Posts Tagged ‘Cakewalk’


December 19, 2010

Here is a link to a song I just finished up last night. It’s called “Jefferson,” and it’s about the tiny East Texas town that my mother’s family have lived in for several generations. Mom lives there still, in the post-Civil-War house on the hill that I grew up knowing as my Pa-Pa and Boots’ house.  (My grandmother, the legend went, was small enough to fit inside a cowboy boot when she was a baby — thus the nickname).

The song is a piano ballad that contains a series of literal images from visits there in my youth. For you fellow recording nerds out there, I recorded it with Sonar and some software synthesizers by Cakewalk. I used plug-ins by Line 6 and Ik Multimedia, among others.  I used an AT 4047 as my main vocal mic, with a ribbon mic for background vocals, and Line 6 and Hagstrom guitars and my old Epiphone bass (with a “toaster” style pickup in it). Everything went through a gray market “Neve” style preamp.

Hope you enjoy it! You can listen to it as often as you wish at the above link; if you’d rather purchase it, you can do so via iTunes here.

Here are the lyrics:

Jefferson, by Christopher Ave

Hide inside the old clubhouse my Mama’s Daddy made
Fly beside me as I rush to the moss beside the glade
Climb up the narrow stairs that lead to the attic mysteries
Sit down upon the old green rocker and sing your melodies

Oh hear the mournful song
of the lonely midnight train
So near, it won’t be long
till the morning’s sad refrain

So come down with me to my history
With hopes displayed, where outside games were made up, lost and won
Just walk with me on those red brick streets
And see the way my worries were undone
In Jefferson

City kid of eight or nine with glasses on my face
The folks had split and I was fine with changing up my place
The town was where I lost my cares in a southern state of grace
and learned the life away from strife in an ancient, languid pace

Oh hear the mournful song
of the lonely midnight train
So near, it won’t be long
till the morning’s sad refrain

So come down with me to my history
With hopes displayed, where outside games were made up, lost and won
Just walk with me on those red brick streets
And see the way my worries were undone
In Jefferson

In Jefferson
the only time I saw
my paw paw cry
he’d lost his bride

So come down with me to my history
With hopes displayed, where outside games were made up, lost and won
Just walk with me on those red brick streets
And see the way my worries were undone…
In Jefferson


New version of Sonar coming: Sonar X1

November 1, 2010

My friends at Cakewalk just announced a brand new version of their flagship multitrack recording software product: Sonar X1. Read all about it here.

As a longtime, loyal Cakewalk user (remember Pro Audio anybody?) I am PUMPED about this one!

Sonar 8.5.3 update now available – for free

February 19, 2010

Cakewalk just announced a free update for its flagship Sonar recording software suite. Sonar 8.5.3 focuses on improvements to its useful Audiosnap feature, which allows you to manipulate timing of audio files very much  like have long been able to++ do with MIDI files. If you’re a registered Sonar owner you can find the update here.

Sonar is my recording software of choice. I am planning a computer hardware upgrade soon; when I’m done putting the new beast together  I plan to write about how Sonar 8.5 works in 64-bit mode on a fairly modern (i5 quad-core processor) machine.

Stunning images, music: The Third & The Seventh

February 4, 2010

This piece of computer animated scenes focusing on architecture is a fantastic multimedia experience. Even more impressive: creator Alex Roman not only created the CG images himself, he also recorded the haunting musical score, using Cakewalk’s Sonar and East/West orchestral samples. He said the soundtrack is “based on” works by Michael Laurence Edward Nyman. (The Departure) and Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns. (Le Carnaval des animaux)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “The Third & The Seventh“, posted with vodpod

Second song on iTunes, Amazon: Serendipity

December 7, 2009

Photo by Tim Samoff

After some remixing and remastering, my second single, “Serendipity,” is now available on iTunes as well as Amazon.

Unlike “Copy Editor’s Lament (The Layoff Song),” “Serendipity” has nothing to do with the newspaper industry. I wrote “Serendipity” to make the point that some life development that may seem bad — even disasterous — can actually work out for the good. As I explained in this blog post earlier this year, I used flooding as a metaphor for the bad stuff; I wrote the lyrics after some particularly bad rain and flooding in the St. Louis area last year.

Musically, I was going for a Jeff Lynne/Tom Petty/George Harrison kind of sound, with jangly 12-string guitars and some (for me) expansive background vocals on the chorus. For you recording fanatics, I tracked and mixed it in my humble Getting Better Recording studio using Sonar, an Audio-Technica 4047 microphone, a Line 6 Variax guitar, a Hofner-copy bass from Rondo Music, a Groove Tubes preamp and a bunch of plug-ins from IK Multimedia, Line 6, Antares, Cakewalk, etc.

In the end, it still sounds like a Chris Ave song, for good or ill. In any event, I hope you enjoy it!

How Windows 7 will affect music production

September 30, 2009

Here’s a good analysis of Windows 7 and its appeal to anyone who uses a PC to do music production. It’s written by Cakewalk’s chief technical officer, Noel Borthwick, who was interviewed on the company’s blog.

See also this related post about how Cakewalk’s newly released Sonar 8.5 will benefit from a 64-bit environment.

Cakewalk’s Sonar 8.5 upgrade releases today

September 15, 2009

Today Cakewalk releases the latest version of its flagship Sonar production suite, Sonar 8.5. It’s an interesting hybrid – more than a maintenance upgrade, but a bit less than a fully new version. Looking over the details at the link above, I believe you’ll be getting a lot for $79.

Cakewalk gearing up to tackle the Mac market?

September 14, 2009


Here’s a seemingly inconsequential announcement from Cakewalk, the music software/hardware company. I’ve already written about the excellent new V-Studio 100 mobile production studio; now comes word that Cakewalk has released Mac drivers for it as well as the company’s new MIDI and audio interfaces.

Why is this worth mentioning?

Well, Cakewalk has been a PC-only company since its inception. Is this move a precursor to Cakewalk jumping into the Mac-compatible software market? If so, that sets up a battle of the titans among Cakewalk’s flagship Sonar, Pro Tools and Logic. As a Cakewalk loyalist, I know who I’m rooting for…..

Cakewalk expands studio hardware line

July 31, 2009

Having just reviewed Cakewalk’s excellent mobile studio, the VS-100, I’m happy to report that the software company is dramatically expanding its line of audio hardware with three new interfaces and a new line of powered studio monitors. Here is the announcement on Cakewalk’s blog.

Having been a loyal customer of the company’s recording software for more than a decade, I can’t wait to see what its collaboration with parent company Roland has yielded in terms of this new hardware. I’m betting they will be value leaders, like their other products.

Constructing a piece of music

February 5, 2009

Where does a song come from?

Paul McCartney has famously said that he woke up one morning with the melody to “Yesterday” almost fully formed, playing in his head. He went to a piano and worked out the chords that surround the melody — but he was convinced it was a song that was already written by somebody else. So he went around asking friends if they’d heard the song before.  (After realizing it was original, McCartney had no words; in fact, the song lived for a while with the lyrics: “Scrambled eggs, oooh baby how I love your legs…”)

Most of the rest of us aren’t quite so fortunate – or, to be sure, so supremely talented as Sir Paul. We have to work at making music.

I thought it would be fun to document the creation of a piece of music, to describe where it came from and how it was built. Before we begin, though, let me be clear: I ain’t no McCartney, and my very best song is infinitely more pedestrian and less creative than the absolute worst thing that man has ever written.

Got that? Good. Now let’s begin.

I set out to compose a piece of music (sans lyrics) to accompany a stunningly beautiful photo slideshow by my friend and colleague Tim Barker. Tim is a reporter and blogger for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He’s also a very talented photographer – in fact, he took the photos for my website. Given what little he had to work with in terms of subject, they are pretty amazing.

So here are his photos. As you can see if you clicked the link, they are from some of his travels. In this case, Tim wanted to create the actual slideshow; he wanted the music first, so he could marry the images and the sound together himself.

As I looked at his photos, I was immediately struck by the presence of moving water in many of the frames. The rhythm of murmuring water was what I was hearing. So I sat down and composed what I hoped would be a somewhat hypnotic riff representing the rhythm in my head  (NOTE: Hover over the sample with your cursor, and a new window should appear. Just click on the arrow in the new window to listen):


As you can hear, it’s a very simple pattern – arpeggiations of a D-minor chord played with the right hand, with descending and then ascending bass notes played with the left hand. I played it on my midi keyboard; the sounds are from a software synthesizer called Rapture, by Cakewalk.

While to me, that sound does suggest flowing water, I decided to add something more literal. I used a Roland soft-synth to reproduce a straightforward water sound, which I intended to use at the beginning and ending of the piece:


Note: If this were a straight journalism project, I don’t think I would use this emulation. It violates one of my guidelines for use of audio in journalism projects in that it could make viewers think it was the actual sound of the water pictured in some of the photos. If this were a journalism project, I would go record the actual sound of the water.

Although I had decided that the main riff would be the song’s backbone, I also knew that I needed some variety – some more sounds. The first thing I did is to find a good, dark strings patch:


I decided that the piece would start with the sound of water, then move to the strings and then the main riff.

My thoughts then turned to percussion. Because I wanted the song to build, I decided to initially use a thin, artificial -sounding percussion pattern which would then give way to fuller, more realistic samples of a full drum kit. To make the transition less jarring, I faded out the first, artificial percussion track just as I was introducing the “real-sounding” drums. And finally, I used equalization on the “real” drums to cut the extreme highs and extreme lows – to make them sound a little closer to the obviously fake drums. Here’s how that transition sounded:


And at the song’s dramatic high point, I wanted to add some rock guitar. I set out to play something a bit dirty and sloppy, to counter all the precision of the  other tracks. In fact I might have been too sloppy — I rush some of the notes, which I could go back and fix but haven’t.  I used my Line 6 Variax guitar set to emulate a Les Paul Special, with P-90 pickups, through my Line 6 Toneport interface into a Line 6 software model of a Marshall amp. I added a good bit of delay to the recording afterward:


Finally, after the crescendo of the guitar solo, I wanted everything to drop down quite dramatically, to almost nothing. How to make that transition? I decided to get a sample of a drum “crash” and reverse it, creating the sound of a fast buildup and a sudden silence:


Ok, you’ve heard the major parts of the piece – and if you’ve read this far, you’re probably more than ready to hear the final composition, which I built with Cakewalk’s Sonar Producer Edition multitrack software:


So if you’ve actually made it this far, what do you think? How would you have done it differently?