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How To Remote Control Sonar Effects

Sonar Tips & Techniques By Craig Anderton

When the FX button in the Console View's toolbar glows blue, you can see up to four effects parameters associated with the selected effect in the FX slot (see 'Remote Effects Control'). These are easy to control remotely and automate.When the FX button in the Console View's toolbar glows blue, you can see up to four effects parameters associated with the selected effect in the FX slot (see 'Remote Effects Control'). These are easy to control remotely and automate.

We explain how to use the handy Scrub tool, how to customise your track view, and detail the procedure for setting up remote control of Sonar effects parameters.

I always enjoy getting email from SOS readers, because you give me ideas for subjects to write about. For example, a reader mentioned that he had switched to Sonar from another sequencer, and that the only feature he really missed was the ability to click on a MIDI note and hear it. That's when I realized that we've never paid proper attention to the Scrub tool.

Click on the Scrub icon in the Track View (or type 'B'), and as you drag the cursor over audio data you'll hear it. But in the MIDI Piano Roll or Staff View, you can scrub or click at any arbitrary location (including on a note) and you'll hear any MIDI notes that lie within the vertical line where you clicked. For example, if there's a chord, you'll hear the entire chord.

More Track View Customisation

Even though Sonar 3 added a shiny new Console View, I still do most of my work in the Track View. As a result, I'm always seeking ways to make the interface as efficient as possible. One way is to customise it by reordering the various control strips (aka 'Widgets' — volume, pan, trim, channel in/out, and so on) so that the ones you use the most are easily accessible. Ideally, you want the parameters you use the most toward the top, so you can have a relatively short track height (thus letting you view the greatest number of tracks at a time), yet still see the parameters you need.

The secret to re-ordering Widgets lies within the CAKEWALK.INI file, found within the Sonar folder (typically the path is C:\Program Files\Cakewalk\Sonar 3). This file can be edited with a text editor such as Notepad. Add the following anywhere within the file:

[Audio Widgets]

W0=Volume

W1=Pan

W2=Interleave

W3=Trim

W4=FX

W5=Aux

W6=Output

W7=Input

The lower the Widget number, the higher the Widget is in the area below the Track Header bar (for example, W0 is just below the Track Header). The above is the default setting. I prefer the following changes:

W2=Trim

W3=FX

W4=Aux

W5=Output

W6=Input

W7=Interleave

Note that although entries in the CAKEWALK.INI file are not case-sensitive, the syntax (ie. no space before or after the '=' sign) and number of Widgets must be correct for re-ordering to work. Also, each parameter must be on its own line. Don't worry, this isn't like messing around with the registry: if something's wrong, Sonar will simply ignore it and load the defaults.

Widget No.[MIDI Widgets][Buss Widgets]
W0=VolumeInputGain
W1=PanInputPan
W2=TrimVolume
W3=FXPan
W4=ReverbOutput
W5=ChorusAux
W6=ChannelFX
W7=BankInterleave
W8=Patch 
W9=Output 
W10=Input 
W11=Key 
W12=Time 

The table above shows the default settings for the MIDI and Buss Widgets. If you like the defaults, you don't need to enter anything, as Sonar will just load the defaults. But if you want to make changes, enter them into CAKEWALK.INI using the same format as for the Audio Widgets (ie. bracketed heading, followed by each parameter on its own line).

Wipeout!

The Wipe function can save quite a bit of time when you want to dispose of data. It removes all data for a selected track, but unlike the Delete command — which removes a track and everything in it — Wipe removes only the Clip data within the track, leaving all other parameters and inserted effects intact.

Wipe applies to all selected tracks, so you can wipe multiple tracks at once when you go Track / Wipe. Of course, you can accomplish the same thing by drawing a marquee around all the Clips in a track and then hitting Delete, but that usually means you'll need to resize the Track View so that you can see the song's entire duration.

Remote Effects Control

One of the welcome features in Sonar Producer Edition is the ability to choose four parameters from any effect in the effects slot and control them from the Console View. We talked about changing control assignments in the December 2003 Sonar Notes; these four controls normally default to the first four parameters in whatever effect you've selected, but you can change them to any four available effect parameters.

However, we didn't cover remote control, which is becoming increasingly relevant in these days of external hardware control devices such as the M-Audio Oxygen 8 and the various Evolution and Kenton fader boxes. Fortunately, setting up this kind of control is easy.

Remote control has two main uses. One is so that you can vary parameters much more conveniently than with a mouse, when setting up an effect. Once you have the sound exactly as desired, right-click on the parameters you adjusted and select 'Disable Remote Control' so that further control movement doesn't disturb the settings. You can also use remote control for dynamic automation of the effects parameters. This works in the same basic way as automating any other parameter, such as pan or volume: right-click on the parameter and choose 'Arm for Automation', then click on the Transport's Record Automation button.

To set up the controls, make sure that the four parameters are visible. To do this, click on the FX button in the console view's lower left toolbar. When the effects are hidden, the button is grey. Click again, and it glows green; this shows the FX slot, and which effects are inserted. Click again so that it glows blue, and you'll see the four parameters show up under the FX slot.

To control a parameter remotely, right-click on the parameter name and select Remote Control. This brings up the Remote Control menu, where you have multiple options for control devices: notes, controllers, wheel, RPN, SysEx, and so on. We'll assume you want to use a controller, so click on its button.

You can enter a controller number and MIDI channel, but it's easier to just click on 'Learn' (or type Alt-L) while turning the control. As you turn the control, the parameter's virtual slider should move in tandem. Note that you can assign multiple parameters to the same controller — not just in the same effect, but in different effects. So, for example, you could increase the delay feedback in a delay effect while simultaneously changing LFO depth in a phase shifter.

Incidentally, if you're not sure whether an effect has automatable parameters, it's easy to check. Right-click on the effect name in the FX slot, and choose 'Arm Parameter'. A dialogue box will appear showing the parameters that are available for automation (if any). If you've already enabled a parameter for automation, it will have a tick mark next to its name.

Another Track View Tip

Normally, the Track Header bar contains only the track name and other 'fixed' parameters (mute, solo, minimise, and so on). As you narrow the track height, the upper control strips (typically Volume, Pan, etc) slide into the header to conserve space.

In Sonar 3, it's now possible to force the top control strips into the Track Header bar regardless of the track height, as long as there's sufficient room to display them. I set the Track Header width so there's room for the Level and Pan controls, then choose horizontal meters and, finally, reduce the track height so that only the Track Header Bar and meter are visible. This allows me to fit a large number of tracks into the Track View, which is excellent for mixing.

To do this tweak, add the following anywhere under the [Wincake] heading in CAKEWALK.INI:

TVWidgetsStickInHeader=1

To return to normal operation, set the variable to '0'.

Easy Linear Tempo Changes

Sonar's Tempo View provides a detailed way to change tempo, as you can draw in any kind of arbitrary changes and Sonar will follow along. However, when you simply want to speed up or slow down over a certain period of time, there's a much simpler option.

The Series Of Tempos option is the quickest way to produce a linear tempo change over a specific number of measures.The Series Of Tempos option is the quickest way to produce a linear tempo change over a specific number of measures.

Go Insert / Series of Tempos, and you'll see a dialogue box where you can specify a start and end tempo, and the range over which the tempo change between the two occurs. The 'Step' parameter is particularly useful, as it sets the increments by which the tempo changes. 0.10 BPM seems plenty smooth enough, but you can go to an even smaller step size if desired. If you open up the Tempo View, you'll see the results of any tempo changes you created with the Series of Tempos option. You can tweak them further in this view if needed.

Quick Tips

  • If you find it annoying to alternate among the various editing tools via mousing, learn the keyboard equivalents: [S]election, [E]rase, [D]raw, and Scru[B].
  • To change the order of effects in the FX Slot, click on an effect name and drag it into the desired place.
  • You can choose different 'woods' for the virtual guitar neck that appears in the Staff View. Right-click on the neck and select rosewood, ebony, or maple.
  • To copy an effect and its current settings to another track, Ctrl-drag the effect to the track.
Published October 2004