) pitch and timing correction to introduce slight variations. Convert monophonic audio to MIDI by dragging the “Melodyned” audio into a MIDI track (yes—if you can hum a few bars, you really can fake it). Finally, although it seems the vitally important note separation tool is missing, it’s there. Hold Alt, hover just above the blob until the cursor turns into the note separation tool, then double-click.
Tighten vocals. VocalSync was intended to conform an actor’s voice-over to the original, lower-quality audio recorded in the field, but it also does near-magical alignment of harmony or doubled vocals to a reference vocal. For best results, correct relatively small sections at a time, and note that the VocalSync knob’s “sweet spot” can be anywhere along its travel—it doesn’t necessarily get tighter as you turn it up.
Act on impulse. The REmatrix Solo convolution reverb lets you load your own impulse responses to emulate real acoustic spaces, but you needn’t visit the Taj Mahal for a huge reverb—use a white noise sample. Edit it as desired, load it into REmatrix Solo as a user impulse—done. And have fun with weird impulses, like backwards or rhythmically chopped reverb.
Ditch the metronome. For more inspiration when songwriting, load Addictive Drums—it has a ton of MIDI beats as well as drum sounds. And if you like the beat but not the sound, drag the beat’s MIDI file into a MIDI track so it can drive other drum sounds.
The right EQ for the right job. The ProChannel’s QuadCurve EQ has four different EQ emulations. For example, the Pure EQ has a gentle, Pultec-like curve (ideal for mastering), while the Hybrid model can give narrow cuts and broad boosts for tracks with resonances that need taming. The E and G type emulate the respective SSL consoles; note the high- and lowpass filters can do 48 dB-per-octave slopes—great for filtering out low-frequency room rumble and and high-frequency “hash.”
Turn mixes into performances. Some of the vibe behind “classic” tracks was from lots of hands “playing” the mix faders. Like the high-end consoles of yesteryear, Sonar’s Mix Recall function saves and recalls mixes. You can generate different mixes for clients, compare and contrast, and import some elements from some mixes but not others.
Custom drum replacement. The Drum Replacer doesn’t limit you to the included samples; take any drum sample (AIFF, WAV, FLAC), and use it to replace a drum sound. But here’s a really sick trick: If a drum sound in a loop is too loud, isolate the sound if possible, sample it, then use the Drum Replacer to create a separate track with only that drum. Flip it out of phase, nudge the track for maximum cancellation, and adjust the track level for the desired amount of cancellation.