PETELIN.RUКниги → Cakewalk SONAR: Plug-Ins & PC Music Recording, Arrangement, and Mixing

Petelin, Roman, and Yury Petelin.

Cakewalk SONAR: Plug-Ins & PC Music Recording, Arrangement, and Mixing

Wayne: A-LIST, 2002.- 696 p.
ISBN 1931769176

Click here to buy at

We dedicate this book to our beloved little Annechka -
our daughter and granddaughter


Cakewalk Sonar 2 XL is among the ranks of the most powerful, modern, and constantly developing musical editors. Sonar can be considered a direct descendent of Cakewalk Pro Audio 9. All the good things found in that program have been passed on to Sonar, and moreover, new, effective means of creating music and processing sound have been added to Sonar.

The following can be considered the main capabilities of Sonar:

  • Recording and editing MIDI compositions
  • The availability of MIDI effects (including completely new ones)
  • Recording, editing, and playing back sound digitized with a sampling rate of up to 96 kHz and a resolution of up to 24 bits
  • Working with DX plug-ins (real-time audio effects)
  • The ability to automate any playback, processing, or synthesis parameter
  • The availability of connected virtual synthesizers (DX instruments)
  • Exporting and importing digital sound in various formats
  • Support of SoundFont sound banks
  • Playback of digital video
  • The availability of the built-in CAL programming language
  • Visualization of the structure of a song using clips
  • Representing music in the form of notes, piano keyprints, and event lists; editing of MIDI system events and song lyrics
  • Graphic control over sound synthesis parameters
  • Mixing signals and controlling studio equipment
  • Support of all existing MIDI equipment
  • A practically unlimited number of undo levels when editing
  • Convenient means of working with sampler loops and grooves
  • Reliability
  • A convenient interface

Many of these properties were present in the last version as well - Cakewalk Pro Audio. With every new version, the capabilities of Cakewalk musical editors widen and their shortcomings diminish. So what fundamentally new things have appeared in Sonar?

Not only has the design of the Track window been drastically changed, but its abilities have too. Now, without leaving the window, you can control the majority of operations with MIDI data and digitization of sound. Editing audio clips has moved from the Audio window to the Track window. You can control most of the parameters of both MIDI and audio tracks in the track window using automation. Automation is simply a variant of non-destructive editing, during which the MIDI and audio data are't changed, but the parameters of the virtual devices used for its playback are modified using interactive graphs.

Taking into consideration the fact that each track has a signal level meter and convenient and easy-to-understand regulators of the panorama and signal level, you can now mix a composition in the Track window, without having to use a virtual mixer (the Panel and Console windows).

There have also appeared principally new types of tracks, intended for controlling buses that group audio tracks to process them with virtual effects and mix them.

MIDI tracks, along with their traditional functions, can now be used to control DX instruments (virtual synthesizers). Clips (blocks of MIDI and audio tracks displayed as colored rectangles placed along the tracks) have taken on some new properties, and the methods of editing them have become more varied and flexible.

The program has a new window - Loop Construction - which allows you to execute all the necessary procedures when preparing the loops and grooves held in such high regard by many computer musicians.

Along with the files of the previous formats - files with extensions such as MID, RMI, BUN, and WRK - Sonar also supports files of new formats (CWB and CWP), which allow you to save additional information about the project. (A project is a set of data saved in Sonar files. The term, it seems, is the same as the term song.)

Fans of virtual synthesizers no longer have to search for them somewhere on the side. DX instruments that can be connected to the program using DirectX now come with Sonar. Controlling them, just as with real synthesizers and samplers, can be done with the traditional MIDI commands, or by using automation data recorded to the MIDI track in the form of envelopes (interactive graphs used to change a parameter over time). At the time this book was written, the following DX instruments were available to users of Sonar XL:

  • Alien Connections ReValver SE - a processor of guitar effects, controlled by the MIDI protocol
  • Audio Simulation DreamStation DXi - a pseudo-analog synthesizer
  • LiveUpdate LiveSynth Pro SE - a sampler that works with SoundFont 2.0 banks
  • Edirol Virtual Sound Canvas DXi (VSC DXi) - a virtual GM2/GS synthesizer
  • FXpansion Audio DR-008 DXi2 - an advanced rhythm production workstation
  • Cyclone DXi - a groove sampler

Several audio effects are included with Sonar that earlier came with the Cakewalk FX package.

There are also a few principally new audio effects (FxChorus, FxDelay, FxEq, FxFlange, FxReverb), which differ from their ancestors not only in the design of their windows, but also in their wider capabilities, their ability to be controlled using automation, and the presence of a large number of interesting presets.

The Sonar 2 XL delivery set includes two audio effects from Sonic Timeworks - Compressor X and Equalizer.

Among the MIDI effects that are integrated into Sonar, you'll find programs developed by MusicLab, Inc. Among them are:

  • Rhythm'n'Chords 2 Lite - a plug-in that models the playing of a real guitar in detail, and allows you easily and quickly to create realistic-sounding guitar parts
  • Looper - a plug-in that is an instrument for creating guitar tracks based on rhythmic patterns (templates), and that allows you to edit them and search for them in the extensive warehouse for guitar accompaniment styles
  • Fixed Length - a plug-in that allows you to change the length of the MIDI notes recorded on a track
  • VeloMaster Lite - a multi-purpose virtual processor for the dynamic processing of the Velocity parameter of MIDI events (the volume of MIDI notes)
  • SlicyDrummer Lite - a generator of loops for percussion instruments

All of the new features and advantages of Sonar would be almost impossible to list! The most important thing, however, is that the program is convenient to work with, functions reliably, and gives the user all the means necessary for effectively working with MIDI and audio compositions.

Let's now take a look at the structure of the book. This book consists of 17 chapters, an introduction, and an index.

In Chapter 1, we examine an extremely important issue - preparing Sonar for work. The reliability of Sonar's work and the quality of the results you get depend on how competently you execute all these preparatory operations.

In this chapter, we describe the options contained in those dialog boxes that you will have to use when preparing Sonar for work. We look at such issues as:

  • Setting up the digital sound channel
  • Choosing and setting up the MIDI devices you are planning on using, and loading and editing instruments
  • Setting up the global options and the project options
  • Choosing the color of the interface elements
  • Loading SoundFont banks
  • Assigning hotkeys
  • Configuring initialization files

We recommend that, as you become acquainted with various new methods of work with compositions, you periodically turn back to the first chapter. This will allow you to more deeply understand the purposes of the operations for preparing the program for work and their connection with the end result.

We decided to add Chapter 2 to the book as a response to numerous requests from beginning computer musicians. The essence of these requests were for us to give in our books, alongside the detailed description of all of the capabilities of the program and how to create musical "loop-de-loops", some concrete methods for executing elementary and essential operations. It's no coincidence, then, that the second chapter is called "Getting Started". In it, we discuss first of all the forms of music representation that are implemented in Sonar, with special attention given to the notator, keyprints, event lists, tracks, and clips.

In this chapter, you can find recommendations on connecting a MIDI keyboard and microphone to the sound card, as well as, without going into too much detail, learn how to perform such operations as:

  • Loading project files
  • Saving project files
  • Playing back MIDI files
  • Recording MIDI compositions
  • Recording audio tracks

In Chapter 3, we will examine the structure of the main window of the program and the purpose of its toolbars. You can set up the graphic interface of the program at your own discretion: put the necessary toolbars anywhere in the main window that is convenient for you, and the ones you don't need (at the moment) can be removed. You can have open a maximum of 15 toolbars. With the help of the tools on these bars, you can execute these most essential operations without using commands from the menus:

  • Load, save, and print files
  • Execute the standard operations for editing material (copying, cutting, pasting)
  • Choose the synchronization, recording, and automation modes
  • Control the recording, playback and looping of songs
  • Move around the song
  • Edit the tempo and markers
  • Control the metronome

The chapter goes into depth concerning the options of the dialog boxes that can be called using buttons of the toolbars.

In Chapter 4, we explain working in the Track window. In Sonar, the Track window has become one of the most important windows. In it are now concentrated not only means for choosing various track attributes (such as instrument banks, MIDI instruments, input/output ports, etc.), but also graphic means for mixing and automation, as well as elements intended for connecting MIDI and audio effects.

In the Track window, you have to constantly change the track attributes and perform operations with clips (song fragments): move them, copy them, combine them, split them into new clips, and process individual clips with various effects.

We describe the commands of the pop-up menus of the track sections and clips, as well as ways of working with the windows that open using these commands.

Chapter 5 is dedicated to working in the Event List window, in which the musical composition is presented in the form of a list of events. Sonar allows you to work with not only MIDI events, but with notation events and other special events. This turns the Event List window into a powerful tool for organizing interaction among the MIDI system, the digital sound and digital video channels, and any other kind of multimedia equipment.

We will look at all the types of events that Sonar supports and their relationship with standard MIDI events. We also show you how to edit the event list.

We describe the process of controlling synthesis parameters using non-registered parameters (NRPN) in detail and using particular examples. We also discuss the features of using NPRN type events to control parameters of synthesizers that support the XG and GS specifications.

In Chapter 6, we describe working in the Piano Roll window. In this window, music is clearly represented in the form of keyprints. It is the Piano Roll window that allows talented people who do not know traditional notation to record and edit musical compositions. We give a description of the tools of the window and examine ways of working with them. The features of the multitrack mode of working in the Piano Roll window are also illustrated. We also describe the capabilities you have when editing percussion instrument parts using the tools found in the Drum Map section.

In Chapter 7, we take an in-depth look at the commands of the main menu and the windows they open. The main menu contains 12 menus. In each of them, one functionally uniform group of commands and submenus is concentrated:

  • Work with files
  • Editing
  • Processing data on tracks with built-in functions and effects
  • Controlling the display
  • Inserting changes
  • Controlling playback and recording
  • Moving around the song
  • Editing track parameters
  • Using complex instruments
  • Set up options
  • Controlling windows
  • Help

Many of the commands of the main menu are duplicated on the toolbars of the main window and are looked at in Chapter 3. However, a number of important operations can only be executed using commands from the main menu.

In Chapter 8, we examine working in the Staff notator window and the Lyrics window. We describe methods of editing and printing the notes of a composition and the lyrics of a song. The notator of the program is used for creating traditional musical notation and two-way transcription: notes - MIDI events and MIDI events - notes. However, the resolution of the notator is not as good as the resolution of the MIDI sequencer (which is characteristic for notators of any MIDI editor).

We also cover working with the virtual fingerboard. The method of creating chord tabulatures for any instrument with a fingerboard is explained.

In Chapter 9, we describe the options of the StudioWare (Panel) window. This window performs a number of functions. First, the standard control panel for the parameters of sound written to both MIDI and audio tracks are loaded into it. You can control the volume, the panning, the reverberation and chorus levels (for MIDI tracks); mute the tracks, and remember individual states of the controls or any changes made to their states while editing the song. Second, the panels for controlling specific MIDI devices that come with Sonar are also loaded into this window. Third, in the StudioWare (Panel) window, you can develop a panel with any configuration, for controlling any device and any parameters of these devices.

In this chapter, we look at the purpose of the window's tools and ways of developing custom control panels.

Chapter 10 is dedicated to MIDI effects. Sonar contains the following built-in MIDI effects:

  • Arpeggiator - forms sequences of short notes based on drawn-out notes or chords (the MIDI arpeggiator)
  • Chord Analyzer - analyzes and recognizes chords
  • Echo Delay - repeats notes; the imitation of an echo
  • Midi Event Filter - multi-criteria filtration of MIDI events
  • Quantize - quantizes
  • Session Drummer - forms percussion parts
  • Transpose - transposes notes and changes the tonality and scale
  • Velocity - selective correction of the volume level at which the notes sound

Effects can be used in real time. In the chapter, we go into the details of the dialog boxes used for editing the parameters of each of the effects and give examples of using them.

What's more, we give specific examples of the order of forming percussion instrument parts using the Session Drummer MIDI effect.

Chapter 11 is dedicated to using some very interesting and relatively complicated MIDI plug-ins from MusicLab, Inc. that come with Sonar. Most of the chapter is taken up by the description of the foundations upon which the Rhythm'n'Chords 2 Pro MIDI plug-in is built and used, which allows even those who can't play a guitar to create realistic-sounding guitar accompaniment parts. The basis of the program is the separate representation of the composition as a sequence of chords and rhythms. The chords are chosen from an extensive library with the help of the menu system (whose ease of forming chord conversions greatly impresses), and the rhythmic templates are chosen from a pattern storage area. Almost all variations of sound extraction (strokes) that could possibly exist in the arsenal of a professional guitar accompanist are modeled in the program. A slew of additional regulations that take into account the specific features of changing the speed and force of playing various strings allow you to make the sound of the MIDI guitar very much like the sound of the actual instrument. Using this plug-in connected to a Sonar track, you can play a guitar accompaniment part in real time on the MIDI keyboard - your left hand choosing the chords and your right hand the type of stroke.

You can use Looper together with Rhythm'n'Chords. Looper is yet another plug-in from MusicLab, Inc., which makes creating rhythm tracks from individual patterns much easier.

Although Sonar comes with a simplified version of the plug-in, called Rhythm'n'Chords 2 Lite, in this chapter we don't cover it, but rather the full version - Rhythm'n'Chords 2.04 Pro. The differences between the two are explained when necessary.

Besides the mentioned plug-ins, Sonar has three MIDI effects from MusicLab, Inc. as well, which are also described in the chapter:

  • Fixed Length - a plug-in that allows you to convert the length of MIDI notes recorded on tracks.
  • VeloMaster Lite - an effect that implements operations relative to the volume of the MIDI notes that are analogous to those that are usually performed by the audio signal dynamic processing device. Among these operations are: compression, expansion, and, in general, any kind of conversion of the dynamic range of the sound signal formed by the MIDI synthesizer that you want to perform. Actually, the only thing that is converted is the Velocity parameter, which characterizes the volume of MIDI notes in MIDI events.
  • SlicyDrummer Lite - a generator of percussion instrument loops.

In Chapter 12, we describe how to work in the Loop Construction and Loop Explorer windows. Using the tools of these windows, you can create and edit loops and groups, and find, load, and save the files in which they are stored.

By a loop, we mean an audio clip that is intended for use in a cyclic mode, and that contains a fragment of a percussion part. A groove is different from a loop in that it contains a fragment of a part played by a melodic instrument(s).

When working with loops, the main problem is that they most often are not recorded in the tempo necessary for your composition. As for grooves, added to this problem is the necessity of converting the tonality of their sound (as a rule, sounds in groove libraries found on disks correspond to one or two basic types of notes or chords created for these notes). The rest of the notes and chords you have to obtain by tonally converting the sample.

In the Loop Construction window there are convenient means for converting the tempo of loops and the tempo and tone of grooves. We discuss these means in detail in the chapter.

In Chapter 13, we analyze all 25 audio effects that come with Sonar. For the first time, we look at the newest audio effects that support being controlled by automation: FxChorus, FxDelay, FxEq, FxFlange, FxReverb, and two audio effects from Sonic Timeworks - Compressor X and Equalizer, which are included with Sonar 2 XL.

We also give recommendations for using mono and stereo effects in real-time and data recalculation modes.

Chapter 14 is dedicated to a very impressive new feature of Sonar - DX instruments (built-in virtual synthesizers). Along with the Sonar XL delivery come six DX instruments:

  • Alien Connections ReValver SE - a processor of guitar effects controlled by the MIDI protocol
  • Audio Simulation DreamStation Dxi - a pseudo-analog synthesizer
  • LiveUpdate LiveSynth Pro SE - a sampler that works with SoundFont 2.0 banks
  • Edirol Virtual Sound Canvas DXi (VSC DXi) - a virtual GM2/GS synthesizer
  • FXpansion Audio DR-008 DXi2 - an advanced rhythm production workstation
  • Cyclone DXi - a groove sampler

The purposes of the interface elements of the DX instrument window are analyzed, and the specific features of their use together with Sonar are described.

Chapter 15 looks at the Console window. The window executes the functions of a programmatic analog of an intellectual mixer. It contains the number of main buses (master modules) and Aux buses assigned by the user, and a practically unlimited number of mixing channels. This window turns the program into a virtual audio recording studio, and is a convenient means for changing MIDI instruments and connecting real-time MIDI and audio effects.

In the chapter, we look at the tools of the window, and how to use it while processing real-time effects and mixing.

In Chapter 16, we describe the window used for editing Sysx system event banks. Using the "deeper" resources of the sound card's synthesizer is only possible through system events. This window allows you to load, edit, send, and receive system events. Also described are the purposes of the window's tools and the structure of the system events.

The content of system events is determined by the developers of the sound card or synthesizer.

Here we also look at the peculiarities of using Sysx for controlling effect processors of synthesizers that support the XG specification.

In Chapter 17, we look at the Cakewalk Application Language (CAL) that is built into Sonar. Programs written in CAL expand the capabilities of Sonar that come with the standard delivery. We examine the structure of the language and examples of programs. We also go into how the CAL programs that come with Sonar should be used. With their help, you can:

  • Form several types of chords (triads, seventh chords) based on selected notes
  • Introduce a random component into temporary MIDI note parameters
  • Distribute MIDI events associated with one track onto separate ones
  • Move various MIDI notes (percussion instruments) to separate tracks
  • "Thin out" events created by controls of constantly active controllers (or those addressed to such controllers), thus avoiding an overload of the MIDI interface

We will also look at some examples that better explain the purpose and application of CAL programs.

We wish you success in mastering the extraordinarily rich capabilities of the Sonar program. You can get in touch with us by e-mail at




1.1. Selecting and Setting up MIDI Devices
1.2. The Audio Option Window - Setting Up Digital Audio I/O Channels
1.3. Setting the Project Options
1.4. The Global Options Window - Setting Up the Global Options
1.5. Selecting Colors for the Interface Elements
1.6. SoundFonts - Loading SoundFont Banks
1.7. Key Bindings - Assigning Hotkeys
1.8. Initialization File - Configuring the Initialization File
1.9. Time Ruler Format - Selecting a Time Display Format
1.10. Drum Map Manager - Editing the Drum Map
1.11. Working with Control Surfaces


2.1. Forms for Representing Musical Information in SONAR
2.2. Loading a Project File
2.3. Saving a Project File
2.4. Playing a Song
2.5. Connecting the MIDI Keyboard
2.6. Recording a MIDI Track
2.7. Connecting the Microphone
2.8. Recording the Sound from a Microphone


3.1. Standard - Working with Files and Editing
3.2. Transport and Transport (Large) - Recording/Playback Control
3.3. Position - Moving Along a Song
3.4. Select - Selecting Song Fragments
3.5. Loop - Loop Control
3.6. Record - Selecting a Recording Mode
3.7. Tempo - Changing the Tempo
3.8. Markers - Editing Markers
3.9. Sync - Selecting a Synchronizing Signal Source
3.10. Metronome - Controlling the Metronome
3.11. Views - Accessing the Major Windows
3.12. Playback State - Changing Track States
3.13. Automation - Automation Control
3.14. Control Surfaces - Selecting a System of Exchanging Data with External Devices
3.15. The Status Bar


4.1. Elements of the Track Window
4.2. The Track Section
4.3. The Clip Section
4.4. The Bus Attribute Section
4.5. Signal Level Meters
4.6. Automation
4.7. Grouping and Remote Control of the Track and Bus Parameters
4.8. Some Operations with Tracks and Buses
4.9. Effectively Using the Keyboard


5.1. Structure of the Event List Window
5.2. MIDI Events
5.3. Special Events
5.4. Notation Events
5.5. Editing Events
5.6. Printing the Event List


6.1. Tools
6.2. Key Imprints Section
6.3. MIDI Event Parameter Graphic Editing Section
6.4. The MultiTrack Mode of the Piano Roll Window
6.5. Working with Rhythmic Patterns
6.6. Working with the Drum Map


7.1. The File Menu
7.2. The Edit Menu
7.3. The Process Menu
7.4. The View Menu
7.5. The Insert Menu
7.6. The Transport Menu
7.7. The Go Menu
7.8. The Track Menu
7.9. The Tools Menu. Adding New Commands
7.10. The Options Menu
7.11. The Window Menu
7.12. The Help Menu


8.1. Staff Window Tools
8.2. Printing Notes, Lyrics, and the Event List


9.1. Control Panel of the Virtual Mixer
9.2. Toolbar of the StudioWare Window
9.3. Custom Panel Creation
9.4. Saving the Panel Configuration
9.5. Standard StudioWare Panels


10.1. MIDI Arpeggiator
10.2. Chord Analyzer
10.3. Echo Delay - Repeating Notes Multiple Times
10.4. Midi Event Filter
10.5. Quantize
10.6. Session Drummer - Percussion Part Formation
10.7. Transposition
10.8. Velocity - Volume Level Correction


11.1. The Purpose of Rhythm'n'Chords 2 Pro
11.2. Main Elements of the Rhythm'n'Chords 2 Pro Main Window
11.3. The Plug-In Main Menu
11.4. Chord Sequence Recording
11.5. How to Create a Rhythmic Pattern
11.6. Sound Tuning
11.7. Converting a Part into a MIDI Track
11.8. Details of Chord Sequence Creation
11.9. Creating a Rhythmic Pattern
11.10. Sound Control
11.11. Playing Manually through a Plug-In
11.12. Using a Plug-In with the Sequencer in Play Mode
11.13. Using Rhythmic Patterns to Create Guitar Parts
11.14. Working with the Rhythm Library Tab and the Rhythm Track
11.15. Working with Looper
11.16. The MusicLab Fixed Length Plug-In
11.17. The MusicLab VeloMaster Plug-In
11.18. The MusicLab SlicyDrummer Plug-In



13.1. The Audio Submenu Commands
13.2. The Audio Effects Submenu - DX Plug-Ins


14.1. Alien Connections ReValver SE - a MIDI Controlled Processor for Guitar Effects
14.2. Audio Simulation DreamStation DXi - a Pseudo-Analog Synthesizer
14.3. LiveUpdate LiveSynth Pro SE - a Sampler Working with SoundFont 2.0 Banks
14.4. Edirol Virtual Sound Canvas DXi (VSC DXi) - the GM2/GS Virtual Synthesizer
14.5. An Introduction to the FXpansion Audio DR-008 DXi2 - an Advanced Rhythm Production Workstation
14.5. The Cyclone DXi - a Groove Sampler


15.1. The MIDI Track Module
15.2. The Audio Track Module
15.3. The Aux Bus Module
15.4. The Main Bus Module
15.5. Working in the Console Window


16.1. System Message Structure
16.2. Editing System Messages
16.3. Some Guidelines for Using Sysx
16.4. Using Sysx for Working with the Effect Processor of Synthesizers Supporting the XG standard
16.5. The Cakewalk Generic Surface Plug-In


17.1. CAL's Functions
17.2. Sample CAL Programs Delivered with SONAR
17.3. Integrating CAL and StudioWare
17.4. If You Want to Develop a Plug-In