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  • #91
    YES! I apologize for the delay, I've been in Japan and just got home...to broadband and my landline both being down

    I'll be back soon. I wrote up quite a bit about Session Drummer 2 while I was away, that will come next to get back into the groove, and then ACT.

    Again, my apologies.
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    • #92
      Let's wrap up the rack before moving on to Session Drummer 2.

      You can load a synth icon for each element of the rack. I'm not sure how valuable that is, as the synth name shows in the title bar, which you can't hide anyway. It does make for some nice eye candy, but I found the included icons tend to be hard to read. So I made some of my own that involved zooming in further, so that any features are more easily identified, and including part of the name. Click on the attachment to see some of the custom icons; the upper two came with the program, and I did the lower three.

      Like the track icons, these need to be 96 x 96 pixels. Most of the time I ended up with slightly larger icons, and reduced them in Paint Shop Pro.
      N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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      • #93
        We'll close out the rack section with the buttons located toward the right. These pretty much duplicate functions found elsewhere, but of course, the whole point is that they're conveniently folded into the synth rack. Click on the attachment to see the buttons.

        The top four buttons are Mute, Solo, Freeze synth, and Thaw synth. It's worth pointing out that when you freeze a synth, you get to see its audio in the synth audio output track. That can be pretty handy.

        The lower four buttons are Automation Read, Automation Write, Assign Controls, and Show/hide controls. If you've populated your rack with a lot of controls, you'll appreciate the show/hide option.

        Incidentally, one thing I've noticed since the previous post about assigning controls is that with some synths, after assigning controls using the "touchy feely" method, some instruments wouldn't let me add more controls but if I restarted Sonar, I could. In another bizarre situation, calling up Velocity to assign controls brought up Rapture.

        What all this implies to me is that yes, there are still a few rough edges in various aspects of Sonar. Here's to the next update...

        Next: Session Drummer 2.
        N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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        • #94
          How is the Perfect Space Convolution Reverb? How does it compare to the SoundForge Acoustic Mirror?

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          • #95
            Perfect Space was actually included for the first time in Sonar 5.

            I haven't used Acoustic Mirror in years...I'm actually not that huge a fan of convolution reverbs (yet!), I like the "impressionistic" sound of algorithm-based types. Having said that, though, I think the quality of a convolution reverb relates mostly to the impulses you use. Great impulses give you a great reverb IMHO the difference between impulses is much bigger than the difference between reverbs.
            N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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            • #96
              Bump

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              • #97
                I am still interested in hearing about the Session Drummer. How does the functionality compare to something like BFD. Also, how good are the bundled sounds (surely they can't compete with BFD, but I am interested in whether or not they are good enough to be useful)?

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                • #98
                  I like session drummer 2, but it's limited until they bring out the promised expansion packs. (Unless you want to do a lot of the work yourself.)
                  I think it sounds pretty good, especially if you separate the outputs and process individually, but I'd also be interested in hearing comparisons to some of the other products out there like EZdrummer, BFD, Jamstix, etc.

                  Regards,

                  John
                  Send lawyers, guns and money...

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                  • #99
                    Well, another delay...sorry guys, I live in the mountains of New Mexico, and I'm sure you heard about the Big Storm that hit the West. We got snowed last Thursday, and I wasn't able to leave the house until yesterday (Wednesday) when we were finally able to find someone to plow the driveway. To say this has set me back is an understatement! I'll be back soon with more posts.
                    N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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                    • Originally posted by Anderton
                      Well, another delay...sorry guys, I live in the mountains of New Mexico, and I'm sure you heard about the Big Storm that hit the West. We got snowed last Thursday, and I wasn't able to leave the house until yesterday (Wednesday) when we were finally able to find someone to plow the driveway. To say this has set me back is an understatement! I'll be back soon with more posts.


                      No worries, Craig, we have until October or so before SONAR 7 comes out

                      Happy New Year,

                      John
                      Send lawyers, guns and money...

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                      • Session Drummer 2 actually has very little to do with the MIDI FX-based Session Drummer in previous versions of Sonar. The original was basically a way to string together MIDI files into a drum part, whereas Session Drummer 2 (SD2) is a drum machine that can serve as a tone module, respond to “canned” MIDI sequences to lay down a quick backing track, and even allow a small measure of real-time improvisation. Some have compared SD2 to Groove Agent, but SD2 doesn’t have GA’s “intelligent” pattern generation of tracks and fills; it’s up to you to provide the intelligence.

                        SD2 is divided in three parts. Click on the attachment to see the basic layout. The top-most section is where you select SD2 programs, choose MIDI patterns, or populate individual pads with sounds (“instruments”) if you want to create your own kit, or modify an existing one.

                        The middle strip consists of virtual “pads” for the 10 drum sounds, along with the all-important cute little icons for each drum. You can change these icons, by the way, as well as the overall look if you’re feeling adventurous – in fact, you’ll note that I’ve increased the background contrast, color saturation, and hue compared to the stock “look” to make for a “brighter” overall look. Okay, it’s not particularly tasteful, but it does get the point across. We’ll cover how to make these cosmetic changes later on.

                        The lower section is a fairly conventional mixer for the 10 sounds, with mute, solo, volume, pan, width (more on this control later), and tune.

                        Before going any further, though, a few people have remarked in forums that SD2 comes without documentation. That’s actually not true, although like the Pentagon I, SD2’s manual is not part of the online help. There are two ways to call it up:

                        1. Click on the instrument itself (e.g., the logo, the mixer section, or the like) and type F1. Note that this won’t work if you click on the title bar or some part of the window; you have to click on the instrument itself.
                        2. Go C: > Program Files > Cakewalk > VstPlugins > Session Drummer 2 > Documentation > SessionDrummer2.chm, and double-click on it.
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                        • An Instrument is the basic sound you’ll hear when you hit a pad. SD2 includes a bunch of samples – kicks, snares, cymbals, percussion, toms, and hats. But you can also load your own samples in the WAV, AIFF, or Ogg Vorbis formats (mono or stereo, 8-32 bits, any sample rate – SD2 doesn’t care). You can also load multisamples in the .SFZ format (we’ll cover how to make your own multisample files shortly), as well as simply drag samples on to the pads.

                          One thing that’s not obvious about the pads is that in addition to the clicked pad being outlined in orange, the velocity varies depending on where you click on the pad. The lower you click, the lower the velocity.

                          A Kit is a collection of instruments with accompanying mixer settings; S6 comes with four kits using 350MB of samples. A Program, the highest member of the SD2 food chain, is a Kit along with 8 MIDI patterns.
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                          • SD2 comes with several Programs, so let’s check them out. You open up the Program browser by clicking in the Prog field (clicking on the PROG triangle instead brings up program management options; one of them is load, and you can use that instead if you want). You load a kit by double-clicking on it. Click on the attachment to see the browser in action.

                            Once the kit is loaded, you can click on the pads to audition sounds. However, each pad can represent several sounds, of which only one is the “audition sound” (e.g., you hear it when you click on the pad).

                            To audition the MIDI files, first you need to click on a pattern (A-H), then click on the SD2 transport play (arrow) button. The files that come with SD2 tend to be short, so if you want to get your creative juices go, it’s a good idea to click on the loop button (the infinity symbol) so you don’t have to keep re-triggering the patterns.

                            You can also load MIDI files into the pattern buttons using a similar browser concept as loading programs: You just click in the MIDI field (or click on the MIDI triangle and select Load Pattern), then navigate to the desired MIDI pattern. SD2 comes with its own patterns, which you can find at C:Program Files > Cakewalk > VstPlugins> Session Drummer 2 > Contents > Patterns. However, a really great place to find additional patterns is at C: > Program Files > Cakewalk > Sonar 6 > Sample Content > MIDI Groove Clips > Smart Loops, where there are a bunch of files created by Frank Basile. (You can find additional MIDI loops under C: > Program Files > Cakewalk > Sonar 6 > Pattern Brush Patterns, but these don’t seem to be designed with SD2 in mind. You can drag them into a MIDI track to trigger the drums, although you may need to reassign notes to have them actually do something useful.)

                            You can’t drag MIDI loops from the desktop or other location into SD2’s MIDI file slot locations, but you can drag the MIDI notes from the file used in a slot to a MIDI track. To do this, click on the one of the file slots (A-H) to select it, then in the MIDI field, you drag the dificult-to-see Note symbol with the + sign into the MIDI track. Frankly, I don’t see why you can’t just drag from the slot instead of dragging the note, but…whatever.

                            Also regarding patterns, it’s convenient to be able to select patterns on a random-access basis by clicking on file slots and having them play. But note that you can’t record these selections as automation or note data; you still need to drag the file data over to MIDI tracks individually. In case you wondered whether this is just a question of enabling the ability to record MIDI data generated by software synths (a new feature in S6 designed to accommodate instruments like Groove Agent), this isn’t the case. Even after enabling MIDI output for SD2, nothing showed up in any track as MIDI or automation data.

                            Fortunately, there is another option that accomplishes pretty much the same thing: The patterns can be triggered from an external MIDI keyboard, and you certainly can record the MIDI keyboard notes. The eight patterns are triggered by MIDI notes 27-34, with note 24 providing the stop playback function. (Incidentally, note that there’s an error with the documentation provided for SD2: Although it gives the right note numbers for triggering the various patterns, the note names are wrong. The “Stop pattern” command is C2, and the patterns are triggered by the notes D# through A#.) This makes improvisation with patterns a relatively simple affair.
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                            • As alluded to earlier, it’s worth noting these are not your normal pads. For one thing, some respond to more than one MIDI note. Pad 3 (nominally for hi-hats) can have a different sound on five different notes (22, 26, 42, 44, and 46 in case you wondered), as can pad 10 (perucssion). Out of these, one is chosen as an “audition note” – the one that will play if you click on the pad. You can find all the information about which notes trigger which sounds, and the various audition notes, in the documentation – it’s under the first section (“To Load a Program”) in the chapter “Loading Programs and Instruments.”

                              The collection of acoustic-oriented sounds that comes with SD2 is okay, but not munificent. Fortunately, you can load your own samples. To do this, you right-click on the pad where you want to load the sample; you’ll see the available notes for the pad, and the currently selected sample shows up in the PAD field. Click on the attachment to see how the different notes show up for a pad, as well as the Load and Unload instrument options.

                              Now it gets a little complex, because when you load a single sample (either through right-clicking or by dragging over a sample), that’s the only sound that will play back when you play any of the notes available for that pad. For example, with the hi-hat example given above, if you load a tom sound into the pad, any of the notes associated with the pad will trigger the tom sound – that’s it. You need to create a multisample-friendly SFZ file to take advantage of these additional notes.

                              After making any tweaks, you can save in a variety of ways. If you click on “Pad” in the Pad field, you can save a Kit. If you click on “Prog” in the Prog field, you can save a Program. And in the dimly-understood world of “What the heck is that Presets thingie at the top of the window good for?”, you can save a “Preset” (VST .FXB file). This seems to save the same thing as a Program – kits, MIDI patterns, the whole ball of wax.
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                              • As we’ve seen, SD2 can load individual samples, but it’s more interesting – and challenging – to create multisamples with velocity control. To do this, it’s necessary to understand how to program the SFZ file format. If you’re a Sonarian, though, this will serve you in good stead as you will also be able to create sample sets for other Cakewalk instruments, like Rapture and Dimension Pro. So let’s diverge a bit from the “review” path, and move into “tutorial-land” for a bit.

                                Although programming in SFZ-speak is uncomfortably like computer programming, don’t worry! It’s not that difficult. One of the great things about SFZ files is that you can open them in notepad, and do some reverse engineering. This makes it easy to create templates into which you can simply drop sample names.

                                However, one crucial aspect is making sure your folders and paths are in order. For example, suppose you want to create a multi-sample with three different kick samples, taken from a sample CD or DVD (in these examples, I’m be using the ones from Bunker 8 Drumatic Percussives collection of samples).

                                1. Go C: > Program Files > Cakewalk > VstPlugins > Session Drummer 2 > Contents > Kits. Here you’ll find numbered folders named with particular drum sounds, like Bass Drums, Snares, etc. With each of these, you’ll find one or more SFZ files, with accompanying folders of samples to which these SFZ files point.

                                2. Create a folder within the Kits directory. I called it “1001 - Dance Kicks.”

                                3. Create a folder within this folder that contains the samples you want to use for your multi-sampled drum sound. I used the Atomic_Jah_Kick_Lo.wav sound from the Bunker 8 collection, along with two variations I created (Atomic_Jah_Kick_Mid.wav and Atomic_Jah_Kick_Hi.wav). These added progressively more “grit,” created using PSP’s Vintage Warmer plug-in, to the original file. I named the folder “AtomicJah.”

                                4. Now open a file in Notepad. Give this a name that resembles that of the folder containing the samples (e.g., “AtomicJah.sfz”). Make sure you use the .SFZ suffix instead of the usual .TXT.

                                5. Now let’s start writing the code. Comments are handled by adding // in front of a line (this is like the REM tag in front of lines written in BASIC – you can put anything after that, and the computer won’t recognize it as part of the program). Adding comments is very helpful if you want to document a particular sound, and believe me, you do! That way when you come back to the file later, you’ll remember what you did. Here’s my comments field:

                                // --------------------------------------------------
                                // Atomic Jah Kick Drum Sample Set
                                // From the Big Fish Audio Bunker 8 Drumatic Percussives sample DVD
                                // “Dance Kits 01” folder
                                // --------------------------------------------------

                                // Dance Kick Drum 1
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