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Sonar: Back To The Features

Cakewalk Sonar Tips & Techniques
Published March 2018
By Craig Anderton

Among other uses, the Fade Selected Clips options makes it easy to remove clicks from collections of WAV files before they’re turned into Groove Clips.Among other uses, the Fade Selected Clips options makes it easy to remove clicks from collections of WAV files before they’re turned into Groove Clips.

We show you some of Sonar’s lesser-known functionality.

Usually this column covers a specific topic in depth, but this time around, I’d like to focus on some useful Sonar features that are fairly easy to overlook — starting with the DSP menu.

Maybe it’s the negative connotations with the word “destructive”, but using DSP instead of real-time processing has some unique advantages. Although the DSP functions have been neglected over the years, and it looks like fixes will not be forthcoming, we’ll figure out some workarounds.

For example, suppose you create a Groove Clip only to find out there’s a click at the beginning because the loop doesn’t start with zero amplitude — you grab the clip handle and add a fade-in. However, you then need to render the clip to make the fade-in permanent, which converts the Groove Clip back to a standard WAV file — and nukes your carefully placed transient markers.

Fortunately, DSP functions preserve transient marker placement in Groove Clips. Click-drag over the Groove Clip region where you want the fade-in (it takes only a few milliseconds to eliminate a click), then choose Process / Apply Effect / Fade / Envelope. Choose Exponential Fadein, then click on OK. Note that the actual range faded in may differ somewhat from the range you specified — this is one of life’s little mysteries, but it will be close enough to eliminate the click. If not, undo and try again by defining a somewhat longer region.

However, you can’t do fade-outs; regardless of the clip range you specify, DSP fades affect only the clip’s beginning. Fortunately, there’s a workaround:

1. Select the clip and choose Process / Apply Effect / Reverse.

2. Now the clip’s end is the clip’s beginning. Apply a fade-in as described previously.

3. Again, choose Process / Apply Effect / Reverse, and the fade-in you just applied will become a fade-out at the end of the clip.

Note that you can also apply the DSP Normalize and Gain processes to loops without disturbing the transient marker placement. Gain is particularly useful when the left and right channels are unbalanced, and you need to raise the level of one of them.

And Speaking of Loop Clicks...

Although the above technique works just fine, it’s better to make sure the clips you want to loop begin and end on zero crossings before you try to loop them. There are two easy ways to do this that are especially useful when you have a collection of clips for a future loop library where you want to add fade-ins and fade-outs.

One option is to select all the clips, then grab the fade handles and move them (I prefer the slow fade-in curve for the start, and the fast fade-out curve for the end). When you fade one clip, you fade them all.

However, you generally want very short fades so that there’s no audible gap when the clip loops around to the beginning, which means zooming way in and being careful to set the minimum necessary fade amount. A better, and much more predictable, option is to select all the clips, then choose Clips / Fade Clips. You can adjust the fade-in and fade-out times simultaneously for all the selected clips. If curves already exist, tick Alter Existing Times and Alter Existing Curves as this function can modify them; you don’t need to tick them if fade curves don’t already exist, but there’s no harm in ticking them so you might as well.

The Navigator Meets Super Zoom

Change track height continuously for all tracks simultaneously by clicking and dragging on the Navigator’s lower middle node.Change track height continuously for all tracks simultaneously by clicking and dragging on the Navigator’s lower middle node.I’m not sure people take full advantage of the Navigator, because I keep seeing forum comments saying, “I wish Sonar could change all track heights simultaneously and continuously by however much I want, like you can with Studio One.” Well you can with the Navigator, which works much better than the frustrating spinner vertical zoom in the Track View’s lower right.

Hover your cursor on the Navigator frame’s lower-middle node until the cursor turns into an up/down double arrow, and then click-drag down to reduce track height, or click-drag up to increase track height. There are also multiple options available in the Navigation Pane’s right-click Context menu, and of course, there’s the original reason for the Navigator — to see an overview of a project, and zero in on the part that interests you.

Customise Your Track Views

The Display options under the track view’s View menu offer multiple ways to reduce clutter and change the way tracks are displayed. Here are some reasons why I find the Display options so useful:

  • Display Ghosted Data toggles clip and track automation data that normally displays within a track, and is superimposed on top of the waveform. If you have a lot of automation going on, not displaying ghosted data makes it easier to see what is happening with the waveform itself.
  • Display Clip Contents does the reverse — it removes the waveform, but leaves the automation data. This makes it easy to see at a glance how ‘busy’ a track is with automation.
  • Display Maximum Waveform Height removes the strip along the top of a clip which you normally click on and drag to move the waveform. However, even though it’s not showing, you actually have more real estate for moving the clip — you can click and drag anywhere in the top half of the clip to move it, and anywhere in the bottom half to click and drag to make a selection. Since discovering this, I leave this option enabled; the only downside is it can make it more difficult to read the track name, depending on the waveform height and colour.
  • Display Clip Names does what you’d expect. A lot of the time you don’t really need to see the names, because the track in which they reside is more important anyway. Not showing clip names removes yet one more possible source of clutter.
  • Display Track Separators shows the thin horizontal line that separates the tracks. I have no idea why anyone wouldn’t want to display track separators — but if that’s your thing, go for it.
  • Show Audio Scale toggles the presence of the audio scale at the extreme left of each track. Hiding it gives you a little more horizontal real estate.
  • Display Vertical Grid Lines gives you a choice of no grid lines, grid lines in front of clips, or grid lines in the back of clips. I can’t see any use for the None option, but grid lines in front of clips is fantastic when you’re trying to see which notes are close to the grid and which aren’t. It’s a quick way to see which tracks require evaluating to see if timing issues are a problem.

The view on the left has all the display options enabled except Maximum Waveform Height. The view on the right hides track names, ghosted data, puts the audio scale on the left, and shows the maximum waveform height.The view on the left has all the display options enabled except Maximum Waveform Height. The view on the right hides track names, ghosted data, puts the audio scale on the left, and shows the maximum waveform height.

Convert Two Mono Tracks To One Stereo Track

Often with overhead and room mics, the left and right mics end up going to individual mono tracks, when having them form a single stereo track would make them much easier to work with. Although there’s no ‘one-click’ solution, it’s easy to transform them into a single stereo track:

1. Ctrl-Click to select both tracks, and then choose Clips / Convert to Stereo.

2. Unfold the left track’s Take Lanes. Click the + to add another Take Lane.

3. Drag the clip(s) from the right track into the new Take Lane. You can now delete the right track.

4. Hold Ctrl and change one Take Lane’s edit filter to Clip Pan. This will insert a clip pan envelope in both lanes.

5. Pan one Take Lane left, the other right (I use the Move tool).

6. Fold up the Take Lanes.

7. Go to the Console view and make sure the channel interleave is set to stereo.

There are several ways to accomplish the same goal, but this one requires no bouncing, and because the original tracks still exist in the Take Lanes, they remain available at all times if needed.

Live & DirectX

For those of you transitioning to another DAW, you may mourn the loss of the Sonitus FX — but 64-bit hosts that support shell plug-ins (like Waves use) can run them, even if the host theoretically doesn’t support DX/DXi plug-ins. You can also access 64-bit DXi instruments (including Groove Player, Cyclone, SFZ, Z3TA+, PSYN II, and TTS-1), the Cakewalk Creative Suite effects, and so on. And if you have a Sony product like Vegas installed, its DX plug-ins will be available as well.

Go to, download the ZIP file ‘dxshell_v1.0.4b’ and extract the files. Copy the files ‘dxshell.x64.dll’ and ‘dxishell.64x.dll’ to the folder where your host looks for plug-ins, and you’ll see all your 64-bit DX and DXi plug-ins. The only drawback is this doesn’t work for effects that support side-chaining, like the Compressor — but the Surround Compressor works fine.  

Published March 2018