TrossProx wrote:If I have to just power through and figure it all out through trial and error, I guess that's how it will be, but I'm also wondering if there are legit tutorials (free or pay, preferably free) for other DAWs that just make more sense? I know there must be other noobs out there somewhere.
They're pretty much all complex beasts, the good ones - because they allow you to do commercial level-production. I remember well the first time I installed one!
A song is made by one or more tracks containing audio. This audio comes either from recording sources (using microphones), or by synthesizing it by some other way. The most basic recording is made by one single track: you record something, you play it, that's it.
Most songs tough are made by many tracks, which then need to mixed together to create the overall song. They are mixed together by sending their content to a common "master" or "main" bus (a track where you send content from other tracks instead than a played source is usually called "bus", but they're otherwise very similar), deciding the volume level you want to send it by means of a fader (a slider). Balancing the various track so that the overall sound good is called "mixing".
Each track has therefore an input (to receive audio from say a microphone, or MIDI from a
midi device, either external or running on the same computer) and an output (which by default is the master bus). The input is in use only when you "record" - while if you just "play", any existing content of the track is sent to the output. The output of the master bus is usually sent to your physical audio hardware - your interface and your speakers.
Once you have recorded some content in a track, it appears as a "clip" (you see it as a graphical waveform inside the track). When the project is played, all tracks play together in sync and you normally have a cursor (a long vertical line) which shows you where you are.
Normally tracks are organized in "projects" or "sessions", where all the tracks you have recorded for a song are listed, you can access the faders for each (and therefore "mix" the song) and otherwise work on the song as a cohesive unit. Once you have your recordings and your balance, you export the song so that it can be played by any music player (say mp3, WAV format or whatever) or printed to a CD or even vinyl.
Any DAW allows you in some way to:
- create a new project/open an existing/save it
- create a new track in a new project (and obviously delete one)
- enable recording for one or more track (by default, the DAW just plays back) or mute it
- edit and manipulate clips in tracks (by splitting, cutting, moving them around, merging, stretching etc)
- use the physical inputs you have in your system to record something (e.g. if you have a 2 channels interface which allows you to record two microphones at once, the DAW will allow you the select, in every track, which of the two you want to use).
- play back what you have recorded
- balance the contents of tracks to send them to a main bus
- add effects to each track (either regular or bus) to manipulate the sound: equalization, compression, and dozens of other possible way to process the originally recorded sound.
- export the result in a file (which is then what you play with any music player)
To make an example: to record a guitar, you need to set up a microphone, connecting it in hardware to a physical channel in your interface via a cable , which in turn is connected to the computer. Then you open the DAW, create a project, create a track, select the input corresponding to the hardware interface channel and enable recording on the track. You push the big "Record" button on the control panel at the top - and start playing.
For synthesized content, the mechanism is identical: if your synthesizer is an external device (say a keyboard), you connect it to your interface and proceed as above (the DAW doesn't care where the signal comes from). If you want to use a software synth, which is already running in the computer and usually outputs midi, you need to create a different type of track (in other DAWs, there's no such distinction but Sonar uses two type of tracks, Audio and MIDI, to differentiate the content), and select the "output" of the synth (which is a virtual output, typically a MIDI channel) as track input. Then you proceed as above, push record and play. Only caveat is that while you're doing this, the computer is both
recording and running the synth so in general need to be more powerful than if you only record external sources.
So in conclusion, when you open up the DAW, you normally create a project (either totally empty or via a pre-made "template"), set up your physical connections, set up the tracks so have their inputs from the correct channel and then record. Once done with the recording, you edit, mix. Once satisfied with your mix, you export the result.
Each DAW allows you to do something like that in some way.
For Sonar, is "new Project" (select an empty one for starters), then right click and "new audio track" which creates a track and shows you the vertical "channel" on the left (with a fader plus many knobs etc). The input/output selected for track ar at the bottom of the "channel". The rest of the element in the channel allow you to use the pre-defined effects that Sonar provides on every channel, to add other effects, to send the track content to one or more other buses besides the "output" one, to alter the gain of the overall content.
What this doesn't tell you is about the hardware/physical connection but there's plenty material for that I'd think.